Story of Joy Libre
Everyone in the village in Agusan del Sur where Joy Libre grew up still remembers her as ‘the little girl whose uncle tied her to the basketball post.’ The post was out in the open where the afternoon sun beat down on her, where passersby pointed and laughed at her, and where red ants came crawling up her legs to plant their sting.
Joy’s father was harsher. A chronic drunkard, he struck her with anything he could lay his hands on, be this a belt, a rattan vine or twig. Once, the tip of his belt broke off as he hit her. Enraged, he began hitting her with the buckle end of the belt instead. She still bears the scars, but even more painful was that her mother never came to her defense, causing Joy to harbor a deep grudge.
Because home was not a safe place, Joy found ways to stay away. She disliked school and preferred to be uphill dragging pieces of lumber from a sawing site to a stream where adult workers tied them into rafts and floated them to town. Or she would carry coconuts to a copra-buying station. With her small wages, she would treat herself to corn puffs, savoring each morsel. This was her escape.
At ten, Joy caught a boat for Manila where she worked as a helper in a series of homes but ended up on the streets. Here, she met Frankie Libre who became her live-in partner. They joined an informal community of street dwellers who did drugs together and rummaged through restaurant garbage bins for food leftovers which they re-cooked into meals called pagpag.
Joy and Frankie were in and out of jail for vagrancy or petty theft. Once, Joy attempted to commit suicide by hanging herself but was saved by another street dweller who found her swinging from a tree branch with a telephone wire around her neck, unconscious, but alive.
Things changed in 2005 when she and Frankie began attending street-side Bible studies led by the CCT Kaibigan Ministry. They came for the free meals but soon the Bible studies assumed significance. Joy recalled what she learned from a Sunday school back in Agusan, where she was told that God had a future in store for her. Both she and Frankie gave their lives to Jesus Christ.
They began to live at the Kaibigan Center in Cabrera, Pasay City, where they grew spiritually and attended skills training. They were wed in lovely Christian rites and blessed with a son. Regular income from jobs as service staff of CCT enabled them to rent a room that gave them a sense of dignity. In a wonderful turn of events, Frankie was invited to minister to street dwellers as an official worker of the Kaibigan Ministry.
In 2010, Joy went home to Agusan after 18 years of being away. Her father was on his deathbed. She readily forgave him when he asked for forgiveness. Not long after, he passed away in peace.
Recently, the couple acquired a house through the government’s housing program. Joy thanks God that her little boy will never have to live on the streets the way she and Frankie did.