There Were Voices in Wasteland
There were voices out there for you to hear.
They were your young brothers and sisters, innocent of the depravity and exposure to early labor. They were toiling on your forgotten garbage and other filth. They were scrambling over your leftover looking for food of any kind that they could...we call it pagpag. They were used to the foul smell of your wasteland and breathing in the smoke from the burning piles of trash in pocket corners of the disposal land. Their Wasteland Paradise.
This was where fourteen year old Tonio grew up and spent all his young life. He was the eldest of seven, living in shambles they called home on top of tons of garbage in this paradise. His everyday work involved a stick with a crude curved blade to pick up trash,reminding you of a scythe and a sack to put the things he can salvage from the filth. Tonio will accompany his father and two of his brothers everyday in different parts of the land field where dump trucks threw new garbage coming from the nearest cities. Each truck might have precious little treasures they could sell to junk shops.
That hot day, Tonio was picking up on empty plastic bottles and rusty cans. While farther to his right, Father was picking up food that he could save for their dinner. Tonio picked up trash here and there, not really minding what he was picking. His mind was flying across miles and imagining himself in a classroom with You. He was wearing one of those clean uniforms and seating beside You with a proud smile. Tonio Marasigan was sitting on a student's chair and raising his hand with a book on his desk. English studies. It was clearly a dream, not an ambition. There was no option like that in the realm of wasteland. With a sum of money worth only for food and basic grocery items at the end of the hard day, education was a far away dream for a young boy like Tonio. This was a world where ties of family was great but facts always prove to put them in rather depraved scene.
Tonio picked up a poster of smiling faces- a family in front a house plan. Three bedroom, two and a half bath home in a glitzy village somewhere near the city. Just like Mcdonalds. Advertisement of wealth and health. He imagined his brothers and sisters leaving this beautiful house when Father decided to eat lunch at Mcdonalds and he, on a car and on the way home will pick them up after office hours. It was an aim. An ambition. Not a dream. Or so it should be. But Tonio must face reality again as he came back home after selling junk and eating pagpag- leftover fast food product- breaded chicken and soggy pasta.
"Someday, I will get a house better than this. I will marry a smart woman and take her to dinner in a restaurant. Then I will smile with my friends-golf friends and sleep in fluffy bed while my sisters calling from other countries pestering me with their gossips and my brothers sending me pictures of their own kids." Tonio mused to himself while eating instant noodles floating in water.
He was just one of the faceless part of the struggling economy and culture of Philippines. Is it just one particular country?
Tonio was just one of the average, hopeful children around the world that have insufficient supplies of the most basic needs a human being rightly deserved. Lack of water, food, clean air, house, clothing and the precious gift for mankind- education. Worse, they are exposed to child labor.
Somewhere in a secluded spot beside a mountain a local quarry hired several girls and boys to lift and transport minerals in mining shafts. Diamonds, nickel, gold, aluminum, marble...their small bloody dirty hands can hold such minerals but not theirs. For a couple of meager coins, they toil and carry these with a dream that someday, their family will have better surroundings, and when time allows them to marry, a happy and healthy family.
Somewhere, a crying refugee of senseless war was in fact a four year old, malnourished girl. Her parents died when a bomb exploded in the market and the hospital who took her in was burned to ashes. She was recently used for begging in streets by a syndicate who also sell children as sex slaves.
Somewhere, a fourteen year old daughter was sold to a foreigner in exchange of money and became a prostitute or personal slave. She aborted five babies-would-be and kept sending money to her smiling family who thought she was doing fine.
Somewhere, there were voices you cannot hear. You are too busy with your homework, busy joining your friends on the latest social craze. You are busy working office work and drooling in front of flat screens. You are not deaf, just not aware.
There were voices in Wasteland. You are part of this Wasteland. But untouched by its grim realities. You were there on the top of the balance. You don't have to shout. You were allowed to speak. Down on the bottom of the tons and piles of dirt and trash, no light comes in. Soundproof. There were also voices seldom unheard. Temporary relief goods and petting is not enough.
As Tonio looked up that moonless night through the window of their home, one of her young sisters, five years old Anita, crawled on his lap. "Kuya Tonio, sing to me a lullaby." she whispered earnestly.
Tonio sang his song. His singular voice carried the spirit of courage and fierce message of freewill. A song of peace and quiet. Of hope and dreams. Of good life and smiling clean faces. Of decisiveness and determination. He sang the song unheard but common among his own fellowmen. He was singing the song of their lives. Tomorrow, he will get a scholarship. He will get a chance. He will work hard. He will succeed.
Tonio needs help. Yes. He needs a helping hand. But Tonio has to step a foot forward also. He must not allow his future family to suffer like this. He must build a strong determination of a better future made by his own hands. He must not repeat the cycle that poverty and illogical beliefs provokes. He must draw a line for his own survival. From there, You must reach and guide him out of the bonds of the Wasteland.