Monday, November 8, 2010

Lucky Children

the orphanage in talon-talon is officially called the Reception and Study Center for Children. i know. the name gives you absolutely no clue on what they're all about. reception makes you think of a convention hall. "study center" makes you think of either a library or a research institute. must be social welfare jargon.

the date to visit the orphanage was made by may maravilles, kiko miranda, and me on friday but by sunday, the party of three has happily grown to eight: may's val, my ariel, kenny (ownerless), ruselle (ditto), and ruth (ditto). mister donut made a killing from the delegation that morning. we all got our pasalubongs from them. may went the extra mile and threaded crystal bracelets for little girls.

although i had no expectations, i was taken aback by what i experienced. i did not expect the place to be so clean, the staff to be so down-to-earth, the babies to smell and feel so good.

this is the toddler's room. there were around six babies in here when we came in. some sleeping, some playing, some just fooling around. there were six cribs in the other side of the room, each housing one child. the room was very bright and clean. it had an aircon but it was blackout so the windows were open. the toddlers were all dry, clean, fresh-smelling. only one child, a boy in a crib, was crying. we were told he has palsy. the spastic kind. his back was stiffly arched the whole time we were there, and he was crying. maybe from pain? exhaustion? i don't know. i took him up -- he was perspiring heavily, maybe from exertion -- and imagine this, he stopped crying. instantaneously! i have never felt so angelic in all my life!

this is that boy. it is him who got carried but it is ruth that has the bright smile on her face.

the thing about the kids in the place was that, once you carry them, no matter if the child is the 5 month old girl in the nursery, this boy with cerebral palsy in the toddler room, or an older child in the older children's room, once you carry them, they will cling to you for dear life. they are all so hungry to be touched. at that moment, all i wanted to do was grab all of them and do as buddha does.

this is kenny, kiko, and russelle with their respective toddlers. when it was time for us to leave and kenny put his child back in the pen, this little boy bawled his insides out and when that didn't work, he ran after kenny and when that didn't work either, he slammed his entire boy into the mattress. i swear, any WWF wrestler would envy his technique. in the end though, we had to leave.

that's the other thing. you go there, you hug them, but you know you will have to leave. leave with an aching heart, yes. but still you have to go. back to work, back to your "real" kids. the orphans on the other hand don't know that. each time someone comes and carries them, they will give you their heart. what to do with the heart that they entrust to us?

this is mariel from the nursery. she smelled of baby shampoo and powder. (i need to talk to them about the bad effects of baby powder hehe). when she felt me disentangling her and starting the back-to-the-crib-you-go maneuver, she stiffened her body to make things hard for me and gave a little whimper. i finally managed to distract her by filling her crib with toys.

i think my husband fell in love with this baby. "parang si gabriel", he said. when i told him the child's background, all he could do was shake his head.

each child has a story, all tragic. the most tragic of all are the blank stories. these belong to children with no provenance.

parents: UNKNOWN
hometown: UNKNOWN
birthdate: UNKNOWN
any known relatives: NONE

to me that is just a shitty thing to give to a child.

this is margot. may fell in love with her before they met. margot has pretty eyes and a sad history.

after the nursery and the toddler room, we went to the regular children's room. like in the other rooms, the kids were clean, had shiny hair and shiny skin. mukhang alagang-alaga. there were a group of orphans who spoke American accented English. apparently, they grew up in an orphanage run by americans or something like that. asked where he is from, one boy replied "sahn howsey, takhlohbahn".

like any regular kids, they wanted a second and a third donut. but i noticed that if they wanted some more, they asked nicely and not just grabbed. one of the big kids caught me by surprise though. He reached into the box with both hands, groped the sweet stuff and helped himself to three! when i looked up, i realized he was blind on both eyes. he didn't even know what it was we were giving him. he just queued for it because that was what everybody else was doing it. he brought his loot to a corner, smelled it, then put one inside his mouth, then the two others.

this is a photo of some of the girls, eating their donut. i am between kenny and tita cory motomal, one of the administrators or directors of the place. what an interesting woman. when we got to the place, she was inside her car. she came out when she saw us, saying: i was here kanina pa, but i did not want to get out of the car because the music playing was beautiful."

enjoying their munchkin.

then we went to the isolation room. this is where they put children who have special needs. the eldest child in the place, Nur, is their de facto ate. she carried the donuts with her and doled it out like santa. nur has a best friend who stays at the isolation room, marvin. nur favors marvin. she would give marvin first and the most and more frequently.

this is Nur making like Santa in the isolation room. the boy in orange is funny. he was not interested in the donut AT ALL. he is interested in everything else, it seems. for example, when we came in, he stood next to me and studied the buckle of my bag intently, fiddling with it a little. then he moved on to the camera case hanging off ruth's (i think) bag. then at someone else's belt.

this is how his face looks like when he is obsessing on something. look at that brow scrunch in concentration. i think this was the time he was studying the construction of the camera case. in his hand is his uneaten munchkin.

p.s. salamat kay kiko for these pictures. they're all from his facebook album. i bought my cam but i got so taken up with the kids i forgot to take it out of the bag. alibis, alibis.

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