Aguilar: It takes a village to raise a child

Against the current

I OPENED my first restobar at a small municipality in Mindanao five years ago. One time, I decided to close my shop earlier than usual since there were no customers that night. Out of boredom, I went out to play billiards with one of my staff at a little store just few walks away. It was past curfew already but the one who attended to us was a kid in his early teens that looked like he has not had a decent meal for months. With few queries I learned that indeed his mom died a couple of years ago and his father left him to be with a new family so he survived with the few pesos he gets as tip. Out of charity, I offered him a job as a gardener - to my thought I could use an extra pair of hands in keeping my yard green and he badly needed shelter, clothing and food. He was too eager to take the offer that he showed up at my gate very early the following day. My family took him in and for the first few weeks we had to nourish him first before we could give him chores to do.

At the start, he was doing his chores but no sooner the kid started to show behavioral problems. He would sneak out of the house when we are all asleep to play computer games and he would be too tired and sleepy to do chores the following day. He would bully our other helper so she would do his work for him. We enrolled him to an ALS school, twice, but he never showed up in class said his teacher. He was incapable of submitting to structures. A couple of times I caught him coming home drunk. When reprimanded, he would elope but would return few weeks after looking so thin, hungry and remorseful.

We always took him in every time he came back. He was already too much to bear but I could not simply give up on the kid when even his father turned his back on him. Every time he would elope I would see him sleep at benches of sari-sari stores and at day time he was always at the company of children in conflict with the law. Yet for some reason all the principles for behavior modification I learned from my psychology classes and my ten-year experience as a teacher did not work. We felt helpless.

One time he decided to elope again when he was assigned to cut the grasses in our grounds. Later that night one of our bar staff saw him puking and half-conscious at a store beside the highway, so he carried him back to our maids’ quarter. After lunch the following day he left again. While I was angry at what happened, I was more overwhelmed with pity. He was simply a victim of an unfortunate circumstance. He was just a kid, and he badly needs guidance.

The kid seriously needs help. Such experience made me see how it is to be trapped in poverty – it makes a person incapable of bouncing back. We taught him to dream, but dreaming simply cannot come from outside. He has got to dream his own dreams. But survival was the only world he knew, and while his parents could be faulted for it, the society too has its accountability. Kids should not be allowed to play at computer shops after curfew time. Kids should not be served with liquor or cigarette in any store even if they can pay. Adults should not turn a blind eye on kids loitering on the streets without their guardians or kids not in school during school hours. Parents who abandon their kids for whatever reason should be punished. Orphans should not be left to fend for themselves. Because really, while parents are the main formators of children, it takes the whole village to raise a kid. And if a kid fails, the whole village should be faulted for it.


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