Remembering Ericson

It’s been two years since I saw Ericson. Lately, he has appeared to me in dreams. He changed me for the better and I hope with all my heart that in the short period that our paths crossed, I have brought him some joy and hope. I remember him and many more children like him that we have forgotten and, in one way or another, have forsaken.

I am re-posting my reflections in 2008:

His name is Ericson, not Nokia. That’s the joke whenever we introduce him. But his father’s name is not Eric. But he is some mother’s son. I don’t know his mother’s name. In fact. I know so little about his life before I met him on the streets. But he is now part of ours. So, let me just tell you what I know about him

On January 29, I wrote two of my dearest friends about Ericson.
I first saw Ericson on January 17, Thursday, on my way to my dermatologist. He was lying on the street right beside the new overpass at Dasmarinas, Cavite. He was stretched out on the sidewalk as if he was lying on a luxurious mattress. I passed by and gave him a sad glance but did not miss a step. Young children like him are a common sight in many cities and towns in our country.

I spent over one thousand pesos at the dermatologist’s clinic.I thought, I have spent so much for my skin. Actually, I have spent so much for myself for the last few weeks, because of the Christmas season.

Well, I found myself squatting beside the sleeping Ericson.  I nudged him on the shoulder a few times until he woke up. I said, “gusto mo ba kumain?” He said, “Oo, gusto ko kumain.” We ordered his food at a nearby carinderia and chatted for about an hour. He said he was 11 years old, was an orphan, had been living in the streets for about two months, and had no friends or family. All this time, he looked into my eyes and I actually enjoyed his company. I asked if he would accept my help in finding a shelter for him and he said he would like that. I paid the cashier of the carinderia for his meals until Saturday. That was the day we agreed I would bring him to the shelter for streetchildren.

That night, I hardly slept.

The next day, Friday, I went to a meeting in Manila. I met several colleagues and they said I could probably bring him to Hospicio de San Jose, one of the oldest social service institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. I was so happy that I canceled my afternoon appointment so that I could tell Ericson the good news. I searched for him at the overpass and saw him chatting with people who were getting on the elevator. I joked, “Ikaw ba ang manager ng elevator?” I proceeded to tell him about Hospicio and was trying to convince him to come with me so that I could bring him the next day. He said, “bukas na lang.” I think he was not yet ready to trust me. I thought he was very smart. I bought him slippers and new shirt and pants so he would be ready when I came back for him the next day. Nag-mano siya sa tuwa when he saw the new clothes.

On my way home, I could not help but cry. The day before, his shirt was dirty but it was not torn. When I saw him, his shirt had a big tear in-front. I could not help but imagine the violence he was exposed to everyday. That evening, it was raining and very cold. I cried myself to sleep imagining this young boy trying to find warmth in the cold night.

The next day, Norman and I sought him out near the overpass. He was nowhere. I asked a cigarette vendor who stationed himself beside the overpass. He said, “kayo po ba yung nag-bigay ng damit sa kanya? Teka po, baka sumilong doon.” Then he ran towards a nearby beauty salon. There we found Ericson, sleeping on the sidewalk with his arm tucked inside the new shirt I had given him. It was a cold day. Before he came with us, the old man who brought us to him said, “Kayo na po ang bahala sa kanya para mas maayos naman ang kalagayan niya.” The slippers I had given him the previous day had already been taken from him so we bought him a new pair.

We brought him to UTS so he could have a good bath. Then we went on our way to Hospicio de San Jose in Manila. When we got there, Ericson was asleep so I went inside for him to be admitted by the social worker. They could NOT let him in. I needed a police and barangay blotter, and so many other papers before he could be admitted. I burst into tears. I must have been quite a sight. A big sophisticated woman crying in-front of a social worker. I was not ready at that point to bring him home. Lauren is 13 and Noah is 10. They were both very vulnerable themselves and were not prepared for Ericson. I also did not want to oblige Norman. But wonders of wonders, he said, we would just bring Ericson home until we can arrange for his shelter.

He has been with us for almost 10 days now. Now I know that his parents are alive and he does not want to go home; he has so many scars on his whole body and I can only imagine the emotional scars that accompany each of them; he is sick and will be needing medication for the next few months; and just like my children, he does not like to sleep alone at night. Well, he has a lot of bad habits and needs a lot of attention, and we are taking it a day at a time. I am still arranging for a shelter for him and am in an emotional roller-coaster ride. Sometimes, I feel very hopeful, and then I feel despair. Everything is still uncertain but Norman and I are committed to helping him

I am praying for his transformation but am realizing that I am being transformed myself.
On February 12, I wrote:

Ericson ran away today.

