AROUND 6 a.m., 14-year-old Rex wakes and readies himself for a day of toil in a plastic factory. He watches, as other kids walk in the opposite direction toward school.
He reaches the factory, wades through recycled plastic, his face covered in dust. With not much food to get through the day, he steadies himself, tries to rest in his shanty, contemplating how life can be so hard for a little boy like him.
"Matigsalog ko. Abi nako makasinati ko ug gwapo na kinabuhi sa Davao, pero murag lahi man akong naabtan (I'm a Matigsalog. I thought I would find a good life here, I found the opposite)," Rex said.
Rex is one of the few children who were forced to work illegally in a plastic company in Davao City.
A victim of trafficking, he believed the promises told them about the job awaiting them in the city. He ended up near starvation.
"Pag dili mi magtrabaho, gina hadlok mi na dili na mamatay na mi (When we do not work, we are threatened with death)," he said.
For two years, he worked day and night with only a little over P60 a month. He hoped and prayed that one day, his situation will change.
A Glimmer of Hope
It was in 2015 when Rex was rescued by the San Pedro Police (SPP). Now at 19, he is among the 35 students from the “Help and Educate a Child Program” who graduated from senior high school at the Emar Human and Environmental College.
"Lipay kaayo ko ug dako kaayo ko ug pasalamat. Damgo ra gyud nako ang makahuman sa eskwela, karon nakahuman na jud ko (I am very happy and grateful. It was just a dream before that I could finish schooling, now I am a graduate)," he said.
The program that started in May 2015 was created to protect children and prevent juvenile delinquency.
“These kids have no choice. It’s out of poverty they do crimes or succumb to illegal recruitment, hindi nila alam kung ano [ang] pinasukan nila (They don’t know what they got themselves into).Our goal is to help them,” SPP Community Relations officer Senior Joy Albiso said in an interview with SunStar Davao.
Albiso said due to the alarming increase of the youth involved in crimes, the San Pedro Police Station decided to create a program that would help lessen criminilaties concerning the youth.
“Apart from us, the Talomo Police Station also has the same program regarding the youth and children involved in trafficking and criminalities,” she said.
Those who are enrolled in SPP's current program include minors with theft, robbery, child labor and gangsterism cases among others.
Albiso said more than forty students have been enrolled in the second batch of the "Help and Educate a Child Program."
“What's good about this project is even after their graduation, we will still provide for their schooling. It’s part of our sustainability program,” she said.
The Journey Unfolds
As Rex marches down the graduation hall, his journey begins to unfold. "Karon nahuman nako sa highschool, gusto nako mahimo na engineer (Now, that I finished High school, I want to be an engineer)," he said.
He plans to finish his studies by 2021 and hopefully land a job abroad in order to earn more to help his family.
"Tanang mga batan.on sama nako angayan na tagaan ug oportunidad para makatuon, mulambo ug makahatag inspirasyon sa ubang tao (Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, grow, and inspire others)," Rex said.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on May 01, 2017.
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