When I was a kid, some random guy passed by our house and for some reason, he convinced me to take him for a ride on our pedicab.
Even as he was directing where we were supposed to go, I knew my way around our village since I constantly went around it on my bike.
We reached a small shanty, similar to a makeshift barracks for construction workers, in one of the more secluded parts of our village at the time.
Dude went inside, I got bored outside, and decided to just leave. From a distance, I think I heard him screaming for me to go back, but I decided I didn't want to.
I didn't think much of it, but looking back, I guess I was almost kidnapped.
It's exactly why we are told as kids to never talk to strangers.
However, as I grew older, strangers have been essential parts of my life.
When I was in sales, most of my clients were strangers who I introduced myself to. When I first came to Singapore, I didn't have anyone to play basketball with until I played with strangers.
I understand the dangers of talking to strangers, and as a dad, I dread the idea of losing my kid to some shady person we don't even know.
However, I don't really know how to show him the dangers of talking to strangers just yet.
Living in Singapore, Vino looks a lot like locals, only with bigger, almond eyes that the locals are so amazed with.
Even as a baby, he would get a lot of attention from strangers, mostly older folks. He was given treats, small toys, and even fruit freebies when he went with me to the market.
It's become a habit of mine to be playful around kids I don't know, so when someone does the same for Vino, I ask him to say "hi" at least.
Does it make me a bad parent if I can't practice what I preach?
Good and Bad
I learned back in college that there's a Chinese school of thought that believed that man, by nature, is evil, and that goodness is learned.
George Orwell's novel, Animal Farm, also shows that when society breaks down, even the most innocent will be driven to commit what we know to be evil acts.
In both cases, they don't discount man's ability to be good, it's just that it must be aided, as it is not natural.
Teaching what's good or bad/evil is one of the most fascinating things I'm learning as a parent, as it makes me question my own moral compass.
Whenever I say "that's bad" to my kid, I catch myself thinking "is it really bad, or is it only bad because it is contrary to what society dictates?"
Talking to strangers is bad, but we are in constant communication with strangers: the waiter at the restaurant, the cashier at the grocery, our cab driver, the policeman - these are all strangers who aren't necessarily bad.
If talking to strangers is not bad, then it must be good, so why is it dangerous?
Should I tell my kid to stop trusting people because they might be dangerous?
Is trusting people bad?
These are questions I always have to be prepared for, especially with the growing curiosity of my kid.
I don't know the right answers to it, or if there are absolute right answers to it.
I do believe that absolute selfishness leads to evil. It's probably what motivates perverts to rape, for scammers to steal, and for bullies to get what they want.
I can't control the type of people my kid will encounter in the future, but I aim to to shape him to be a stranger that's not dangerous, and hope that he attracts the same kind of people in his circle when he grows up.
Discerning and Judgement
Back in high school, I had a schoolmate would ask for Php 5.00 during lunch time. Didn't know him, but he's a student, and he did look like he hasn't eaten yet.
I gave him the money, since it's small change. Next day, I found him doing the same thing to at least two other people.
A friend told me that it's a scam that a bunch of them are doing to buy stuff without spending their own money.
The night before Vino was born, Che and I were sitting inside a restaurant next to a table with two older ladies.
They talked to us for a bit, asking when Che's baby was due and some random small talk about our pregnancy.
Chatty me humored them, but there was a point when both Che and I felt like they were already disrupting our dinner.
When they stood up, they stopped by our table and gave us a colorful rosary, telling us that everything will be alright.
We are told to never judge a book by its cover, and these two occasions showed that there can be positives and negatives when you do that.
I was scammed with small change, but if the dude was really hungry, I doubt if he would be able to eat with the Php 5.00 I gave him.
The old ladies shared words of encouragement that we so badly needed that night, which we may never would have gotten if we chose to ignore them.
You take the good and learn from the bad, but I was brought up to believe that what defines you as a person is how you choose to act, and not what others do to you.
I take pride in being an easy person to connect with.
I have diverse interests and a natural curiosity about things I don't know, which helps me find a topic of conversation with someone I just met.
With this attitude, my circle grew bigger, and by learning from and about them, I was able to make different circles for people I wanted to keep, and push away those that I didn't need.
I believe I became a better judge of character because of all those interactions, which allowed me to know who to approach or stay away from - something I want Vino to discern by himself when he grows older.
Like any other kid, Vino is growing up to be very curious as well, and he loves telling stories. They're a bit incoherent right now, but he's trying to piece together some words to try and communicate it to us.
He has a genuine fascination for discovering things, which I don't want him to lose.
I want him to live in a safe environment, a world where strangers are supposed to be able to help you, not harm you.
However, I understand that this utopian dream is easier to imagine than make a reality, and what made me the person I am now was forged stronger by learning from the mistakes I had along the way.
I want help Vino to grow up to be one of the good people one would encounter, but I know that there's no better teacher than experience.
I guess I should learn to trust that these strangers in the world will help shape a good man out of this small boy.