Jayvee Ruiz (left) and his mentor, Jairus David.
InterAksyon.comThe online news portal of TV5
A photo of a street child studying math problems by a burger joint has been making the rounds of social networks after it was posted by an advertising and promotions worker
Facebook user Otek Durante posted the picture and note last Monday. He was buying snacks for his crew who had been installing a signage at a nearby mall when, at a small burger shack along Roces Avenue and Panay Avenue in Quezon City, he spotted a young teener bent over some pieces of paper. It was already 2 a.m.
Durante, curious, engaged the young man in some light banter. What he learned has been shared thousands of times over on Facebook.
"He doesn’t go to school anymore yet he still finds time to study," Durante wrote in his Facebook post.
(The photo that went viral after it was posted by Facebook user Otek Durante.)
A worker at the burger joint, Jairus David, was only too eager to help fill in the details of the shy boy's life. He, David, had somewhat taken the boy under his wing, he said. The kid used to sniff glue, he said, but had reformed since they first met, with some encouragement and support. David would give him some food sometimes, and also mentor him on some lessons.
By Thursday, David was no longer alone in looking out for the young man. Good Samaritans have been coming over since Durante's post went viral.
His name is Jayvee Ruiz. Durante's friends - and friends of friends - now know that much. David said Jayvee used to hang out with a group of "rugby boys" and had an arrogant air. He did not initially like the boy, but as the latter began to frequent the place where the service crew member had been working at for four months, the two struck a friendship.
Jayvee would visit his kuya almost every other day. If work was slow, David would teach the boy reading, writing, and good manners. Whenever he can afford to with his P250 daily wage, he feeds the boy. Some customers also buy food for Jayvee. David told the teenager that he could not support him financially, but could help him change.
Their lessons, when they take place, can last for two hours, said Jayvee, usually from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. He scavenges for schoolbooks in the trash – he said he was able to scrounge for at least seven on Math, Science, English, and MAPE (Music, Arts, and Physical Education) – and sometimes reads them with David.
He is able to read and understand Tagalog, although he feels his uptake can sometimes be slow. He can also count up to 100 and can add – but not subtract, multiply, or divide.
He said that David once brought a Bible to read with him, and that they talked about religious beliefs, too. They once studied a Math book Jayvee found – "pampulis na libro na pang-college (a college book for those who want to become policemen)" – together.
Usually, said Jayvee, David gives him pen and paper for him to write his name and the alphabet.
He added that his kuya taught him such lessons as obeying his elders and helping out senior citizens. He was proud to say he assisted an elderly lady in climbing an overpass.
Jayvee does not remember much of his rare lessons, however. He also throws away the books he finds after he reads them.
But it was this piece of advice from David that made an impact on him: "It's better that you smoke cigarettes rather than use drugs."
He stopped sniffing glue, stopped smoking weed, stopped hanging out with other street kids who offered him highs.
Jayvee admits having gotten into all those things. He said that at first he needed to distract himself from his anger at his family, and his sadness over his grandmother’s death last year. Jayvee said he felt nothing when he turned to drugs, and he saw in the glue and pot an escape he badly needed. In 2006, his mother died. He stopped studying. He continued the year after so he could reach Grade 6. He did not graduate.
The young man was born in Manila, and early on lived in Cavite with his father's relatives. His cousin, he said, sent him to live in Boys Town after he was accused of stealing money and a cell phone from his relatives. Jayvee denies ever being a thief, and his neighbors in Brgy. Paligsahan, Quezon City, where he lives now with his three cousins and their families in a squatters' area, attest to his honesty.
One neighbor in particular, 53-year-old Rosario Pagaduran, whom he calls "Mommy" – whether after the name of the eatery she owns, Mommy Rose Eatery, or because of the concern that she shows him is unclear – has come to know him well. She often asks him to pump water and sweep the area, and feeds him in return. She also launders his clothes, which he either purchases for five pesos each in thrift stores, or are given to him by employees at the Barangay Hall.
