|art by the author|
Earlier this afternoon, I was in a full-packed eleven-seater jeepney—which could easily pass for a nine-seater—going home. At the Biñan area, when the vehicle is in a full stop, a kid got into the jeep carrying her baby sister. They are Badjaos. The girl wobbled going to the front of the jeep, poorly balancing themselves, as she hurriedly distributed tattered standard mail envelopes to each passengers. Now, almost as common sight when in the area, we already knew what they need, as written on the envelope of what seem to be a child’s penmanship: “tulong” or help. But this time, the girl stood at the middle and sang a song whose lyrics I cannot understand. The song, in her raspy voice, reverberated and spoke for them: their weariness, their hunger, their pleas—and that stung me. I gave her my snack-pack that I always kept stashed in my bag (I am no philanthropist though). She collected her envelopes then they got off the vehicle.
However, before they totally got off, the woman in front of me said, “sigurado na ang punta ng mga ‘to sa impyerno.” They are sure to go to hell. I was taken aback—shocked. But more so, some passengers nodded, smiled and exchanged a few lines with each other. They seem to acquiesce with that notion. I was tempted to object, to challenge that erring idea but instead I held back. I halted the jeep and got off on a fiery road and walked, I don’t mind the sun because my innards—yeah! Gut and all!—were more fiery—ablaze!
My thoughts: perhaps they truly are in hell because the people around them have condemned them, and that the government that supposed to support them has ignored them—apathetic to a more lasting solution, not the dole out that they were being given, if there is any. Where is the social support that LGUs are supposed to provide? And even the national government? Where is the human dignity that under law should be assured? What did these smiling politicians who have so flamboyantly displayed their faces along the San Pedro-Biñan area ever did to ascertain their continuous development?
And to that woman, this is what I restrained myself to say: “Maybe these kids are in hell already. And if so, around her are their demons!”