To say that the Trek so far has been a great, new experience would be a gross understatement. It's only been a few days and yet with every waking moment here, every encounter and every sight, Jesus consistently rocks my world. And this is just orientation. I cannot imagine what more is in store.
Today, there was a moment in particular that made my reality crumble. We all had the opportunity to tour Manila, going to various culturally significant locations in order to experience the city and its history. On one of the jeepneys, some of the team and I were sitting near the back, simply enjoying the roller coaster ride that is Manila traffic, singing along to the obnoxious but catchy dance tunes that were blasting through the speakers. The jeepney stops to let some folks off and welcome a new passenger.
Now, this new passenger was young. Too young to be alone, especially while climbing onto a jeepney heading to who knows where. In her hands, she was clutching a bundle of envelopes. She slowly walked through the jeepney, making her way to the back, passing an envelope to each person as she went. She eventually reached us. I looked at the envelope and saw Tagalog written on the front, so naturally, due to my unfortunate Tagalog illiteracy, asked our guide to translate. She explained to me how children would go onto jeepneys, hand people envelopes, begging for money, recollect them after a few stops, and get off. I was dumbfounded, unsure of how to react. I felt so much guilt. So much shame, so much frustration, and so much sorrow all at once, the moment I began to grasp the reality this child had to face on a daily basis.
She came back around to us, collected the envelopes, this entire time not uttering a single word. All I could see were her eyes. Those eyes. That gaze will honestly haunt me for the rest of my life, pardon the cliche. As she proceeded to exit the jeepney, my guide explained that these children would go on to give the money they acquired to the adults who sent them. These were little child workers, sent to collect funds from sympathetic commuters for some manipulative adult with questionable morals.
Having only been exposed to this injustice and poverty in films, I was struck by the certainty of its existence in the real world. I can't help but think to myself if there was something to be done about this. Lord God, show me.
Isaiah is our 2019 Manila Global Urban Trek Blogger. He currently studies at the University of Washington.