Slums, selling roses and a full scholarship

Natashya Gutierrez
'I want people to know…that when street children are given the opportunity to develop their talents, to showcase their abilities, they shine'

GRATEFUL. Daniel hopes his story will challenge stereotypes people have of children on the streets. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Daniel Dejapin grew up sleeping on the streets of Manila. In August, he is headed to Robert Bosch College in Germany after he was awarded a United World College (UWC) full scholarship. This is his story.

DANIEL DEJAPIN, FORMER STREET CHILD: Kasi pag nare-remember ko yung mama ko, umiinom siya ng alak. Gising siya sa gabi tapos tulog siya sa umaga. Magulo kasi kung sinu-sino pumapasok sa bahay namin. Pati papa ko umiinom rin siya.

(When I recall what my mother was like, she drank a lot. She was awake at night and asleep during the day. It was chaotic at home, and random people would come in and out. My father drank a lot too.)

Nung una, sinisisi ko sila. Kung hindi sila ganun, hindi ako mapupunta sa street tapos hindi ko mararanasan yung mga bagay na naranasan ko. Ayokong umuwi, ayoko silang makita. 

(At first, I blamed them. If they weren’t like that, I wouldn’t end up on the streets and I wouldn’t experience the things I did. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to see them.)

At age 6, Daniel left his home and lived on the streets.

DANIEL: Minsan sa floor nalang, minsan sa kalsada nalang ako natutulog pag gabi, sa gilid ng kalsada. Gigisingin na lang ako. I was selling flowers from 6-10 years old. That time, my father and my mother split. Parang sobrang sira pamilya namin tapos yung ate ko nag-asawa siya. Yung mga kapatid ko, they go to school, but not every day. I was supposed to quit pero… My friends on the street kasi, they introduced me to selling flowers. So what I did, I was selling flowers at night and I go to school every morning. 

(Sometimes I’d sleep on the floor, sometimes on the road, on the side of the street. And people would wake me up. I was selling flowers from 6-10 years old. That time, my father and my mother split. My family was so ruined, and my older sister left and got married. My siblings, they went to school but not every day.)

Nung elementary ako, siguro… Nung una kasi, mga 30 minutes ako naglalakad eh. Pero nung nasanay ako, 15 minutes na lang. Alam ko na yung mga short-cuts short-cuts, mga ganun. Noong high school naman, naglalakad lang ako noon. From Padre Faura tapos Luneta tapos from Luneta, Intramuros na kasi. So mga around 20 minutes, pero nakukuha ko siya eventually ng mga 10 minutes. Kasi parang mabilis na ko maglakad.

(When I was in elementary school, at first, my walk took 30 minutes. But when I got used to it, it became 15 minutes. I knew all the shortcuts. In high school, I walked too. From Padre Faura to Luneta, and from Luneta to Intramuros. So it took about 20 minutes, and eventually, 10 minutes. I learned to walk fast.)

Hindi ako huminto kasi yung mga tao sa paligid ko, parang sila yung nagsasabi sa kin na “Kaya mo yan! Matatapos din yan pag nakapagtapos ka tapos nakahanap ka ng magandang trabaho, mabibili mo na yung gusto mo. Masasama mo na yung pamilya mo. Aalis na kayo dyan sa iskwater.” 

(I never stopped going to school because the people around me encouraged me, ‘You can do it! Your suffering will end once you finish school and you find a good job. You will be able to buy the things you want and you’ll be able to help your family. You’ll be able to leave the slums.)

At home, Daniel‘s parents slowly changed for the better.

He returned home when he was 14, after 8 years on his own.

DANIEL: Nag-change siya every month. Tapos she’s starting na naglalaba na siya ng damit namin tapos inaasikaso kami isa-isa. Nakakatuwa lang isipin na yung dating nanay ko na ako yung nagpaplantsa ng damit ko, ako yung nag-aasikaso sa sarili ko, ako yung gumigising sa umaga, doon ko naramdaman na may nanay akong nag-aasikaso sa kin. Di ko naramdaman yun eh. Pero nung Grade 5 to Grade 6, nararamdaman ko siya. Inaasikaso na niya kami isa-isa. 

(She changed every month. And she started to wash our clothes, and started caring for us. It makes me happy to think that I used to iron my own clothes, care for myself and wake myself up in the morning, but now, I can feel I have a mother watching out for me. I never experienced that. But when I was in 5th grade, 6th grade, I started to feel that she really cared for us.)

Daniel did even better at school.

At 17, he was offered a two-year scholarship to finish high school at the Aguinaldo International School.

DANIEL: Nung nakakuha na ko ng scholarship, hindi ako nagsasalita masyado kasi hindi pa ko marunong mag-English tapos meron kasing separation… Syempre may rich saka poor. Nararamdaman ko yung discrimination, pero hindi ko siya tine-take as personally kasi pinapaliwanag naman sa min ni Sir Tim na yun yung una niyong mararamdaman kasi hindi talaga kayo lucky kasi hindi kayo pinanganak na ganun. Pero kung magsisipag kayo, parang magiging maganda rin yung buhay na ganun.

