The kids did not have to be picked up until around 6PM, but we left the house early mainly because I wanted to relax. Relax meant sitting at Bo’s Coffee along Ramos Street until it is time to proceed to the kids’ school.
We had Chuchai (our Chihuahua) with us, so we had to sit outside, and everyone passing by Bo’s would pass by our table.
Around 5:30PM, two kids in school uniform came by, a boy and a girl. The girl found Chuchai cute and stopped to talk to me about her. The boy asked if he could sit down, and we said “Yes, of course.” We had just finished eating, so there was no more food to give them. I thought of giving them money, and Rolly was thinking the same thing.
The girl said her name was Sandra. She was very pretty. She said she was 10. When asked, the brother said he was 12.
“Where do you go to school?” I asked.
“Abellana,” was the answer. Abellana is a public school.
To those who do not know, the distance from Abellana to Bo’s would be at least a kilometer.
To get to where we were, the kids would have to cross Osmena Boulevard, walk down R. Landon St., cross it at some point, walk up a side street until they reach the intersection to Ramos, cross Ramos St., and walk some 2 blocks to get to Bo’s. All these streets and side streets are crawling with vehicles of course, and especially at 5PM.
“And where is your house?”
I was expecting Sandra to say it was just around the corner, so her reply shocked me. “Opra,” she said, as a matter of course.
To get to Opra, Sandra and her brother would have to cross Mango Avenue, follow the whole stretch of Juana Osmena until it hits Escario St., cross Escario and then walk some more, up the small streets towards Opra. The distance from Bo’s to Opra could easily be twice the distance from Abellana to Bo’s. I have made an amateur map just to roughly show the distances. The location marked by a green arrow was where we were on the map.
My mind was racing. My kids would be picked up in a car, but these kids – way younger and way smaller – had to walk at least 3 kilometers to get home along the busy streets of Cebu. And they could be doing this every day.
Their mother, I am sure, would not want this to happen if she had a choice, but she probably didn’t. She most likely did not have enough money for their fare. Rolly was talking to the boy and the boy nonchalantly mentioned that they were not able to eat lunch (tho he did not say why). But other than that, the kids looked happy and well-adjusted. They probably have a good family to go home to.
If I felt sorry for Sandra and her brother, it was only for a fleeting moment, and it was immediately replaced by admiration and hope. These are kids who look difficulty in the eye, kids who do not have things served to them in a silver platter. These are kids who will grow up strong, who meet challenges head on, and who would not rely on anyone to solve problems for them. These are kids who will likely succeed on their own.
I felt like I have shortchanged my children. I have not given them enough difficulty. I have made life too easy for them, and I am worried I may have made softies out of them. “Mushrooms”, I would joke. I tell my kids they are soft like mushrooms, and they’d laugh, but it is not just a joke for me. I worry for them, because they don’t even know how to ride a jeepney on their own.
Ah, the challenges of parenting. We want to give our children the best, and then we end up not giving them enough because we gave them too much. If only I could turn back the hands of time, there are things I definitely would do differently.
Rolly handed the kids some money and told them to buy themselves a burger, but it was not because we felt sorry for them. It was rather because we felt happy about them. And they deserved a prize for all that hard work.
I definitely would like to see those kids again. And hopefully next time, we can offer them something more than just burgers.