has got to be one of the simplest and yet most striking images I've ever seen in my whole life. It reminds me a lot of the filthy children scattered all over Katipunan, of my beloved NSTP students in Payatas, and of one particular boy I met in my childhood.
His name was Noel, although people called him Bansot
. As a kid, I used to believe he was somehow disgraced; at eight he carried a name that affirmed his 'smallness' (he was three years older but stood just about my size). He never seemed to mind though. In fact, he wanted everyone to call him Bansot
rather than his real name. He said he hated his mother for naming him after someone who once saved the world and then left and forgot all about it. At five, I never understood him. His words only became clear years later, when I entered a Catholic school and found out the Noel
he was referring to was Jesus
loved to play pranks. During the afternoon when the adults would have their siesta, he'd go around the neighborhood repeatedly ringing the doorbells of random houses, and then snickering behind a wall when the owner comes out fuming mad. He loved trees too; he loved to climb the old ones, and loved to destroy those that were newly planted. He picked on animals, tortured girls and challenged boys to fights. Needless to say, he was the neighborhood delinquent. Bansot
and his mother lived in the squatter's area of our village, their hut made of scraps of wood and yero
. We knew him after he had saved my brother from falling during one of the latter's silly attempts at climbing a tree. My parents felt fully indebted to Bansot
after that, and during holidays and special occasions a part of our feast would always be reserved for him and his mother. I fail to remember exactly what had happened during the following years, all I know was that as we grew up, Bansot
's pranks became more and more severe. There were even rumors in the neighborhood that he was involved with a syndicate group, although no one knew for sure. And then one day, the notorious Bansot
and his mother suddenly disappeared.
My parents never explained to us what exactly happened to him; the most that we ever heard was from our Yaya, who told us that 'he was taken away for being a bad boy' and that 'he and his mother deserved it'. Now that I remember him and now that I think about it, I feel sad because I realize that Bansot
never deserved anything that happened to him. He wasn't bad. It was simply that he grew up in an environment that judged him even before he could develop respect for himself. It wasn't his fault that his life, even before he had begun to live it, had already been devoid of a future.
At five, I never understood Noel. Never could comprehend why he hated his name, why he and his mother lived in a hut instead of a house, why unlike the rest of us he had no one to call Papa,
why he hated God. At seventeen, I feel like I finally know the answers, and I know that I finally understand. I just hope that someday, more people will understand too, because only then will we be able to keep other 'Noels' from going astray.
Sabi nga ni Nat, We need to save our children in order to save our future