By: Sim Yuthy
Date: 3rd Jan, 2014
Dark skin man, wearing a white shirt along with a book in hand, Pring Vichhay, 24, known as a pagoda boy in Wat Unalaom. Vichhay, who moved from his hometown in 2010, was born in Takeo Province. He now becomes a senior student in SETEC Institute. He has five siblings, and he is the fifth son in family. By having trouble with financial support, Vichhay left his family to live in pagoda to pursue his education at university.
Speaking with up and down voice pitch, Vichhay describes about his bitter life of being a pagoda boy. Actually, he decided to live in pagoda as his family is very poor, and he can’t afford for rental house in Phnom Penh.
Although pagoda is a public place, everyone can’t stay in pagoda without informing the head of pagoda. According to Vichhay experience, before he is allowed to stay in pagoda, he has to write an application form in advance to ask permission from the head of pagoda, Tep Vong.
“My parents sells the cow and rice to support my study,” he said. Although he has a suitable place to live, he still need some money from his parents to pay for school fee “I’m really pity my parents, but I don’t know what to do because I don’t have a job and money,” he added.
Even though pagoda provides the accommodation for him, Vichhay always spends his own money for food. He spends at least 15000 riels to 20000 riels per days but except the holy day because it is the day that monks get given food from people. After the monks have eaten food, he gets to eat what is left.
Living in the pagoda means one has to adhere to its internal rules including being out no later than 9 pm. That deadline is not flexible as at that time the lock the gates of the pagoda for the security of everyone living in the pagoda. “I’m not proud of myself! I’m an obedient person, and I have never left outside pagoda later than 10 pm,” he said.
He continued “The environment in this pagoda is well-organized because of the good leading of head of pagoda.” Since Vichhay moved to live here, the security is not quite safe because there are many gangs and drug users around here. “They used to steal stuffs from the tourists and they often make chaotic activities that should not be tolerated”, he said. Therefore, after the tourists and people who live around here frequently complaint about these activities, the head of pagoda starts taking action by reporting to police, and pagoda campus has been protected by the security camera.
For daily activities, Vichhay always get up in the early morning to clean the surrounding environment, and then he picks up food for monks. He sometimes join the meditations with monks.
Vichhay said, “Although pagoda is a suitable place for me, but it is still not like home.” He sometimes has difficulty whenever the pagoda celebrate traditional feast because he has to help facilitating any works in the pagoda. As a result, he can’t even go to school and do his assignment.
By living with monks, someday Vichhay always accompany with them to get Binddha Bat outside the pagoda. Speaking with a depth breath “I don’t have much free time like other people.” My leisure activities is so boring because I always ends up my time with both pagoda and school work day by day,” he added.
If talking about politics, Vichhay is not so interested at all, and he has never joined any demonstration activities because he has been told not to do so. “Pagoda is a neutral institution, so on behalf of a pagoda boy, I have to be objective, and I have to listen my leader advice,” he said.
Since Vichhay started living in pagoda until now, he has got not only good but also bitter experiences. More than this, he has been educated to be a good person, he now get accustomed to the difficult situation. “I still won’t give up although I encounter with the obstacle in any conditions,” he said.
Vichhay is reaching on the bright side, and his life is going to upgrade because he will be graduated from university by the time next year. Sooner or later, he will find a good job, and he will be able to fulfill his parent’s desire. “This is what I always dream about when I was young, and I want to have suitable job and a knowledgeable person in the society” he adds.
“For those who have chance to stay at pagoda, please don’t be hopeless because life is the struggle,” he said, “not everyone who comes from the province get a chance to stay at a city pagoda but only people with good backgrounds who come from impoverished conditions are permitted to stay here.” It is the last message from Vichhay.