Lost to the Care of Strangers

Last night, I resolved not to join my parents’ trip to Montalban with their friends.  I wanted the whole day to myself.  It was the last day of a long weekend and I haven’t had “me” time yet.  I even canceled my dermatologist appointment (taray!).

But then I woke up early even before the intercom rang.  It was mommy asking me to hurry up and get ready.  And so I did.

Before getting on the van, I was asked to get a couple of clothes to give away – ones that I don’t need and wear anymore.  And so I got more than a couple of them.

We drove off to Montalban to meet the rest of their friends along with their own families.  There were five families all in all.  We drove further along the tree-lined, rocky-muddy road of Montalban Rizal (passing through Payatas) until we reached the gated compound of Cottolengo.

As we entered the Refectory a.k.a dining hall, I noted to my dismay that they were all boys.  I thought of the clothes I brought for them.  I should have given it to our maid’s daughter instead.

I also noted that they were all mentally challenged.  Most of them had mongoloid facial features.  There was this one kid named Ken who was running around and trying to get the attention of the visitors.  He even climbed on me and another visitor.  The kid took me by surprise since I was there for a couple of minutes trying to locate myself in the room and looking where everyone was.  Well, the kid wasn’t that heavy anyway even if he was about eight years old.  After that, he decided he wanted to climb another one of us.

It was time for their lunch.  Their head therapist told them to go to the corner where there were two sinks in which they could wash their hands.  The children fell in line and walked towards it.  They didn’t have effective washing technique but still very impressive.  How many children wash their hands before eating?  And how many actually follow what the elders tell them to do?

We served them their meal – chicken and spaghetti.  The occupational therapists, mostly volunteers, started to cut the chicken into smaller pieces.  And so I followed suit.  They told me that this must be done because most of the kids haven’t learned to chew their food yet.  And so I tried to cut the white chicken meat as small as I could.  Also, I tried to smash the hotdog bits so that it would be easier to swallow.  I was then told that I don’t need to overdo it.

Lunch Time for the Kids

Lunch Time for the Kids

Another difficulty for most of them is hand control.  They have difficulty holding a spoon or fork.  Some have upper limb spasticity including to the distal parts of it.  One kid even had underdeveloped digits and he is completely dependent with feeding.

Hand-mouth coordination poses another problem for some.  And so they were making a mess on their faces.  The tomato sauce around their mouths makes them resemble babies.

Even though they weren’t the usual cute and cuddly children, some may even say they look a bit scary for some people, they truly are the innocent souls on earth.  They want nothing from other people.  They have no evil intentions even if they accidentally hurt you in some way or another.

We were chatting with the priest who was also our host.  He was not a Filipino citizen yet he was there caring more than most of us would for the abandoned Filipino children.

He was telling us that most of the children came to the center with no name at all so they made up their names according to their history.  One kid had a surname of Plaza since he was found abandoned in Plaza Miranda.

After their lunch, they headed to their dorm rooms to have their siesta.  We were then left with our priest host to show us around the compound.  There were learning centers, activity or play area and rehabilitation centers for physical therapy sessions.  It was a well-equipped place if you ask me.  They have everything a special child needs.

We visited some of their dorm rooms where the children were getting ready for their siestas.  There was this two-year old kid who was suffering from hydrocephalus and a slight sunset eye look who caught my attention.  I thought he was really adorable.  I thought the nurse placed a little too much of the baby powder because he was somewhat “powdery” all over.  He was lying there in his little bed unmoving.  I thought it was best to stroke him so that he would elicit a little movement hoping that he would stretch a bit.  But he didn’t.  Both his upper and lower limbs were bent.  I tried to play high five with him and trying to wiggle my hand in front of him hoping that he would reach for it.  But he didn’t.  The priest approached his bed and so did everyone else and told everyone that he was also blind.  Goodness me.  I was a bit affected and started to choke back the pity tears.  I couldn’t join the tour for a bit longer and was trying now to go back to the dining room where the tissue papers were.

Even though I pity these children with all the incapacity they have to handle and overcome, I have to remind myself that they are very fortunate that they were found by those who were caring enough to bring them into that haven.  They had more than what other people have outside that compound.  They have people taking care of them.  They have each other to watch out for.  They can form their purpose in life within the gates of Cottolengo.

Another Awakening Day

Another Awakening Day

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