Dream Makers 2nd Part
12:49 PM | Author: Realfaery
Amang, the faithful friend

Amang, the deaf-and-mute man became my most faithful friend in the family. He was a timid bachelor in his thirties. His imperfect denture, which turned yellow of smoking, appeared
behind his smile. Everyone knew him on the project. They were playing jokes on him, pulling his leg for his appearance and the strange sound-formation he had. Kids and young girls
were running after him mockingly. I could hear him coming in the street from far away: the shuffling sound of his rubber slippers, the creak of the gate, the shuffling sound again, then he
would fling the door open and, unarticulated, he roared a lengthy ‘aaa’ to indicate that he was home. Next he usually asked whether the ‘long nose beauty’ – that was me for him –
was home. This he did by showing a Pinocchio nose with his fingers and circularly stroking his face. (The Filipinos generally have small, flat noses and they like to nickname foreigners
ilong dako, that is, long nose.)
Amang belonged to the family. He moved here from over the mountains as he explained with gestures, forming hills of his hands and accompanying it with a long ‘aaa’. We also used
body language to make ourselves understood. We hummed, moaned and bleated with different intonations as if he heard us. But he was as deaf as a door-post.
Amang liked hanging around me. He appeared early in the morning to find me home, he made lunch and dinner for me if I happened to be at home; he did my laundry which I carelessly
left soaking in a bucket behind the house. And when I took him somewhere with me, he would get into his ‘Sunday best’ jeans or shorts, put on his precious sneakers, combed his tangled
ponytail (later he had it cut only to look more elegant), and walking in the street, he would explain to his friends that the white lady was with him. He was an amiable man, full of
humbleness and respect.
I remember that in the first few months he always lagged behind me, he just would not walk on my side. If I demanded an explanation, he blushed and murmured something, caught
up a few meters, then fell behind again. Little by little, he got used to me.
Maybe because he did not understand my words, he interpreted the expressions on my face invisible for the others with an extraordinary empathy. When I was tense or sad, he came
very close to me and, almost inaudibly, exhaled a delicate, faint, inquiring ‘aaa’ and, not waiting for an answer, he shook his head while waving his hand as if he could drive my problems
away.
One evening I was alone. I had a terrible headache and out of spirits, I lay in the dark of the sitting room. Amang sneaked in and waved at me in the light filtering in from the
street. He shuffled to the kitchen table and lit candles not to disturb me with
lamplight. He got the fish out of the fridge and started to clean it for dinner. We ate silently by
the candlelight. Later he went out to the porch and sat there for hours.


’Market air makes one free’


