In the eyes of a desperate child
The desperate look in his eyes said it all.
“Kuya, pahinging barya, pangkain lang,” the child said as he stretched his hand out to me, motioning the other over his stomach as if to express his hunger. It was a rough day in this city, with the sun at its peak, and this kid — perhaps not even 10, his body underdeveloped and weak — was out here, stretching his hands out to passersby.
What caught my attention the most was the desperate look in his eyes, which seemed to mirror the harshness of the life he has to go through as a child of the streets.
It caught me because it stirred something in my memory — that his story might be another person’s story. Because in that little child, I saw a friend, a person who has a story of his own.
His name is Ronnie.
He is a great friend to me, to anyone — he’d talk to you and cheer you up as if he has no problems of his own. He is a jolly person, such that you won’t think he has faced great battles in life.
Life started out pleasant for him. He was the eldest child, born to hardworking parents who had a chicharon business.
Because of this business, their family was able to eat thrice a day, in a fine-looking house they were able to afford. Ronnie, with his younger brother and sister, were privileged to get an education, even if in a public school.
Blessed with an amazing ability to draw, Ronnie dreamed of becoming an architect.
He lived a normal life as a kid. He and his siblings played outside with their friends. And like many others, they enjoyed their childhood.
His childhood was fun, he would always tell me — until their business collapsed. The family went bankrupt; and soon, they had to give it all up. In a snap, everything was gone. Along with his dreams, every single property the family had was reduced to dust. Like an eagle deprived of its ability to soar, they were helpless.
In the most desperate times, he wept.
He wept because he had a dream, and he was afraid of losing it. He wept because he wanted to do something, but he couldn’t. He wept because he was a helpless, young child anxious about his family’s future.
I could just imagine the feeling of desperation he experienced at such a young age. Like the kid who stretched his hand out to me in the city, Ronnie was also a child anxious about life, eager to succeed, but in desperate straits.
Ronnie’s family resettled in a small and simple house. His father became a tricycle driver, his mother a dressmaker.
They earned barely enough to even buy food for their children. There were times when they would eat only at night, the meager food not even filling up their bellies.
It came to a point where the children had to beg their grandmother for food—doing it in secret from their own grandfather, who had personal issues with their father.
But with education as their family’s priority, Ronnie, along with his siblings, still went to school. Only this time, they were constantly slapped with insults because of their underprivileged life. They were impoverished, barely able to buy anything.
Still, Ronnie had a dream, and he knew he had to strive hard to achieve it. He was desperate, so he used that desperation as his motivation to succeed.
He studied with enthusiasm until he finished college. At certain points, he switched from studying to working so that he could earn money to finance his education.
Ronnie finished college as cum laude—a fulfillment and an honor he gave both to himself and his family.
He was once a child as well—an anxious kid challenged by poverty. But he strove mightily in order to succeed.
In the middle of remembering all these, suddenly, reality hit me.
The kid was still there, still stretching his hand out to me, and so I dug into my pocket to give him a handful.
Then, I thought just to myself, “What would this child become?”
As soon as I handed him money, he ran away. As far as my sight could reach, I followed the kid. He was still stretching his hand out, begging other people for coins.
The desperate look in his eyes said it all — it spoke of both innocence and despair; it spoke of poverty and the harshness of life.
I could only hope that his eyes, too, would one day speak of success — that he would win his own battle.
In the eyes of a humbled child, I saw a story — that of my friend’s, who was also that child once. But my friend looked beyond desperation and anxiety, and worked hard to achieve a dream. He was a man who defied the circumstances of his life, and defeated poverty.
He is more than just a friend to me. His name is Ronnie, and I am blessed to call him my father.
* * *
Aron Jan Mitchell B. Sierva, 16, is a Grade 11 student of Malayan Colleges, Laguna.
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