I cannot begin to tell you the fear that I have in my heart for him. Nor the broken hopes and dreams that I have nurtured these past few weeks. And a sense of helplessness because even if I find him again and have the best plans for him, I can never make him stay, unless he wants to.

The past few weeks have been very difficult for our family. Noah and Lauren were not prepared for Ericson. He has a very different worldview from us. But I can imagine that it was even harder for him. When we felt angry or frustrated, we had each other and we consoled ourselves with the thought that his stay with us is temporary as we have already found a shelter for him. But perhaps the uncertainty of the future and our correction and seeming rejection of his actions hurt him more deeply than we can ever know. In church, he preferred to hang around us adults. About the kids, he said, “ayaw naman nila sa akin.” But Ericson was not a crybaby. He is a survivor.

But Ericson brought us a lot surprises. Norman and I have been showered with hugs and kisses by him. He had a certain way of calling me, ‘ate Lizette,’ that showed his gratefulness. He has left me some wonderful pictures. He loves to take pictures of himself and others. I share them with you tonight.

I have not shared my thoughts and feelings with others about Ericson because I feared this would happen. I feared that all our efforts will amount nothing.
Norman just called me on the phone to say that he saw Ericson in Dasmarinas where we found him. He no longer wants to come back. Maybe he is more comfortable in the streets than in a home like ours. Doon daw walang nagagalit sa kanya. magagawa niya kahit anong gusto niya. I know some people will say, “I told you so…” or that children like him are hopeless. But I would like to think that Norman and I gave him hope. For a little while. And he has given us meaning, for a little while.

I hope that we can give hope to children like him.

Today is March 18, 2008
 Norman and I had the best Valentine’s day last February 14. Ericson came back into our lives and continues to be part of us in a very special way.
 It took me sometime to write about what has happened to Ericson because I was almost afraid to be hopeful. But I am. We are now…. full of hope.
After he ran away on Feb 12, we continued to look for him, as any parent would look for a lost child. When I saw him at the corner where I first met him, two days later, he was initially shy but was soon ready to come home with me again. I bought him slippers for the third time. It seems to be a prime commodity for streetchildren.
He ran away one more time, a few days later, on a very cold night. For the past few weeks, I would sit by his mattress and watch him go to sleep. Like my own children, he didn’t like sleeping alone. I would only leave his side when he was fast asleep. That night, I was very tired and told him to go to bed alone, then I closed our bedroom door. I heard him call out, “Ate Lizette,” three times and then there was a long silence. I asked Norman to see if he was already asleep. He found the front door and gate open. Ericson ran away again. Norman and Lauren took the car and looked for him. We all could not bear the thought of him exposed to the cold wind. He did not even bring his jacket or wear pants. They caught up with him and he said he wanted to be with his friends in Dasma. Norman said he has to say goodbye to me first and was convinced to go back. We assured him that we would bring him to Dasma ourselves the next day. The following morning, he opted to stay.

The six weeks he spent with us was difficult but meaningful. Ericson can be coercive, demanding, and even hurtful. But he can also be generous, sweet and loving. I remember what Father Boyet of St. Martin wrote, “Children are fragile creatures. What they become is not their fault but ours.”
Ericson is now in a home for streetchildren in Bulacan. He has been there for two weeks and for me that is a triumph. We have visited him once and according to him, Masaya siya. But in the two occasions when we said goodbye, he would turn up his face to me and Norman, and ask, “dadalawin niyo ba ako?”

We are the closest thing he has to family. We still have not found his biological parents. And he continues to be evasive with questions that would divulge his roots. But we cannot blame him. According to the social workers, the next four months will difficult as he would have to struggle with himself and perhaps, the people in his new home. They give no assurance but they give us hope.

This will not be the last of the Ericson saga, I hope. I hope I will be able to tell you more about him in the next months and years to come. I pray with all my heart that I can tell you about his graduation, his lovelife and even his children. I pray that I can send you pictures of him celebrating his birthday and our birthdays, Christmas and many milestones with us.

Pray with me. Pray with us. And let us all work for a world where there is hope for children like Ericson.


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