KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—We just wrapped up our seven-day backpacking adventure to Singapore and Malaysia, which is a rewarding experience. For the entire duration of the trip, we were able to see for ourselves the wonders of these two countries—from its monuments, national icons to culinary wonders. As in any other journey, this particular trip paved the way for embracing a different culture and in between, finding the connections that  bind our ASEAN heritage.

To write about how beautiful these two countries are will be a cliche. Much has been written about them. But this particular trip begs to be journaled for posterity’s sake. But how do I remember thee?

I can write about how I amazed I was with Marina Bay, and how we gushed about the efficiency of the Lion City’s transit system. The cleanliness of Singapore should also be on the checklist. And the hawker culture, too.

In Malaysia, I can talk about the towering height of the Petronas, and the city of Malacca, long been inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was a delight to see this bustling town by the river, and how it thrives in the name of sustainable tourism.

It is tempting to shower this post with superlatives, as a way to describe this trip. But I’d like to remember this trip by saying this one cemented my faith in humanity—that despite our differences in faith, the languages that we speak, and our different nationalities, we are human beings first and foremost. We are citizens of the world first, and no geographical border will demarcate that fact.

There’s one story that stood out from the many stories that constitute this week-long trip. This is my favorite one. This is because it unfolded at an unlikeliest place.

With Yooz at TBS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We arrived in Malaysia from Singapore at nine in the evening, at a time that is synonymous to a six-0-clock scene in the Philippines. We are at TBS, the good-looking, airport-like centralized terminal south of Kuala Lumpur. We were perfectly fine, except for one thing: we are hungry and we don’t have enough ringgits, the local currency of Malaysia.

All of the money exchange booths have closed. My colleagues have a spare ringgits in their purse. All we have are both Singaporean and American dollars.

We strategized with what’s left of us. We inquired how much would it take for us to book a Grab car from TBS to our AirBNB  accommodation which is just five minutes away. It says 12 MR.

That means we still have few ringgits to buy some food to fill our rumbling stomachs. We saw this unassuming bakeshoppe offering cheap breads and pastries. We thought it’s okay to have this for dinner.

So our girl companions positioned themselves infront of the store, one choosing what kinds of bread to buy, and the others manually counting Malaysian coins. They were undecided what to buy, skeptical that our coins would not be enough to pay for it.

Until a friendly voice carrying a thick Malaysian accent interrupted the scene: “You want bread? Take some.”

We were puzzled. She repeated what she said and added with a smile: “I’ll pay.”

Yooz was at the counter when she told us so. She was also buying some stuff herself.

She insisted that we do, and explained that what she’s doing is for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. In Malaysia, the end of Ramadhan often extends for a month. During such time, Malaysians take time to open their houses for friends and visitors for a feast, just like how Filipinos do it during town fiestas.

Our hearts fill with gladness, we obliged to her plea. It was truly a blessing.

We asked for the name of this hijab-wearing woman, who I suspect was in his early twenties. “Yooz,” she said, her eyes smiling. I recalled her telling us that she recognized us Filipinos by the way we speak, or maybe our accent.

In Malaysia, of all places, my faith in humanity was restored because a stranger sprinkled some random act of kindness. This kindness did not only fill our stomachs, but also our hearts.

L.