?Street children have been part of the Metro Manila landscape for so long that most of us have been accustomed to them — until someone posts a disturbing photo that gets viral on the self-righteous social media.
Like this 11-year-old boy who was photographed sleeping on the street with his arms wrapped tightly around a puppy.
Coconuts Manila searched for the boy yesterday in Quezon City and found him and his dog wandering outside GMA Network's headquarters.
His name, as we found out, is Rommel Quiminales.
“Saan ko ba mababakunahan ng anti-rabies si Badgi ng libre?” he asks us, pointing to his dog Badgi. Rommel met Badgi in Bulacan a month ago. Like him, the dog was all alone in the street.
Rommel is very thankful for Badgi because the dog protects him from other street children trying to steal his money. Badgi barks at them, but Rommel thinks the real reason the kids are scared is because they think the dog has rabies. “Buti na lang hindi niya ako kinakagat.”
He tells us he also had a pet before. “May alaga ako dati, pangalan niya Sarah. Namatay na lang bigla. Umiyak na lang ako nung nawala siya kasi hindi ko siya nailibing.”
Rommel really loves animals. Though he wants to be an actor because he thinks that where he can make money, he also wants to become a veterinarian so he can help animals.
Alas, the child has a long way to go. “Madalas mga 150 pesos ang kinikita ko sa isang araw,” says Rommel. “Pero pinapambili ko rin ‘yun ng pagkain minsan kaya hindi ganoon kalaki naiipon ko.”
Rommel Quiminales and his pet dog Badgi. Photo by Gen Pilar provided by Coconuts Manila
Though he has been sleeping in the streets, he is not entirely homeless. When he has money, he goes home to an older sister and her husband in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. When he is in Metro Manila, he sleeps outside a 7-Eleven store near GMA.
Rommel's parents separated when he was younger. His father left to be with another woman. Shortly after, his mother met another guy and did the same.
Growing up without his parents forced Rommel to be independent and mature. He roams the streets begging for money and food because no one really takes care of him.
“Nasanay na ako sa ganito kaya tinuloy-tuloy ko na. No choice naman ako para kumita ng pera,” says Rommel.
Begging was the only option Rommel had in mind to support himself and contribute to the expenses of his family.
His brother-in-law works as a construction worker, while his sister earns P100 a day in a small eatery. He says they use a gas lamp at night because they don’t have electricity at home.
Having electricity and having a television are two things that Rommel wishes for. He likes watching dramas and variety shows, especially the programs that star his idol Tom Rodriguez.
“Nakikinood lang ako ng TV sa kapitbahay namin. Minsan nga, kapag nanonood ako sa labas ng bahay nila, pinapatayan nila ako ng TV,” he says. “Sana magkaroon kami ng TV balang araw.”
These days, this kid has been saving money for his studies. Next month, he plans to enter second grade in a public elementary school in Bulacan. He will pay for his own school supplies.
He says he'll stop begging once he starts going to school, but maybe go back to Quezon City during weekends.
According to the last public Facebook post of Gen Pilar, the person from whom we first heard of Rommel and Badgi, the pair will be going home to Bulacan this weekend.
This story originally appeared on Coconuts Manila.
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