Gilboy Overcomes the Missing Steps 

A street educator recalls his childhood spent living in Manila's streets until he found a way out.

Gilboy Dilao is only in his early 20s, yet the street children he teaches call him "Daddy." They may not realize that Gilboy was once like them. At age nine, Gilboy's home was a kariton, a "push cart" that his mother made for their family of eight to sleep in. He took a bath wherever he found a deep-well pump. Most meals were leftovers from the garbage cans of Roxas Boulevard's famous restaurants. "We'd scrounge for bits of chicken, beef, and pork and re-cook them," Gilboy recalls. But things changed when he found a way to be educated right on the streets he roamed. He started attending activities provided by the street educators of Childhope Asia. A Consuelo Foundation partner since 1996, Childhope reaches out to street children in Pasay, Manila, Sta. Mesa, and Caloocan, providing them informal education and counseling them to give up life on the street. Gilboy actively participated in almost all Childhope activities, many held in vacant lots, parks, or church grounds. He learned essential life skills through the Foundation's Life Skills for Children at Risk Program. Childhope street educators encouraged him to return to school, even if his schoolmates called him hurtful names.

When Gilboy was 12, the street educators recognized his senseof compassion and potential as a leader. They recruited him as a Junior Health Worker, which entailed cleaning and bandaging the wounds of his own friends. Even at that young age, Gilboy was sensitive to the deeper wounds his fellow street kids endured. It seems only natural that working with street children would become his vocation. Two years ago, he graduated from the Philippine Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in social work. Throughout college, Childhope helped him rent a small room so he could focus on his studies away from life in the streets.

Gilboy stayed connected with Childhope as an official Kuya or Brother. He worked for Childhope's UNICEF-funded project in Baseco, Manila; then became a street educator based in Manila's piers.

He loves sharing with the street children his personal strategy for reaching goals. Life is like a long staircase, he tells them. What if you encounter a missing step?

Gilboy tells kids they have two options: muster the patience to go back to the bottom and build the missing step; or take a leap of faith and jump higher.