“Taong grasa”... What makes a taong grasa? Why the term? There are a few number of “lost souls in Antipolo City, not just the “taong grasa” Men, women alike, adults and children. Street beggars, abandoned elderly, street children, those who came from the province hoping for a greener pasture in the city.
I was prompted to write about interesting personalities but I opted to feature first “disinteresting” people who ought to be in the limelight despite their lowly stature.
The Mendicant's Plight
Tatter-demalion or “taong grasa”. Underneath those coats of dirt, underneath the “scary” countenance lies a troubled soul crying out for help although we may not hear out his anguish.
On the streets of Antipolo, we can see them lurking at one corner, masquerading around the city, unnoticed by passersby, ignored, ridiculed by some hypocrites.
Along the city plaza, one of these “taong grasas” is but a normal sight among passersby. Let's just call him by the name of “Gracio'. Thin-framed, wide-eyed, wearing tattered clothes, with coats of thick dirt as his second skin, my friend, Allan Garcia from Antipolo Hills used to give him food ration everytime he passes by. “Si Gracio, pansit gusto nyan. Bumubili ako sa Bernie's tapos humihingi yan ng pansigarilyo.” But now, Gracio's ration has stopped since Allan migrated to the United States.
“Gracio's” hair has grayed over the years, many public officials have come and passed, but up to now, he is still trapped in his miserable predicament. The street became his permanent home – a refuge he considers his own maybe up to his last breath. He's not a sight to behold especially for tourists who come to visit the city.
The “stripping lady” of Antipolo – let's just call her by the name of “Gracia”. A woman maybe in her 40's or younger, strips her clothes by the church patio and all the crowd, “uzis”, could do was watch her as if it's a free “live show”. Pitiful beings...Laughing stuck...Is this our way to care for these souls?Not because they're just ragamuffins, they are not entitled to have a decent life like each one of us.
Misery of the Street Urchin's Life
Street children or “street urchins” - homeless children who live on the street, in particular, those who are not taken care of by parents or other adults. They live in abandoned buildings, containers, automobiles, parks or on the street itself. The term street children also refers to children for whom the street more than their family has become their real home. They may not necessarily be homeless or without families but who live in situations where there is no protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults.
In developing countries, they are subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation or in extreme cases, murder by “clean-up squads” hired by local businesses. Branded as “anti-social” or demonstrating “anti-social behavior”, these urchins are viewed with suspicion and feared by many who would simply like to see them disappear. The public view of street children in many countries is overwhelmingly negative. There is an alarming tendency by some law enforcement personnel and civilians, business proprietors and their private security firms, to view street children as almost “sub-human”
Along the streets of the city, one can find or perhaps encounter these urchins. Some of the rugby boys along ML Quezon St. Those who pester customers at McDonald's. Children neglected by supposed to be caring parents.
The hardship of street life should not be underestimated. These children, out-of-school youth, who should have spend their time in school studying, instead of wasting their time on the streets, annoying passersby, begging money or bits of food from fast food chain customers from the city even those devotees who visit the city to attend mass must call the attention of our authorities.
Take Care of Our Grannies
Filipinos, having closely-knit family ties, love our elders but sad to say that there are but a few who neglect or abandon their oldies.
Some of the relatives of these elderlies opted to just leave then in hospices or shelter homes for the aged. A few unfortunate ones were intentionally abandoned and just let them roam around the streets. There is a dire need to care for the old. We must relieve their sufferings and reach to these disadvantaged elderly citizens.
Homeless aged people can be seen on dark alleys, begging for food or money, some mentally ill but society just lend them a deaf ear behind their woes. This week, we are observing the National Grandparents Week. Let us show our love and concern for these grannies for we will too in the coming days will wear out and have gray hairs like them. The elderly needs us to guide them and care for them in their twilight years.
Urban Phenomenon Is A Social Responsibility
Destitution is an urban phenomenon and shouldn't be left unattended. These pitiful beings need our prompt attention – the prompt attention of our local government. In my own point of view, next to drug addiction, this problem needs immediate action. We shouldn't turn a deaf ear to this predicament of our fellowmen. For me, this people are supposed to be tagged as “interesting”. The local government must have a valuable “interest” to help them out. In every city, not just in Antipolo, they are likened to “garbage” left unnoticed, but if noticed once in a while, will just be “dumped” to some place, by the authorities, not a genuine help. They are but victims of a cruel world who abandoned them instead of sheltering them from harm and providing them the comforts of life. We, the society has a social responsibility. Each individual, whether it is the government, a corporation, an organization has a responsibility. Helping the needy, the poverty-stricken is the heart of “pro bono publico” - a Latin phrase which means “public service”. It is based on humanitarian principles – saving lives and alleviating the sufferings and offering the poor , the right to life with dignity.