(When I got a scholarship, I didn’t talk much, because I couldn’t speak English well, and there was a separation between rich and poor. I felt the discrimination but I didn’t take it personally because Superintendent Tim explained to us we would really feel that way since we weren’t born rich. But he said if I work hard, my life could be that way too.)

Iniisip ko rin kung saan ako mag-aapply. Nag-start na ko mag-search ng scholarship. Bago magtapos itong taon na ito, kailangan makapasok na ko ng college kasi kapag hindi ako nakapasok, magtatrabaho na ko at di na ko mag-eenter ng college. 

(I’ve started thinking of where I would apply for college. I’ve started to search for scholarships. Before the year’s end, I should get into a college because if not, I would have to work and not go to college)

Nawalan rin ako ng pag-asa noon kasi wala naman talagang chance na makapasok ako kasi nga wala akong connections, wala akong kilala. Ito lang nung January, bago ako gumraduate, na-introduce sa kin yung UWC.

(I lost hope because I knew I had slim chances to get in. I had no connections, I knew no one. But last January, right before I graduated, UWC was introduced to me)

Daniel applied for a United World College scholarship.

Out of hundreds of applicants from the Philippines, he got in.

In August, Daniel is headed to Robert Bosch College in Germany.

DANIEL: Una talaga, na-excited na talaga ako. Sabi ko, natanggap ako! Sobrang proud ako sa sarili ko. Cinelebrate ko yung sarili ko. Pumunta talaga ako ng Jollibee. Kumain ako ng burger steak, yung 49-ers nila. Sobrang masaya. Yung mga friends ko, nagkaron ng grand reunion. Pinupuntahan nila ako sa bahay namin. Binalikan ko yung mga kasama ko sa kalsada. Binalikan ko sina Ate Claire. Sabi nila, “Talaga?!” Sabi ko, “Opo Ate Claire, maga-abroad na ko. Dun na ko mag-aaral.” 

(I was so excited. I said, “I got accepted!” I was so proud of myself. I celebrated myself. I went to Jollibee, I ate a Burger Steak. I was so happy. My friends and I reunited. They came to my house. I went back to those with me on the streets. I returned to my mentor Ate Claire. They said, “Really?” I said, “Yes – I’m going abroad!”

Gusto ko kasi una, una kong sasakay ng eroplano. Pangalawa, una kong pupunta sa ibang bansa. Saka pangatlo, gustung-gusto kong makakita ng snow.Tapos yung pang-apat naman, gusto kong makakausap ng iba pang tao. Kasi yung sa school, na-introduce sa kin yung adaptation ng iba’t ibang cultures. Sabi ko, parang nagkaroon ako ng interest dun. 

(First of all, I want to ride an airplane. Second, I want to see a different country. Third, I want to see snow. Fourth, I want to speak to different people. In school, I was introduced to other cultures. And now I’m interested in that.) 

Ngayon, ang pangarap ko na lang is makuha ko yung course na Psychology. Tapos pag nakuha ko na yung Psychology, AB Psychology na yun, tapos magte-take rin ako ng social work para naman maibigay ko yung kung ano yung naitulong sa akin ng mga social workers and teachers, maibigay ko siya kung paanong approach nung social workers, sa mga batang tulad ko.

(My dream is to take up Psychology, then I’ll take up social work so that i could give the same help I received from social workers and teachers, using the same approach of social workers to children like me.)

Sabi nila, “Ang interesting ng buhay mo!” Sabi ko, “Hindi naman, kasi kung makikilala mo yung ibang tulad ko, siguro ganun rin yung sasabihin nila sa yo, kung ano yung nangyari sa kanila, kung ano yung nararamdaman nila, kung bakit masakit na sa kanila yung konting sabi na, ‘Di ka ba kumakain?'” Masakit na sa min yun eh.  Lalo na sa min. Lalo na yung, “Umalis ka dito. Kadiri ka.” Yung mga ganun.

(They say, “Your life is so interesting!” I say, “Not really. If you get to know more kids like me, they’ll tell you the same things happen to them, that they feel the same way. They’ll also say it hurts when people say, “Haven’t you eaten?” That hurts us. Especially when they say, “Get out of here. You’re disgusting.” Things like that.)

Gusto kong malaman ng mga tao na… Ang batang kalye kasi pag binigyan mo sila ng oportunidad na mailabas yung talento nila, na mailabas yung kung anumang kaya nila… 

(I want people to know… that when street children are given the opportunity to develop their talents, to showcase their abilities, [they shine].)

Nagbabago siya kasi bawa’t oportunidad na binibigay sa isang bata, lalo na sa batang kalye, kailangan lang talaga palakasin yung loob, palakasin lang yung paniniwala nila. Magbabago din sila. Katulad ko. Kasi kung wala yung mga tao sa paligid ko, isa pa rin ako sa kanila or isa pa din ako sa mga batang nagtitinda ng bulaklak.

(A child changes with every opportunity you give him, especially street children – they just really need confidence, faith. And they will be transformed. Like me. If it weren’t for the people around me, I would still be one of them, one of the kids selling flowers on the street.)

Read about Daniel‘s full story on Rappler.com and learn about how you can help him. You may also visit this website for ways you can help. – Rappler.com

VIDEO EDITOR: Emerald Hidalgo

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.