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The search for shelter is part of Christmas

MANILA (UCAN): Some 300 children from the sprawling slum areas of Manila marched to the beat of Christmas carols in a reenactment of the search made by Joseph and Mary to find shelter prior to the birth of Jesus on December 18.

“We see this event in the light of the urban poor children’s search for home, peace and a decent life,” Tina Jurado, a community organiser with the Urban Poor Associates, which sponsored the day, said.

The march through the streets was patterned on a traditional Filipino street drama called the panunuluyan (seeking shelter), where villagers move from house to house reenacting the journey of Joseph and Mary.

Jurado said this year the children used the theme Jesus once was a child, because the genuine spirit of Christmas should be found in children.

“The theme also asks us to let the little child in all of us free to where we can find simple joys in sharing,” Jurado said.

“Let us remember that Jesus once was a child and these children are his friends, brothers and sisters,” Luis Cardinal Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, said at a Mass for the children.

“Society must help in giving education, love, nutrition, care and an environment suitable for children,” Cardinal Tagle stressed before giving his blessing to the children.

Franciscan Father Robert Reyes concelebrated the Mass with the cardinal. He commented that the children are beautiful because they reflect the truth.

“A world without truth is violent and aggressive,” Father Reyes said.

Mary Joy Delotavo, a 10-year old girl from the impoverished district of Estero de San Miguel, was surprised that the children were given food during the activity.

“This is only the second time I tasted (fried) chicken. It is delicious,” the young girl said.

“I hope I can share this with my siblings back home,” the fifth of eight children, whose father died of tuberculosis in 2011, said.

Dennis Murphy, from the Urban Poor Associates, said every day the urban poor children face problems of violence, homelessness, sickness, lack of opportunity and hunger.

“This panunuluyan is a reminder that we must take care of them,” Murphy said.

UNICEF estimates that there are some 1.7 million children from 570,000 households in Manila living in informal settlements, who lack food, health care, potable water, sanitation, education and other basic necessities of life.


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