If you fancy a quick stroll or some people-watching, Rizal Park is the place to be. That is if you don’t see it as a home like John Eric “Ompong” does. This five-year-old kid lives at the park with his father, whom he helps sell plastic mats every day.
“Tinutulungan ko lang Papa ko para pambili ng pagkain namin. Ibebenta namin ‘to. Tapos doon sa tindahan kami kumakain.”
Laid plastic mats on the grassy lawn in front of the Lapu-Lapu Shrine serve as their beds in most nights. They seek refuge under a waiting shed during rainy season.
Despite the struggle, Ompong still enjoys the park where he can play with his friends that he calls “tatlong bibe”.
“Minsan lumulusot kami dyan sa playground. Tapos nagpapakita kami sa gwardya, hinahabol kami. Tapos sasabihin namin “chuchu”.
He maintained a cheery attitude except when he told us that a car accident killed his mother. He could have stayed with his relatives in Baseco, but the kid prefers to be with his father. When asked if he has any siblings, he gave us an adorable answer:
HoRP: May kapatid ka?
Ompong: ‘Yung kapatid ko, wala.
Ompong: Hindi po. Gumagala e, may nunal kasi sya dito sa paa.
Ompong wants to go to school, learn how to read, and be a doctor in the future.
“Doctor para makatulong sa mga tao.”
Words and Photos by Trixie Bautista