|Photo grabbed from Flicker user Mio Cade|
"Tina, hayaan mo, may masarap na pagkain akong dadalhin mamaya (Tina, don't worry, I'll be bringing some delicious treats later)," Nanay Bering lovingly told her 5-year old granddaughter sleeping inside the kariton.
Since her house was demolished to make way to a 50-story first class condominium that's "Built with the environment in mind," as the large tarpaulin plastered on the temporary perimeter fence of what was once their community says, the kariton has become her home.
Her only son, Tina's father, died on that fateful demolition day and a few months after, the wife left for another man. She just couldn't take care of Tina and so, Nanay Bering, 65, was left to care for Tina, alone, with no certain source of income.
She was trying to look her best because Tuesday is always a special day for her. Early in the afternoon, she went to the corner near the highway where there was a leaking pipe. She got some water to wash herself with and the few clothes that she has. She has not used soap for a while, she could not afford one.
"Bili na lang ako ng pagkain mabusog pa si, Tina (I'd rather buy food, at Tina would not go hungry)," she would tell herself every time she feels tempted to buy a bar of her favorite soap. Still, she manages not to smell as bad as most of the homeless people she usually encounters in the streets. As much as she can, she takes advantage of every opportunity to wash their clothes. And when she starts to smell she would change to some dry ones.
Nanay Bering looked better than usual. Her clothes were clean and she was clean, none of those dark stains she usually gets from staying too long in the streets with all the smoke and dust. She looked decent, just as she would have preferred.
Today was special because today she'd be able to give Tina a delicious meal. Not leftovers from the garbage.
"Kuya, ang tagal naman. Nasaan na ba sila? Gutom na ako (Kuya, why are they taking so long? Where are they? I am very hungry)," Christopher, a street child of 6, asked Joepet. He was sitting, crunched, unable to bear the pain in his stomach, which for days has been bothering him. He and Joepet had not eaten a decent meal for a while.
"Malapit na yun, hayaan mo (They're coming, just wait)," Joepet said reassuringly.
Joepet, 12, has been in the streets of Quezon City since he was the age of Christopher, unable to bear the abuses of his stepfather who used him to peddle illegal drugs.
At a very young age, Jeopet already knew the dangers of the streets. Most especially, he knew the dangers the streets pose to a very young child, the reason why when he saw Christopher wandering aimlessly in the streets, he knew that something was wrong and immediately took him in.
"Sino pa bang magtutulungan kung hindi tayo (Who else could us but each other)," he told himself.
The red van arrived on time and together with the other residents of Timog corner Panay Ave., she lined up excited to receive her share of food. The brothers always give the best food, which makes her reminisce that time when they had a house and her son was still alive, making just enough money for them to eat three meals in a day and pay their monthly rental. Now, she only gets such a decent meal once a week.
Excited, she lined up, confident and looking her best. Last week, they had chicken adobo. It was delicious. She couldn't wait to see what the brothers cooked for them today.
Most who lined up received their share of rice and adobong manok and then the door closed and the van sped away.
"Ay, bakit wala ako (How come I didn't get anything)?" shocked, she did not know how to react. She did not know what to feel. She wanted to cry, thinking of Tina, but she can't.
So many questions played in her mind.
"Bakit di ako binigyan (Why didn't they give me anything)?"
"Anong nangyari (What happened)?"
"May ginawa ba ako (Did I do anything wrong)?"
"Ganito ba talaga ang pagtingin nila sa amin (Is this how they see me)?"
"Ganito na ba ako ka kawawa (Am I this pitiful already)?"
"Kuya, ayan, ayan na sila brother (Kuya, they are here)," Christopher said.
"Brother! Brother!" Jeopet tried to call after the speeding van. Red light, and it stopped, but it stopped in the middle lane of highway. It was too far for Jeopet to reach and he does not want to risk playing patintero with the speeding cars in the highway.
"Ayun kuya, umalis na (Kuya they are leaving)!" Christopher cried.
"Mukhang rugby na naman tayo ngayon, bunso (Looks like we'll be having solvents again today)," said Jeopet. "Pasensya na, subukan natin ulit sa susunod na linggo (We'll try again next week)."
*Quoting from an October 14, 2015 opinion by Save the Children Philippines country director Ned Olney, "Today, 1.5 million Filipino children will wake up in the morning and got to bed at night without having anything to eat the entire day. Today, 2.7 million Filipino children will miss a meal because the family didn't have enough money for three meals." That is how desperate and unacceptable the levels of hunger is in the Philippines. But government is not doing enough as more and more children are forced to live in the streets because of demolitions of homes in urban poor communities brought about by "development".
**Photo by Flicker user, Rio Cade.
**Photo by Flicker user, Rio Cade.