April 20, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Feb.16, 2020.)

At age 50, Juan felt his life was ebbing to an end. The last time he stood in front of a mirror, what he saw was an old man fast wasting away. What he needed was a miracle to stay on keel.
With no means of income, Juan volunteered to be a church worker at the white sister’s convent, where he was assigned as one of the Sunday mass collectors. Thrice every Sunday, Juan would filch half of his collections, which came up to a tidy sum.

One Sunday, after the last mass, Juan decided to have coffee at a nearby coffee shop.
While sipping his coffee, he spotted a familiar face entering the joint, and by force of habit, raised his hand in greeting.
Taking a long hard look, the well-dressed customer’s eyes lit up in recognition, and almost shouting, said, “Juan, is that you? What happened?”
Embarrassed, Juan replied, “Nothing much except hard times seem to have befallen me. But hey, you are looking good. Maybe you can help out an old friend by lending me a thousand bucks. I promise to pay you back as soon as I can.”

“Poor Juan, you really must be desperate.”
“Not really, but a little loan will go a long way to ease my depression.”
Shaking his head in sympathy, Juan’s friend, taking him by the shoulders, said;
“This isn’t at all like the Juan I knew, talking about loans and hard times. But here’s my card, come look me up anytime. I think I might have something for you.”
Fishing his wallet out of his hip pocket, he pulled out a thousand peso bill and handed it to Juan.
“Hi there, Juan,” his friend greeted him, “Let’s move over to the Moon Café, and I will give you the details on how to get out of current predicament.”

“Juan, I will cut to the chase. My business is drugs. I get a steady supply of crack from my source, and they sell like hot cakes. All you need to do is find your own market. Get in touch with your old acquaintances, at least those with money anyway, and make some kind of deal with them. The money is good I tell you, enough to get back your old life.
“If you agree, I will introduce you to my source.”
Juan, almost sounding ecstatic, blurted, “Yes, yes, of course.”

After a few calls and arrangements, Juan was now a drug dealer. His friend was right, the money was good.
But for Juan, it wasn’t good enough. All during his hard times, Juan dreamt of making his way back to the Juan of old – living the good and fun life, and money not a problem.
It came as no surprise that Juan soon found himself skimming off the top of the money that he was supposed to remit to his source.
No one told Juan that with drug lords, one mistake could cost your life.

At the crack of dawn (no pun intended) one Saturday, Juan was fetched by two burly bodyguards of his boss, and brought to his presence.
“Juan, Juan,” his boss said to him, “You are being a bad boy. You are still alive because of only one reason, also why I hired you in the first place.”
“I will let you in a little secret. During our college years, I used to date your mom, and she always treated me right. We were making beautiful music together until your Moroccan father barged into the picture and ran off with your mom. So, you see, you could have been my son.”
“Think about it Juan, your mom, even from the grave, still keeps watch over you.”
“So, here’s our new arrangement, you will be my personal legal counsel.”

“For the first year, your salary will be in six figures monthly, and after a year or two, if business gets better, we will raise it to half a million. How does that sound to you?”
“But I don’t know the first thing about lawyering. It’s just a title I carry.”
“Even better Juan, I don’t want you sounding like the lawyers of Duterte, always trying to please the boss.”
Juan couldn’t help himself any longer. He hugged his boss tightly, saying thank you over and over.
“Don’t thank me, thank your mom. Now be off before I change my mind.”
Out on the street, Juan quickly hailed a passing cab, and ordered the driver to take him to the nearest flower shop. He then bought a large bunch of red roses – his mother’s favorite.
Getting back into the cab, he instructed the driver to proceed to the Pyramid Gardens.
Kneeling before his mother’s tomb, Juan raised his head to the heavens, at the same time placing the flowers on his mother’s grave, and with tears in his eyes, shouted for all the world to hear: “Happy Valentine’s Day, mom!”