Kids are often asked about their dreams and their favorites like their favorite food, cartoon character, and even their favorite color. Usually, little boys will say that their dream is to be a policeman, or an athlete. They will share that their favorite color is blue and will eventually show their blue collection. However, for Jerald, an eight-year-old boy, his dream is neither to be a policeman nor to be an athlete. Blue is not his favorite color yet his friends call him, “Blue Baby”.
Jerald is not your ordinary-young boy.
It was in 2017, with an unknown reason, Jerald, who was just six-years old then, was secretly taken by his father somewhere in Quezon City, hundreds of kilometers away from their hometown in Camarines Sur, Bicol. Giving him PHP 200, his father left him alone in the city. Confused, he wandered from one place to another. He had nowhere else to go. At his young age, instead of having fun with his friends, he experienced the reality of life in the streets. Fortunately, after few days of being a vagrant, he was rescued by the Quezon City- Social Services Development Department (QC-SSDD). In 2018, he became one of the 46 children referred by the QC-SSDD to Bantay Bata 163- Children’s Village.
The Children’s Village serves as a halfway home that provides holistic healing for abused and neglected children. It is a place that advocates children’s rights and ensures their rehabilitation and recovery.
Since Jerald has no definite identification, he was classified as one of the children under the foundling category. “Sa unang pagpasok ni Jerald sa Bantay Bata… matamlay, hindi nakikipaghalobilo sa mga bata at hindi masyadong nagsasalita.”(“When Jerald first entered Bantay Bata he neither socialized nor talked to other children.”), said Jason Tripulca, social worker of Bantay Bata 163. With these observations, the child was subjected to medical examinations to further asses his condition. It turned out that Jerald has Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart disease that lowers his oxygen saturation, making his nails and lips appear to have a bluish color. Because of this, the people at the Children’s Village coined the term, “Blue Baby” as a way to identify him.
Jerald’s heart’s condition limits him from playing with his fellow kids in the Children’s Village. Too much exhaustion can cause difficulty in breathing.
A month after Jerald was brought to the Children’s Village, Salamat Dok, a medical television program of ABS-CBN that provides information on diseases and medical concerns, conducted a regular free medical mission at the Children’s Village. The doctors advised the social workers on the need for Jerald to go through a heart surgical operation to improve his condition. The program featured Jerald to help him look for sponsors and donors who can assist them financially with the operation of the child. However, little did they know, the program has reached a special person in the child’s life. His mother, Angela Velarde, who has been looking for Jerald for the past two years watched her son’s episode on Salamat Dok with the help of her friend who first saw its broadcast.
“Pinuntahan ko po agad siya. Pumunta po ako sa city hall sa SSDD, tapos after, sinamahan nila po ako papunta sa Bantay Bata na po. Tapos doon ko na po nakita si Jerald.” (I immediately made my move to see him. I went to Quezon City Halls-SSDD office and they accompanied me to Bantay Bata; that was where I saw Jerald.”), said Angela, mother of Jerald.
After two years of being away from his family, Jerald finally reunited with his mother. Their tears kept on flowing and the smile on their faces were undeniably genuine. Jerald cannot hide his happiness as he expressed it with his tight hugs.
Angela shared that they have been looking for Jerald these past years. They used all the resources they could gather in order to find him. Jerald’s family lives in Camarines Sur, Bicol. He has two siblings, Angeline, a seven-year old girl, and Jenard, a two-year old baby boy. They are living with their grandparents, whose bread and butter is farming. His mother tried her luck here in the metro to help them with their financial needs. She is currently a canteen crew in Paranaque.
Bantay Bata 163’s social workers immediately worked on the re-integration of Jerald in coordination with the local social welfare. This is the legal process of bringing the child back to his family after checking if they are capable of supporting all his needs. Fortunately, Jerald’s mother was assessed to have the capability to take back the custody of her son and Jerald was successfully re-integrated to his family in Bicol.
Jerald’s grandparents welcomed him with open arms while his little siblings were in awe after seeing their long lost brother. It was a surreal moment for the Pacla family. The two years they spent on looking for Jerald has come to an end. The Children’s Village’s “Blue Baby” is finally home.
After all the ups and downs that happened to Jerald, he still managed to think of the other children who might be going through the same situation he had experienced. He shared that someday he wants to be a Bantay Bata officer. Bantay Bata helped him find his family that is why he wants to help others to find theirs.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa mga tumulong sa akin lalong lalo na po [sa] Bantay Bata para sa lahat, iyong mga taga office kasi natulungan nila ako. Pinacheck up nila ako. Pinabunot iyong ngipin kong bulok,” said Jerald as he expressed his gratitude to all the people who became part of his journey.
It is true that Jerald is not your ordinary kid. He is a unique and brave young boy.
They say blue is the warmest color, as it is the color of the sky and the sea. Both beautiful sceneries that give us the feeling of tranquility and freedom. For Jerald, blue is something that symbolizes his condition — but it does not hinder him from being free to hope and dream for himself and his family.