Baguio City – She’s up at first light just when the horizon can be discerned; her duties and daily chores rise with her. She cooks breakfast for her aunt and her cousins, washes the dishes and clothes before she steps out for work.

Leah is 14 years old, short, thin girl with a soft face; her warm smile overwhelms the burdens she’s been carrying since she was a toddler. She has a delicate, round face with radiant black eyes that, you can’t help but notice, dream big.

Leah was ten years old when her parents decided to send her away to the city to her aunt. Here she was to learn household chores and babysit her one-year-old cousin. In exchange of this, her parents received P 3,000.00 and a sack of rice each month. The little girl who aspired to get an education works as stay out maid in one of the subdivisions in the city.

She wanted to make something out of herself but has gradually accepted things as they stand, a situation that befalls many unfortunate children from the far flung villages of the cordilleras. She is, however, unaffected by the toil.

“I just want my parents to love me,” Leah says, and clearly it’s the only thing she wants. She aspires to be a diligent, noble daughter and continues to help her family earn a living. In a home, where the father and mother reap off the struggles and sacrifices of their children who are barely adults, girls like Leah, are entangled in the fear of letting their families down.

Round the clock she moves, pleasing her parents, pleasing her aunt, and taking the responsibility of earning for her younger siblings when she can barely take care of herself.

Like Leah, there are many other girls suffering the brunt of this pervasive abuse. Her younger sisters will sadly likely be entrapped in the same cycle. These kids are not only deprived of an education, circumstances force them to mature very early. An entire childhood is lost.

She cherishes every second of her life, trying to be as productive as she can. Learning things in expectation of leading life to a better tomorrow.

Child labor is one of the critical issues of our time, affecting an estimated 215 million children worldwide. Results of the 2011 Survey on Children conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that an estimated 2.1 million filipino children 5 to 17 years of age were engaged in child labor, 97.7 % of whom were in hazardous child labor. More than half (58.4 %) of the 2.1 million children engaged in child labor were in agriculture, 34.6 % in the services sector and 7 % in the industry group.

Under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017 – 2022, the target is “Reduce cases of child labor by 30 %”. Thirty percent of the 2.1 children is about 630,000 children. Thus, for the period 2017-2022, the goal is to withdraw at least 630,000 children from child labor.

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) has its own share of child laborers. Data gathered by the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) from the PSA, there are about 41,940 child laborers scattered in Abra, Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mt. Province and Tabuk City.

The big question is “How can we persuade everyone to make child labor everybody’s business.” It’s like a pursuit of an ambitious goal. Why do we say so, basing on experience as we journeyed to the various municipalities in the Cordilleras, the reaction to child labor ranged from indifference to resignation to denial? The government and the private sector (private individuals or groups) have made substantial progress in connecting the fight against child labour with education. We have to reach children in the informal economy; and apply integrated approaches within the community to get children out of work and into school.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was invited last Thursday by the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc. (JVOFI) and the PMFTC, Inc. to be a major partner in the implementation of the Child Labor Free Communities program. According to JVOFI President Reinaldo A. Bautista, Jr., the joint JVOFI-PMFTC, Inc. “Child Labor Free Communities” program’s objective is to progressively eliminate worst cases of child labor in tobacco farming areas. In the cordilleras, the tobacco producing province is Abra and to start with, JVOFI chose Villavisciosa, a 5th class municipality for their program. We hope that JVOFI will also fund other areas in the Cordilleras were there are child laborers and children at risk to child labor is prevalent.

Pledging their support to the “Child Labor Free Communities” program as representatives to their agencies are DOLE Assistant Regional Director Jesus Elpidio Atal, Jr., PRO COR Regional Director, Police Chief Supt. Edward E Carranza, NEDA Division Chief Apollo Pagano, DOLE Abra Sr. LEO Christopher Tugadi, Executive Director Maria Rosario Lopez of JVOFI and the JVOFI Team, Christine dela Cruz and Kimberly Nicole Ng of PMFT, Inc. PRO COR OIC, RPCRD Police Supt. Byron B. Tegui-In and APD, ABRA PPO PSSupt Wilson D. Soliba.

We know that poverty often pushes children to work, yet when children leave school early to enter the labor force they are more likely to end up in occupations that limit their chances of breaking out of poverty. Every child has the right to a good education and deserves to develop his or her potentials. Help send a child laborer to school: Donate a pencil, a notebook, books, bags or any educational supplies to the “Lapis, papel at iba pa” project. For more information on how to get involved, contact us at 074-443-5339 or email us at We are knocking on your kind hearts to please help send a child laborer to school by donating to the Lapis, Papel Atbp Project. You can bring your donations to the DOLE-CAR Regional Office at no. 1 Cabinet Hill, Baguio City or call us at (074) 443-5339 and look for Joyette or Patrick. We thank you for your support./Patrick T Rillorta