She was then our little girl, tiptoeing when she ran, crying silently when she was sad. Respectful, soft-spoken, grateful, that’s how she has become. We hardly notice the years, and our four-year old Jenica will be turning 12 soon.
She came to Batang Pinangga with her older brother who was six at that time. Their parents were separated, and their mother, who is blind, brought the children with her. Tagging along Jenica and her brother, the mother earned money by singing in ports and terminals. Soon the children were “rescued” and placed into a temporary shelter. The mother agreed for as long as it is temporary.
The years passed, and the mother wanted to get back her children, because she said she is afraid that they might forget about her existence. It was arranged that the mother can come and visit her children. Still it was not possible for the children to return to their mother’s custody due to lack of a permanent residence, stable income, and the incapacity to provide care.
Later on, the older brother made the decision to go home to help her mother. Jenica refused to go with him. But she missed her brother so much. Every time that she saw his picture or when his name was mentioned, she would secretly cry. One day there was a phone call, and it was her brother on the other line, telling that he is already living with their father, and gave the phone to father. “Who is this?”,Jenica asked. “I’m your real father”. Jenica was just listening. Then the father asked, “Until when will you stay there?”, “where? in Batang Pinangga? Until I finish with school”. “Until highschool?”. “No, until I finish with college”. The father said it is still a long time. Jenica handed over the phone, skipped her way back to the other BP children, smiling and relieved. I asked her about the last time she remembered her father. She can’t remember very well, she said, for it was a long time ago, and added that she won’t think about it now, and it is alright that her brother is living with him. “I stay here”, was all she said, with that look of determination.
Jenica finally knows the whereabouts of her own family, and that keeps her settled. And yes, this time, we love her to stay in Batang Pinangga, for as long as necessary, and so long as she wants to.