It is innate in all of us to want to be with people who make us feel wanted. It gives us a sense of belongingness and contentment. Above any other, family is where we intimately feel we belong. Despite all the “samoka aning papa uy!” or “unsa mani si mama uy!” they will be there for us through anything. However, one’s set of genes do not dictate who family is, especially not for Austin.
Austin Tarala, just like any other child who grew up in the province, spent his days in their humble home in Malita, Davao Occidental together with his family. His father, who would come home every night after a long day of laborious work, often spent his free time with Austin lollygagging.
On the contrary, he never got the same treatment from neither his mother nor his lola. His mother, who is not always at home, would treat Austin merely as a helping hand in the house rather than a son. His lola, who had the most time with Austin, barely even chats with him. This made the wait for his father to come home from work all the more worth it for Austin.
The little time spent simply talking and laughing makes him feel loved and cared for. Tin was always content with having to spend the day waiting for his father until that day, his father found work far away from home.
His time waiting for his father on the front steps of their little nipa hut had been spent reminiscing on the times when they were together instead. What else would a 12-year-old boy do? He felt it was not his place to force his father to come home. Things were never the same after his father left. Unfortunately for Austin, his father never returned. He never even got the chance to ask him why he never came back. Soon after, Austin hesitantly accepted his futile longing for his father’s love and presence.
A year after, Austin could be found on the streets of Jacinto, with a torn pair of shorts, a dirtied shirt, holding a half-crumpled cup from 7/11 with too little to call a few spare changes in it. He slowly extends his frail arm with the cup towards anyone who passes him, his eyes revealing the struggle in his every day, he readies his parched lips for those who crosses his path and says, heavy-heartedly, “maski sinsilyo lang ya bi”. Doing so despite being ignored and rejected.
He could still remember how he had been tricked into having a trip to Davao City with his lola.
“Tin diri sa ka kay naa ra ko’y adtuon kadyut. Mubalik ra ko.” His lola told him that day.
At first, he was confused as to why his lola would go off somewhere without him, especially in a place he hardly knew. Austin had spent the first few days and nights trying to find his lola, but to no avail. Finally, he gave up.
When asked where his mother or father is, this boy avoids eye-contact, looks down, and starts to tremble. Shaken by the thought of reminiscing how he was abandoned by his family, abandoned by all he had.
Austin says “Dawat naman nako nga ingun ani na ko” to which he meant that it was no longer his place to long for a family that wouldn’t take care of him, nor to yearn for a father that cut his relationship with him so easily. He learned to accept who he is now- a street child who desperately needs a few coins in his cup.
After having spent several days on the streets, Austin had met two other street children- Darryl and Badong. These two were kind enough to offer Austin the chance to stay with them in their old little hut located at Purok 22 with but a roof, four walls and a couple of sheets. This along with the agreement that all of their gain in from begging on the streets be accumulated at the end of the day and be used to buy their supper. The left-over money from this would be used to buy their clothes.
It was neither the money nor the house to which Austin had based his decision on. It was more than the materials that they offered. It was a chance to belong somewhere that made Austin accept. “Maayo man sila sa ako. Gina-trato ko nila murag igsuon.” He states with a hint of a smile across his face.
When asked why he doesn’t dream of having something more than this, he states “wala naman ko’y mabuhat. Mao na dyud ni akong kahimtang. Lipay man sab ko kay naa man si Darryl ug Badong.”
Spending his mornings and afternoons in the streets of Jacinto with a cup in hand, reaching out to anyone who would cross his path and be kind enough to give him some spare change. Austin is content with how things are for him because at the end of the day when he comes home to his shanty little house, Darryl and Badong are there waiting for him. This is his newly-found home, his newly-found family.