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The heartrending story of 11-year-old Rommel Quiminales and his puppy Badgi may soon have a happy ending.
We reported yesterday that the abandoned boy — who has been begging for food and money in the streets of Quezon City with his puppy — has successfully enrolled himself in second grade at Francisco Homes Elementary School.
TV show Front Row filmed Rommel last week for an episode that will air on June 8. They bought him new school uniforms and school notebooks, and followed him from Timog to Bulacan, where he supposedly lives with an older brother who is hardly at home.
“Dalawang aso yung sumalubong sa kanya. We were able to interview his sister na nasa ibang lugar, kasama ang asawa niya. Hindi rin daw mapatira roon si Rommel kasi malayo naman sa school niya,” said Front Row executive producer JC Rubio.
“Yung mother niya nasa Bulacan lang din kaya lang may bagong asawa na ring kasama, na apparently ay hindi nakasundo ni Rommel kaya he ended up going to QC once in a while para magkapera siya,” added Rubio. “In short wala talagang guardian na nakatutok sa kanya kaya rin siguro siya nagpupunta sa kalye. The good thing is nakapag-enrol na siya at nag-aaral na.”
Rommel attends the morning shift, his classes start at 6:30am and ends at 12pm. On his first day back in school, he felt like a celebrity because he was being trailed by Front Row. “Ang ganda po ng nangyari sa akin kasi nagshooting po kami sa school habang nag-aaral ako,” he told us.
Last night, however, Rommel was back in Quezon City to visit Santa, a cigarette vendor in her 30s, who has become his best friend and mother figure. (We took a photo last night, see above).
“Nagpatago siya sa akin ng 100 pesos kasi natatakot siya na baka kunin lang ng mga rugby boys,” she told us. Rommel plans to go back to Quezon City every weekend and continue begging so he can raise money to cover his daily expenses.
Who will take responsibility for this minor?
“Gusto ko po magpa-ampon. Sabi ng ate ko magpa-ampon daw muna ako kasi wala raw pong kalalabasan itong buhay ko eh,” Rommel told Coconuts Manila last night. “Meron akong tatlong kapatid na inampon na ng ibang tao, eh.”
According to Rommel, his parents separated and left him at a young age.
He has eight other siblings — a 20-year-old sister who he now lives with in Caloocan (he only recently left Bulacan), an older brother who is a drug addict, three siblings who have been adopted, two younger siblings currently living with his mother, and one missing brother who disappeared while begging in the street with him.
We tried verifying Rommel’s story by reaching out to his sister on Facebook, but she did not reply to our message.
According to Front Row, who was able to talk to her, she works in a factory and does not earn a lot. In fact, there are times when it is Rommel is the one who gives her money.
Since the relase of Coconuts TV’s video on Rommel, there have been a lot of people going to GMA Network looking for the boy, according to the security guards and pedicab drivers we spoke to last night.
Coconuts Manila has contacted Bantay Bata 163 and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Bantay Bata 163 quickly responded to our request and asked for Rommel’s details. They said they’ll likely refer the case to DSWD Caloocan and promised to update us within the week.
The Social Services Department of DSWD Quezon City also showed interest in Rommel’s case and social welfare officer Aileen Velasco promised to send someone to look for Rommel later this afternoon.
But since Rommel is currently residing in Caloocan City, Velasco said her office might not be able to anything more than refer the case to their counterparts in Caloocan. She added that DSWD has programs like financial help, educational assistance and temporary shelter but they will still have to assess the boy’s situation in order for them to come up with a plan.
In the meantime, Rommel is thankful for the messages of support from Coconuts readers. When he learned that people were looking for him and want to offer help, he told us, “Sana dahil dito, hindi na ako babalik sa Maynila para humingi ng pang-baon. Gusto ko na lang doon sa amin para tuloy-tuloy ang pasok ko.”
Note to Coconuts Manila readers: We will let you know how you can help Rommel Quiminales as soon as the proper agency or foundation formally pledges its support for the boy.
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