There was always a great commotion around Cogon market. The traffic was often blocked by a host of jeepneys, which people would wave down on the street sides, rushing at them from back and front, loading heavy rice sacks on their tops. Someone would knock on the side of the car a
few meters further, indicating that he wanted to get off and the car would stop again. By the time they had tugged down the goods, the crammed one-way traffic circle got blocked.
I often went shopping with the kids for Carmen. It was an easy task since the boys grew up on the marketplace, they knew exactly what is worth buying and where. I simply had to pay so I could comfortably stroll and gaze about.
On one side of the market beautiful fruits looked inviting. Pineapples and dark yellow mangos piled up, durians large as a melon, a few overripe pieces of which stank like onions. Even larger is the langka, the sweet jack-fruit, which can surpass twenty kilograms. When I first tasted it, I was not told how to eat it. I took a large bite of its meat, which was not a smart move since its fibers, like chewing gum, stuck immediately to my mouth and my palate. Retching, with great
difficulty, I could scratch the sticky pulp out of my mouth with my dirty fingers. Lanzones is a fruit of the size of a plum, growing in clusters. It comes from Camiguin Island where it grows on the slopes of the Hibok-Hibok volcano.
The Lanzones Festival, which is a type of thanks giving celebration, is held in October when the island’s different grass skirted communities meet each other. They parade incolorful costumes, dance and stuff themselves with the inviting white fruit.
A bit further, in the open marketplace, carts overloaded with coconuts stood in a row. Banana bunches were laid on the ground. There were a hundred different types of rice in sacks, fresh vegetables in baskets, and elderly women or combing teenage girls were squatting behind them.
On the other side of the market, animals were sold. Scared chickens were crowded into tiny cages; once in a while a thick, hairy arm reached in, tore out one of the riotous crowd
of chickens, cut its neck and the customer could take it. The wood pigpens were a few meters away and behind them stood the slaughterhouse. The feet of the piglets that were bought alive were tied together and the poor animals were hung upside down on the jeepneys’ towing-hook. Poor pigs would scream for a while, then they would submit to the rough traveling conditions
and, with wide eyes, they would swallow the exhaust gas.
I hated the fish market the most. The stench of the ocean smelling corpses got into my lungs and clothes. The tables were watered with hoses or buckets to keep the dead seafood moist, giving their beautiful colors back as decorative death masks. I tiptoed over the sloppy concrete in my open sandals.
The traffic circle separated the merchants of the surrounding streets from the large market. I usually did my shopping a few corners away and I would often meet familiar people on
the way to the jeepney stop. The taxi hunters would wait in front of the supermarket – they recognized me and knew that I would rather walk. And there were the same beggars day
after day. A young man was sitting on a dirty blanket with his atrophied legs pulled up, smiling up at people. He would wave from far away: ‘Hello, Ate!’, and I always greeted him with a smile. Different vendors were watching my eyes move. When I stopped impulsively, they leaped: how they could help me. Misery seemed inert in these streets.
I always saw familiar faces of children too along the sidewalks. They clung to some passerby to beg for a couple of pesos. The thirteen-year-old deaf and mute boy, Amang would cry so bitterly – with a great talent for acting – in front of a McDonald’s restaurant that people would gather around him. To comfort him, they bought hamburgers for him.
Butchoy lay on the corner like a dead person or someone who was breathing his last, with a broken white plastic cup in his little palm. Of course, when they spotted me, they ran to me smiling. ‘It’s just a game’ – they would say. Walking by the movies, I would see kids squatting on the pavement, playing cards or dice. Children with wide pupils would rest among the parking cars, ‘flying high’ above the ground due sniffing glue.
I walked in the bookstore on the corner. I spent quite a lot of time here, not only because I love browsing, but also because, hiding behind the bookshelves, I could watch the children through the long window without them seeing me and running to me.
So I stood at the window and stared at the crowd of the greengrocers who settled on the sidewalk. I watched Jonathan sleeping with his head dropped to the table at the fruit stall where
he was working for a few morsels to eat. Sweat shone on his subtle features, which were colorless of gray dust. Dirty fingerprints were on his baggy Tshirt, his cotton shorts, which he got at the
home, hung on him raggedly. He had no slippers on and he stretched his horny
feet forward.
Since he had left the shelter, I would often walk this way on my way home. Sometimes I sat down by him on the curb to chat, to find out how he was. Once in a while he would offer
slices of bitter mango that he peeled and packed for sale. Jonathan longed for this freedom very much. He was sixteen and thought it was time to stand on his own feet.
Now he slept on sidewalks, bathed in the river and had no clothes except what he had on. He was with his friends.


The touch


Once in January, we received an invitation to a charity night event, which was organized by the city for the benefit of the street children. So we started out with the children and all in our little truck and van. We had hardly made a few miles when the air blew out of the rear wheel of our
truck with a hiss. Cussing, the kids jumped off the truck and we pushed it aside to a gas station. We had no choice but getting onto jeepneys. By the time we got there, the program had started. We were broadcasted by satellite on CNN. In the flurry of excitement, we forgot about how we would get home. The crowd broke up at two in the morning. It seemed almost hopeless to find a jeepney at that hour of the day.
While two boys started out towards the market to find some sort of transport, we sat down in the park of a shopping mall. A few kids were playing in the street, kicking a rubber slipper, they played football under the row of streetlights. Some of them lay down on the damp, cold grass.
As I stretched out under a tree, Marlou lay next to me to put his little head on my bag. He was so tried he could hardly keep his eyes open. He put his slippers under his back and put his face close to mine.
“Ate Betti, I am so cold…” – he shivered.
To make him smile, I started to stroke his face. I ran my fingers carelessly through his black hair, over his closed eyelids, flat nose down to his lips. He smiled.
“Ate, I still remember the days when my mom caressed me like this. But at that time I was very young.” – said the ten-year-old boy.

The photograph


One evening, when I was typing a letter alone in the office, Alvin sat down by me. He pulled the photo-album, which was full of pictures taken in the prison in Lumbia, out of the drawer. Alvin placed a picture in front of me. Sweet children’s faces smiled into the lens from behind thick bars,
their waving arms stuck through the bars. I recognized his innocent, mischievous smile among them… he was very young, very little…I smiled at him.
“This boy – I pointed at him in the picture – is a good boy, not an impertinent, bad boy like this one here!” – laughing, I pointed at him.
Alvin’s face darkened.
“Ate Betti, this boy had stabbed someone to death… he is not a good boy…”
God, how bad I felt! I felt so sorry for him that I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.
“This boy in the picture is a good boy” – I reassured him – “And this rascal here goes to bed now.”
A wide smile spread on his face, I kissed him and he left.
I sat back. This little boy was in jail for murder. I suddenly realized, whoever came to us, whoever lived with us in the shelter, I never asked anyone, what he was imprisoned for,
neither did I do so on the occasions of my visits to the jail. I do believe that I was not even interested in whether someone was a thief or a murderer. All of them were the
victims of the system and society.

