He was about 5 years old, one shoe on and one shoe off, drawing figures on the cracked earth. So intent was he on what he was doing, he didn’t mind people milling around the tight space in between tents. The noonday sun was beating relentlessly, inducing goosebumps to those not used to such blistering heat, still there he was, this boy with a stick, drawing circles on the parched earth.
In Brgy. Conception, Makilala town, 327 children are in the evacuation center of the Makilala Institute of Science and Technology where residents from Brgy. Buhay, Buenevida and Libertad are housed. Camp manager Jab Ali, from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, just took over its management last Thursday and had his hands full trying to make ends and tails of the system and protocols to make one of the largest temporary shelters liveable.
Today, baby Raihan will be one month old. His mother May-Ann Palawan, 16, breastfeeds while wiping sweat trickling down her face in the cramped space between blue plastic tents. A child herself, she said she just held on to her baby, covering her as they fell to the ground, when the quake struck on October 31, in their home in Brgy. Buhay, now a no-build zone. The future is uncertain for this girl-mother, the 5 year old with only one shoe, and baby Raihan.
They are the children of a new order. They are among the many children across the world living in fear and uncertainty, never knowing how it is to be a child due to natural calamities and climate change. Environmental child warrior Greta Thunberg, speaking before world leaders in Davos, Switzerland early this year, hit the nail on its head: “I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.”