“She gave me a tight hug!” Jaime Mayor, fifty-two years old, recalls the day when he returned the purse left by the French tourist in his kalesa. It was a beautiful, sunny morning; at around 10 a.m. of September 10, 2012, four ladies in their 60s rode Jaime’s carriage, dubbed the “Obama Carriage” for its stars and stripes decorations. Their carriage was pulled by Rapido the black horse, named for his fast gait, for a quick trip around Rizal Park.

When the French tourists got off near the police outpost near the Rizal monument to ride a waiting white car, Jaime noticed a bulging rectangular purse on the carriage’s floor. He opened it and lo and behold, he saw a thick wad of euro and dollar bills, “Natakot ako (I was scared)! I ran after them and they were surprised that I was holding the purse. When I handed it to the owner, who was wearing a big necklace parang kulyar ng aso (that looked like a dog collar), she profusely thanked me and gave me a tight hug. I learned that they were on a cruise ship and just (took) a quick tour of Manila’s tourist spots.”

That unforgettable day for Jaime and Rapido started a windfall of sorts. For days, he was an instant celebrity; he was interviewed on morning TV shows, radio programs, and by the print media. “Mike Enriquez, the newscaster, even gave me a bible,” he says. As the cliché goes, when it rains, it pours: Jaime was inundated with citations, awards, and commendations. He got assorted goodies, appliances, and a Rizal bust trophy by noted sculptor Imao. His whole family was treated to an all-expensespaid stay at a Laguna resort. You could say the rig driver and his loyal equine friend Rapido hogged the spotlight.

Jaime joins other ‘honest Abes’ like the janitor from NAIA who found a bag containing 2.5 million and returned it, and the young scavenger from Bulacan who returned 400,000. They were lionized and feted with honors. It seems honesty in our country is a rare commodity! By the way, Jaime’s other horse is named Honesto—apt for its driver’s rare virtue.

Asked for any Christmas anecdote to share, the father of four said, “Last Christmas 2014 was quite memorable (for) me. A balikbayan senior couple from Texas, USA, had been looking for me and after four days, they found me in Rizal Park. They learned about (my) and Rapido’s story. They invited me to lunch along Kalaw Street. The couple told me about their bad experience in Luneta forty years ago. They spent the night in Luneta and when they woke up, their bag was missing.” These senior citizens were all praise for Jaime for his honesty, a far cry from their bad experience. Before they parted ways, they gave Jaime US$ 200 as a token of appreciation.

When asked if he told his wife about the unexpected reward, Jaime laughed out loud. “No, but I gave her 1,000!”

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s December 2015 issue.