Fernando: Boarding house

ONE best income-generating venture is owning a boarding house. One narrow cold room near a school can give an owner two to three thousand a month. So house owners convert one room to two or even three rooms. There are only few rules. Do not be noisy. Clean the single common bathroom after used. Others have only two. One month deposit and one month advance. As long as these are obeyed, the owners do not care what happens inside these rooms.

In a recent report, Benguet has an increase cases of teenage pregnancy in 2017. Data was compared to the 2016 teenage childbirth report. While in overall the country is seeing a decline of these cases, this province seems heading toward a different direction.

This has been a problem before and concerned agencies like DSWD, DepEd, and DOH have set up measures to minimize its proliferation. There came the advice that parents should keep close supervision to their teenage children. Then there is the strong drive of using contraceptives if sexual activities by young people cannot really be hampered. When these solutions have not caused a drop of this problem, one question is being raised as experts are trying a different approach in solving this social issue. Where do these young lovebirds explore the idea of sexual adventure? Aha! “Why look at me?” asked the owner of the boarding house.

Boarding house is the most accessible place for young people to meet. There’s no checking of ID’s at the gates or doors. No frisking. The security personnel are out of the house or watching TV at the adjacent house. They will speak to the boarders only when it’s time to collect rent. Curfew applies only to some. Strangers are not welcome only to few.

Once students are inside their room, it’s a haven of freedom. And what kind of freedom? It’s the freedom where they feel the world is too harsh for them and they have every right to do whatever pleases them to express themselves. Almost always, the expression is love without limit, sex.

Boarding houses are all over the place. Betag, a barangay in La Trinidad, just across Benguet State University, seems overpopulated but almost more than a half of the entire populace of this barangay comprises of boarders. Most of them are students. Same with barangays near Saint Louis University, University of Baguio, and other nearby institutions in Baguio City.

What could boarding house owners do to avoid sexual activities? If we can’t ask them to help in solving teenage pregnancy perhaps the council can dedicate an entire session to regulate management of boarding houses and dormitories. I heard that one dormitory house developed a monitoring device where parents are notified whenever their child comes in and goes out. This is one idea that others could adapt. Maybe we could pass an ordinance of regulating drinking alcohol inside boarding houses and dormitories. A total ban of drinking alcohol maybe too unsympathetic but we can set a limit. The details must be taken care of by the city and provincial councils. House owners may also prevent strangers from coming in. Boyfriends or girlfriends may not be allowed to stay for a certain period of time. This may sound autocratic but if it could be done to avoid untimely pregnancy, it is better tolerated.

The local government can set-up an office or add a function to a current office that will take charge of boarding houses (including dormitories). In-charge personnel can have regular inspections. It will not only force owners improve the dismal condition of many boarding houses but it would send a clear message to boarders. The office can standardize to have at least a caretaker for every boarding house. It can also set a centralized set of rules and regulations that owners should follow.

Parents in distant provinces expect their children to study while they are away. They send hard-earned money regularly for tuitions hoping that their sons or daughters finish their degree. When they run out of money, they do what they can to generate cash. They don’t mind going to loan sharks just to make sure there is money to send. Parents need the help of the government to fulfill their dreams for their children. Most of the times, teenagers need rules and regulations to straighten their thinking. This is not underestimating their ability of good decision-making but the data of teenage pregnancy is one proof that most of our youth today need guidance.

Staying in a boarding house away from home is a survival mode for students. It’s a test of character. It’s a check of personality and a measure how strong a young person is. There’s no mother to tell that love can wait or a father to stop one from sipping a colorless ‘two by two’ gin mixed with a solo C2. The decision is left to the young person alone. If students are focused, psychologically strong, and spiritually grounded, they have a big chance to survive. If not, they can be easily trapped, get pregnant or impregnate.

Boarding houses have now developed from mere sleeping and studying areas to lovers’ nests. This shows on the soaring statistics of teenagers, mostly students, who get pregnant. The bad consequences are many. It affects the lives of numerous individuals from the young parents, the child, the families, and the community. It causes poverty. It is one reason of family disintegration. The government must do its part in taking care of the youth by combating early pregnancy. First thing to do is knocking on boarders’ doors. Rules and regulations for boarding houses must be set. Boarding house owners must be warned and teenagers must be reminded unless this region wants to keep this drab record.