His name can be Angelico, one of the 250,000 or more homeless children that live on the city streets, alleyways, in rubbish dumps and open markets. They have no secure home, love, care, security and dignity. Most have no parents that will recognize or accept them. They are the throwaway children of society yet for true Christians they are the most important people in the world, of great human value above all others. To accept and help them is to accept Jesus of Nazareth as he said himself. (Matthew 18:1-6)
Angelico was abandoned by his biological parents who had a broken relationship resulting in children like Angelico being rejected and neglected and finding their alternative “home” in a pushcart and living a life of day-to-day survival and self-support on the city streets or in provincial towns.
Angelico was given away as a child to a couple that agreed to informally adopt him. By the time he was 13, he was feeling increasingly unloved. He had no will to succeed. He failed in school, had no birth certificate and could hardly read or write and became for them a “problem” child. Yet he did not suffer any abuse or maltreatment with the adoptive family. In desperation, in 2020, the adoptive parents decided to return him back to his biological father who had rejected him at birth and was living in Manila.
It was traumatic for him to be rejected a second time and to be left with a man he never knew, one that did not care for him either. Angelico was neglected, hungry and continually beaten and rejected by his father. When the hurt and pain of being kicked and beaten was unendurable, he ran away to live on his own.
There are estimates of 126 million such children in the world at least. Angelico lived on the streets in Manila linking up with other street children and they scavenged in the dumps. They were begging on the streets, doing any odd jobs they could find, collecting scrap, junk plastic for recycling and buying and eating re-cooked leftover scraps of restaurant food called “pag-pag.”
They also had to escape being grabbed by pimps and human traffickers who would sell them to pedophiles to be sexually abused or raped. The street children, boys and girls, are very vulnerable, without protection and unable to make complaints to the authorities when they have been raped. When the human traffickers knock them out by giving them industrial glue to sniff, they force them to perform sex acts with each other on live-streaming sex shows to foreign customers over the internet. An abomination if ever there was one. The internet service providers (ISPs) PLDT/Smart, Globe and Dito and their Singapore-based investors and shareholders have the moral and legal responsibility to obey the anti-child pornography law (RA 9775) and block such criminal abuse of children. Yet they fail to do so despite all the public appeals.
The street children like Angelico live in constant stress, anxiety and fear of capture and abuse. They develop mental health conditions that few people know or care about. They are the throwaway children, considered useless to society, being illiterate, diseased, malnourished and suspected of having “criminal minds” like stealing a banana or bread to survive the bitter pangs of hunger. The real criminals are corrupt authorities who abuse them and ignore their plight as they live and die on the garbage dumps and in the sewers.
The neighborhood informal police (barangay tanod) see the street children as pests, thieves and potential criminals and harass, arrest and jail them in youth detention centers to await trial. Many are detained without charges but held behind bars as young as 10 on suspicion of breaking curfew hours. That’s when they run away from the sex abuse and beating in their family homes and hide out in the market and back alleys. That’s when they are offered food and shelter by human traffickers and pimps who hold them in another kind of captivity for sexual abuse.
How can they not be on the streets at night when they have no homes? The authorities frequently arrest the children with trumped up charges, like curfew-breaking or being couriers or delivery boys for drug pushers and jail them in the Bahay Pag-asa, houses known as house of hopelessness. Inside, they suffer beatings, sexual abuse and torture as documented by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.
Many of the estimated 250,000 homeless street children and many more uncounted, among the 4.5 million homeless people in a population of 110 million, live like garbage to be thrown away as if they were not human beings and children and people with rights and human dignity. Their rights are being violated every day by authorities that are supposed to protect and help them.
Angelico survived by his resilience and conviction that he was a good boy and somehow, he made his way back to the provincial town to his adoptive parents and after an emotional encounter they accepted him for a while. But the relationship had been broken. They could not live together and Angelico went out to live and survive on his own again in the market which is no easy life.
The authorities in the provincial town are more caring than those in the city and they found Angelico and brought him to the Preda Foundation home for boys where he was accepted and given welcome, affirmation, kindness and understanding in a family that have shared his hardship and rejection. He is now happy, is studying, having therapy, learning practical skills in vocational training and enjoying freedom from fear, hunger and want. He does art, plays games and basketball .He has found a happy childhood with many others. Angelico’s adoptive parents have come to visit and family therapy is on-going, a happier future is now possible.