A country with 208 persons per square kilometer, there is simply not enough space for
those who come from the province thinking Manila is the promised land. Many who
are uneducated and are left by their husband find themselves struggling to survive by
begging, baby in arms.
It is a seemingly impossible task to do anything for the homeless here. More daunting
yet, is to continue to see them as they walk the streets, tap your car window in traffic,
send their children to pull on your sleeve. It is easier sometimes to rush past, to look
beyond as though you do not see; to be irritated or simply ignore.
A few blocks away from Gentle Hands is a street littered with beggars. They come
and go from week to week depending on how kind people are to them. Only a few stay for any length of time. One mother and child, i know well.
Last year, she gave birth on the street under a parked pickup. Some passerby cut the
cord with a jackknife. My friend and I were 2 minutes too late. She refused help.
Refused checkups, refused everything. It was useless to try to convince her. After
making sure she was not bleeding and the baby was stable, we went home got food,
clothes and medicine. It was all she would accept. All we could do.
Since then, I have talked with her many times. I have sat down on the street and
visited. I just wanted her to trust me. Her little five-year-old, Rosanne, would run
up to me and hug me.
A spectacle in the eyes of the many passerbys, sometimes she would jump in my arms and ask me to take her home and bathe her and feed her. I ask permission and she is allowed, but only sometimes. On those times, we skip all the way to Gentle Hands. Sometimes she spends the night and sometimes she is anxious to be back with her mom. I hug her a lot. And she loves it.
Last weekend, I passed by on my way home from the hospital. She was lying on her
side, her color not good. She was about 5 or 6 months pregnant. I had been watching
her closely over the past few months. Roseanne jumped up when she saw me. The
mom waved me away with a weak hand. Lord, protect that baby in her tummy.
Two days later, I was getting groceries and one of the cashiers asked me if I could go
check on the woman who lives on the street. She looked like she might be in labor. I
was surprised they knew I knew her but promised I would. I sent Brittany but her stall
of cigarettes and candy was gone and so were she. We would have to wait.
Yesterday, she came to my office. It was the first time. Tears streamed down her face.
They told of how the babies came out, the doctor screaming at her like she was an
animal. They used metal to clean out her uterus immediately after birth. There was
no explanation. She sobbed as she remember the pain. Then they told her to go home.
She was kicked out of the emergency room. She said one baby died within hours, the
second just yesterday. When she went back to check on the baby that survived, they
security guards wouldn’t let her in. She was dirty and had no money. Now her babies
were both dead. And she had nowhere to bury them.
I gently patted her and told her it would be okay. We would make a way.
So we have scheduled a cremation since she does not have any right to bury her dead
in this city. Then the ashes can stay with her.
This whole year I have tried to love on her. Mostly for the sake of her 5 year old,
Rosanne. Someday, I hope she can live here and go to school and not sleep in her
own urine on a dirty sidewalk. But she finally has trusted me. And though I know it is
expense to us and I know it is not even my responsibility, I see it as an investment.
An investment in a broken, destitute woman who is all alone and her precious little
girl for whom there is still so much hope.