These Little Children

I have always dreamed of seeing my name published on newspapers and magazines (novels? that’s reserved for the far future). I have been a writer of a couple of school publications, but I want more. I dream of being able to write things that would touch people greatly, make them think differently, and see the world in a whole new light. I suppose the only way to reach that dream is to keep on writing. Unfortunately, my poor time management skills deprives me of doing the things I love to do and I like to improve on. I miss writing and reading my beloved books. College  stuff (feels nice to say that. Haha. Still a genuine freshie. xD) usually gets in the way. Not that I am complaining though. I love school and I would not have it any other way. I just wish I could manage my time better so I could do more. Okay, apart from school, I blame the Internet for being my number one distraction.

Moving on, in an attempt to write something worthwhile again, I made use of my INTACT reflection paper. Cheers to Ateneo for creating such a fun and innovative class, even though it has no units, I like the idea of having an Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Tradition class to help us become immersed in the Atenean culture. It’s one of the nice things that makes this university unique!

Historic moment: I submitted this essay to Young Blood, my most favorite section in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I have torn and gathered every column that I liked and kept it safe in my cabinet, hoping that one day, my name and my own (hopefully) mindful thoughts would also be published there. Once it happens, I will be the happiest girl in the world. Yeah, I’m that easy to please. xD It still doesn’t match the essays of other awesome young writers, but it’s a start. *crossing fingers*

Hope for the Future

Grab every opportunity that comes your way, the wise would always say, for our lives are defined by the experiences we have and the risks we are willing to take. I strongly believe in this philosophy, which leads me to always possess an eager disposition whenever something new comes my way, for I am sure that doing something I have never done before will surely bring that rush of adrenaline I crave, meaningful moments to cherish and share to others, and wisdom perhaps, if I am lucky.

Within eight months, I was immersed in an almost-perfect environment wherein I get to interact with bright, engaging teens who are like me and completely different from me, where master’s and doctorate degree-laden professors come to impart knowledge to future leaders, movers, and Obamas of the world, who are none other than us, the youth, as well as having thousands of books, top-notch facilities, and countless activities dedicated to nation-building within my reach. Considering all these, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of privileges shoved upon me, which more often than not made me think, how lucky can I be? And the more pressing question is: how can I make the most out of this?

As I come to embrace the fact that the degree of responsibilities bestowed upon university and college students are so great that the future of this country would be defined by how well we make use of the vast resources given to us, I desperately want to share what I have and what I know, to do something worthwhile, to spark some hope into the lives of the less fortunate, to make use of the books I have been read, the late-night studying I endured, the films I have watched, the stories I have critiqued, the essays I have written, and world issues I debated about.

The very first exposure trip we had as a whole block was an eye-opener, giving me an opportunity to witness firsthand what the poverty-stricken part of the country is going through. Having seen from various forms of media the plight of the lower class citizens in my country, I was not all surprised by what I have seen as I stepped down from the jeepney we rode going to a covered court in the Balara area, where kids of all ages donning grubby clothing were running around the court like there was no tomorrow. Being unsurprised though, does not mean I knew exactly what they were going through, for I have only the faintest idea what it felt like being poor and never having enough to eat every day. I wondered what they were thinking as we brought out the boxes of food prepared for them, as they gathered around like a stampede of wild animals, their arms reaching out toward us and to the boxes of packed lunches we had brought, treating us as if we were some higher form of beings, supplying nourishment, hope, and laughter to the less fortunate.

Nonetheless, the awkward feeling of the whole block seeming like aliens invading a foreign territory faded away almost instantly, as we went closer to the twenty or so little children and got to know their names, played some games with them, and, for a few hours, letting them feel that their innocent lives are significant in this big, cruel world.

Irish was the little girl I chose to take care of throughout the activity. She’s eight years old, studying at Balara Elementary School, with long wavy hair and a bright innocent smile painted on her dainty face. I thought she was gorgeous. She could grow up to be a dazzling young lady whom guys would chase after. I forgot how many siblings she had, but I remember she said her birthday is on October 22, that I asked whether she had eaten breakfast and she said “no”, which led me to ask if she’s hungry, and she quietly replied “no” either. It was disheartening.

I quietly asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. She shyly answered, “a cashier.” Surprised, I asked why. “Because my mom said so,” she said, or something to that extent. I told her thereafter that there are so many more wonderful things that she can do besides being a cashier. I told her to always do good in her studies, and… I didn’t know what else to say. Part of me want to tell her about all the wonderful things that this world has, like Disneyland and flowery gardens and chocolate chip ice cream. However, another part of me doubted whether she would understand what I wanted her to know so badly.

I then impulsively told her that she is really beautiful, that I liked her long wavy hair. She smiled her shy smile. I wonder if she very seldom, if at all, hears this kind of praise from others. Little children need to be commended once in a while.

Of course, Irish was not the only girl I got to talk to. There were other little kids who gaily approached me with open arms, perhaps wanting some hugs and a sincere smile from a total stranger who seemed to like scrawny, little kids very much.

My blockmates prepared loot bags filled with candies for the children, while I brought some balloons and materials for simple games we prepared, with one of my blockmates wonderfully supervising most of them. We then had a rare chance to visit a home of one of the village dwellers there, for us to see how it is like living in tiny shanties perched on steep and uneven grounds wherein people tread on every day.

Being extremely thirsty after getting to chat with Lola (who mostly did all the talking, however) at her home and then undergo another long trekking back to the courts, I bought a bottle of juice right after the hike. Although seeing the kids around me with nothing to the drink, I looked at the half-empty bottle I was sipping and immediately gave it to one of girls looking at me, telling them I wanted to let her have it.

I could go on and on writing about the heartbreaking experience of witnessing the dire state of our nation face to face, about how the stratification of the upper and the lower class is becoming more and more pronounced, and about how the little children I spent a whole day with have so much hope in their eyes, but without the opportunities of favorable living conditions given to them, that hopeful gleam in their eyes and idealistic natures may someday possibly fade away, like many elder Filipinos whose eyes are glistening with desperation, their imaginations dimming with darkness, optimism turning into sheer pessimism, I could go on and on writing about how corrupt and rapacious the Philippine government is, despairing about why so many people far more fortunate than them seem to care less about the future of this nation than of their own personal interests and wealth, but the overwhelming urge to do more than just ranting about it is stronger than ever, knowing that I have the capability in helping this country move forward, along with thousands of other young people like me.

Stepping down from the jeepney on to the campus grounds I have no sooner made my second home, I wonder if those children would also get to study amazing subjects like literature and chemistry like I did, get lost among shelves of books in a huge library, hang out at the mall with their barkada, discover odd and great things on the World Wide Web, realize that the world is so vast and beautiful, and that life is more than just running around in circles, waiting for some form of blessing, unknowing whether there would be something to eat the next day.

The optimist in me believes someday they will, because I believe we can do something about this. And I want to act now. Do you?