As pandemic restriction eases a bit, children, who have been staying home for more than a year now, are to be seen everywhere as one entered a narrow street of urban Malabon City. They are playing on the rough ground and open spaces where garbage is manually sorted. The parked tricycles and vending carts, food stalls, old but useful sofa all serve as the children’s play props in the streets.
Jhayrus, 13, an incoming Grade 8 student this coming school year, grew up in this village. Jhayrus lives with his parents and two younger siblings in a 5-square-foot, windowless room that directly opens onto the street. A corner of the room is occupied by a bed and the remaining floor space is used for cooking, storage and sitting around.
“Our house is small,” Jhayrus said. “You maybe wondering how we fit in.” He laughed and showed a make-shift bed occupying a top corner of the room. It was covered with a curtain that one would think it’s where the family keeps their clothes. “Tadaaa! We have a hidden bedroom here.”
I laughed on the ingenuity of the family. “How do you get in there? There’s no ladder,” I asked.
“We climbed using these,” he replied pointing at the plastic Orocan containers piled after another.
We both laughed.
Jhayrus explained that they are merely renting the house they are living. They’re paying Php2,000 ($40) a month excluding electricity. There’s no attached toiled nor piped water supply in the house.
His father, Rustan, 33, is a tricycle driver. His mother, Julieta, 40, had carved out a small food stall in front of their house. On profitable days, she could earn around Php1000 ($50). The combined income of Jhayrus’ parents is mostly spent on house rent, leaving little budget for their food and children’s school needs.
Julieta explained that prior to the pandemic, she was a house helper earning Php4,000 ($80) a month. “But when COVID-19 strikes and lockdowns happened, I also lost my job,” she said.
As a World Vision supported child, Jhayrus receive school supplies annually. “Recently, I receive hygiene kits. And…yeah…Noche Buena gifts,” Jhayrus shared.
The World Vision school items, Julieta said, helps her save a certain amount. “I don’t need to think where to get money to buy him school supplies. Sometimes, he shared his supplies to his siblings,” Julieta said.
Jhayrus said that he wanted to become a businessman someday. “I want to help my parents have a better life,” he said. He’s practicing his marketing skill by helping his mother with their food stall business.
“Being the eldest among my siblings, I rely on Jhayrus to help around the house, like looking after his siblings while me and his father are out for work. He’s a very reliable son,” Julieta adds.
“I’ll study hard to make my dream come true,” Jhayrus says, looking at his mother, who, by now, was serving a customer buying food.