We arrived at Evan’s Way, a private beach, at low tide. There I saw Merilyn, a skinny 7 year old girl, with curly hair and a set of teeth that seem to shine against her sun-burnt face. She is easy to like because she has a lot to tell about the beach and its habitats: the hermit crabs, shells, ship that pass by, group of people on different boats, the sanctuary, mangrove, her brothers and sisters and so much more.

Merilyn says she helped plant these mangrove

Jelly Fish and Merilyn

For the 4 days that we were vacationing, Merilyn and her brother, Leo, were on the beach from sunrise when it was envigorating to walk from end to end of the property. Then at sunset, when it was relaxing to lie down and view the breathtaking end of another day, they would be there. Even at mid-day, when it was pure luxury to lie down the hammock and doze off to sleep as the leaves rub against each other, one of them, and sometimes both of them, would be around.

Merilyn and Leo

Merilyn is not intrusive, which makes it a delight to have her around. After she greets each one of us with her smile, she goes back to what she regularly does, either looking for interesting stuff on the shore with her siblings or play with them and with other children. Yet, one call and she runs at your side, looks at you straight in the eye, and obliges to a request or answers a query instantly.

She does not exert effort to entertain; but she amuses me, and she leaves me entertained. One time she stared at my relative who was then lying on the beach waiting for sunset, then said: “dapat nasa TV ka.” (you should be on TV) When asked why, she replied: “kasi para kang Korean” (because you look like a Korean).

Leo is completely shy. It takes a bit more nudging for him to come and receive food that is being given. He rarely poses during group pictures. If I wanted him to do something, like take a drink or come nearer, I would have to ask his sister, and he would follow.

Leo by the hammock

Have you ever been amazed at children’s initiative? I rarely experience it. One morning, a friend of ours discovered that he lost his motorcycle’s key after boating around the area. When we arrived in the afternoon, Merilyn was at the gate, went to our friend, her eyes glistened and said “Kuya, nahanap ko ang susi ng motor mo.” The owner nearly jumped in relief, while I was left in awe at how this little girl looked. She was simply joyful. How could have she found something that was already declared impossible to still find. Duh! We are talking of the limitless, unbounded and deep sea. She said she waited for low tide and looked for it among the sea grass, stones and some trash. It was a miracle, alright, that it went right in front of the beach property, but it took Merilyn’s initiative and kind soul to get it in the owner’s hand.

On our last day, I spent some time on the beach in prayerful mode. I was grateful for the time that the Universe gave me for vacation. I was grateful for my husband and children who understood why I had to be away. I was grateful for our host family who made our vacation beyond great. I was grateful for our relatives who came and bonded with us during the clan reunion. Then Merilyn and Leo came and I gave them the chocolates which I prepared for them. Once again Merilyn looked at me in the eye and I saw gratefulness bursting from within her. Leo, too.

Sea grass during our afternoon walk with Merilyn and her little sister

“Ma-mi-miss ko kayo”, I said. (I will miss you)

“Bakit,” Merilyn asked. (Why?)

Then I gazed at her eyes and I suddenly said “eh kasi ang ganda mo.” (Because you are so beautiful)

“Hindi ako maganda,” she quickly answered. (I am not beautiful)

“Huh, ang ganda mo kaya. Bakit mo nasabing hindi ka maganda?” (Yes, you are! What made you say you are not?)

“Kasi ang itim ko.” (Because I have dark complexion)

“Kahit maitim ka, tandaan mo, maganda ka. Parati mong iisipin yan, ok,” this time I knew I was in for a serious matter. (Even if you have dark complexion, remember this, you are beautiful. Bear that in mind, ok)

She nodded.

I saw Leo listening intently to what I was saying. Could it be that he also feels inferior because of his color? So I reiterated: “hindi porke’t maitim, hindi na maganda. Basta maganda ka, okay Merilyn, maganda ka!

Leo

She smiled. Leo was in deep thought.

Merilyn, by habit, stays quietly on the side blending with people, but she shines naturally, in an instant, and when least expected. She has a kind aura. I believe it is because of her untarnished mind, a mind free of greed and hatred. I know she will be a good leader. She is a silent worker, yet she gets things done. She is helpful, honest, she has charisma and initiative.

Starfish! Starfish!

Dark skinned, yes. Beautiful girl. Yes. Yes.

Merilyn and Leo once again reminded me of my personal commitment to help people build confidence out of what they have. I know how lack of self-esteem is detrimental to a person’s success. I do not let small opportunities like my encounter with Merilyn and Leo pass. Someday, they may be bullied by this harsh society where the fair-skinned are given more beauty points. When that happens, I know Merilyn and Leo will be able to handle it. I know that they kept in their heart what I told them. I hope that they will use it to ignite the fuel in them, to greatness.

In Gratitude,

Bangs Zaldivar