My First Encounter With God

Growing up in a closely-knit small town in the far eastern Asia has its good and bad. The good thing is most people know each other and feels like family. The bad thing is, kids know the widespread name calling associated with family names to which they are not emotionally prepared. The long running jest about family names is fine with matured folks for after all, this is a community’s social recreation for generations. It was acceptable as long as it does not malign nor put the person in bad light. For kids, however, is a different story. Family names could be associated with a local food that a clan are so fond of, an industry they might be prominent of in the town or a specie of fish, tree, fruit or a tribal association.
On my way home from school (many decades ago, actually!), when I was about 10, two of my classmates walked along with me. Well, to tell you, how I was as a kid, petite, kinky-haired with sunburnt skin as money was precious to use for sunblock lotion which anyway was unheard of in the 60’s, at least by me. One of them started yelling” Hey, you’ve been left behind by your tribe, the Aetas.” The Aetas are indigenous people occasionally traversing town trading or marketing stuff then return to their villages. They are peace-loving and beautiful people if not for the disciplinary way they were referred to me as a kid. Fist fights and hair pulling is not uncommon in our school but as they were boys and I was not, it didn’t take long that I picked a stone the size of a marble. My target was the teaser but it landed on the other kid. What comes next was one of the fastest run of my life.
As a kid, and the youngest in the brood, my siblings does the same teaser as an endearment of sort and to keep me well grounded for always being the apple of the eye of everyone in the family. This really worries me because to make the drama realistic they had someone posed as my mother from the Aeta tribe ready to take me away if I misbehaved. I would cry in hysterics when my “biological mother” would stretch her arms as if she is really going to take me away from the family. Although, I am not a foundling, as I was always teased, it helped in a way to kept me grounded and grateful for the blessings of belonging to the family that I have.
The boy who chased me was truly a runner and in my mind, I could picture him punching my small face in a rage. Ha! That will be an awful thing to happen. Running as fast as I could the side alley of an old building he came too close that I have to take refuge inside which happened to be the Roman Catholic church in our town. There were people on pews  and I sat beside them, closed my eyes and whispered “Please help me.”
When I opened my eyes, there, was the image of Jesus and Mary looking down at me from the altar. It was as if they both smiled at my childish escapades and I was smitten. Many a school days and weekends that I came by again after that day and on to a long journey with my relationship with God. I was home.
When I looked back, the boy was gone. I do not remember how we ended up on good terms again or if he still holds memory of those silly kids thing. Many years after when I seek these boys in homecoming or class reunions, it makes me smile in retrospect.