Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Children's Day: A Modest Proposal

Friday, October 17, was National Children's Day here in the Philippines. So ubiquitous and inescapable are children in this country, you would think after a stroll down just about any street in any city or town that every day was Children's Day. But on this particular day the kiddies were particularly prominent, cluttering the markets, running wild among the dry goods stands, and wailing uncontrollably in the internet cafe I frequent every time I come to town.

Instead of pandering to these poor people with insuperable problems for the stupid misfortune of having more children than they can possibly account for, the Philippine goverment should declare a National Family Planning Month. They would first have to re-educate the population - for whom the number of children has always been a desperate and foolish measure of bounty - that as long as there are births in such numbers, not only are women enslaved but the ranks of the unemployed will continue to expand, crime will flourish prodigiously, and politicians, faced with so many consequential social ills that simply cannot be fixed, will have a whopping excuse to continue their habitual misappropriation of funds - a problem that exists even at the highest levels of government and which goes unpunished even when proven.

Behind my kitchen is a one room shack that houses nine people. The mother is obviously - to anyone with ears - suffering from some mental imbalance. In the mornings, when her seven children, with their seven empty stomachs, are clamoring for their breakfast, she screams at them. She screams the word hoy! most of the time just to get their attention. But she can sometimes he heard - it's impossible not to hear her - screaming in Visayan dialect gosto ko mamatay!, which simply means I want to die! During the day she often has to go searching for a stray child, and her screams of hoy! are heard throughout the barangay, from the highway on down the hill to the sea. But the evenings are the worst, when her children have to be told that there is nothing for them to eat. The older children, perhaps inured to going to bed hungry, take it stoically. But the youngest can be heard crying well into the night. Occasionally one of them, the slow eldest daughter, will cry out hysterically in the night, and the mother will just shout her down, leaving the child wimpering sporadically until she falls asleep. The only thing that muffles all this terrible noise coming from next door is the constant whirr of my electric fan.

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