How a Homeless Man Changed an Engineering Student’s Life

How many time have you encountered a homeless person in the Metro? Countless times, I’m sure. But how many times have they changed your life in a big way? If you’re lucky, once is enough. And that ‘once’ happened for one engineering student who shared their story anonymously on the Facebook page UP Diliman Files. Here is that student’s story. It’s long, but definitely worth the read. A rough translation is provided at the very end.

It was a Monday, 3PM. 

In my 18 years in this planet, NEVER EVER kong ginustong magbigay ng piso sa mga pulubi. Yung mga maglalagay ng sobre sa lap mo habang nasa jeep ka, o yung mga kakalabit sayo habang naglalakad ka. Para kasi sa’kin, mas ginagawa mo silang tamad. Mas gusto kong bigyan yung mga nagbebenta ng sampaguita, o mga nangangalakal, at least sila may effort. 

Pero this beggar, in Ayala, really hurt me, sagad sa buto yung tama sakin. 

Dala dala ko yung gym bag ko with my clothes and a bottle of water, tapos backpack cuz I’d be going UP na after. Nasa Ayala Ave ako nun, then I was going upstairs to the MRT station tapos may matandang lalaki na binoblock yung half ng space sa hagdanan. 

*Ano ba naman to, nanghihingi na nga lang, nakaharang pa.* 

Dahil nagmamadali si ateng nasa likuran ko, nabangga ako, then nahulog ko yung hindi ko malilimutang Summit mineral bottle ko dun sa lampin ni Manong Beggar. 

Napansin ko yung mata ni Manong Beggar. Yung isang eyeball niya, bulag na. Tapos yung isa naman, parang may cataract or something sa mata. Mga 40% na lang siguro yung eyesight ni manong. 

Tapos kinapa ni manong yung nasa lampin niya. Kukunin ko na sana yung bote, kaso bigla siyang umiyak! Parang bata! 

Nagulat ako, pati yung mga taong nasa paligid namin. Tuwang tuwa si manong dahil sa tubig. Akala niya bingyan ko siya ng tubig, pero hindi. I was about to get it but I couldn’t. Hindi magawa ng puso ko na kunin yung bottle. 

“Tubig! Tubig! Salamat po! Salamat po!” Paiyak na sinabi ni Manong. Hindi siya humahagulgul. 

Sobra sobra yung pagkatuwa ni Manong. Ako din hindi makapaniwala sa reaction ni Manong. Para siguro sa mga may kaya, yung mga nakakakain katulad ko ng tatlong beses sa isang araw, wala lang yung tubig. Ito yung mga bagay na tinatake ko for granted. Hindi ko alam, sobra sobra yung halaga nito sa iba. Umiyak yung isang babae sa likuran ko. Tapos nagbigay siya ng bente kay Manong. 

Umakyat ako. Pumunta sa Julie’s bakeshop. I bought a bread and then bumalik ako tapos binigay ko kay Manong. To be honest, Manong doesn’t smell. Hindi siya mabango, pero hindi rin siya mabaho. I asked him “Napano po yung mata niyo?” 

Catarcact nga daw, nagpacheck up siya sa PGH. Pero may mga requirements ata, or parang ID or something na kailangan and wala siyang maipresent so hindi siya maoperahan. Mga 3:30 PM na. Kailangan ko nang umalis. I asked Manong if may asawa siya or anak. He said yung mga anak niya may sarili na ring pamilya tapos nasa Middle East and yung isa nasa Australia daw. Patay na rin daw yung asawa niya. 

Kumulo talaga yung dugo ko to see manong, who worked as a jeepney driver for 35 years (yung route na Cubao-PhilCoa daw yung dinadrive niya) then to be dumped by his own children! P*tang ina talaga! Mas marami pa ata akong naibigay kay manong kesa sa mga naibigay sa kanya ng anak niya. I asked for his children’s names and searched them on FB. 

4PM. I really need to go. I asked Manong if nasa Ayala pa rin siya next week, he said, he still doesn’t know. Minsan daw kasi hinuhuli sila, minsan daw pinapaalis. Ayokong iwan si Manong that time, pero kailangan ko na talagang umalis. Sinabi ko kay Manong babalik ako next week. Hinawakan niya yung kamay ko, habang lumuluha siya. Lumuluha na rin ako tapos sinabi niya sakin “Anak, salamat. Maswerte mga magulang mo.” 

Nasa MRT na ako, naluluha pa rin. Kunwari inaantok ako para hindi ako magmukang baliw sa MRT na umiiyak mag-isa. Pero still, hindi makapaniwala sa nangyari sakin. 

That night, sinearch ko yung mga pangalan na binigay ni Manong sakin. May isa sa nagpop up, nasa Middle East. Professional na siya. May asawa, may mga anak. Nag-PM ako and sinabi yung situation ng tatay nila. I found out that wala talagang paki yung mga anak niya sakanya. Kasi daw “manginginom, lasinggero, babaero” yung tatay nila dati. Umakyat sa 200 degrees Celsius yung dugo ko. Lalo na nung sinabi nila na contact-in ko nalang yung DSWD para sa tatay nila. 

