MANILA, Philippines – Seen in the photo is a young girl who seem busy scribbling on her notebook while sitting on top of a concrete post below the Light Rail Transit (LRT) i Recto, Manila, Philippines. This photo have gone viral online after it was shared by Bayan Patroller James Co on ABS-CBN’s Bayan Mo, I-Patrol Mo Facebook page.
Cielo Gonzales, 7 years old, is the girl in the viral photo. Cielo used to attend school but was forced to stop due to poverty. She lives with her mother, Linda, and her 10 year-old sister Jennilyn under the LRT station.
Jennilyn said she was teaching her younger sister how to write when the photo was taken. The mother said they survive only on collecting and selling garbage and can hardly send her daughters to school. Jennilyn said she and her sister Cielo only rely on papers and notebooks they find in trash cans and dumpsters to have something for school use.
The mother said that despite being a single parent and the abject poverty, she still dreams for her daughters to finish their studies.
The photo has drawn mixed reactions from netizens. Some say they are sorry for the plight of the family. Others say this reflect the failure of the government to provide better life for its people. There also a few who blame the girl’s parents for negligence and being irresponsible.
This photo, however, somewhat describes the general image of the many poor Filipino families struggling to survive day by day. As the number of poor families in the country worsen this year, despite reported economic growth for the past years, more and more Cielos are also forced to stop studying due to poverty. What most do not realise is that poverty is a vicious cycle and is caused by a systemic or structural set-up not enabling the disadvantage access to basic services and commodities that could make their life better and conducive to development.