It’s no secret that there is widespread poverty here in our supposedly beloved country. As such, it’s not uncommon to pass by street children on your way to school, work, or home; some even beg you for whatever you can give them. One can not help but feel sorry for these children. Ironic considering that the general opinion is that the children are the future. However, mercy for these young people has been something difficult for me to dig into myself for.
I don’t really know what to do with these street children anymore.
I’m inhumane, I get it. But I have my own reasons, and I hope you understand.
My grandmother — my father’s mother — is against the thought of giving hard cash or coins to the derelict. She elects to give them food. Her explanation is simple; giving these children money gives them the freedom to do what they want with the loot. Unfortunately, I have seen too many of these young individuals sniffing plastic bags filled with rugby and solvent. So they’re better off being handed food, leftovers or not, rather than hastening their already rapid fall into psychosis.
It’s incomprehensible as to how they even manage to get a hold of the stuff. It’s even more incomprehensible however, to think that there will always be some greedy asshole out there who will sell anything to anyone without any regard for anybody as long as money is involved. Sad world we live in.
So with that in mind, I moved on with my life. I rarely hand money to beggars, no matter how sorry I feel for them. Even those who are victims of the local Crime Syndicate, who are left to fend for themselves in the overpasses of Commonwealth Ave., missing a limb or an organ. Food is what I offer.
On one of the rare occasions where I did give money to the poor, regret followed me rather quickly.
During my grandmother’s (mother’s side) ill-fated 3-month stay at Veterans Memorial Medical Center, the members of the family took turns as watchers. One day, I was on my way to the nearby drug store in Trinoma to purchase my grandmother’s medicine. As we were seated in the jeep in the middle of traffic, a band of street children hopped on.
The North Avenue youth are a unique bunch. They gather used cans of milk or whatever they can find, tie them up and use them as drums. One of them would be the drummer, another would be singing — slightly off-key — then one of them would hand each of the passengers an envelope. Their gimmick amused me. Instead of putting the 5 peso coin I had into the envelope, I handed it straight to the child. Another child hopped onto the jeep. That 5 peso coin was the last small change I had in my pocket, and there was nothing I could give to the newcomer.
After acquiring my grandmother’s medicine, I walked back to the hospital. On my way out of the drug store, I bought a bottle of water. I get thirsty easily. About halfway through my nonchalant walking, I felt a strong, forceful tug at my left hand, where my bottle of water was held. I twisted backward, cocked my arm for a swing and clenched my fist, ready for a tussle.
I looked back. No one was there.
I looked down and it was the child who hopped on too late into the jeep I rode earlier. I knew she wanted my bottle, but she caught me in a rather awful mood. I really thought someone was out to get me that time, and my temperament was still at a high — I would have punched whoever I saw behind me if he or she was anywhere in my horizontal line of sight as soon as I looked back. I told her to scram, drank the remainder of the bottle down and continued walking.
As I crossed Agham Road, the light turned green and I got caught in the middle island. As the last wave of vehicles were about to pass by, I looked further down Agham and beheld a street fight among young children. One of them was even holding a drum set made from cans. That kid looks familiar, I thought. Didn’t I just give them a fiver? The other old people in the jeep also gave them some of their change.
I didn’t want to think that was what they were fighting over, but that’s the first thing that came to mind. Basically, what we give these barefoot youth doesn’t do much other than spark feuds between them, over who should be keeping the money or some sort of bullshit. That was just a sad, sad day marked by a sad, sad realization.
I had already forgotten all about that until 2 weeks ago when another scandalizing scene came into view. We were smoking some distance away from the school when we saw what looked like another riot between street children; this time it was the gang that populate the area around Puregold and Aurora Blvd. in Cubao.
I couldn’t see much into detail, but there were 3 or 4 kids being pinned down on the ground by other children. One was having her hair pulled, one had his head being stepped on, another was pinned onto the wall; it was utter chaos. I had only two assumed reasons for that wild scuffle: 1) They stepped onto the wrong turf; or 2) They were given food by some good Samaritan (I saw one of the dominating kids eating something while pulling another kid’s hair), the other kids got jealous and bullied everything from them, including their blood, sweat and tears.
The security guard on duty in Puregold wasn’t of any help either; him and his mighty whistle called no magical rainbow breathing unicorm from the sky.
You can’t give anything to these street children anymore. You give them money, they get rugby. You give them food, they have to fend for their lives just to enjoy it.
Another saying comes to mind. “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for the rest of his life.”
So just how are we, the people of the Philippines, going to teach these children how to feed themselves? That’s another mystery, and we can’t just leave that to the government. We can still opt to hand them the fish, but we are left uncertain with what they do with it.
By the way, it’s not just the urban poor that need fishing lessons; there are some people out there who appear as if they’re getting alone fine, but are actually just being handed fish over and over again. How to fish, they have no idea or the motivation to. Then they get angry when they aren’t given fish. Some even have the audacity to complain about the free fish.
What a world.