Payatas, where I live, is a district in Quezon City formed around the landfill. The landfill and the garbage are important means of living for the residents. They collect the garbage, sell the recyclable wastes to the junk shop, and re-purpose mattress and pillows, etc.
One day when I was walking around the landfill with my friend who regularly visit my ministry, I heard “ate, ate Sunny” from the crowd of children at the end of alley. I followed the sound and I saw the children whom I meet in the chapel every Thursday. When I got close to them, I found out that they were working, not playing: separating the plastic and scrap iron among the trash heap, making feed for the pigs by mixing water and food waste that were collected at the landfill, stacking the garbage sacks in the small storage. I was surprised to see them. When I meet them in the chapel, they are just children of 8-10 years old who are pranksters and like to play. But the children who I met that day looked different. They are skillful in working, not like a child.
Every Thursday, Caritas Sisters have a feeding program at the chapel. While the volunteers are cooking lunch, the children attend catechism class and use the barbershop and the simplified clinic. I distribute the emergency medicines (ex. medicine for cold, fever, indigestion, phlegm, etc.) and treat minor wounds. Those children whose whole body is covered in wound are my regular patients. Their wounds vary: punctured wound, scratched wound, festered wound, etc. They rarely take a shower so their wound is not cleansed and is covered with dust and soil. It is hard process for each other to wash the wound with saline. I wondered how they get hurt? Why do they play like this? Why do they not like to wash? Sometimes I threaten that I will not treat their wound if they do not wash, I nag them to wear slippers to avoid hurting their feet. And sometimes I am also angry at their naughtiness.
Meeting the children in the alley brought me to my senses. I felt sorry to them when I realized I had not been interested in and concerned about them enough. I have had compassion on their reality that they are exposed to the poor surroundings. They are injured continuously and wounds become infected. I was sad and gloomy when I encountered this. I was grateful for their warm greetings and beautiful smile while they were busy working. I came here to love; however, I was loved by the children. The children come to the chapel every Thursday as always. And they attend the catechism class, play around and have lunch. The only changed one is my attitude of mind. Now, I try to be with them with love and concern and try to put myself in their shoes. I hope they feel God’s love and they know that they are all very precious through our meeting. I sincerely hope they have a dream of their future and have an opportunity to experience the new world and someday they will shine like the stars in the sky.