THE SUNNY PHILOSOPHER | Afraid of strangers?

If you find yourself in a remote village or a small town, and you do not know anybody there, do not expect a warm welcome. The folks may be friendly-looking but they won’t readily open their doors to you.

You are a complete stranger and that description makes you a suspicious character in their eyes. Not that hospitality is a thing of the past to them. They are just careful.

They have heard stories about strangers robbing or worse, killing their hosts and escaping with money and valuables. The stories were brought to the living room by television.

Not all strangers are evil men. But the crimes of a few have created hideous creatures out of such people.

In rural communities, you will find inhabitants trustful. But do not count on such niceties. In their eyes, you are still a stranger.

If a local folk offers his house, if he prepares a feast for you, that is rare. In most cases, you will be asked to go spend the night at the town’s inn or hostel.

In cities like Legaspi or Naga, where cheap hotel rooms are available, consider yourself extremely lucky if a family invites you to lodge in their house gratis et amore.

Complete strangers are never trusted in the city.

You do not know if the over-friendly garbage man, the sad-looking trader, the funny driver or the man or woman sitting next to you on the jeepney is after your money or expensive cellphone.

Lawless men lurk everywhere.

Have you heard of well-dressed men with their lovely lady companions holding up big bazars and shooting it out with the police when cornered? Or of decent men emptying a retiree’s savings?

Most swindlers pose as respectable professionals. They appear incapable of harming a fly.

In San Roque, Legaspi City, a story goes, a family invited a stranger to spend the evening with them. At midnight, he vanished into the dark night with the host’s meager valuables.

The following story is quite different.

During a fiesta in my barrio many years ago, a young man who introduced himself as the son of a datu, strayed into a neighbor’s house. He was fed, given the only bed in the evening and told to feel at home, no questions asked.

Things like this occur only in the movies.

In my barrio today, strangers do not have to lodge in a private home. Several air-con hotels cater to local and foreign tourists.

My barrio is now a tourist paradise. Go see it for yourself. You will not be treated as stranger.