Lumbia City Jail
and Rehabilitation Center


Lumbia City Jail was a punishment enforcement institution in one of the city’s suburban sections, where children were kept – often from the age of eight – for petty crimes,
like sniffing glue, pickpocketing or spending the nights in the streets. Due to the inadequate amount of space and the overcrowdedness, the kids were forced to live under one roof with repeat offenders and publicly dangerous adult criminals.
The captives lived among very harsh conditions: the buildings of the institution were neglected,
the walls were in ruinous shape. Health conditions were very much backward. There were no adequate water supply or separate lavatory facilities. Having no furniture, the inmates slept on
the ground. There was no health provision. Furthermore, there wasn’t any kind of rehabilitation program either.
The prison was built on a huge enclosed plot, which was surrounded by a crumbling brick wall and sheds built of natural materials. These provided the primary defense functions. There was a small shop in a booth between the main entrance and the building of the inmates. The service
huts were behind the shop. There were some reed-sheltered benches and tables, where the family members of the inmates could spend one or two days.
The prison had two distinctly separated building complexes. ‘Sabah’, fortified for defense, was a maximally guarded zone and building. Multiple repeat offenders or the inmates sentenced to life, who were not allowed to receive visitors or make contact with other inmates, were detained
here. The prison policy tried to separate those criminals who belonged to the notorious circle of criminals called Batang Mindanao 29 this way.
Women, juvenile offenders and men sent to prison for small-scale crimes were placed in the other building complex. The women inmates were held in the building next to the office of the prison management. Often thirty or forty of them slept in one small cell.
To reach the male and the minor offenders, one had to walk through a railed gate, which led to the large inner yard. There were no cells in this part. The inmates lived according to a special ‘system of principles’. Fellow prisoners and cellmates settled their conflicts with each
other ‘within the gates’. On several occasions, people did disappear. They were supposedly murdered and their bodies were cremated.
Four cells, as large as a hall, and a couple of one-person cells surrounded the shared prison yard. The walls of the cells were tattered, bare and, here and there, sooty. The ‘toilet and the bathroom’ was separated with dirty sacks and rags in one of the corners. The cells were usually
overcrowded, occasionally as many as ninety children were shut into the minors’ cell. The inmates were allowed to spend their free time in the yard three times a week.
All sorts of methods were used to discipline in the prison. There was a jail riot in the yard during the spring of 1998. The guards tried to restore the order by using weapons. They opened fire on the yard. Several adult and minor prisoners were injured. Having suppressed the riot, the
guards, to take revenge, carried the beds, personal belongings and clothes out of the cells and put them on fire. Ten inmates – with minors among them – were forced to lie naked on their stomach on the ground and they were beaten with gunstocks and sticks.
As a result of the steadfast work of Balay sa Gugma during the past years, the children are allowed to sleep in separate cells from the adults. This, however, still does not save them from the sufferings caused by the ruthless brutality and physical abuse of the adult inmates and guards, and the inhumane conditions of the prison and the cells.
Referring to the lack of financial resources, the state considers the institutional separation of adults and children to be the solution.



On cruelty


One day Tatay Menes, our street worker arrived home very upset from the prison in Lumbia. One of the minors had escaped a few days before. To set a deterrant example for the inmates, the guards took cruel vengeance on the others. They made the kneeling children march on
the dusty, rocky paths for hours and if someone stopped, they hit him or trod on his head. The signs of the afternoon ‘exercise’ were visible on the majority of the children.
I went to Lumbia the following day. Prior to that, as usual, Susan and I bought toothpaste, soap, laundry soap, sweets and banana. Tatay Menes went ahead because he was working with the kids that day. He took the wood carving tools, with which they carved crucifixes for sale.
We hardly got inside the main entrance when I realized that the gate through which one got to the prison yard where the inmates lived, stood wide open and unguarded. It was strange… In the past, hanging from the gate, the children noticed and greeted us noisily from far away.
Now there was no one. I hurried to the gate, but there was not even one guard there, so I walked through it. All the cells were shut; the prisoners forced their way to the openings of the locked, suffocating ‘dens’ for air. By then, the children had noticed us. To my greatest surprise, Tatay Menes
appeared from behind the children behind the bars. I was dumbfounded by the sight. While Tatay explained that the entire prison was under punishment for the escape and they
are not allowed to receive visitors, a man in uniform was running towards me, shouting that I must not enter.
I got into a fierce argument with the guard who, contrary to the Filipino mentality, started screaming. The children and Tatay Menes withdrew in the cell. They were afraid. Our
colleagues had been stopped by armed men on their way home a few months earlier, and had been threatened not to dare raise their voice against the prison.
I understood it, indeed. A foreigner could raise his or her voice since he or she was not from there. Should it be necessary, he or she could leave the country and no harm may be done to him or her. However, these children who were there that day could have experienced the rage and
retaliation of the guards and supervisors infuriated by me, in the evening. These barbarous people possessed a much more powerful weapon than any of the international
organizations did.
Their weapons against us were the children.
Foreword

