DIRTY, with stains of dried rugby on his nose, too small for his oversized shirt touching the ground, bald, thin, with a rag on one hand and a bottle of household glue tucked under his large shorts, sleepy eyed. That is Del.
He is known in the streets as Del-Jimmy because he is a protégé of Jimmy, an older street bum whom the street children of Mabuhay Rotonda regard as their protector.
Del is the youngest of the rugby boys at the Rotonda. He is the son of garbage scavengers.
His parents parted ways and now he lives with his mother and stepfather and his youngest brother in a wooden pushcart that contains their only belongings, a few clothes and kitchenware.
Together, they roam wide areas of Quezon City to look for salvageable items in trash piles.
Del’s life, all eight years of it, has been spent on the streets. It was on the streets where he learned to walk. He and his mother have been on the streets since his parents’ separation. “Nanay used to carry me as she scavenged in the trash,” he recalled.
His favorite places are the street “islands.” He sleeps there, rests, plays, eats, takes a bath and sometimes defecates there.
Like his parents, Del is also into scavenging. He picks plastic cups, used soft drink bottles, anything that can be recycled. He also begs from passersby. “Those in the cars, sometimes they give, sometimes they don’t,” he said.
He admits his earnings go to food and rugby. Sometimes, when there is extra money, he gives it to his mother but not to his stepfather who is a drunk.
During lean days, Del begs for food in restaurants and at food stands. Oftentimes, he is given no more than leftover rice mixed with soup. There is no particular time for eating; he eats when there is food in hand.
Del seldom changes his clothes. When they get too dirty, he just discards them and buys used clothes from the ukay-ukay store.
Like ordinary children, he likes to play.
He has learned to hate the authorities. He considers the barangay tanod his enemies. For him, they mean trouble for they are always there to arrest him and his friends.
Del uses rugby because “it enables me to while the time away quickly.” He does not spend for it, he just scrounges from his friends.
He relates some of his experiences: “We eat first, then rest, and when we’re no longer that full, we start to sniff. Sometimes I hear the devil whisper to me. I try to fight it but he just wouldn’t listen.”
He also sees enemies: “Enemies, bad enemies. They are our enemies. We fight the evil forces. Sometimes I get hungry. Sometimes I don’t—and it feels like heaven.”
Del doesn’t see himself ever escaping out of the rut he is in. For now, all he thinks of is “to eat, sniff household glue, beg for food and money and then rest.” — Manila Times