It was one of those days. I opened the newspapers and the stories just made my spirits plummet. How evil the world was becoming!
I picked up Cristina Ansaldo Estrada and, on our way to Cribs, a haven for abandoned and molested children, she told me stories that made my insides curdle—stories of sexual abuse and neglect.
When we got to this rather large house in Marikina, I was greeted by a young English girl who spoke fluent Filipino. She said she volunteered here daily to help with the children. I was brought to the New Beginnings building, where I saw young students from Ateneo University, Miriam College and University of Santo Tomas doing their social work.
In the kitchen, three young girls— victims of sexual abuse—were putting to practical use the cooking skills they were taught. We could not photograph them, as many had pending court cases against their abusers. The deviants are almost always a family member and, in some of the most heinous cases, their own fathers.
While these young girls look like regular, happy teens, they are wounded inside. At Cribs, they are handled by professional therapists and caring volunteers.
There are volunteers like Patricia Harrington Ottiger. Foreign as her name may sound, Pat has some Igorot lineage. She was born and raised in the Philippines. The girls are as taken with her, their “Tita Pat,” as she is with them. When a girl is given the go-signal to return to her family or reintegrate into society, Pat often personally participates in the exit interviews.
In the Receiving Home, there were babies in their cribs, and caregivers and volunteers cuddled and played with them. Touching and hugging these babies are so important for their development. It was Nathaniel Hawthorne who said, “Caresses, expressions of one sort or another, are necessary to the life of the affections, as leaves are to the life of a tree.”
Suddenly my gloom lifted. There was still good left in the world, and this place was awash in it!
Cribs is an NGO whose mission and vision are “being committed to the care, development and recovery of children in need of special treatment; to provide a safe and loving home environment for each child, free from any form of violence and abuse.”
There is a Receiving Home program providing a home environment for abandoned, surrendered, neglected and displaced children ages 0-4. One child smiled, readily revealing dimples on her cheeks. How could anyone give such a child away? I find out that her mother, mired in abject poverty, had no choice.
Cribs executive director Katchie Dimalaluan explained that Cribs keeps complete files on every child. When a child is adopted, his/her adopting family is given the child’s life story in a file book called “Child of My Heart.” It documents the child’s history up to adoption.
Katchie worked at Asilo de San Vicente for 12 years and at Hospicio de San José for six years. After three years at Cribs, there is no doubt in her mind that working with orphaned, abandoned and troubled children is her calling.
Cribs also actively pursues a Foster Care Program, which facilitates the placement of these abandoned or orphaned children with an alternative family—an interim as they await permanent adoption. Often, the foster families end up adopting their wards.
The New Beginnings program addresses the healing and recovery of sexually abused minors. Adjunct to this is the Post Residential Care, which ensures a smooth transition for the girls who have rejoined their families, are studying or seek to live independently. Noteworthy is the Volunteer Program, where people like students, Ottiger, Estrada and the rest of the board come to do their share.
Because the house and lot in Marikina, donated by Maria Teresa Chan over 20 years ago, was recently discovered to sit on the Marikina fault, the board is now fast-tracking the transfer of Cribs to Antipolo in the very near future. With STI-Asian Terminal Incorporated as a major contributor, they are raising enough funds to acquire the land and construct a new building.
My day that started badly ended so well!
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Sam the Hobbit tells a beleaguered Frodo, “There is good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it is worth fighting for.”
Cribs is the expression of that good in this world.
For more information on Cribs, visit www.cribsfoundation.com, or e-mail [email protected] The facility is at 15 Dizon St., Industrial Valley Complex, Marikina City; tel. 6818078, 6815921, 0917-5112741.