By Shella V. Espineli
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: December 23, 2008
Dave is a timid 10-year-old boy, who is small for his age. He is the fourth among six siblings and a hard-working Grade 5 student of mine. Three elder brothers and a sister are somewhere in Davao. He is the oldest among his brothers in Manila, and so his mother expects many things from him. He has to do the household chores—marketing, cooking, cleaning the house, washing dishes, doing the laundry and baby sitting. Before all this, he has to sell pan de sal and maja blanca starting at 4 a.m. and kamoteng kahoy at 10 a.m. He attends a tutoring class late in the morning and regular school in the afternoon. He sells tahong on weekends.
Whatever he earns he turns over to his mother to buy their food for the day. Sometimes he saves P3 to buy bread, or for his baon or to keep it in his coin bank, wishing to save enough to buy a pair of beautiful shoes for school.
No matter how tired he is, Dave never absents himself from the tutoring program and tries his very best to understand the lessons. He comes even without lunch, though sometimes he brings a small amount of rice. If he has viand, it’s fried tadpole (which may be poisonous), or stir fried chicken skin with soy sauce, or powdered milk. Quite often, his classmates share their food with him.
One time a teary-eyed Dave told me he wished he could play, dress and eat like the other children. They, too, are poor but have a little more.
Dave’s mother wants the young boy to do everything, and sometimes he is scolded. His stepfather just got a job in construction but his income is insufficient for the family’s basic needs. Dave can’t stop selling early in the morning with his best friend Joshua, 11. They share everything: left-over bread, family problems, home work—even dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. According to Dave, they have promised each other that they would remain friends whatever happens. They believe education is the key to success.
For Christmas, Dave wishes that his savings will be enough to buy a pair of second-hand black shoes he has been eyeing in a neighborhood ukay-ukay. He says they are of good quality and he can use them in school. They cost P15.
If he has still some money left, he will buy clean clothes and if there is some more, he will buy food. He thinks fried chicken, spaghetti, mixed vegetables and ice cream would make a nice noche buena.
He also wants things that are a little harder to get: a happy family and finishing school together with Joshua. Surely someone who is up and selling pan de sal at 4 a.m. and never misses tutoring class or regular school, deserves a break some time. Isn’t that what Christmas is for?
(Ivy Shella V. Espineli, 26, tutors 50 poor children in Baseco as a member of Kabalikat, a people’s organization.)
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