It’s him, again

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Saturday, August 30, 2014


I HEARD Fr. Robert Reyes was in town. Again. He and four tree lovers dropped by the archbishop’s palace, where, according to Sun.Star Cebu columnist Bong Wenceslao, they put Archbishop Jose Palma on the spot.

That he loves trees is no secret. Heck, it’s beginning to look more like an obsession. Still, I admire Reyes’s misplaced persistence. The priest is Luzon-based yet he takes the time to fly to Cebu so he could insist on the government nursing the diseased trees that dot the southern highway back to the pink of health. The trees are so lucky to have such a man championing their right to existence.

Now, if the hundreds of children in the metro’s street had such a personality, they wouldn’t have to resort to scavenging, begging or stealing for their survival. They wouldn’t have to sniff rugby to ease hunger pangs.

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In fact, they should accost Fr. Reyes if they see him on the street. Ask him for change, maybe.

Actually, I’m quite surprised at the priest’s choice of advocacy. Of all the social ills in the country, he takes on the cause of trees. Hmm. Is there a dearth of environmentalists in Cebu? Anyone? I don’t think so.

The recent flooding in parts of the metro… wasn’t he here for that? That didn’t bother the Father? I think it’s a worthy cause to take up for someone who has so much zeal. So many factors involved, including the denudation of the metro’s surrounding hills. Something like that.

Not his cup of tea?

So let’s go back to the children. And their parents. (Yes, whole families are now living on the streets.) They’re everywhere to the point that it’s almost impossible to miss them. Unless, you hang out in the malls, sipping latte in one of the upscale coffee shops, biting into a buttery croissant, discussing the fate of (surprise, surprise) trees. No street children there. They get shooed by security. Like dogs. But not dogs you see being carried around by call center agents. Those are expensive. Those have pedigree. I’m taking about the mongrels.

I guess Fr. Reyes has yet to see the street children. For someone who professes a love for running, I would have assumed he would have encountered at least one. No? Or is it because he’s too hung up on the trees that he fails to see them.

I walk from the Cebu City Sports Center to the office on P. del Rosario almost every day and I see them. They usually hang out on the sidewalk, shaded from the heat of the sun by the canopies of trees that line Osmeña Blvd.

I think the Father and his fellow tree lovers have had their chins up for some time now, their eyes focused on what’s above. Maybe they should look down once in awhile. Maybe then they can catch glimpses of the half-naked little bodies that dart in and out among oblivious passers-by.

“…the Church, instead of cutting trees should plant; instead of killing should protect life” was Fr. Reyes’s message to our archbishop. Father, those street children have lives too. And they also deserve the Church’s protection. Don’t you think?
That I see these children every day is precisely why I’m at a loss that Fr. Reyes and his band of tree lovers continue to dwell on the tree issue.

Living on the sidewalk is not living. The children are exposed to disease, the elements and criminality. Some have become adept at emotional blackmail, especially those who get on jeepneys, sing songs reminding passengers that they won’t commit crimes even though society has forgotten them and then they put their hands out.

But wait, I don’t think Fr. Reyes rides the jeepney.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 31, 2014.

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