Poverty and Children

Last week, I traveled to Manila with my children Lugat and Gawani foremost for medical reasons (which are why I went on leave from SRT, aside from the fact that my internet connection went crazy).

We got off the bus at the Victory Liner station in Cubao. By then, it was past 8:00 PM. As we were looking for my husband's car, Lugat noticed a man and a girl of about two or three years sleeping on the sidewalk. Their mat was a cardboard. Lugat, a relatively sheltered child, asked me, "Why are they sleeping there?" I said, "They have nowhere else to sleep." Staring at me with a dumfounded look, he was speechless for a few seconds and then he said, "This world is so unfair."

Lugat's response elated me because it meant that this early, he has a social conscience. I hope he will never lose it.

The sight of a baby sleeping under squalid circumstances is not new. And yet, everytime we see one, we get so affected. Why can't the babies be spared?

"Suffer the children to come unto Me," Jesus said with determination when His disciples were acting as a cordon sanitaire to prevent the children from getting near Him. Children must be very special to God. What are we doing letting them go homeless and hungry? Our government's budget for social services is so low that I am sure there will be more of the innocent sleeping on the streets this year. And to think that it is spending more than P300 billions yearly to pay for the Marcos years' debts which did not benefit the people. The debt is so huge that even the unborn Filipino children will have to pay.

I am reminded of a poem I wrote when I was so depressed thinking of how poverty has stolen our children's childhood. That time, I just got an email about children scavengers who had to go through piles of garbage to survive.

Elegy to Poverty

Did you see the five-year old boy rummage thru
trash cans for garbage his family could feast on?
Do you behold that pre-school girl peddling
white flowers amidst hurtling cars on perilous
streets as she piously hopes for family supper?
Are you smacked by shame that while the few
snorkel in the lake of prosperity, the multitude
is sinking in the ocean of your wretchedness,
with them babies who know not how to swim?

Oh, Poverty, you are the ruthless scourge that
abbreviates Infancy and impounds Innocence.

Be banished; hide as a skeleton in the cupboard
The time is too soon for the infants to know you
Suffer them to slurp milk from generous cups
Permit them to frolic around with their toy cars
Let them dress up their chubby baby dolls
Pilfer not their mirth and smell of Innocence
Inoculate them from the vile reek of your curse
Let Life be their gift; let it not be their burden!
Let them embrace Faith, not yet Despondence.

Free them to have memories of Beauty and Virtue
for when Innocence fades away and they meet you.

God bless the children.
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