MANILA, Philippines --- Kindness - a distinctive trait Filipinos are known for - makes staying in the Philippines more fun, especially for foreign nationals.
Late last year, an American had a first hand experience of the Pinoys' brand of kindness.
Edward Peterson, 57, who hails from Cass Lake, Minnesota, had his passport returned promptly by an anonymous young Filipino cab driver at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2, at around 12:30 p.m. last Oct. 21 - barely an hour before his scheduled domestic flight to Dumaguete City.
"Even though it (the act) took only a few minutes, it will always be remembered. The worry and the panic rushed only for a couple of seconds. Although I don't know his name, he remains anonymous [and I might] never see him again, I'll never forget him - and it was a favorable impression of something that happened," Peterson said in a phone interview with MB Research.
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Peterson wrote a letter to the editor of the Manila Bulletin to tell his story.
He said he took a direct flight to Manila onboard China Airlines, from San Francisco, California, and he arrived at the NAIA Terminal 1 at 10:30 a.m. that same day for his eighth trip to the Philippines since 2003.
"I've been to the Philippines several times before... I knew I should have a printout [of my ticket], even if I had a confirmation number for the domestic flight, before going to the airport," Peterson said.
He said the airport security guards followed the protocols and were respectful and polite, giving a sample of the warmth and hospitality that Filipinos are known for worldwide.
"The guards told me to go to the main office at the terminal and get a printout and come back, and I wandered around while trying to find out but then the young cabbie came and asked if I needed help," Peterson said. "We found out that the main airport office for tickets isn't open on Sundays and he knew of the place by the old [Manila] Domestic Terminal that sold and printed out tickets, so I just decided to have a new one printed."
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However, during those moments, he was rushing to have his online ticket printed so that he could make it to his 1:40 p.m. Philippine Airlines flight, as check-in time is two hours before the flight.
"In my panic, I dropped my passport on the cab floor and was looking all over for it at the terminal gate. You need a passport to travel of course! Suddenly, the young cab driver rushed up and handed it to me and I was so thankful, but he rushed back to his vehicle and still there was no time to get his name," Peterson recounted.
He said he had never lost his passport before the incident, and he had been traveling for many years.
"The passport is [one of] my most important possession[s] because I need it to travel back and forth with my relatives. In the US, there's a lot of good people, they would try to find you, but you never know this could get lost and you have to go through the procedure - to get a new one. It takes a few days, and it could be a lot of worry," he added.
Peterson added that the NAIA Terminal 2 security guards were amazed at the cabbie's honesty, as the cabbie went back to his car - without revealing his name or his vehicle's plate number.
"I think there must be acts of kindness every minute. In the news, we only see features about crime; [stories about] good people helping people every day seldom gets published. I was inspired to try to do one act of kindness today, trying to do the same way," he emphasized.
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In that recent trip to the Philippines, Peterson visited his in-laws and loved ones in Tiguib, Negros Oriental to witness the traditional Filipino Christmas and New Year celebrations, and a town fiesta.
He said he loves to frequent the Philippines because he finds that "Filipinos are the kindest in the world," and that the country offers plenty of tourist spots and festivities.
"I saw the Quiapo Church a few times in [my] earlier trips. I had a fellowship with an NGO for a month in Quezon City in 2003, and they showed me all around, the Quiapo Church, Plaza Miranda, Tagaytay. [We also had a] visit to the Aetas in Quezon province, and I met Bishop Labayen once back then," he said.
In the Philippines, he said he loves climbing up hills or mountains, doing some advocacy work, and attending fiestas, aside from visiting his relatives in Tiguib, Negros Oriental - north of Dumaguete City.
"It was not more like visiting, it was more like home," Peterson said.
Having witnessed the onslaught of Typhoon "Pablo" (international name: "Bopha") last month, he saw the Filipinos' resilience, which is manifested even during times of natural calamities in the country.
"Everybody tried to help each other, and officials came around, checking for damage. Government tried to help, and there were lots of help from the people for the country, with their contribution seen on TV. Still going for a long recovery, though," Peterson said.
He aims to return to the Philippines in March or April, after taking care of some matters in the United States, and plans to teach English as a second language or put up a business.
Peterson was born on September 24, 1955, was raised in North Dakota, and finished law at the University of North Dakota in 1979. He is currently married to Nerica Sablada (her maiden name), and he plans to put up a law agency - and eventually retire - in the Philippines.
The anonymous cab driver's act of kindness might not be a big deal for some but it was for Peterson.
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