MANILA, Philippines – She caught the attention of the crowd – and of the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Twelve-year-old Glyzelle Iris Palomar broke down after asking in a prepared speech why God allows children to suffer, an act that spurred comments from Pope Francis on the need for more women in the Catholic Church and the virtue of weeping for others’ suffering.
As young as she is, Palomar knows what she wants to become when she grows up.
Soft-spoken and with a sheepish smile, she said she’d like to be a social worker.
“Kasi po marami po ‘yung ginagawa para sa iba (Because a social worker does a lot of things for others),” she told Rappler in an interview.
Palomar, who is often called “Tetchie” by her friends, is currently enrolled at the Aurora Elementary School in Malate, Manila.
She is one of the children under the care of Tulay ng Kabataan foundation in Manila, where Pope Francis made his first surprise visit during his 5-day Philippine trip.
“Ang dami na kasing mga batang pinabayaan ng kanilang magulang. Tapos marami rin po sa kanila na naging biktima at masama ang nangyayari, tulad po ng mga droga or prostitusiyon,” she explained when reporters asked what triggered her tears during her testimony Sunday, January 18, at the University of Santo Tomas, where Francis met with thousands of young people.
(It’s because there are already a lot of children abandoned by their parents. Then there are many of them who have become victims of crimes, like drugs and prostitution.)
But she also said that she remembered the pain her mother has caused her in the past.
Palomar suffered abuse in the hands of her biological mother, an event that led to her being sent to the foundation.
“Lagi po akong binubugbog ng mama tapos pinapabayaan (My mother always beat me up and neglected me),” she explained. “Kasi po wala na rin po kasi akong tatay eh (Because my father is also not present).”
Naturally inquisitive, the 12-year-old also said she will become a psychologist if not a social worker.
“Kasi po ‘yung psychologist naoobserbahan po kung ano ‘yung ‘kinikolos mo, ano ‘yung ugali mo (Because the psychologist observes your actions and attitudes),” she said of her second choice.
Palomar said she learned all about these professions “sa foundation din po (also at the foundation),” where she is happy, given the friendships she has forged.
“Mga kasama ko po mga batang kalye (The kids I’m with in the foundation are all street children),” she said.
Evoking a smile wider than her usual, the aspiring social worker recalled how kids in the foundation would introduce themselves to each other.
“Ikaw, Tetchie, ano’ng buhay mo sa labas (What about you, Tetchie, what is your life outside)?” she imitated one of the older kids asking her.
She would use the words used by social workers on her case. “Ako? Physical abuse ako eh. ‘Tsaka neglected (Me? Physical abuse and neglected [by parents]),” she would say, as if the labels were a code for kids like her.
Despite her painful past, she said her belief in God is strong.
“Minsan ang hinihiling po, hindi po siya ibibigay sa ‘yo [ni Lord]. Minsan po sa susunod na po o kung kelan gusto ibigay sayo,” she said of the things that come her way that she does not exactly understand.
(Sometimes what you wish for is not given to you by God. Sometimes it will be given later on or when He wills.)
Eyes closed and holding on to the rosary Pope Francis gave her, she said the Pope’s visit and the warm hug she received from him makes her extremely happy. – Rappler.com