DAVAO CITY, Philippines — One windy evening within the smoking streets of Roxas Avenue that turned into a night market, Inggo, 12, rapped his way around customers, hoping that he would entertain them enough for him to get some loose change. On some nights, he would earn as much as P150 but not all nights are so lucky.
On Wednesday, barely five nights before Christmas, his pockets remained empty even though it was almost past 11:00 p.m..
Inggo is no ordinary caroller. While many carollers chant the usual Christmas tunes, Inggo sings a song about the current drug war waged by President Rodrigo Duterte and Operation Plan Tokhang (Operation Plan Plead and Knock).
“Maypag mu-surrender na lang ka daan, kay dili nimo matag-an hangtod ugma ra ka taman” (It’s better if you surrender, because you’ll never know you may never see the light of day), the song goes.
At his young age, Inggo lives on his own terms. Clever and wisecracking, Inggo comes and leaves home whenever he wants to, and prefers to stay on the streets. He likes his hair in red. He doesn’t go to school; he stopped going to classes because he’d come to dread the gang of bullies who would come and beat him up every after class. His mother stays at home while his stepfather whom he calls his “kuya” (older brother) just to annoy him is a pedicab driver.
Inggo says he keeps the money he earns every night. He safeguards it like a treasure lest his stepfather see it and will take it away from him.The food that he eats comes from his own pocket. Tonight, however, he would have to ask from his parents because he had not yet earned a single peso and it was almost midnight.
Inggo doesn’t know the concept of Noche Buena. They do not feast on the table with ham, or the succulent lechon (roasted pig). He says Christmas dinners are like any other normal meal except that sometimes they would eat in a food store.
Like kids of his age, Inggo said he would like to have a touchscreen cellphone, or some new clothes. He also wants to transfer to a different school somewhere he would not be bullied. He said someday he would want to be a policeman to catch criminals, thieves, drug pushers, among others.
Yuko, 14, is one of Inggo’s friends. He is taller, and his voice is starting to crack, a sign of a young man going through puberty.
Yuko’s father works in construction firm somewhere in Cotabato. As a contractual worker, Yuko’s father is not always able to send money so he tries to help his mother through caroling. Yuko said he gives everything he earns to his mother.
Yuko, unlike Inggo, prefers to sing conventional songs. But like Inggo, his pockets are still empty. Yuko’s wish for this Christmas is to let his father come home.
Singing Christmas carols in exchange for money is one of the country’s most treasured Christmas traditions. Many sing in groups, usually to gather enough funds for one cause or another.
Some do it for fun. Still, many like Inggo and Yuko see it as an opportunity to be productive this Christmas. (davaotoday.com)