I must say I am lucky. As a social worker, I found a profession that allows me to wander about the world,exploring foreign cultures, completely different notions of the world and various fates of people; meanwhile I can provide more or less help for those who are in need of exactly this kind of support or encouragement to find a solution for their problem.
During my university years, I did not busy myself only with books. I worked for Collegium Martineum, an organization for talent development at Mánfa, Hungary where I coached young gypsy people. Here I had the chance to work with excellent colleagues and students.

However, the thirst for adventure called me away. I suspended my university studies at the age of twenty when I got the first opportunity to live and work in a developing country. During the six months I spent in India, I worked at the maternity ward of a missionary hospital in Bombay and helped the nuns to care for the poor in nearby slums. For a short period I could work at a leprosy colony in Orissa state on the east coast. Here I got acquainted with the traditions and customs of the Indian countryside –completely unfamiliar to us –, as well as with the lifestyle
and problems of the tiny tribal villages. The utterly different culture left a great imprint on my notion of the world, work and life. My greatest experience was that in India I had the chance to witness that behind the merciless social traditions and inhumane destitution – maintaining dignity and self-respect – the natives live according to wonderful human values.

Two years after my return – having suspended my studies and work once again – I accepted another difficult challenge. I worked as the consultant of the Balay sa Gugma Street Children Project for one year on in the Philippines, in the city of Cagayan de Oro. Our foundation focused on three main fields: offering shelter, provision and vocational training for street children, performing social work among children living on the streets for long periods, and taking care of the adolescents and children kept in the city jail. By starting up various small businesses – a bakery, a metal and a wood workshop or a sewing project – we played an important role in the life of the vicinity.
In my stories, I am writing about street children who were left alone with their problems, due, in most cases, to reasons they had no influence on. They can be seen shining shoes, washing cars, carrying sacks in the streets; they sell plastic bags, help out market women in the marketplace, or simply beg or steal. As the night draws near, they flock together, hide away and pull out plastic bags and glue, which they get cheap from the shoemaker. Many of them go home for the night, or keep in touchwith their parents from week to week. In most of the large families living in poverty, either no one has a job or there are one or two breadwinners, at the most. Owing to the massive unemployment, children gradually become the supporters of their families. First they spend time with earning money only after school, later they gradually fail to
show up and finally drop out of school. In the beginning, they regularly visit their families, but since they spend moreand more time on the street, it is very likely that they break away with no turning back.
According to the Philippine laws and traditions, there is no divorce. If the relationship between the parents goes wrong for good or they want to start a new one, spouses simply move apart. One of my most tragic experiences was the fate of those children who had been abandoned by their parents in the hope of establishing a new family or starting a happier life. Such parents never look after their children any more.

Most of the Philippine girls living on the streets were abused or raped in their home, not only by a neighbor, but also by the stepfather or, in several cases, even by their biological father. Escaping from home, they try to find jobs but mostly they are forced into prostitution, or they look for support and livelihood in dubious relationships. Boys with no families often become sexual objects for homosexuals and pedophiles. An increasing number of HIV positive children are struggling with and for their lives.

Society reacts to these vulnerable children in an odd way. Their sight is not tolerated in the streets; they are locked up in inhumane homes and prisons, or special troops, the ‘death brigades’ of the government’s violence machinery kill and destroy them. During my everyday work, I eventually recognized that the children I met daily lived in an extremely difficult situation. Not only because – having been abandoned by their parents, or having fled from the poverty and brutality of their homes – they were facing starvation or got beaten up or raped living on the street, but also because they were defenseless against laws or society.

I consider it important to continuously communicate, in any possible way, the experiences I had there. If I were not doing so and shut my eyes, I would become a member of the society that legitimizes children’s imprisonment and execution. If I were not doing so, I would believe that the laws passed in a democratic state are faultless and unalterable and I would not believe in being part of the change and conversion.


Dream Makers


The sunrise was most beautiful when the sea withdrew and the coral reef shed its cloak of water. Looking out of my window, I saw the children slouch about in slippers on the large
stones that were covered with algae. The kids collected sea urchins, scallops, fish, kelp and everything edible from the entrapped puddles.


