MANILA - A Badjao teen has been overwhelmed with the attention she has been receiving after a photograph of her begging for spare change during a local festival in Lucban, Quezon went viral online.
The photo, posted on Facebook last May 14 by photographer Topher Quinto Burgos, showed 13-year-old Rita Gaviola begging with her younger sister at the Pahiyas Festival.
Filipino netizens gushed over her morena skin and high cheekbones.
Burgos captioned her post: "Nakita lang namin siya nanghihingi ng barya. Kapatid nating mga Badjao na may angkin ganda."
It was then reported by local television. A reposted photo on a page dedicated to Gaviola titled "Badjao Girl" was also shared close to 72,000 times on the social networking site.
Gaviola told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she hopes her unexpected fame will help her achieve her dream of becoming a teacher.
"I want to finish my studies and be a teacher someday. I want to help my siblings and the other Badjao kids to get education," shared Gaviola, who lives in a shack in Barangay Barra, Lucena City with her family.
Lucena City Mayor Roderick Alcala, according to Inquirer, said he would send Gaviola to school. Asis Perez, the national director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as a host of local beauty queens have also promised help for Gaviola.
"I don't want them (children) to beg. But hunger forces us," admitted Gaviola's father Danny in the same interview.
According to the article, Danny and his family traveled to Lucena City from Zamboanga to "escape poverty."