Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lost Children and Their Refuge

They are random strangers plying the streets of (some) highly urbanized Filipino cities. No, they aren’t the archetypal daily commuters. They are young, out-of-school, thick with grime, thin as whisper, starving, sickly-looking, often sporting plus-sized hand-me-down shirts, and sometimes wide-eyed. They work, play, and live in bustling public spaces.

They survive at the mercy of others, begging for money at busy crossroads, scavenging for crumbs or leftovers thrown in a restaurant basket of trash -- or survive at the expense of others, pickpocketing the hapless, unknowing victim inside a jeepney. They choose to forget their gut is empty, lifted by a hallucinatory fantasy after sniffing desperately late afternoon a tad of rugby (contact cement) inside a plastic bag. For the vigilant, it is hard to trust a presumed member of a menacing gang proliferating in the streets.

If they had miraculously eaten, they would play around where iron bars were available, the railings, or with treasured broken toys, even if it meant a faint, blurry, and lost childhood to many seeing them.

While some of these children would just suddenly show up in front of your camera, wanting for a shot, most of them would shun the camera. They are scared of it. A picture of them would mean identification by the police. ‘Don’t! Stop it! Don’t report me to the police,’ pleaded one covering his face with his upturned shirt.

Their rest seems like a farce to those who have their comfortable, private shelters. These children sleep where pedestrians walk by, and where the noise of honking and speeding cars is loudest. Any place -- cold or stiflingly hot, quiet or blaring -- is called their humble abode.

They are the street children spilling out into the main thoroughfares and the nooks and crannies of messy cities. Ironically, they tag along deemed progress, resurfacing anytime. Which is to say developments do not always breed any good. They also show the dark side of it -- massive poverty, ignorance to basic needs, poor services, corruption, and short-sighted urban planning, if there is.

Images: Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines


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