Freedom is in the heart
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2019 - 12:00am

On Wednesday June 12, 2019, we will celebrate the 121st Philippine Independence Day. This day is significant to the 108.11 million Filipinos. It must be noted that it was President Diosdado Macapagal, who moved the date of the nation’s celebration from July 4 to June 12, the day our revolutionary leader, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, proclaimed Independence in Kawit, Cavite in 1898.

My late father, Maximo V. Soliven wrote about how President Macapagal aptly renamed July 4th as Philippine-Amercian Friendship Day. And so it remained to be called as such. After all we could not just shrug off the shared memories and ideals that, after the bloodshed and anger of our revolutionary patriots’ clashes with them, were nurtured in the century that followed.

He added, “Commemorating the date the American colonial rulers had “restored” our freedom (wrested from Spain by the Philippine Revolution, but betrayed by our American “allies”) had long been not just an injustice to the men and women who had fought and bled for our freedom, bursting the chains of more than three centuries of Spanish domination; it had placed us, symbolically, almost permanently, in the shadow of the United States of America.”

In ending he wrote, “Long may our flag wave over our proud land! Forever may the freedom, so dearly won, shine in our hearts! May we, too, be always independent in mind and spirit. May we pledge ourselves, despite our disappointments and troubles, and the uncivil wars we continue to wage, to the pursuit of our people’s destiny.

We sing our National Anthem in many voices, but our hearts beat as one. Aside from our Pilipino version, our schoolchildren used to also sing half a generation ago our anthem in English. Those words still have the power to stir. Having been penned in the Golden Yesterday when our hearts were purer and our intentions more innocent, they are both moving and nostalgic.

In one line, the words are questing: See the radiance, feel the throb of glorious liberty? Indeed, despite our fog of disillusionments, we still do and must count our blessings as a people. In another line, the Anthem hymns devotion to our land: With fervor burning, Thee do our hearts adore!

Old-fashioned these words may be, even corny in the context of these cynical times. Yet, they remain a bugle call to every one of us. We shout Mabuhay today in exuberance and faith. We honor our heroes and patriots, past and present. We look forward to the future, and all our tomorrows, with confidence – and joy. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!”

Freedom indeed is in the heart.

*   *   *

The Rugby Boys: As our government prepares for the new school year and the opening of classes, I wonder why they have neglected the most heartbreaking problem lurking out there – the street children. What is government’s action to save the out-of-school youth? In 2018, data gathered by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that 9 percent of Filipinos aged 6 to 24 are out of school. The data showed an increase in out-of-school youth aged 6 to 11 and 12 to 15. Main reasons cited for not attending school were the lack of personal interest, illness and disability, and the high cost of education or financial concerns.

It seems that the efforts of the DepEd in strengthening its incentives to support school attendance such as continuing its feeding program, tuition subsidies programs, the alternative learning system, offering different modes of attending school such as through night school and its flexible self-pacing open high school program did not really produce significant positive results. You still see a lot of minors roaming the streets everyday begging, unmindful of their safety. You see them huddled under the bridge, lying in the sidewalks for a night’s rest and worse sniffing “rugby” or engaged in peddling illegal drugs.

We have so many barangays and councilors who vowed to serve and improve the lives of their constituents around the country but not one of them has a decent program for the street children. In Quezon City alone, the biggest city with so many public servants, we see the most number of rugby boys scattered in different places and no one seems to mind them or even lift a finger to save them. Has the government given up on them?

They are minors who need protection. They need to be saved. Boys and girls snort “Rugby” a brand of contact cement or glue and other aromatic solvents to help ease their hunger pangs and remove them from their socio-economic and emotional woes.

Research show that inhalant abuse causes permanent damage to the brain and may result in “sudden sniffing death.” It can also cause loss of memory, confusion or disorientation, distorted perception of time and distance, hallucination, illusion, nausea and vomiting. Inhalant abuse leads to muscle cramps and weakness, numbness of limbs, abdominal pains, damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver.

Many Rugby boys have resorted to crime to fund their addiction. These crimes include robbery, aggressive threats and hold-ups, drug trafficking, and racketeering and small organized crimes. And no one seems to pick them out of the streets and bring them to rehabilitation centers. Pedestrians and riders are often attacked. Police see them but do not lift a finger to stop them. By the way, one can easily buy a bottle of rugby from the store. Susmariosep!

In 2009, “Rugby” was labeled as a dangerous drug by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Rugby and other toluene-based contact cement (TBCC) products can no longer be bought over the counter. But why do these children still have access to it?

At the end of the day, what has government done? Where is PDEA? The PNP? DSWD? The LGUs? Something seems very wrong. Why are we only preparing for the children who go to school? What about the other half who need us most? Have a heart and save the children.

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