by Gian Carlo D. Camacho and Maureen V. Cambay
It is a common sight to see numerous sampaguita vendors in Los Baños, especially near the UPLB gate. Usually, they could be seen in Vega Center, Carabao Park, and some of them may be seen around Freedom Park and outside the Student Union building. With all these vendors around, people could notice one thing. Most of them are children.
Most sampaguita vendors are children since they are more pitiful to look at compared to their parents. Sometimes, parents of these vendors could be seen sitting near them while just watching their kids sell sampaguita.
A 14-year-old sampaguita vendor who lives at the back of the St. Therese chapel sells sampaguita as part of his daily routine ever since he was a young kid. Considering that they are 13 siblings in the family, he sells sampaguita to help his family with the finances. He also wanted to have extra money for his allowance when he goes to school.
Another sampaguita vendor shared that he uses his money to eat whenever he is hungry. Some of their sampaguita vendor friends have the same reason as well –to help their family and to have pocket money when they go to school. Since they go to Lopez Elementary School during day time, they can only be seen in Vega Center during late afternoons and night.
Ms. Hanna Erika Laviña, a social worker from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), revealed that the number of children selling sampaguita in Los Baños is not really increasing. The children selling sampaguita today are almost the same children who sold sampaguita few years back. She shared that the DSWD used to hire someone who roamed around Los Baños (LB) to stop the children from selling sampaguita. However, the children couldn’t be put in their custody because their parents are actually working. Caught children vendors are just usually brought back to their parents.
The DSWD currently plans to conduct livelihood programs for the parents of these children. However, with the conduct of livelihood programs, the parents must promise that they will never allow their children to sell sampaguita again.
According to aProf. Helga P. Vergara from the Department of Human and Family Development Studies (DHFDS) in UPLB, one reason for the existence of the sampaguita vendors is the need for a source of livelihood. Some of the parents of the sampaguita vendors are just at home taking care of their younger siblings. Because most of these parents have many children, they do not have a choice but to stay at home and take care of them. This situation forced some of their children to sell sampaguita.
Selling sampaguita is popular in LB. This is another reason why the number of sampaguita vendors continues to increase every year, according to aProf. Vergara. Though some people get annoyed and do not entertain them, most people are still fond of them. This has resulted in other vendors even from other places to go to Los Baños to also sell their sampaguitas.
Another reason given by aProfessor Vergara is the increasing number of relocation sites near Los Baños. She believes that some sampaguita vendors are not actually from Los Baños. Some may be from the Bayan ni Juan relocation site in Calauan and some may be from other relocation sites from nearby towns.
Whether to buy sampaguita from the children vendors or to just give them money depends on one’s decision. But personally, aProfessor Vergara believes that buying from them or giving them money should not be practiced. Aside from making the children used to the situation, it can also attract other vendors outside Los Baños.
On the other hand, according to aProf. Argee Albor who is also from DHFDS UPLB, the authorities must implement programs that would educate and keep the parents of sampaguita vendors busy and productive in their day to day lives. Examples of programs they must offer are seminars about family planning. He believes that lack of family planning is a big factor that causes such increase in the number of sampaguita vendors. Parents tend to have many children whom they can hardly support with their income. He also suggested livelihood programs for parents. He also added that having a job is a natural contraceptive for parents because it keeps them busy in their everyday lives.
Sampaguita vendors have been present in Los Baños for many years already. Some get annoyed by them, some just ignore them while some talk and entertain them. But should we really buy sampaguitas from these children vendors or just give them money? Will there still be time when no more children will sell sampaguita in Los Baños?