P10-coin in a red envelope

05:05 AM December 04, 2018

I’ve always been excited for Christmas, and look forward to the reds and greens dominating the town. Then, one day, while on a jeepney, 33 days before mankind’s most celebrated birth, someone handed me a red envelope. I thought it was already indeed Christmas, but the moment I looked at those pair of hopeful brown eyes, I realized Christmas was more than just a color theme.

“Buligi man ang ini nga Badjao (Help this Badjao),” would usually be written on these envelopes. I usually give food to beggars, but I avoid giving money. Since I didn’t have any food that time, I just ignored the kid who handed out a bundle of ang pao to each passenger. Another Badjao entered the jeepney and he started playing this musical instrument.


I remembered our research class in college, when our professor made us watch a documentary film on YouTube. It featured Badjao people living on a remote island in Mindanao.

They lived in a community where there was no electricity. Money was not a problem, because the sea provided for them. I had never seen such beauty and wonder. As I was watching the video, I thought: “Who would want to leave that place?”


The Badjao wanted to. Some of them are already here — Badjao children whose dream in life was to go to Manila. You’d think it’s foolish for them to leave their homes in exchange for a polluted city, but as the film progressed, I realized it wasn’t Manila itself that they wanted. It’s what Manila has that they were after—the chance to study, to learn how to read and write, to go to college. They wanted to help improve their community.

It does not necessarily have to be Manila. It could be Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo or any city where education is accessible. They go to cities thinking that by simply doing so, they could already go to school, because that’s how it is on their island. They just have to wake up every morning and go to that small school.

However, the world does not work that way. Many of them end up having to fight the cold, starvation, discrimination and cruelty of the city every day. They risked their lives coming to the city, only to see themselves on the streets, with their dream of being able to go to school drifting farther and farther away from them. Some of them might have already lost hope, but they do not have the means to go home.

Not giving the Badjao kid anything made me feel that I was depriving him of his dream. The amount that he collected from all the other passengers wouldn’t be enough to send him to school. But it could at least keep his stomach full for that day.

I wish I could have done more than just put a P10-coin in his red envelope.

* * *

Deszth Atria T. Cutanda, 22, is with the legal staff of the Panay Electric Company Inc.


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TAGS: Badjaos, Christmas, Deszth Atria T. Cutanda, Young Blood
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