DAVAO CITY, Philippines—At 13, Dodong (not his real name) had been in and out of prison for various offenses.
He became a street child by choice, reasoning out that life had always been hard for him even when he was living with his parents.
During his early days on the street, he became involved in a gang that committed petty crimes mainly because of their adventurism and addiction to solvent.
The future looked promising when an American woman took him in. Under her care, he enjoyed toys and expensive clothes. But the call of the street was too difficult to ignore. Dodong left home anew.
One day, Dodong and his friends stole a motorcycle. Many of them were later arrested and were locked up for several days.
Alvin Alayon, 19, said his story is very similar to that of Dodong. At 13, he also went to prison.
But Alvin said things changed when he came to the Bahay Pasilungan in Bankerohan District.
He, Dodong and several other children are now learning something worthwhile.
Bahay Pasilungan is a private effort aimed at keeping destitute children away from crime, abuse, danger and other frightening experiences.
Before Bahay Pasilungan was established in 1989, Fr. Pat Devlin, a Marist missionary, had been reaching out to children in the streets.
Then he realized that the children needed more than just inspiring words. He started a drop-in center for the children.
Lawyer Antonio Partoza, chair of Bahay Pasilungan’s board of trustees, said the building that they now occupy was built in 1992 through donations, including those from the social fund of then President Corazon Aquino, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the Aboitiz Foundation and the Marfori family.
Bro. Richard Joyal, a Canadian Marist missionary who now heads Bahay Pasilungan, said his experience in a similar facility in India has been helping him run the facility with colleague Oscar Kerketta.
In 1990, it became a charity institution.
Since then, Bahay Pasilungan volunteers and social workers had sheltered, fed, clothed and counseled dozens of children.
The children are also taught values that could make them overcome their problems. They are also taught livelihood skills, such as shoe-shining, baking, motorcycle repair, hair-grooming and others.
Alvin has learned how to cut hair and now earns money, which helps send his younger siblings to school.
“I am very grateful to them, my life has really changed,” he said of the staff of Bahay Pasilungan.
“There are lots of success stories about children who had already gone out. They became productive citizens,” Partoza said.
“It is hard work, but I know there is dignity in it,” social worker Marites Salazar said.
“They don’t want rules, but we have to give them ‘life-skills’ and values formation if they are to improve in life,” she added.
Joyal said they really need more help to continue the endeavor, not only financially but also in terms of volunteers for their outreach program.
Those who want to help Bahay Pasilungan can call up (082) 2212922 or (082)2214442.