THIS lot looks most unlikely to be in trafficking.
Jhanika is into photography the way her sister, Micah, was so into music when I first knew her.
Troy has a high sweet voice that hoists a pure clear bell above my head and slowly settles it down as the last few notes of benediction trail away.
Joni wears many veils. She looks too slight to be a hard worker. Yet, after she cried once, her shaking body as slight and breakable as a bird’s, she walked away and came back, with a half-consumed bottle of water, to resume work grief and cruelty almost interrupted.
Nikka studies Mass Communication at St. Theresa’s College (STC). Joni and Troy are pursuing the same course in the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu. They are my students. They are engaged in the oldest profession known to man, now given a modern monicker: trafficking.
When Nikka handed in her seatwork last Tuesday, she crowed that she and her fellows were very busy during the sembreak. The girls found it a challenge to cope with the demand. “The offers were unending,” she reported.
STC is a major transhipment point in this ring, I picked up.
While enrolling students at UP Cebu this week, I overheard Troy discuss with his cohorts their plan to “price” the goods in school before moving the hoard to STC. Then, cool and blatant, he asked my help to spirit away the goods, which includes several of my babies.
My insides trembled. I wanted to sneak after Troy and his gang to catch them in the act. Don’t let those baby faces trick you.
Their youngest member has not turned a year old yet. Ulan (“rain” in Cebuano) first saw print in Sun.Star Cebu’s “Insoymada” column. While his parents cavorted in the rain, which carried a whiff of the radioactive fallout of myth from Japan, Ulan waited for his cue to leave Rei’s womb and take his place in the inner circle.
Ulan will take up after his parents, Insoy and Rei. If you are scandalized by those web cam-wielding fiends peddling their own flesh-and-blood overseas, you haven’t heard yet of trafficking by nature and nurture.
When Rei first sat in my classes, she was light on her feet and grounded in her writing. Then she met Insoy, who by then, despite a lifetime of handing chalices of the host to uncountable priests in Pinamungajan, finally dropped the host in his senior year at the seminary because the concept of transubstantiation stuck in his throat, wrote for a living and embraced the dangerous thinking that one can change the future of youths.
Now this trinity is into trafficking, along with their baby-faced recruits from STC, UP, Don Bosco Technological Center, Southwestern University, and Cebu Technological University.
Where will this end? I’m not a member of this syndicate but I might as well be, for giving up many of my babies to them.
Recently, I’ve been having this dream. I’m old, wizened, my face has melted and hangs around for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks with my knees or maybe it’s the other way around. Getting up from bed is horror. The unmentionable is crawling to plug my equally decrepit laptop with the busted battery and switching on and waiting for my Facebook page to load and reading on my wall this message from Ulan:
“Hi, tita, do you have any donations for ‘Their Books,” now on its XCIX year? We can send the children/grandchildren of Joni/Troy/Nikka/King/Chai/Tala/etc. to pick it up.”
“Their Books” is an annual book-selling project, now on its fourth year. The volunteers of Tsinelas, an awarded non-government organization, sell donated books and use the funds to keep less privileged students in school, give art workshops, start reading centers, and hold reading seminars.
“Their Books 4” takes place on Nov. 18-20, 2011 at Ayala Center Cebu.
You can still give your books to any Tsinelas volunteer or bring these to their office at the Sentro sa Katilingban in STC, along Gen. Maxilom Ave.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Nov. 13, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column