A Visit to the Orphanage

We went to an orphanage last weekend. In that shelter, there were teenagers, school-aged children, pre-schoolers, toddlers, infants. There were babies as young as 3 weeks old.

There was a mix of personalities and temperaments in that place. Some kids smiled a lot and were bubbly and energetic, while others were shy and awfully silent. Some kids stayed put and listened intently to the facilitators, while others wouldn’t stop tussling with their fellow kids and bounding about.

To welcome us, the children sang a song with lines that went, “Welcome to the family/We’re glad that you have come.” I was trying hard not to tear up as I looked at and listened to them singing with their pure and candid voices echoing against the white walls of the hall. I do think the kids are in a good place; they are being cared for in living conditions that are probably better than what they would’ve lived in had they not been taken in by the orphanage. But I also believe no child should’ve needed to be there.

While a story-telling session was taking place in the hall, I took a peek outside and spied a window to the nursery. In that darkened room, a staff member was softly swaying a baby in her arms, lulling it to sleep. I wasn’t sure what to think or how I felt at that sight. It was, both at once, reassuring yet sad. I am sure there is a unique story behind why each child came to be there, but I could not quite wrap my mind around what an orphanage really means, what it stands for in the grander scheme of things. It stands for connection and acceptance as much as it does separation and leaving behind.

Around the middle of our little program, some kids gathered in our midst and danced to a recent dance craze, Trumpets. It turns out those kids could really burst out the moves, and some evidently had the line of movement and ear for rhythm that mark a natural dancer. “Someday you will go places,” I thought as I looked at them groove, “and you will be proud of the person you become.”

Towards the last part of our brief visit there, one child sang “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan.” And all the while, I was thinking, whyyyy, of all songs. I think many of us grown-ups there came closer to breaking down at the sound of that song than the children there.

“Sana’y di nagmaliw ang dati kong araw
Nang munti pang bata sa piling ni nanay
Nais kong maulit ang awit ni inang mahal
Awit ng pag-ibig habang ako’y nasa duyan…”


In a conference I once attended, I encountered a study about Filipino children. It argued that children are more resilient than we typically think; they are akin to the bamboo, bending instead of breaking in the face of harsh winds. Through our visit to the orphanage, I came to glimpse a piece of that resilience. Though not yet of the striking, towering kind, those children’s bamboo-like resilience was still unmistakable in their smiles, in the way they spoke and clapped and danced, in the way they soaked in and gave back out love.

But no matter how well a bamboo can bend to the wind, it cannot stay up if nothing nourishes it. It needs fertile soil and enough sun and water. Maybe that’s where we come in. Maybe we can do what we can to enrich the soil they grow in. Maybe we can share a little of our time to be their sunshine for a day, or be a trickle of water that helps quench their thirst for care and connection.

But then again, I feel like what really happens during visits like ours is the other way around. It is their smiles that bring us sunshine, their laughter like cool water that revives our wearied spirits. It is them we have to thank, for their resilience and positivity fuel our own and inspire us to be better than our ever-complaining, perpetually-cynical selves.

We are glad we were welcomed there like family would, and we too were glad we came. ♥

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