Waking from dreams around daybreak, everything was so beautiful. The House of Love was stirring and the faces of the street children living with us sent ‘good morning’ smiles. We
started to clean up the rooms and prepared breakfast. After breakfast, some left for school, some piled up the baked goods made during the night to deliver for sale. Those who stayed at
home helped in the kitchen, sewed, went to the market with the housekeeper or accompanied the social worker to visit their friends and fellows in prison. They would often sit on the platform
of our pick-up truck and we went to town to look after our various businesses. In the afternoons, the kids would play basketball or idle in the shade. Later everyone would see to his or her own business, studied or loafed about town. In the evening, I would lie in the sand on the beach and watch the kids doing flips in the water. Far from the bay, the high volcano of Camiguin Island emerged out of the sea and the rays of the descending sun dyed it red.

The exotic nature, the beauty of people and the warmth of the sun completely mesmerized me. Colorful orchids bloomed under my window, leaves of banana trees whipped the wall of
the living room in the rain, ripe coconuts looked inviting aboveour heads. In the small house where I got a room to retire, I found quite a large family. As the months passed, the people in
the streets, the merchants in the marketplace or the jeepney drivers became familiar, the people recognized me in the post office, in the marketplace or in the hospital. The town of half a
million inhabitants became my home. I would have loved to dream in this enchantment. Instead, fear and worries would not let me sleep at night; sometimes during the nights, when motorbikes
went by my window, I stood by the window-screen and anxiously listened to guns being fired in the nearby bushes where people were executed. I experienced mortal fear when
guns were pointed at us, or when I was attacked with a knife. I saved a boy from being beheaded with a bush-cutter machete; I bargained with policemen for children and hid criminals from
death; in the courtroom, I sat opposite to a murderous policeman who shot the fifteen-year-old Gary and was free.

I saw children smiling at me and dying; I saw their bright eyes fade in prison; saw them bathing in the river and starving; crying bitterly because of having been beaten up; saw them with sacks pulled over their heads to prevent them from seeing something. I have seen children – the youngest one was not even ten – thrown in prison, where they are fired at and drunk guards harass them at nights, saw them looking at me from behind bars with desperate eyes; breaking glass in their fists; fleeing. I can smell their scent – glue and the acid smell of urine –, their skin became flaky with dirt, eyes got vacant. They would squat on stone crypts of the old cemetery and hold plastic bags to their noses. They would smile at me when begging.
Then, at nights, high on glue, they would curl up on sidewalks or squares. It was a bit comforting that they did not feel hunger and did not sense reality. They were making dreams.


Mabuhay! – Welcome!

