Everywhere on Boracay, there were children working.
Like this boy who tried to sell us coconut drinks while we were on a snorkling trip.
And up and down the beach, there were children selling snacks, glow toys and knick-knacks or trying to charm tourists into purchasing parental wares (massage, island-hopping tours, pirated DVDs). Late at night there were children collecting bottles and other recyclables that littered the beach to sell at to a recycler.
A young girl with a broom kept her father's sand sculpture smooth and untrammeled by the passing traffic.
"Please give a donation, my dad built this," she told me, pointing at a date etched in the sand which indicated he had constructed the edifice that very morning.
I noticed during my stay that the sandcastle remained where it was, the date changing daily. The sandcastle was sufficiently magnificent that I didn't mind parting with a few pesos for the privilege of photographing it.
A boy of about eight years approached me with a handful of glow sticks.
"Buy a glow stick, ma'am?"
"No, thank you."
"For your children?" the boy pointed at my daughter playing with her friend in the sea.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "It's rather sunny, don't you think, to be playing with glow sticks?"
"Wow, you're really good at that," I said appreciatively.
He put the glow sticks down. "Wanna see some more?"
More children joined, each insisting that their acrobatic skills were better than the other's. I sat and oohed and aahed as each in turn performed cartwheels and flips and bridges in the pliant white sand.
The crowd of children grew. They jabbered at each other in what seemed a multitude of languages.
"What language are you speaking?" I asked the first boy.
"Muslim? That's not a language, is it?"
He laughed and told me the name of his dialect which I didn't manage to record. "Have you lived on the island long?"
"A long time," he nodded.
"My dad brought me here in grade three."
"What grade are you now?"
At which point all the children clamoured to tell me where they were from - which was everywhere. Provinces up and down the Philippines. They came with their parents, they said. And their parents came to work.
Then, almost as suddenly as they had surrounded me, the children gathered together to play a game - the sort you might find in any schoolyard around the world, except they were sitting on the finest white sand, on the shore of a beautiful island.
The sunset was a signal for one of the bars that line the beach to turn on some disco music full blast. The children leapt to their feet. It was like the scene from Where the Wild Things Are ... let the rumpus begin!They danced and they danced.
Then when the night finally closed in and all the fairy lights had switched on in the coconut trees, they collected their glow sticks from the beach and went back to work.
Labels: working children