We met him in a small village almost a dozen kilometers outside of town, a wizened old man, stooped a little with age and carrying in his two hands the biggest papaya I and my companion have ever seen.
It was round almost like a basketball and very much bigger than one. And when we had it cut open, the meat inside was a rich yellow-red, thick, juicy and absolutely delicious.
The old man took us to his small garden in the back of his small nipa hut and proudly showed us his small orchard of some two dozen papaya trees, all just taller than an average man yet every tree was fully laden with huge, round fruits that were still green although many were already streaked with yellow and probably nearly ripe. "My pride and joy," he said to us as we gaped and oohed at the astonishing sight.
After another serving of the fruit treat, we settled down to the business at hand. I told the old man that my companion had heard of his papaya trees and would like to buy some seedlings if he would allow that. My companion, I added, is an avid gardener and had a few fruit trees of his own but he loved papayas and would like to plant a few of the old man's variety for his own garden. But the old man refused saying that he did not sell seedlings. "They are like my children," he added with finality, "A man does not sell his children."
Disappointed, we left for the car but as we got inside, the old man came swiftly after us and, through the open car window, handed to my astonished companion four seedlings packed snugly together in a small cardboard carton. Refusing all payment, he smiled and said, "I could see that you a good man and that you will make a good home for my papaya trees. I cannot sell them but I can surely give you some." With that and a final wave, he left us.
As we went home, I realized that we got more than what we came for. We not only have the seedlings but we also met an unforgettable character, a person who just reaffirmed our belief in something we often have lost faith in; the fundamental truth that human nature, at its core, is basically good and that generosity is a natural consequence of unselfish love.