I arrived at Manila with butterflies in my stomach. As the plane was landing, the tension within me was growing, not knowing what I was going to do alone in the 15-million metropolis where no one was waiting for me. The administration of my papers kept me at the airport for hours. Loaded with my huge luggage, I searched for a taxicab. Of course, the driver was willing to find my motel only for a generous tip.
My accommodation did not seem too inviting, either. It was hidden in a narrow street where homeless people were staring at me on the sidewalk. I dragged my suitcase up the creaking wooden stairs of the old building. A dusty ventilator, which stood on the bedside table in my small room, poured a hot, metallic-tasting airflow. My clothes got soaked in the suffocating heat. I was so nervous I could not even eat. The thought that I was going to travel to Cagayan de Oro, the City of the Golden Friendship only two days later drained away all my confidence. I felt as though being on a journey between death and either hell or heaven, not knowing where I was
heading and not wanting to think about it either.
A few hours later, someone from the reception shouted at me saying I had a phone call. I ran downstairs. Jim, the American businessman, who served Balay sa Gugma as a consultant for two years alongside of his job, was on the phone. He was leaving the Philippines forever in two
weeks. He greeted me with a warm, friendly voice and informed me that he had reserved tickets for the same plane for both of us. We were to meet soon.
Thus, I traveled with Jim from Manila 600 miles down south. We flew over South Luzon close to the rim of the Taal volcano, and over the Islands of Visayas. Islands and groups of islands of great and small dimensions emerged from the water, with their thick, white rims breaking away
from the depth of the sea. We started landing in an hour and a half. Having flown along the coastline for a while, passing the palm forests, we were flying over more and more densely populated areas; factories, plants and shipyards lay at the bottom of the hills. Monumental cruise
liners were lined up in the seaport. Sitting next to me, Jim explained that a multinational food manufacturer firm, Del Monte Philippines had taken up residence here. Mainly pineapple, cocoa and sugarcane are grown on the plateaus beyond the mountains. Unending towns of tin-roofed huts were erected around the port. Coming from the undeveloped and depressed rural areas in hope of better work opportunities and living conditions, tens of thousands of the penniless live here with their families in miserable crowded conditions.
Little by little, we reached the delta firth of the River Cagayan, which split the town in two and from the bank of which little huts, standing on pillars, were leaning over the riverbed. We passed a green-grassed golf course and landed sharply.
My Philippine colleagues were waiting for me at the airport. They watched with great interest from behind the glass door how Jim and I gathered our luggage. Susan and Carmen, the two youthful women of around 40, hugged me with sincere confidence, Nanay Nila, an elderly woman and Tatay Menes, a middle aged reticent man shook hands timidly. We all crammed into a taxi. Susan and Carmen were chattering to me during the whole ride, they were really excited about how we would get along. I was looking out of the window quietly, and the anguish slowly started to ease.
Following the fasting of the last couple of days, my stomach was grumbling. First we went to Susan’s house so I could drop my luggage. We were zigzagging on the long narrow streets of a
pretty housing project. It was a so called ‘social housing’ subsidized by the state, one of the most widespread housing type built on railed off suburban lots for the poor and for state employees. The lots of approximately 10-15 hectares were split into tiny sections on which very similar or
completely identical small houses of one or two rooms stood. Usually large families lived in these, thus a housing project like this gave home to two to three thousand people. Susan showed me enthusiastically that Xavier Estate, where the wealthy lived, was not too far from us. The political and business elite of the town usually lived in separate boroughs or in luxurious palaces on carefully railed off areas, fenced off estates.
We started out for the home but took some smaller or greater detours to show me how many-faced Cagayan de Oro was. There was a massive traffic jam and rush hour traffic was crawling along the many lanes of highways, which crossed the city. Clever Filipinos turned the jeeps left behind by the American army into unique public transportation devices: these jeepneys were jamming the road from bumper to bumper. Other main forms of public
transportation were the motorellas (a six-seater cabin on a motor cycle) and the tricycle cabs (two-seater side-car bikes), which easily slipped by the large jeepneys and the small, mainly Japanese cars. I desperately tried to perceive as much of what I saw and heard as possible. I thought that I was never going to learn my way around.
In the streets, it was shocking to see to what extent the Western civilization was taking over one of the least developed countries in South East-Asia, yet at the same time how it mixes with traditions. American type fast food restaurants, huge glass covered office buildings, airconditioned mega-centers filled with the latest American fashion.
At the same time, poverty penetrated everything. Poor families and homeless people flooded the slums, riverbanks and flood-basins. They got hold of a small spot under bridges, by open gutters, on hill sides, in cemeteries among the crypts, on sidewalks or on garbage dumps where they
built up their homes of a few square meters, using reed, wood and all kinds of litter.
Susan was constantly explaining what I could buy and where. She showed me the large supermarkets where I could pick out everything I liked for my ‘European’ eating habits. One can find the ingredients for the traditional Philippine cuisine mainly on the market: vegetables, spices, fish, crabs, fruits, and different seasonings rested on the crowded stands. The Muslim section was situated in a separate area of the markets, where textiles, dresses and bedspreads – decorated with traditional patterns – were sold by Muslim vendors.
After a long ride, our cab finally drove into the yard of the shelter where uncombed little kids and slender teenagers ran towards us. I could not even get out of the car when they took my hand and raised it to their foreheads – I touched their damp skin – and greeted me with the words “Good Afternoon, Ate!”, “Hi, Ate Betty!” or “Bless us, Sister!”
I was puzzled by this humble greeting. ‘Who was I to give blessing?’ Susan whispered that they expressed their respect for me this way. I still felt uncomfortable and I would have much more preferred a warm handshake.


Anyhow, as I could see it, I wiped all their foreheads.
“Kaon, Ate” – the children, who, I guess, were hungry since they waited with the festive lunch till my late arrival, invited me to eat. There was a great stirring in the kitchen, and the black ‘pumpkin heads’ with their tin trays formed a line in front of the cauldron. They asked me to sit down and the children placed the rice and fish on plates and served it at the table. Since there was no silverware, I started to eat with my hands – I gained a great routine in that during the
half year I spent in India – but the boiled fish looked so disgusting that I could hardly swallow it with a smile on my face. My next astonishing experience was the sticky rice. As I scraped it off the bottom of my plate, the hardened remains from the day before, which stuck to the rice, also
came off. I suppose, they were not too good in doing the dishes. The kids, however, were smiling at me with such a resolute enthusiasm that I could eat that as well.
I believe that was my initiation!


