One of the assignments in my Lasallian Business Leadership class was to watch the documentary Minsan Lang Sila Bata. Seeing the hazardous scenarios the children faced connects me not just being an uncle to my niblings, a brother to my siblings, a son to my parents, but ultimately being a human alone. My heart broke. “Durog na durog ang puso ko.” The reality of child labor in the Philippines proves what a hard life a good portion of our population has in our country. It just saddened me that situations like these still happen in this day and age.
The three faces of child labor in the Philippines
It was clearly delivered in the documentary that most of the children reside in Visayas and Mindanao. It obviously states that life there is certainly too hard, and there is a need to make ends meet. Their lives are miserable, and even if they did the work of grown-ups, they were not given equal pay because they were just children. They cannot question this reality because they need to work and earn money for their families.
Similarities of the children
“Mga Batang Matador” are Tikboy, 9 years old, and Dio, 14 years old, who are working from 10 in the evening ‘till 3 in the morning without getting any pay. They are working in a slaughterhouse and clean the skin of the hog thoroughly by using a small but very sharp knife and getting a portion of it such as fat and selling it to the near market.
Delena, 10, Cito, 14 and Riccie, 15, are some of the children called “Mga Batang Hornal,” who work in sugarcane plantations in Ormoc. They are with their families, and all of the members are working as Hornal.
And the children working in the pier of Dipolog where they help discharging cement out of the ship. Moklo, 15, Liting, 13, and Bobbi, 13, are some of the children who were forced to do hazardous work to earn for their families.
Ultimately, life is tremendously difficult where they live. These children are all part of the poorest of the poor that leads their parents to instruct them not to go to school and instead work for them to eat. Likewise, all of them are working extremely hard, yet not even receiving a decent salary that matched their labor. And lastly, these children have their dreams, simple dreams of providing decent life to their families.
How can we alleviate if not eradicate such problem?
As per the Philippine Statistics Authority, the number of working children 5 to 17 years old is estimated at 5.5 million (preliminary results of the 2011 survey on children). Since child labor is rooted in poverty, families were grappling to make ends meet. Thus, what was needed is to give decent and sustainable work for their parents. Generating livelihood for them really makes a big help in alleviating extreme poverty. This is the primary action the government must do, nothing more, nothing less.
On the other hand, more than the government’s initiative, is what we can do to help solve this problem ourselves. If we just depend on the government, I believe we will not fully address this problem. Let us start with ourselves, and everything will follow. Personally, I have a soft spot for children, especially children with special needs. I worked in a school for special children in Dubai in 2008 to 2010. Before going to Dubai, I was already supporting an organization called SPEd Betis, where special children in our community attended a parish-based school for free. Upon returning to the Philippines in 2010, I decided to volunteer as full-time teacher for one year, and until now, I make sure to attend their special events such as Christmas parties, summer outing, etc.
Also, I have been supporting UNICEF Philippines since 2017. It is easy to do so. I set up my credit card to contribute a monthly donation, and I am billed monthly. It feels great to be part of this worthwhile cause.
Lastly, I volunteer to be part of Kiwanis International in Guagua. I thought it would be a great platform to really help children, especially those who were forced to work at an early age.
I am sure that the struggle to alleviate child labor in the Philippines is a long journey. But if the government and we work hand in hand in fighting this problem that has been grabbing so many dreams of Filipino children all over the Philippines, it will lessen the number of Filipino children who are working at an early age. A solid policy of the government should be implemented that targets the root cause, which is poverty.
On the other hand, our personal concern towards the problem by simply being aware and having basic knowledge about it will make a big difference. If we are moved to support causes/organizations that help children and their families, I believe that they will be free to play and dream, not risk life and limb in hazardous jobs.
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. This article is part of his blog for the course on Leadership, Ethics, and CSR.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.