Sunday, October 28, 2012

Candy for the Street Children

Since the Christmas season starts in the Philippines as soon as the -ber months set in, Halloween is not really a big thing celebration in the country. While in the US and Europe, kids are busy deciding what to wear as this year's ghoulish costume, Filipino children and their parents are usually on their way to the cemeteries to honor their dead.

Well, there are a few efforts to make this Western tradition a popular one, with malls holding back on the Christmas decor and putting up fake cobwebs and Jack-o'-lantern displays for a week or two. But probably the most tangible campaign for this holiday would be the trick-or-treat events held at some of the posh villages in the Metro. Here, spirited kids of all ages, even pets, get to romp around in their Halloween garb, and hold out their goodie bags for homeowners to fill with candies, cookies, or small toys.

While a lot of spectators remark at the cute costumed toddlers walking down the well-paved streets of the exclusive enclaves, more noticeable for me are the street children, who are given passage to these villages, even for a day.

They come in droves, with no costumes, just big smiles of anticipation on their faces. For these kids who sleep in shanties, a natural reaction for them would be to gawk at the mansions fronted by well-manicured lawns, or pedigreed dogs that are better-dressed and groomed than they are. But on that day, there is only one thing on their minds. candy.

They push and prod each other towards the proffered treats, some not even waiting long enough to leave the lawns before unwrapping and gobbling down the sweets. For the young residents of the villages, the candies are literally a dime a dozen. For the street children, free candy is something that they look forward to once every year.

Aside from the saccharine stuff, for many of them, it is also a day for them to simply enjoy being kids. For, a lot of them have to eke out a living to help their parents with the everyday struggle of finding something decent to eat. The one peso that might have bought them a piece of candy from a sidewalk vendor will be put to better use as an addition to the family budget. The afternoon which they would usually spend taking care of numerous younger siblings, begging, or hawking cigarettes on the streets was spent playing with their friends. It is not hard to miss the sparkle in their eyes and the spring in their step as they jaunt through the neighborhoods, as just regular kids on a fun day out.   

A lot of people wish that every day is Christmas. Maybe every day could be Halloween too?



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stranded In The Streets

There are times when I actually enjoy commuting to my press coverages. Commuting offers me a few liberties: Instead of having to concentrate on the road, which one definitely has to do when he or she is driving, I could sit back and relax, and let the bus or jeepney driver get me to my destination.

I could observe the people I am sharing a ride with, often making up stories in my head about where they came from or where they are going, based on what they are wearing or something as basic as the expression on their faces.

The thing that I hate the most about commuting in the Philippines, though, is that once in a while it gets so unbelievably hard to catch a ride. You see, unlike in most of the Western world, where buses run on schedule, it is really a matter of running after the transport of your choice when rush hour descends on Metro Manila.

The result is a mad rush, a tangled melee of arms and legs as everybody tries to jostle through the crowd to board the bus, jeepney, or train. What's worse is that men rarely give up their seats for the ladies anymore. They reason that they are shelling out their fare, just like we ladies do, so why would they have to stand up? So, I am often left standing in the aisles of the bus or train, holding on to my parcels while I hang on for dear life.

"Is chivalry dead?" I often wonder. There are so many times when I offer my own seat to pregnant women or the elderly, while my male counterparts try their darndest best to look as if they have dozed off.

 It's almost shopping season again, and as Christmas nears, I'm sure it will get even harder to catch a ride. The traffic will get worse too, because everyone with money to spare is already bargain hunting at the malls. There are times when it will be quicker to just walk to where I am going instead of catching a ride -- Good thing I am usually in flats, right?

For those who are bound to get stranded like me, just remember to keep your cool, leave the house a little bit earlier, expect to come home a little bit later -- get those knees and elbows ready for boarding!