Knowledge of Disney movies is incomplete without Peter Pan. Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island of Neverland with the Lost Boys.
Peter who is a lost boy himself, acts as the leader of the Lost Boys, which include Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly, and The Twins. The Lost Boys is a band of boys who were lost by their parents in various ways and came to live in Neverland. While this only happens in fairy tales, the idea of not growing up and getting lost is never a happy idea. As a mother of two lost and found boys named Ruben II (RG) and Mariano Miguel Guinolbay (MM), I momentarily experienced the harrowing experience of missing my children-literally.
I do not know if getting lost has something to do with our genes. When I was six years old, my older brother Luis and I got lost at St. Lukes Hospital. Using my cat like abilities, I was able lead us back to the hospital room where my mother was resting with the new born brother (Ramon). The family was of course in a state of panic when my brother and I went missing for an hour. On the other hand, my younger brother, Mario, epitomized Macaulay Culkin’s role in the Home Alone movies. Mario first got lost while our family was shopping in SM Cubao. He got lost again while we were in Baguio. He was lost for the third time while we were having our television set fixed in a repair shop in Tañong, Marikina. When he got lost for the third time, he was only 8 years old. According to his “founder”, Mario demanded to be returned to our home using a taxi, not a tricycle. Of course, Mr. founder returned Mario to our house on board a tricycle.
On 12 October 2012, RG got lost because his nanny was then too busy texting her boyfriends. RG, then 7 years old, went missing for two and a half hours. Thank God he managed to reach MM’s school which was practically at least 1.5 kilometers away from where he was last seen by the nanny. The guard who recognized him at the gates said RG asked for water as he was very thirsty and very tired from walking.
On 03 September 2015, my younger son, MM had a quarrel with kuya RG, and allegedly stormed out of the house at 4:00 in the afternoon. According to his yaya, she only noticed MM missing at around 5:00pm.
On the other hand, the tricycle drivers said they saw yaya frantically racing from one street to another looking for something. As suggested by a kind neighbor, I approached six baranggays who helped post MM’s picture within their respective areas. Baranggay tanods 96 and 101 of Pasay City participated in the search.
Thank God again, MM was found after 7 grueling hours at exactly 11:06 in the evening. Two sets of Baranggay tanod met and converged at Protacio street when they chanced upon MM who was on his way back to the house, oblivious to the fact that a kid hunt was already launched to find him. I will not go through the details of what was going through my mind during the seven hour search. My immediate concern then was to keep cool and exhaust all remedies. The whole Aningat clan just felt grateful and lucky that he was found alive and unharmed.
Imagine the feeling of missing your children and the void that will never be filled once you are faced with the truth that they are never coming back. This should be a major concern especially for parents with children with autism or any other disability.
News about children being kidnapped and killed for their body parts abound. The recent report on GMA News TV’s “News To Go” talked about four children declared missing in Bauan Batangas. A witness has told police investigators that one of the victims was a 14-year-old victim, a resident of San Pascual town, kidnapped by three men while inside a passenger jeepney. The police are still identifying the motive behind the kidnapping as the victim did not come from a rich family that could provide ransom, the report said.
After my second experience (hopefully the last!) of losing and finding my son, I decided to write this article to help parents prevent the loss of their children and to give them tips on what to do in case a child goes missing.
To kidnap proof your children do the following:
- Have a password between you and your children. Your children should be taught to go only with persons who can invoke this password.
- Constantly remind your children that if they are lost/missing, they should stay in a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. If there is none in the area, he should stay in a reputable establishment like 711 or Jollibee. They should be advised to stay put at all costs and NOT to go with strangers who cannot invoke the password.
- Children who are prone to wandering may wear a t-shirt with details showing his name and parent’s contact number. I personally had three shirts printed with this information: MM. GUINOLBAY
Involve the entire community as much as possible. I am very fortunate to grow up in Marikina where the neighbors care about each other and even celebrate Halloween and easter-egg hunting yearly. When I was forced to relocate, I was lucky again to find a place in Pasay where neighbors also look out for each other. On the day MM was missing, a neighbor told me that he saw MM headed towards Protacio Street at around 4:00pm. The point is, your neighbors act as your eyes and mouth if they see something irregular. Some of them out of concern, even told me that my children were being maltreated by the previous yayas.
5. Educate the yayas about the importance of informing you asap if the children are missing or are not in their usual place.
What to do if your child is missing:
- Immediately go/call to the your local law enforcement agency.
- If your child is missing from home, search through:
Piles of laundry.
In and under beds.
Inside large appliances like ovens and refrigerators.
Vehicles/Cars – including trunks.
Anywhere else that a child may crawl or hide.
- If your child is lost in a mall or food establishment, notify the store manager or security office if your child cannot be found when in a store. Then immediately call/ visit the Police/ your local law enforcement agency.
- Remember when you go to the Police:
Provide the Police with your child’s name, date of birth, height, weight and descriptions of any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing. Give them copies of the enlarged picture of your missing child. Although you will be advised that they only act on reports after 24 hours, some cops would act immediately if they are informed that the children are diagnosed with autism or any other learning disability.
- Have the missing child’s picture downloaded and enlarged asap. State in the poster the name and information of your child as well as your contact numbers. It is very important to have two alternative numbers i.e. globe and smart. Print at least 30 copies of the poster for dissemination with the nearby baranggays and your childrens’ schools. In MM’s case, his teachers in Pasay Alliance Christian School (PACS) helped in disseminating his pictures in Facebook and other social media. The teachers helped in finding him too.
- Involve willing neighbors in the search. Most people are naturally concerned if little children are missing.
- Ask the nearby baranggays for help and posting of your child’s pictures.
- Ask the tricycle drivers’ help in posting and disseminating your missing child’s pictures. In my recent experience, they were very much willing to help.
- Assign a person with a car/transportation to go to the places where the family regularly visits. When a child with autism goes missing, it is important to quickly identify any unique interests the child has and create a list of their favorite places. Mm and RG love pet stores and railways. Whenever we pass by Fort Bonifacio and SLEX, we occasionally see trains. I am aware that some children with autism are also fond of trains. Good thing we did not have trains in Pasay because if we did, MM would have gone to the railroad tracks to watch the trains go by. In MM’s case, nobody ever imagined he would reach Taekwondo Headquarters at Vito Cruz corner Taft Avenue, on foot.
Helping one another is a natural instinct among Filipinos. When a loved one goes missing, the psychological impact on those left behind can be overwhelming. My family just feels very lucky to have my children returned to us unharmed.