You cannot walk the streets of Cebu without noticing them. If perhaps your focus is so narrow as not to see them, they will make their presence known. Hands outstretched, these half naked creatures survive on the compassion of people like you and me. Thumbs pressed against their ring fingers, they motion, lifting their hands to their mouth. It is universally understood. They are pleading for food. Oftentimes it is a homeless woman with a baby held close to her side. Sometimes, small children are abandoned on the street with their infant sibling(s). The mentality is that one will have more compassion on them if left to fend for themselves. We pass the same pair of siblings often after church. I want to snatch them up, find the parents and beat them to a pulp every time I see the infant for the second or third time round scraping the food from the street she has dropped once more.
Days pass into weeks and weeks into months then years. Whatever innocence they once beheld, it fully escapes these children now young teens. Their faces are hardened after many years of malnutrition and exposure to harsh weather conditions, their faces marked by violence and now at the age of 13 or 14, these rouges rarely rouse one to compassion for now they are mostly criminals and drug addicts. They are scarred for life with the scars of poverty; compassion no longer their friend. Rarely is their presence acknowledged and when they are, it is with disgust or the strong arm of the law. Decades later at 38, their appearance is 20 to 40 years beyond their age.
I offer up a prayer every time I pass by the foot of the Tabunok Bridge by trike. She is there: a small, frail image of a woman, skin and bones. Filthy. Her hands are covered with soot down her forearms, extending over every inch of her body. She looks to be in her late 60’s but mostly likely she is only 40 something. Recently my trike passed within five feet of her and she reeked of urine. Crouched among the dogs she has befriended, together, they have literally become one with the garbage that surrounds them. As she shoves the remnants of a mango someone discarded in her mouth like a femoral dog. Perhaps today she is unwilling to share her winnings with her canine friends.
My heart aches. She must have been somebody’s baby. I can picture her as an infant in my mind. Her mother’s warm embrace, soft kisses. When was it that she was first abandoned and made to fend for herself on the streets of the city. Perhaps her mother had abandoned her to the streets daily to beg at the age of 12 months along with her elder siblings, collecting her at the end of day while she herself scavenged the junkyard for metal cans, plastic coke bottles and food.
But now my mind shifts to the children we have at home here in Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines. These domesticated street kids look pretty much like our own children. Clean, fully clothed, donning smiles, their eyes glow with satisfaction. They are loved and their stomachs full. One of their favorite pastimes is singing songs of praise. Together we declare the mighty deeds of a good and faithful God through the goodness of people like you and me.
Please consider making a donation today. Save the children before it too late. Visit our website at www.streetkidspm.com