Balay sa Gugma


Balay sa Gugma – The House of Love was situated in a beautiful setting: on the seaside, in the outstretching bay of a fishing-village. Small coral reefs developed on the quickly dropping
sandbanks. The shore where the sea and the land meet resembles the patterns of an agate slide in which the different shades of blue blended with white. There were uncultivated palm groves on the uninhabited shore. Very far off, the three volcanoes of Camiguin Island reached to the sky.
Bayabas village is truly magical. In the mornings, when I left my tiny home for work, I would cross the noisy, smoky neighborhoods, the vibrant chatter of the market and I would reach
the quiet seaside village on a long, broken concrete road. Many little wooden sheds bordered the narrow roads. Sandy paths ran to the fishing boats on the shore. I saw naked children running
alongside the road and skinny men who were pushing twowheel carts carrying buckets full of water home from the well.
The jeepney dropped me at the last stop from where I walked. A battered dirt road, the potholes of which filled with water in times of rain, lead to the shelter. Its high gates came into sight from under the palm trees as I passed a swampy fishpond.
Our two-story bamboo building looked pretty in the poor surroundings. There was a barred-off workshop on the first floor, where machines and tools for metal- and woodwork were
stored. Rodney, the former street boy, who had also been raised in the home, was working here with the kids. The other little room opposite to it was the bakery. A few boys were working here in the afternoons and at nights. The baker’s shop was lead by Eddie, who came to the shelter also as a street kid a few years before.
The children lived in the bedrooms on the upper floor. There were thrown-together beds and wardrobes in the rooms; yet, the boys rather slept on the floor on bare mattresses using
only few rooms. They got used to it on the streets and that was the way they felt safe. Tatay Menes occupied a staff room. He was our social worker who worked on the streets and visited
the jail.
In the brick building close to the shore, were the offices and, on the upper floor, a sitting room with a television. There were sewing machines in one of the corners, on which the young learnt to sew with Nanay Nila in the afternoons or at the weekends. Nanay was an elderly woman with many-many grandchildren and she was the patient, smiling granny of the home, too. There was also a room for me. This I shared with a social worker, Jessie Ann. I spent the night there when I could not go home. A concrete basketball court and a sandy volley ball court were close to the building.


The kitchen building would deserve an entire essay. Maybe it sounds unbelievable to what extent a person is able to adapt to a different lifestyle. Sometimes I surprised even myself. The
kitchen was a tiny, filthy shed. The appearance itself was telling: everything was barren and made of concrete, like something that was not in use. Cats and itchy dogs were jumping up
and down the table, into the gray sink, they stole the leftover from the plates, kicked over the trashcan, all this happened in spite of the daily struggle of Carmen, our housekeeper. Carmen
would wait for the children coming home from school with delicious lunch. However, the children themselves prepared their breakfast and dinner.
The large, open communal room, equipped with benches and a large blackboard, was built on the shore. Classes or different meetings, and sometimes, when the novices of the town visited
us, holy masses were held here.
Benches and little tables stood on the shore in the shade of the bamboo umbrellas for the
afternoon siestas. The sea stretched out practically at our feet. There was no fence on the seaside, only a waist-high stone wall. Otherwise the sea would have reached as far as the communal room in case of tide. Sometimes the waves of the high water still splash
over the wall. We would often float over the shallow coral reefs
in our little boat.
And a new world began from here.