I was like “KOYA TOTOO BA TATAY MO PO YUNG PINAPAGUSAPAN NATIN. SANA KUNG YUNG LUMANG SAPATOS NA PWEDENG IDONATE SA CHARITY PWEDS PA. 

AT ANG LAKAS MO MAGUPLOAD NG PICS SA FB NAKAPUBLIC PA. MGA ANAK MO MAY SARILING KOTSE, TATAY MO WALANG PAGKAIN.”

Though of course, I said it in a nice way. Then he gave me the number of their youngest half-brother, (anak ni Manong sa pangalawang babae, so “babaero nga siguro si manong”). Siguro ganun na lang talaga yung galit ng mga anak niya sakanya. 

I texted manong’s younges son. Nasa Palawan Nagtratrabaho sa isang mining company. He was willing to help. Tapos nagsorry siya kasi wala daw siyang pamasahe para hanapin yung tatay nila sa Maynila. Yung huli daw nila na alam ay nakikituloy sa isa nilang relative, pero last month ata ay pinaalis na si manong doon. 

Mag-memeet up kami in 3 weeks. To help manong go home. 

The next week na pumunta ako sa Ayala ave. Nandoon si manong! Tapos sinabi ko sakanya na pupunta si JJ (name ng bunso niya). Tuwang tuwa siya, niyakap niya ako. Sobrang busy ko non, dahil hell week ko so I have to go to UP early. Sabi ko kay Manong konting hintay nalang. Umiiyak si Manong. Naiiyak na rin ako. 

Nainspire ako actually kay Manong. Na kahit iniwanan ng mga kapamilya niya habang sila may magandang buhay overseas, pumupush pa rin. Push lang! kumbaga. Yung mga problema ko dati na traffic sa Katipunan, o kaya puno yung Starbucks, hindi naman nawala, pero hindi ko na pinroblema. Yung mga acads problem ko, mga friends problem ko, wala na, lampaso sa problema ni manong. Dati gusto ko nang sumuko sa life, mag give up, I realized that sobrang dami pang tao yung mas may mabigat na problema. 

Shit! Excited na ako! 2 weeks na lang makikita na ni Manong yung bunso niya. Then mga 5PM nun, nalate ako. Wala si manong sa Ayala. May mga pulis sa baba. Or traffic enforcer. Tinanong ko kung nasaan yung manong doon sa hagdanan banda. Pinagpasa-pasahan nila ako, just as any government employee would do, then yung isang mamang pulis sinabi, “baka yun yung namatay nung isang araw”. 

Baka. Namatay. Nung. Isang. Araw. 

Putang. Ina. at Ama. 

“Kuya yung may sakit po sa mata?” 

“Yung bulag? Oo, siya nga ata, tignan mo yung picture.” 

“Kuya ung may lampin na itim sa harapan niya?” 

“Oo. Yung bulag nga? Tignan mo nga kasi yung picture!” 

Tinignan ko yung picture na hawak ni mamang pulis. Umiyak ako. Si Manong, nakatakip ng kumot. Tapos yung lampin niya na itim nakabalot sa mukha niya. Nakayakap siya dun sa Summit mineral bottle na nahulog ko. Halos humagulgol ako sa iyak. Wala akong pake kung tawanan ako ng mga mamang pulis. Sabagay, may clan wars sila sa CoC kaya hindi nila ako maasikaso ng maayos. 

“Sige, thank you po kuya.” 

NagMRT ako. Umiiyak ulit. Hindi dahil sa tuwa, ngunit sa lungkot. 

Tinext ko yung anak ni manong. Nasa isang public hospital daw yung body ni manong. Naiiyak nanaman ako habang sinusulat to. Pasensya na kayo, kailangan ko lang talang ilabas ‘to. Ang sakit sa dibdib. 

Naggpalit na ako ng mineral water pero hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin ako makamove on kay manong. 

To you manong, alam kong hindi mo na mababasa ‘to. Pero kung totoo ang afterlife, at may FB doon, alam kong ipapakita sayo yung post na ‘to ni God, or ni Steve Jobs, or ni Isaac Newton. 

Rest in peace, manong. Siguro nga totoo, na hindi kailangang matagal mong makasama ang isang tao, para mahalin mo siya. Minahal ko si manong, as a friend, a father, a lolo, kahit ilang araw pa lang kaming nagkakilala. Maraming maraming salamat manong, binuksan mo yung isip ko sa mas malawak na perspektibo. Habang buhay ko tong dadalhin sa buhay ko. 

Maraming salamat manong, ‘wag kang mag-alala tutulungan ko yung mga magulang ko. Pangako ‘yun, para sa’yo. 

Summit, 2013, Engineering

Rough Translation:

It was a Monday, 3PM.

In my 18 years in this planet, I have NEVER EVER wanted to give a single peso to a homeless person. The ones who put envelopes on your lap while you’re in the jeep or the ones who pester you while you’re walking. I always thought giving them money would make them lazier. I would have preferred to give money to people who sell sampaguita because at least they showed more effort.

But this beggar, in Ayala, really hurt me, he hit me to the bones.

