woensdag 4 maart 2009

There's this clip of a Ryan Cayabyab song that's lingered in my mind all these years:


I was in highschool when I started working in slum areas. At first, I joined experienced outreach workers who gathered children together in a central place within the slum area to teach them songs, and tell them stories. Later, I had my own area where I taught children. This place was called "Paraiso".

In Paraiso, there was a little girl called Marilag. Marilag was a thalidomide baby. She was born with stumps for legs and her arms and fingers were deformed. She was the most beautiful little girl in Paraiso.

Marilag's mother was a hard-working woman. She washed and ironed clothes for a living. She was also very strict and it took time before I gained her trust. I guess, she was afraid for her daughter. With good reason. Even today, I still remember Marilag. She had the most beautiful smile. She always sat in the door of their house and when I arrived in the street, she would shout: Here comes Ate Chie. (Ate meaning older sister). I would carry her in my arms to our gathering place. Each year, she grew heavier.

The last time I saw Marilag, she was in her teens. I had gotten married and I wanted to see her before I left The Philippines. They were still living in one of the small streets crowded with houses made out of plywood and corrugated iron. She showed me clippings of an actor whom she admired. She was happy because she'd gotten prosthetic legs from the orthopedic hospital, and she was learning to walk on them. She dreamed of someday getting married and having children of her own.

When I went back home a couple of years ago, I heard that they'd moved back to the province. They didn't leave a forwarding address.

I am still looking for Marilag.


When you have been to a place like Paraiso, there are things you will never forget. Each man, each woman, each child has a story. That's a story that we can't romanticize or bagatellize. It just is that way.


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