There is affection between the two, although Pagaduran is not blind to the boys' faults. He could get into trouble with his own cousins, and sometimes does not know how to act out any anger.
She added that Jayvee did not like to launder his own clothes because he did not have access to water and soap – although she said that his cousins were willing to support him – and usually threw them away after he wore them a couple of times.
"So ako na ang gumagawa (So I do it myself)," she said. She added that he was always lazy to take a bath.
Barangay Captain Leo Tiamson and Barangay Tanod Nally Manso said that the boy would help out in the activities in the Barangay Hall sometimes, when he feels like it. Jayvee would receive food and clothes, as well as other things he could use, in exchange.
Aside from these instances, Jayvee said he only gets to eat when he finds the money to buy food. He cleans cars, gathers scrap material, or acts as a parking assistant to be able to sustain himself. Every now and then he asks for food from his relatives.
He added that he usually sleeps in jeepneys. Manso said, however, that they allow the boy to sleep anywhere he likes because they have grown familiar and fond of him, and they figure it is better that someone keep an eye on him.
Jayvee’s cousins, Grace and Malou Saga, usually let the boy be. Because each room in their shared home is hardly enough for 12 people – Grace has four children, Malou has one, and their other sibling has one as well – they are only able to allocate the bench outside Malou's home/sari-sari store for Jayvee's sleeping quarters.
Grace, a desk officer at the Barangay Public Safety Officers Office, said the boy could go back home with his father in Cavite at any time, but would always return to Manila. He is the only one estranged among his five siblings.
She said he was stubborn but kind. He stopped school in Cavite despite his father's support. She added that according to his father's sister, "Pinapapasok talaga siya, umaayaw talaga (They urge him to go to school, but he refuses to do so)."
Pagaduran grew up with Jayvee's father in the same barangay, and was able to see that he was a kind enough man. She assumed that the boy left home in Cavite because he was rebelling against the family, especially since the father has a new wife.
Grace said that it was Jayvee’s late grandmother who used to take care of him, as his father, a cargo driver, was often away working in Northern Luzon. "'Di naman namin kaya alagaan kasi may pamilya rin kami (We cannot take care of him because we have families of our own)," said Malou.
She added that the boy – who stowed away on a jeep from Cavite to Baclaran and walked the rest of the way to Quezon City – really needed a parent's nurturing.
There are at least 20 street children in Brgy. Paligsahan, said Tiamson. Barangay workers usually make the rounds and pick these kids up to be brought to the Quezon City social services department, said the barangay captain.
As for Jayvee, Tiamson praised him for his drive to find ways to support himself. "That's what's good about him, you can see that he really wants to work even if he is underaged."
He added that he could see the boy's desire to continue his schooling.
Jayvee still remembers the praises of his Grade 1 teacher, a certain "Miss Ayala". He could not spell out her name, but in those days, he could look at the blackboard, memorize the letters, and write them down.
Although he was just an "okay" student back in school, he said that he did well in math.
A bit cross-eyed and nearsighted, the boy cannot remember what he reads in his books. "Marami rin po akong iniisip nun ‘te (I was thinking a lot then, Miss),” he told InterAksyon.com.
Jayvee does not believe that he will be able to finish schooling, and says that he will think about his education once he already has a job, any job. He does not want to go home in Cavite either, where his father is willing to pay for his studies, because, he said, he has a bad relationship with his stepmother.
For now, however, he just wants pen and paper so he can write. "Magpapasalamat ako pag may nagpaaral sa akin." (I would be thankful if anybody were to help me get through school.)
Jayvee says he wants to finish his studies and become a policeman.
"'Di ko masasabing masipag akong mag-aral. Basta mag-aaral lang po akong mabuti. Halimbawa may nagpaaral sa akin. Mag-aaral ako nang mag-aaral. ‘Pag nakatapos ako ng pag-aaral, maghahanap ako ng trabaho. ‘Yung nagpaaral sa akin, siya naman ang tutulungan ko." (I'm not saying I’m studious. But I will study hard. If someone sends me to school, I will study and study. After that, I’ll look for a job, and help the person who sent me to school in return.)