Cebu City, Philippines – We were strolling the city at night when a scene made by 5 or 6 boys made our hearts sink. To be honest, they noticed us before we noticed them. The sight of a ‘foreigner’ in the Philippines signals hope for many. This is the frame of mind we keep when approached by a local with souvenirs for sale, a child with their hand out, or an elderly disabled man on a street corner. Whatever the case may be, there is more child poverty and people in need in the Philippines than one could possibly imagine.
As we were crossing the street, every child ran up to us with their hands out – some fighting to get our attention, some dancing for our attention. Their clothes were tattered, feet bare and there was dirt on their faces. The oldest of the children silenced them, politely apologized and asked for our help. One boy took Trevor’s hand to his little forehead – a gesture common in the Philippines to give respect to an elder.
Our hearts sank as we watched the look on their faces. They were desperate and hungry. If they only knew they did not have to beg us. If they only knew they would each receive something from us. If we could only take their fear away. These were the words we kept saying to ourselves. The reality was, each young boy fought for our attention, as if only one of them would walk away with help.
We took out the money we had in our pockets, and handed an even amount out to each boy. We even danced with them as a local band played in their garage in the background. The smiles on their faces will be embedded in our memories forever.
Before we left, we took some time to talk to each of them. One of them said his family’s home was burnt down in a fire. The other said he did not know where his parents were and he did not go to school. After hearing those words, we felt crushed. We knew there was only one thing we could do – give them each a BIG hug, a huge high five, and share a few words sprinkled with hope and love.
Facts about Street Children in the Philippines
These are just few of the many children that dwell in the streets of of the Philippines. In fact, there are over 1.2 million street children in the Philippines. Though the city government has programs to rescue the kids on the streets, there is much work to be done. Homes, food and shelter for street children are urgently needed.
- According to UNICEF, an estimated 100 million children worldwide live at least part of their time on the streets.
- In the Philippines, a government report in 1998 put the figure at 1.2 million street children—about 70,000 of them in Metro Manila alone. That number has risen over the years.
- Another report estimates that there are approximately 1.5 million children on the streets working as beggars, pickpockets, drug abusers and child prostitutes (ECPAT). Today, the number of children and youth living part of their lives on the streets in the Philippines could reach two million out of a total population of 84 million.
- More info: UNICEF – “CHILD POVERTY IN THE PHILIPPINES”: > https://www.unicef.org/philippines/ChildPovertyinthePhilippines_web.pdf
While we’ve enjoyed our travels in the Philippines, these are the real moments we live for. These are the experiences we need – to help and give back when we can. To leave knowing we made an impact. To really travel and become better people for it.