Date: 22 October 2014
Place: Philippines Market, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
To kill time before my flight I went for a final walk along the waterfront. Starbucks Frapuccino in hand.
From under the deck a little boy appeared holding out his hand.
I gave him my drink and soon as, a group of 20+ kids appeared..
They looked hungry, so I dug into my handbag and found a left over piece of a pepper chicken pasty.
I handed it over to one and what ensued was nearly a fist fight between them. All to get a piece of what was in the brown paper bag..
Eventually the bag broke and the contents was squashed between the victor’s fingers..
I had nothing else to give and left heartbroken. How could I be so stupid?
As I walked through the market, I thought. What can I do, to make their day a happy one? All of them. EVEN if I looked like some stupid tourist who didn’t fully understand the socio economic backgrounds of these kids..
So I started walking through the market stalls buying 4 kilos of sweet mangos, sliced watermelon, baby bananas and some other local fruits I’ve tried but don’t recall the name of..
I went back, bags of fruit in hand..
As they saw me they huddled so close to me I nearly lost my balance, so with my arm in the air I signalled for them to form a straight line. Did that work? Err.. No. Some of the older children were repeating my words and clearly mocking me..
But I didn’t care.
I started handing out the fruit and they nearly climbed over eachother to get a piece.
A security guard walked over and shouted at them. What exactly? I don’t know, but a few of them ran off scared.
I said, it’s ok. Leave them! But he ignored me. So then I moved away from the deck and closer to the market.
The guard finally left.
I kept handing out fruit till another man with a face for radio, walked over with a plank. Not a stick, but a wooden plank.
He took a swing at one of the boys’ heads and I swear I nearly lost it.
I told him too. It’s ok. Leave them alone..( in my finest French!)
So he walked off.
At this point the only place available to stand was next to the garbage bins that stank of decomposing fish.
I carried on handing out fruit.
They were smiling and giggling like children should. Dropping bannana peels on the dirt and holding out hands for more. Some of them even said thank you, with glowing little filipino faces..
Then the teenagers arrived and started smacking the little ones’ heads. ( What’s up with the head smacking!!??) So I grabbed one’s arm just in time and told him firmly, NO!
So they backed off.
When I ran out of fruit, I frowned and said, no more, all gone! Showing the empty bags.
Then waved as I said goodbye.
Walking off through the car park, I turned around and they started running after me. Excited and smiling..
So I snapped this little picture then walked further and turned a corner..
I kept on walking back to my hotel and just as I was about to cross the road turned around again.
A small group formed and they stood there waving.
It’s Tuesday and they should all be in school, I thought. Instead they were making fires on the rocks below the decking to cook the tiny little fish they had caught on a string.
After speaking to the door man at my hotel, he told me most of them are from the South Philipinnes. They are illegal immigrants who came here on motor boats, even rowing boats, with their families. They will never receive an education and live in the poorest conditions in houses built over the water on stilts.
Breaks my heart.