Seeing the silver lining in the kids of Tondo

PROJECT PINTA. Plain white shirts get colors as children paint their aspirations in life during the Project Pinta event in Tondo, Manila on Saturday, January 26. Shirt photos by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler; logo photo from Project Pinta Facebook page

PROJECT PINTA. Plain white shirts get colors as children paint their aspirations in life during the Project Pinta event in Tondo, Manila on Saturday, January 26.

Shirt photos by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler; logo photo from Project Pinta Facebook page

The simple dreams of children in Tondo, Manila can make a difference for the Philippines and the world someday.

Do you still remember what Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray said when she was asked about the most important lesson she learned in her life?

Gray said she had worked a lot in the slums of Tondo, where she witnessed how life was difficult for some. While she sympathized with some Filipinos living in tough conditions, Gray said that she would always "look for the beauty in it."

“I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look for the beauty in the faces of the children, and to be grateful,” Gray said.

But while most Filipinos rejoiced with her answer, some were displeased, saying that she just “romanticized” poverty. To be honest, I came to a point of somehow sharing that thought until a friend of mine invited me to join an advocacy project, and it was there where I realized that Gray’s words were true.

Project Pinta

It was a gloomy morning when I walked the streets of Metro Manila to reach Tondo with youth volunteers who offered their time for the third wave of Project Pinta (paint). It began when its founder, Rhussell Famy, met street kids while riding a jeep to school.

“Every day, I would commute from home to school. I witnessed how kids would ride the jeep to ask for coins. I have seen them looking at my uniform as if imagining themselves as students as well, and that hit me,” he said.

Every child would want to study, of course, but because of circumstances in life, they can't. And we can’t blame them for not having enough. Though they may not have the means to at least realize their dreams like us, we should extend what we can to them.

This is what Project Pinta is doing – to pave the way for children to realize their aspirations in life by having them paint these on clean white shirts.

Simple yet meaningful dreams

On Saturday, January 26, in Barangay 121, I met 30 kids who woke up early to meet the group. As they arrived at the community center, I immediately saw the silver lining.

I met Fritz, a kid who just wants to become a policeman some day. He aspires to follow in the footsteps of the famous character of Ang Probinsyano, Cardo Dalisay – a selfless cop who puts primacy on the welfare of others.

POLICEMAN. Fritz, an aspiring law enforcer, poses for a photo with a volunteer. Photo by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler

POLICEMAN. Fritz, an aspiring law enforcer, poses for a photo with a volunteer.

Photo by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler

Lord wrote his name on a shirt together with the words, Pilipino and ina (mother). According to him, he just wants to live a simple life with his mother and to contribute something to the nation as its citizen.

Meanwhile, a girl named Lourelyn wrote that her dream is to swim. It seemed to be so simple but for her, it was a big deal.

SIMPLE LIFE. Lord gives his best smile while presenting his shirt during the concluding part of the event. Photo by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler

SIMPLE LIFE. Lord gives his best smile while presenting his shirt during the concluding part of the event.

Photo by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler

In the future, we can finally have a police chief in the person of Fritz, who will champion the afflicted.

Lord can become a founder of a non-governmental organization that will help the poorest of the poor. We can have an internationally-acclaimed swimmer in the person of Lourelyn who will bring honor and pride to the country.

SWIMMER. Lourelyn proudly wears her shirt for a photo opportunity during the outreach event in Tondo, Manila. Photo by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler

SWIMMER. Lourelyn proudly wears her shirt for a photo opportunity during the outreach event in Tondo, Manila.

Photo by Kurt Dela Peu00f1a/Rappler

'Stop seeing our kids as potential criminals'

Yes, Tondo may seem to be a place for those who have less in life, but kids there have dreams too.

Sadly, because not all of us see the good in our youth, there’s a possibility they will no longer realize their aspirations. Among those who fail to see the good are our lawmakers in Congress who are determined to make children responsible for crimes they commit.

On Monday, January 28, with a vote of 146-34-0, lawmakers approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill 8858. This was less than a week after the measure's second reading approval at the plenary. 

Under the bill, children aged 12-18 years old who commit a serious crime would be held inside youth rehabilitation centers that don't have adequate facilities. What’s worse is that years of their lives will be wasted because of a law that our nation is unprepared for. (READ: Highlights of House bill lowering criminal liability age to 12)

Let’s stop seeing our kids as potential criminals. Let’s help them instead to discover their potential to make the world better. It’s good that we still have people willing to conquer challenges to pursue their advocacies in helping the marginalized. – Rappler.com