If it was my first time to attend a NGO cultural activity held at a Manila public cemetery, I may meet Analyn, a four-year old girl who lives there with her family. I will surely notice that she wears worn-out clothes with some dust on her skin that has left some dark traces on her face. I will notice she is shy and sometimes looks lost. But I have to go beyond these observations.
So if I manage to become a regular attendee and have the chance to interact more often with Analyn…
I will still notice the worn-out clothes and dust on her face. But now, I will observe the following: During the reading time, she will sit on a mat and will grab a book about animals. The book’s pages filled with pictures of reptiles like snakes, frogs, and lizards; in many shapes and colours. On each picture, she will turn her face to me and will comment with an expressive awe: “”Wow, a big frog! Wow, it’s all green!”
It is not every time that Analyn expresses herself with a wide smile.
Also, I will be able to share this story. One day, I received tickets to a Metro Manila park for an outing. I asked Analyn’s mother if her daughter could join the outing. She agreed and gave her permission. On the day of the outing, I went first to Analyn’s house to see if she could come since it was not always easy for her to join a group.
Half an hour before the departure time, Analyn sat next to her mother. She wore a beautiful dress with her hair neatly brushed and her backpack filled with snacks. Analyn went inside the jeepney; waiting for the other children. During these moments, her mother came at least three times to check if she was fine. She affectionately told her: “Don’t be shy. You’ll tell them if your stomach aches.”
From the evident love and care that Analyn’s mother has shown to her, I strongly realized a thought: I don’t say there is nothing that could be improved by Analyn’s family for her to have less dust on her skin when she joins our activities. But whether I like the idea or not, I have to keep in mind that when I go to this cemetery, I actually enter into their community and their neighbourhood. Their houses are small and the Philippines is a warm country. Therefore, children spend a lot of time outside.
And what do children do? They play. They climb trees. They run. They sweat.
And they don’t wear their Sunday dress while doing these activities.
They own their community. And well, it’s a long time that I haven’t climbed trees.