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?



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