New family, new home

To find some kind of support in the foreign country, in the beginning I rented a room in the house of my colleague. The suburban area bordered by a wall was far from the heart of the
city of half a million citizens. It reminded me of a kind of sociorealist housing project with its straight streets, small houses and gardens the size of a handkerchief.
The house seemed humble at first sight. It was covered with gray mortar from the outside and one of the rooms was extended with bamboo walls. Inside, the thin plywood walls and the gray,
plastered interior appeared odd. Often I had the impression that I was living in a weekend home. In the remarkably small and dark bathroom, there was only a toilet bowl and a plastic bucket.
Instead of taking a shower, we could scoop the cold water from this bucket onto ourselves with a small pot with a handle. There was neither a washbasin, nor a mirror. This damp room was the
favorite place of wall lizards and span-long, plump cockroaches.
Nonetheless, I got a very pleasant little hole. My hosts put together a true dollhouse to welcome me. They decorated the ugly gray walls with pink ruffled curtains, my plastic zip-lock wardrobe
had a lilac tone and my bed was covered with a pale, rosy sheet and pillows. My little bamboo shelf and desk was leaning against the window frame, and the cement floor was made friendly with a raffia carpet.
In spite of the pleasant environment the nights were awful. Mice lived their busy and noisy lives on the ground and huge cockroaches and lizards lived on the walls. My ‘guests’, who sneaked in under the doors that did not shut well, chewed on my papers and clothes, and plastic bags were rattling under their little paws in the dark. I really hated them but I could not have killed these overgrown creatures – not to mention the pointlessness of the struggle. (The situation was even worse in the shelter, where crabs and huge toads sneaked into the bathroom through the open
drainpipe at times of sweltering heat.)
Six permanent residents lived in our little house, not counting myself: Susan, my colleague; her 14-year-old niece, Jam; the niece’s 16-year-old friend, Malyn, who often helped my work as a
translator; Rodney, who had been a street child before Susan gave him a home and who was also working at the shelter; Susan’s brothers, Egay and Edgar, and finally Amang, the deaf-and-mute
man, who was doing chores around the house. We lived in three tiny rooms and a small living room what served as a kitchen and dining room at the same time. All through that year, it happened frequently that several people showed up for only a few days and hung around for months. There were so many folks in the house during the first week that I could not even follow who was actually living there. Susan’s sister and her five children stayed with us on the weekends, sometimes they would even bring along relatives from the mountains.
In the first few weeks my hosts treated me as a guest and paid special attention to me. Astonished, they pushed me away from the sink and were shaking their heads in disgrace when I wanted to wash the dishes. And as we were going home after shopping, they would take the bags from my hand on account of what people were going to say about how they treated me. By the time I got home, my laundry had been done. I asked them not to do it, but they got upset in most cases, saying that I rejected their hospitality. Then they gradually got used to the idea that I was not a tourist but someone who lived among them. I had to make them understand that it was not just me who had to adapt to their habits and mentality; they also had to accept the fact that my way of thinking differed from theirs. Finally we could agree on the housework. Cooking was the task of Egay and Edgar, Malyn and Jam did the laundry and the cleaning, Susan made breakfast and I did the dishes. I tried cooking only once, I prepared mixed salad with mayonnaise dressing, roast meat and mashed potatoes. These were peculiar flavors for them and, since they eat meat only with rice, they did not know what to do with the mashed potatoes. They ate it spread on bread and, humming, they insisted on how delicious it was. Of course, the bowl would have sat in the fridge, if I had not rescued them from one of the ‘frightful’ products of the European cuisine.
Why is it nomadic?...
8:53 AM | Author: Realfaery
I never thought I ever want to write a blog. I thought it is a waste of time (maybe it is!), will see.
However, I just moved back from England to Hungary, as I decided I want to be free for a while. Free of responsibilities, free of a job, a stress, a routine, just to live lazy and jobless for a while. So, actually now I came to the point, that I can waste my time to start a blog.
First of all I want to give you an explanation about some things:


Why is it nomadic? ...
As I put it to the profile, I am a kind of person who is not able to settle down in one place. Since the age of 19 I have been travelling, I volunteered in India for 6 months in the maternity ward of a missionary hospital, then some years in uni, then 12 months in the Philippines working with street children, then some years of uni, then getting married and going back to the Philippines for a couple of months, then New Zealand for a half a year, back to Hungary for a couple of years with some travels to Peru and Bolivia, then moving to the United Kingdom, and now coming home again. Yeah...tired of writing down all these.
So, my plan is to upload some pictures of our early travels for those interested in it. Then I want to invite you to read my book what was published a couple of years ago about my work with street children in the Philippines. Hopefully by the end of the year I will be on the road again with my husband going to Asia to volunteer in some projects, if it happens, the blog might become more interesting, talking about the present not about the past.

Why is it Realfaery?...

I really do not want if you would think my ego is that great:)
When I started crafts, I made little fairies (I will show you later some) and I went to some craft fairs, also that time I tried to sell them on Etsy. I am always annoyed when people do not know how a real fairy looks like, because they are not that sort of boy or girl body with bird wings (phuu) or butterfly wings. People were surprised to see my fairies, and I had to convince them, these are the real faeries. Some of them believed it. I do believe in fairies like them. Not in the posh ones.





Why is it felt shop?...
At this very moment I do believe I am wasting my time here firstly to promote my shop. If the blog will turn out to be pleasant, interesting, read by others, maybe the aim will change. (I am just being very honest now) So, I started this felting thing a year ago. I had a stressful job, sitting in the office or in the car a lot, visiting my dear clients. (I worked with asylum seeker minors in te UK in the last two years) When I got home, I could not sit down again for a while, and I needed some exercise as well. When I used to work with gipsy youth in Hungary, I learned felt making in a summer camp. I found it very therapeutic, so I tried if I remembered. And I did.
I have a dream to buy a campervan travelling in Europe selling my things in small town fairs. It would be so lovely. Unfortunately it seems I was offered a volunteer placement in Asia, so if we are fully accepted, I can not realize this dream in this coming year. I am a bit sad about it, but I can't take the chance to miss that opportunity. We will see what the future brings.
http://www.realfaery.etsy.com