"MGA yagit" (filthy ones). This is what most people call those children in the streets with ragged clothes and dirty faces.

These children are often seen roaming the city street barefoot, challenging its roughness and taking chances that soft-hearted people will fill their palms with coins.

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They usually ask for coins by poking on the arm of a passerby. Being poked can be irritating, and so they are often shooed off, if not yelled at.

"They're very dirty so I yell at them to scare them away. If I don't, they'd spit at me," said Jan-jan.

Beggars, especially child-beggars are reputed to spit at those who shoo them off, a reputation earned for all by an brazen few.

There are among the begging street children, those who just have nowhere to go to but beg.

Ten-year-old Wowie, a fourth grader, attends classes from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. After that, he is off to the streets to beg.

Wowie does this every day. When asked why, he said it's because of "kalisod sa kinabuhi" (poverty).

"Gi-dawat nalang nako ang ingon ani na kinabuhi kay wala man mi'y kwarta. Ako na lang ang mangita ug kwarta kay dili man gusto akong mama (I just accepted this life because we don't have money. I chose to look for a means of living myself because my mother doesn't want to)," Wowie said.

Wowie's mother is unemployed. His eldest brother is already married and now lives with his own family. No one else is there to help them, and so Wowie has taken the responsibility in the only way he knows.

Last Christmas, he was among those who went around singing Christmas carols. Although he said, not everyone has a generous pocket or ear.

Christina Ena C. Tenorio, a social worker, agrees that those who stereotype beggars as rude cannot be blamed.

"We can't blame them. Some kids are really rude. But it's just a matter of education," she said in Cebuano. Worse, she said, there are those notorious enough to intimidate people into giving them money.

Tenorio does not discount the possibility that some of these notorious kids might just have been forced to meet some sort of quota by some dubious gangs or syndicates.

"This may be the reason why some kids are forced to get their pockets filled with coins not because they really wanted it but they just have to," she said.

Still, it all boils down to one thing: poverty. A state best met with understanding.

"As educated people, we should always be considerate and try to look at them beyond their rugged clothes, beyond their grimy faces," Tenorio said.


Sunday Essays are articles submitted by Masscom students of the Ateneo de Davao University for their advanced journalism class.