Former child laborer leads campaign
By Mai Gevera
Davao City (15 June) -- Marlon Makilan, a resident of Malongon, Sarangani Province, used to brave the heat and sweat off carrying bamboo stems "tubo" from the harvest area to the vehicle that transports the product to the city.
He spent eight to ten hours a day just to earn a meager P40 compensation. Unlike kids who comfortably hear and absorb lessons inside the classroom, Marlon could hardly do the same due to financial difficulties.
"Gusto kong matulungan ang mga magulang ko at gusto ko ring makapag-aral," he said. At first, he never thought that he could do both and that one must be given up for the sake of the other.
Marlon's parents permitted and even tolerated his work responsibilities. As young as he was, his parents did the negotiation with the plantation owner with regard to the boy's daily wage.
Parents, as the child labor advocates believed in, do play a big role in tolerating kids to work at an early age.
Vic Magallanes of the International Labor Organization Davao chapter said, "mismong mga magulang ng mga bata ang nagdadala sa mga ito upang magtrabaho. Ito'y dahil sa kahirapan. At mismong sila rin ang naniniwala na pwedeng i-delay ng bata ang pag-aaral para lang sa trabaho."
In Marlon's case, he may be tolerated by his parents but certain interventions came in which made him realize the value of education.
Government agencies and some private institutions concerned on child labor reached Marlon's place and enticed him not to give up schooling. Equipped with the technical knowledge shared by these groups, the young boy managed to escape from the harsh environment of that sugarcane plantation.
He has remained thankful to those interventions. Without realizing the need to be educated, Marlon could have remained in the field until now, possibly with kids also doomed to be child laborers.
The ILO-IPEC is one active organization that pours in funds to the different areas having the most number of child laborers. It has coordinated with non-government organizations in addressing the different kinds of child labor.
In the region alone, it has addressed commercially and sexually abused children with 405 rescued kids. There are also 340 domestic child laborers intervened, 500 rescued kids in the sugarcane industry, and 432 child laborers rescued in the mining industry.
He enrolled himself and secured a high school diploma later on. But it did not stop him from working. " Kinailangan ko pa ring magtrabaho para matustusan ang pag-aaral ko." He graduated high school as a working student and entered college with his dream of becoming a professional one day.
Far from his dream few years back while he was still laboring in the sugarcane plantation, Marlon is now just a few steps near to his recent dream.
He is currently a third year college taking AB Economics in one of the state universities in the country. While studying, he spends time joining the child labor advocates conduct forum and trainings to encourage child laborers achieve their dream without letting themselves be abused by their employers.
Education has taught him so many things: the need to get a diploma, to work hard inorder that he gets that diploma, and most especially the need to value self-respect.
Child labor, indeed, is one big hindrance for a child to enjoy his basic rights and maximize his many potentials.
Marlon celebrates along with the different child labor advocates the "World Day Against Child Labor" specifically promoting agriculture without child labor. (PIA XI) [top]