It was a sunny Monday afternoon when I saw this very young, thin girl along the grimy roads of North Reclamation Area in Cebu. She was hurriedly crossing the busy streets to sell several bottles of mineral water. Not minding the number of speeding jeepneys few inches away from her, she continued to sell what she had in hand. As she headed towards my direction, I immediately approached her in spite of the extreme weariness I noticed in her clammy face. Though I don’t want to envisage the conversation that we had, my consciousness wouldn’t allow me to smother what this little girl shared about life’s realities.
Let’s just call her Renalyn. She is a typical 15-year-old girl with dark brown skin and black eyes. She has brown hair with highlights which she colored herself. She has long fingernails and a mole on her right cheek beside her upper lip.
Renalyn is the youngest of four children born to a vendor and a jeepney driver. Her siblings are Ritchell, 22; Richard, 21; and Regenald, 14. The first two siblings are both high school graduates, now in Manila as a househelp and delivery boy respectively. On the other hand, Regenald devotes his full time selling mineral water.
Renalyn confided that she is actually an illegitimate child. Her parents broke up after giving birth to her Kuya Regenald.
Renalyn’s daily itinerary starts by waking up around 4:30 A.M. to prepare herself for school and cook for the rest of the family. She leaves home by 6 A.M. to come up to her 7:30 class. After class dismissal at 4:30 in the afternoon, she immediately proceeds to her designated stall to sell mineral water. Meanwhile, eight in the evening is her set time to go home to do household chores, especially preparing for their dinner. After fulfilling her obligations in work and at home, she then allots an hour or two to study her lessons. And at last, her hectic day ends at 11 o’clock.
To entertain herself, she watches television and plays with her friends. Though she’s into hearing news on TV especially about the entertainment world, she sometimes hesitates to hear such because her mother considers news as irritating and bad. She likes watching teleseryes and variety shows on ABS-CBN, particularly “Wowowee”.
“Ganahan man gud ko sa Wowowee kai si Willie dili laog, sige siya ug tabang sa pobre (I like ‘Wowowee’ because Willie is so generous. He always helps the poor.)”
“Wowowee” is a variety show in ABS-CBN which showcases games of fortune hosted by Willie Revillame. People from different walks of life join the various games with the hope of winning. Millions of prizes are at stake including a house and lot in “Pera o Bayong.” In “Pera o Bayong”, the winner in the elimination round gets a chance to choose among the three bayongs, wherein one of them contains the grand prize.
She also admires Robin Padilla so much for his brave roles in movies. She wishes to go to Manila to see her favorite actors and actresses.
One afternoon, I enjoyed the jolly picture of childhood as Renalyn cheerfully played slipper game with her classmates in Bagong Lipunan Elementary School. They were all so energetic– chasing each other, kicking the slippers in a very dusty basketball court. After minutes of observation, Renalyn saw me, and I found out that she hadn’t eaten her breakfast and lunch yet. I would not know that she’s starved if she hadn’t told me.
Knowing it the best thing to do at that moment, I let her choose what foods she likes to eat in their school’s mini canteen. As I watched her eating, a series of questions were formed in my mind. Didn’t they have any food to eat at all? Did she wake up so late that she run out of time to cook for breakfast? Those questions began to vanish when I heard her saying “Wala man ko gana magkaon te (I don’t crave for food).”
Not satisfied with her answer, I repeated the question. “Nganong wala man ka nagkaon og pamahaw ug paniudto? (Why didn’t you eat your breakfast and lunch?)” She said that her baon wasn’t enough for the day’s consumption. The money for her food was spent for projects and contributions instead. Her daily allowance only ranges from P15-20 including fare. Pushed by her desire to save every peso, she sees to it that the driver of the jeepney is her friend so that she wouldn’t have to pay for her fare anymore.
Her closest friend in school is Geraldine, her 11-year-old classmate. Unlike her classmates, Renalyn is older than the other Grade four pupils. She explained that she stopped schooling when she was still in Grade one due to family problems. Her favorite subjects are English and Mathematics. She even asked me once if I have fairy tale books at home because she loves reading them. She hopes to study at Tejero High School, where her two siblings graduated.
The blend of contentment and aspirations in her life is quite apparent. She’s contented in a sense that she’s able to fulfill what her parents wanted — to earn a living. And most of all, she really loves what she’s doing right now. “Dili jud ko mauwaw sa akong mga classmates og sa mga tao kay nangita jud ko og kwarta (I am not ashamed to my classmates and other people that I am earning money).”
Because of the harsh realities that she encountered at a young age, Renalyn hopes to become a nun someday. She desires to do philanthropic acts especially for the street children.
And if I would be given the opportunity to help the less fortunate children in the future, I would not doubt to look for Renalyn – the little girl who sees the brighter side of life amidst difficulties.