Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Comes After Dusk

Marvin is 11 years old, but looks like he is only eight. His hands are riddled with bruises and marks which tell of his long days under the heat of the sun, toiling on the farm. He was wearing an old, almost worn-out, shirt and oversized pants that nearly reached his ankles. As soon as I asked him my first question, he hung his head and tears fell on his knotted fingers. It wasn’t easy to go ahead with my carefully lined up questions. They got all jumbled up inside my head, as I struggled not to cry with this little man, who needed all the encouragement he could get. Yes, ‘little man’, for all the burdens that his small frame carries, for the heart he has, brave and courageous amidst all the hardships, pains and uncertainties in life that he has to face each day.

‘Where do you live?’ I asked, careful not to intimidate him. ‘I live with my grandfather’, he answered meekly, still looking down, trying to stifle his tears. ‘You don’t live with your parents?’ I inquired. ‘My mother left me with my grandfather after she gave birth to me and she ran away with a man. I never saw or got to know her’. For a moment I was lost for words, feeling all the anguish his tears meant. His father also left to live with another woman and Marvin never got to know him either. His two older siblings live in other towns.

Marvin with his notebooks and a seedling to be planted in their backyard. Part of Kwaderno's advocacy is teaching the children how to care of Mother Earth. 

He hasn’t been to any place outside Barangay Sanke. ‘How would you like the idea of going to see Bacolod City?’ I asked him, hoping to see some sunrise in his eyes that tell mostly of the dusk that mirrors what his future looks like to him. He shrugged and said, ‘It depends on whether my grandfather will let me’. My heart sank. The tone of resignation in his voice tugged at my heart. How can this little man give up dreaming when he is still a child? He has a million possibilities.

I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up and he answered, ‘I want to find a job with a high salary’. His dreams aren’t clear to him. He doesn’t know exactly what he wants to be, what course to take. The only thing in his mind is to be able to work and get paid well. He said his favorite subject was Mathematics. In my attempt to lighten his mood I quipped, ‘You could be an engineer!’ That brought a weak smile to his handsome face and he nodded shyly as if considering what I had just said.

Marvin's smile was very noticeable the following day after our interview.

Kwaderno is about bringing hope to children who do not know that dreaming is the first step to a life they rightfully deserve. Marvin is one of the recipients of the 4,504 notebooks we bought, having successfully raised enough money in only two weeks. How the donors flocked, more than eager, and so happy to be able to share is something that still leaves me lost for words. ‘Only God can do that,’ I keep saying. ‘Only love can do that.'

My own childhood wasn’t an easy one. I had to go to school with hand-me-down uniforms if there were any, and worn-out sandals that had holes in their soles. I would bring candies to sell to my classmates during recess so that I could buy some snacks with my little earnings. But I am blessed with parents who took care of me and my four siblings, discussing with us our dreams and what we wanted to be when we would be older, and telling us that we had what it took to reach them. In spite of our poverty it was clear to us that each dawn offered great possibilities. I believe God let me grow up with this kind of love and affirmation from my parents so that today I can be there for Marvin and the rest of the children that our group is now committed to share our lives with. /anabelle badill-gubuan

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