The Forgotten Children

Lying on the cold hard ground with just a piece of cardboard to separate their bodies from the ground are the street children of Metro Manila. They are forced to huddle into small groups just to conserve as much heat as their emaciated bodies can since there is almost nothing that hides them from the elements. This is a common sight in Manila, with children barely past their toddler years or some well into their teens, covered with threadbare clothing as they raise their hands to the passing civilians, hoping to earn a few pesos just so to scrounge up a meager meal. There are an estimated 250,000 children who are forced to live on the streets although it is possible that these numbers are already at a staggering 1 million (Philipp 2020).

Many of these children will be forced into a life of crime such as the usage and pushing of drugs or begging just to survive. With the current administration their chances of escaping this life are quite low. Many children have no options but to stay on the streets due to a number of reasons such as poverty, tumultuous family structures and abuse (AFD 2018), but an Anti-Loitering Law has police officers hounding and incarcerating homeless children especially young boys (Petty 2018).

Growing up in Metro Manila, it was quite a common sight for me to see children weaving past cars during traffic just so to beg for alms. At my young age, it left me wary of bringing down the window just to give them a few pesos since each meeting left me with the hefty realization of the oppressive poverty that wrecked the country. These children are the forgotten, those at the very periphery of society that no one really wanted to acknowledge since this left them to acknowledge their privilege and left a searing guilt within the pits of their stomach.

The youth are the future of the Philippines but the many who are categorized as the marginalized and the poor are forced to rely on institutions such as the government to provide them their basic human rights and necessities just so they can self-acknowledge their inherent dignity. It is troubling and disheartening to realize that a large portion of your country is forced to accept and persevere with a standard of living that degrades their very own humanity especially the youth who were born into a life of poverty. Many of these children were never given the opportunity to pursue an education, have the capability of having three meals a day and experiencing the foundation of a happy family.

It is time for a period of acknowledgement and agency amongst the populace for the plight of our youth is not something that can be hidden away to the recesses of society. It is time that we take more consideration into what we are capable of doing to help these forgotten children. A number of initiatives and organizations have tried their best to help these youth but their efforts alone are not enough especially if the opposition is their own government and police force. Taking a stand against this inequality faced by these children is one positive step towards a brighter and more prosperous future for them and a country. A few methods to achieve this would be a restudy and revision of current laws that target the welfare of the homeless youth and more support and assistance for social workers who travel throughout the city limits and interact with the children.

 

Sources:

A BREATH OF HOPE FOR STREET CHILDREN IN THE PHILIPPINES. (2018, November 6). Retrieved from https://www.afd.fr/en/actualites/breath-hope-street-children-philippines/

De Vela, J. (2020, May 11). [Photograph found in Manila Bulletin]. Retrieved from https://mb.com.ph/2020/05/11/chr-urges-govt-to-prioritize-street-children-during-pandemic/ (Originally photographed 2020)

Directo, J. (2016, November 24). STREET AS HOME [Photograph found in AFP, Manila]. Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/nation/dswd-hotline-twitter-report-street-kids/ (Originally photographed 2016, April 12)

Petty, M. (2018, July 24). Philippine President Duterte’s deadly drug war turned into a war on loitering, including homeless and children. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.businessinsider.com/philippines-duterte-starts-war-on-loitering-homeless-and-children-2018-7/

Philipp, J. (2020, June 30). The State of Homelessness in the Philippines. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://borgenproject.org/homelessness-in-the-philippines/


Published: March 1, 2021
Written by Kym Cristobal, a current online intern for World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific. She is based in Manila, Philippines. 

Interested in writing a blog for WYA? Email asiapacific@wya.net