Briones: Rugby kids

IT’S so easy to carp about something and do nothing tangible to address the problem.

With that said, it’s so easy to criticize people who carp about something and who do nothing about it when the critic doesn’t know the whole story.

That’s why I’m going to cut Lea Japson, head of Cebu City’s Department of Social Welfare and Services, some slack.

I know her heart was in the right place when she told SunStar Cebu that the continued proliferation of solvent abuse alarms her.

These so-called rugby boys—or I should say “rugby kids” since there are girls among them—can be found in many parts of the city.

I don’t know what it is with skywalks but they seem to be particularly attracted to these white elephants.

You don’t believe me? Use any of the skywalks on Osmeña Blvd. or around the Fuente rotunda and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

They’re almost always barefoot. Their tattered clothes barely able to hang on to their frail bodies. They dart in and out among oblivious pedestrians, their laughter rising above the urban din. Perhaps as a sign of defiance against a society that has forgotten them.

They roam the streets. Their tiny hands clutching a piece of plastic. It’s almost like reflex the way they absentmindedly place this over their nose and then inhale.

I’ve steeled my heart against them after countless encounters on my way to the oval from the office.

I assuage my guilt by telling myself that I am not responsible for them.

Japson, a former city councilor, said that they’ve been conducting seminars for rescued rugby kids and their parents, but the minors still end up going back to the streets.

“It’s really difficult because one of the factors that led to this problem is the parents. Their participation in our diversion seminars is really important,” she said.

And there lies the crux of the matter.

It appears that the parents of these rugby kids have washed their hands of providing for their progeny, leaving them to the mercy of the concrete jungle.

To survive, the kids have adapted. I know what they’re capable of. I’ve seen them zero in on unsuspecting victims, mostly female students.

Their objective is usually a food item. A pack of fries. A piece of burger.

Japson is apologetic that the City Government does not have a rehabilitation and holding facility for these kids. But even if it exists, there’s no guarantee the rescued rugby kids will stay.

Still, I hope that one day they will realize that the City and people like Japson have been trying to do what their parents should have done a long time ago, and that is to look after them.
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