Briones: An intruder in Urgello

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SunStar Briones
SunStar Briones

What would you do if, one morning, you found a boy, about 10 or 11 years old, inside your property?

Well, that’s what happened to me last Thursday, May 16, 2024.

The boy didn’t look like a straggler. He had on decent clothes and wore slippers.

I also didn’t notice him hanging out with the street children who have made J. Urgello St. in Barangay Sambag 1 their home away from home; kids so young who had the vocabulary that would make a pimp blush.

Many of them loiter in the corner, a stone’s throw from the Sacred Heart Hospital, playing hantak and accosting students and passersby for money. Some venture inside the many food establishments that line the street and eat leftovers from the plates.

I used to condemn their presence, especially right after the pandemic, when the ruckus they caused at night kept me up. Several times I called the barangay. I called the police. Yes, the street children were rounded up and taken away, but they always managed to return a few days later.

It took me a few months to learn to coexist with them. It was that or go crazy.

That’s why I had to change my mindset.

I realized that no one in their right mind would opt to live outside, exposed to the elements and easy prey for criminals.

Of course, deep inside, I know they’re not as innocent as I picture them out to be.

They’re far from defenseless. I’m sure of that. I’m also sure that they know the rules of the streets like the back of their hand.

At the end of the day, they’re children who have been forced to live like grownups.

That would excuse their crass language, their tough demeanor, their foray into illegal gambling.

And the street corner and the sidewalks are shared spaces after all. It would be selfish of me to deny them access to these spaces.

I did raise concerns about these children’s link to criminality. There had been talks that they were being used by adult criminals to scout for potential targets. But so far I have yet to hear of reports of thefts or break-ins committed by these street children in the neighborhood.

I think they’re well aware of the consequences if they do commit a crime in Barangay Sambag 1, especially if they have the misfortune of getting caught.

Yes, the majority of the community tolerate their presence, but there’s a boundary they must never cross. Or else.

That was what I was trying to explain to the boy who was right outside my kitchen. Even though my voice was a tad raised, I stopped myself from yelling at him. It wouldn’t have done any good. It would have only attracted unnecessary attention.

I admired his composure, though, when I told him what would happen to him if I find him inside the property again.

He continued to deny trespassing, saying he was only there to ask if we had extra slippers. Never mind that he opened our side gate from the outside and tried to enter the kitchen because he thought no one would be home.

I told the people working at my late grandmother’s carenderia next door what had happened. They recognized the boy from my description. They said he had been “rescued” by the barangay several times.

It’d be naïve to think the boy would turn over a new leaf because of my, ahem, sound advice. But maybe his next encounter would not be as magnanimous as I was.


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