There is joy when a school year is over. For the children, that is vacation. For some, it means a lot of things to do and places to go. For some Batang Pinangga children, the place to go is home.
Benjamin, 15 years old, visited his mother for a week in April this year. His mother has two new children from a new partner, in fact, his baby sister was just two months old. They still lived in the same rented house. His mother is selling cooked food, and doing small paid work. He could see that they already have a refrigerator and they sold cold drinks. He is glad that at the least his mother has money to spend.
Yet he decided not to go back home, not just yet. Because he still wanted to finish his studies. For his mother has a new family now, and he could not be part of it.
He thought about his father and his other five siblings. His youngest sister, now around five, is living with an aunt. He is glad for that arrangement. His four other siblings are in the care of his ill father, who went back to live with his sisters who are spinsters. He knew that his brother and sister next him were out of school. He particularly worries over his two young brothers, age seven and nine. He knew they were not cared for. He was there when his parents got separated.
Benjamin wishes that one day he would have a job and could take care of his siblings and his father. He hopes that his two young brothers could join him in Batang Pinangga. Being the oldest, Benjamin cares a lot for his little brothers and sisters. We remembered him as the boy who missed classes on long rainy days so as to collect sand from the river that he can sell. His feet turned into that of an old man’s, being submerged in water for a long time. The same boy who collected garbage so that he could buy a little something to eat.
The same boy who was frequently absent from class to babysit his little sister. His mother would say to him, “it is raining, do not go to school, a lot of good sand flows down the river this time”. Yet the same boy who walked to school managed still to get good grades. Now, attending a private school, Benjamin earned his mark. He was awarded as the second honors in the entire Grade 9 class. His teachers were all praises for this charming boy. We are proud of this boy. He is diligent, strong willed, with a grip of a good future in his hands. A future he wants to share with his siblings. But for now he stays in Batang Pinangga. This time it is his home.