May 28, 2013

Viral photo of book-loving street kid moves netizens

One would think that the last place to find a starved and unkempt street urchin is in a book store. But that's exactly what YouScooper Sedricke Lapuz came across in Manila last Friday, May 17.

YouScooper Ralph Sedricke Lapuz spotted this boy engrossed in what he was reading in a bookstore in Manila, not noticing that he was about to appear in a photo that would go viral. Asked if he knows how to read, the boy replied, 'Kaunti lamang.' Lapuz bought the child a book of his choice. Many have shared the picture on Facebook and asked how they can help put the kid through school.
The child was barefoot and grimy, yet —to Lapuz’ astonishment— was patiently reading a book aloud.

“Na-amaze ako na may batang ganoon ang kalagayan sa buhay pero gustong magbasa,” said Lapuz in a phone interview with GMA News Online.

Touched by the scene, Lapuz approached the child and asked him if he understood what he was reading.

“Hindi po. Kaunti lang po,” said "MJ," who is apparently a frequent sight at the Pedro Gil, Manila, branch of Booksale.

Lapuz asked MJ to pick a book he wanted from the store.

“Tapos ‘yun, eh ‘di para siyang nabuhayan, paikot-ikot doon sa bookstore,” Lapuz said.

MJ finally settled on an illustrated children’s book, which Lapuz bought and gave to the child as a present.

According to the store’s Officer-in-Charge, Engelica Rejano, MJ frequents the store to beg for money or food. But on some days, he also stops by to read.

The store's management usually allows MJ inside, except when the store is full of patrons. “Kasi nanghihingi rin kasi siya ng pera sa ibang customer,” said Rejano via phone.

“Pumapayag naman [si MJ]. Napagsasabihan naman ‘yun,” she added.

“Actually, that’s what struck me the most,” said Lapuz, who happens to be an Assistant Professor at the Biology department of the University of the Philippines-Manila.

“Bilang teacher, syempre I’m an advocate of education, and to see a kid against all odds trying to read [is inspiring],” he said.

Lapuz took a picture of MJ while the child was reading. He posted the photo in his Facebook account last Friday, and within days received over than 400 Likes and was shared over 200 times.

The photo has since made its way to the GMA News Online website, where it received over 14,000 Likes and more than 6,000 shares in just two days.

Many readers are eager to help.

“Who is this boy? I would like to help him continue his studies,” said Facebook user John Tigno.

“He is such an eye-opener, lalo na sa mga students ngayon, kung gaano sila kasuwerte para ma-afford ang mag-aral. Keep it up, young man. God bless you,” commented Yhzhel Dela Cruz Punzalan.

Lapuz said he actually thought of sending MJ to school when he first saw him.

He plans to re-visit MJ in the hopes of extending help.

“Kasi baka ang daming gustong tumulong sa kanya tapos may magulang pala siya [tapos] ayaw pala ng magulang niya. Or wala siyang bahay talaga … eh, paano naman siya mag-aaral kung iba ang priorities niya?” Lapuz concluded. TJD, GMA News


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