A fleeting hope

The car's window rolled down for a moment, enough for the person inside to hand over a bowl of porridge.

That day, Joey, Joshua and J.R. had something to be thankful for.

The three friends only called their benefactor "father." They thought he was a priest, if Miguel, another street dweller who sells cigarettes along P. Burgos St., Manila, was to be believed.

Although government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development discourage people from giving alms to street children, some well-meaning people continue to give food instead of cash. This was one of those days.

Miguel, who acts as a sort of guardian to the three kids, said that during the Christmas season, passersby in vehicles give free food.

"Itong makakain lang kami nito sa isang araw, malaking bagay na sa amin," he said.

(Just to have a meal like this for a day means so much to us.)

According to data from hope.org.ph, a coalition of non-government organizations, street children in urban areas in the Philippines comprise 1 percent to 3 percent of the population.

In Metro Manila, there is an estimated 30,000 children living on the streets, while there are about 250,000 others located in major cities of the country, said hope.org.ph, which consists of member organizations ChildHope Philippines, Families and Children for Empowerment and Development Foundation, Inc., and Tahanan Sta. Luisa.

Joey and his friends have lived in Makati for nearly 14 years and many of the families around the city have been there longer. Living on the streets exposed them to gang culture, violence, substance abuse and sickness.

Until these issues are solved, Joey, Joshua and J.R. will remain defenseless amid a hostile environment exacerbated by the government's war on drugs.

As the boys ate porridge, at least for one day, they were just homeless young people living on the streets of Metro Manila. For one afternoon, they got a chance to have a meal and survive another day.

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