I had my gym bag with me with my clothes and a bottle of water, and a backpack cuz I’d be going to UP afterwards. I was at Ayala Ave at the time, then I was going upstairs to the MRT station and there was an old man blocking half of the space by the stairs.

Since the woman behind me was in a hurry, she bumped me and I fell. My Summit mineral bottle, which I will never forget, fell on the towel of Manong Beggar.

That’s when I noticed Manong Beggar’s eyes. One of his eyes was blind and the other one had a cataract or something. His eyesight was probably only at 40%.

And then he felt what was on his towel. I was about to get my bottle, but then he cried! Like a child!

This surprised me. It also surprised the people around me. He was so happy because of the water.He thought I gave him water, but I didn’t. I was about to get it, but I couldn’t. My heart couldn’t take it.

“Water! Water! Thank you! Thank you!” Manong said on the verge of tears.

He was so incredibly happy. I couldn’t believe his reaction. For those who can afford it, those who can eat three times a day, water is practically nothing. These are the things that I take for granted. I never realised how important those things were for other people. The woman behind me cried and then gave Manong 20 pesos.

I went upstairs, bought some bread and then went back to give it to Manong. To be honest, Manong doesn’t smell. He doesn’t smell good, but he doesn’t smell bad, either. I asked him “What happened to your eyes?”

He said it was a cataract, he got checked but they had requirements that he couldn’t present for the necessary operation. It was 3:30pm by then and I had to leave. I asked Manong if he had any relatives. He said his kids have their own families and were in the Middle East and in Australia. He said his wife was already dead.

It made my blood boil to see this guy, who worked as a jeepney driver for 35 years (his route was from Cubao-PhilCoa) just to be dumped by his own children! I felt like I had given him more than his kids had ever given him. I asked for his children’s names and searched them on FB.

4PM. I really need to go. I asked Manong if he would still be in Ayala next week, he said, he still doesn’t know. Sometimes, he shared that they either catch him or ask him to leave. I didn’t want to leave Manong that time, but I really had to go. I told him I’d be beck next week. He held my hand while crying. I was tearing up, too, and he said, “Thank you. Your parents are very lucky.”

By the time I was at the MRT, I was still tearing. I pretended to be sleepy so I wouldn’t look crazy crying in the MRT on my own. Still, I couldn’t believe what had happened to me.

That night, I searched for the names that Manong had given me. I found one in the Middle East. A professional. Married with children. I sent a PM to tell them about their dad’s situation. I found out that the kids really don’t care about their dad because he was “an alcoholic playboy” before. My blood levels reached 200 degrees, especially when they said I should contact DSWD for their dad instead.

I was like “ARE YOU SERIOUS THIS IS YOUR DAD, NOT SOME OLD SHOES THAT YOU CAN JUST DONATE TO CHARITY.

AND THEN I SEE PUBLIC PICTURES ON FB WITH YOUR KIDS AND THEIR OWN CARS WHILE YOUR DAD DOESN’T EVEN HAVE ANY FOOD.”

Though of course, I said it in a nice way. Then he gave me the number of their youngest half-brother, (Manong’s son with another wife, so I guess he really was a playboy). I guess the kids really were just angry at him.

I texted manong’s youngest son who works in a mining company in Palawan. He was willing to help. And he apologized because he didn’t have any money to look for their dad in Manila. Apparently, the last news that he heard was that his dad was staying with a relative who sent him away last month.

We were to meet up in 3 weeks and help manong go home.

The next week, I went to Ayala ave and found manong! I told him that his youngest son was coming. He was so happy, he hugged me. I was so busy, it was hell week, so I had to go to UP early. I told Manong to wait just a little longer. We both cried.

I actually got inspired by Manong. Even though his kids left him and have great lives overseas, he was still surviving and moving ahead. All of my problems before – the traffic at Katipunan, Starbucks being full – they were still there, but I didn’t worry about them as much anymore. My academic problems, my friends, they were nothing compared to manong’s problems. Before, I wanted to give up on life, but then I realised that so many other people have so many bigger problems.

I got excited! Only 2 weeks left until Manong and his son were reunited. Then at 5pm, I was late. Manong wasn’t at Ayala. There were police downstairs. Or traffic enforcers. I asked if they had seen him. They just kept passing me around, just as any government employee would do, then one of them said, “Maybe that’s the one who died the other day”. 

Maybe. He Died. The. Other. Day.

“The one who has eye problems?”

“The blind one? Yeah, I think that was him, look at the picture.”

“The one with the towel?”

“Yeah. The blind one? Look at the picture!”

I looked at the picture that the police was holding. I cried. Manong was covered up by a blanket and his black towel was around his face. He was hugging my old Summit mineral bottle. I almost screamed while crying. I didn’t care what the police though. Besides, they had COC clan wars to worry about.

“Alright, thanks.”

I got on the MRT. I cried again. Not out of joy, but out of sadness.

I texted manong’s son that his body was at a public hospital. I cried while typing. Sorry, but I really need to let this out. It real hurt.

I’ve changed my mineral water since then, but I still can’t move on from manong.

To you, manong, I know you can’t read this. But if there is an afterlife and if there is FB there, I know that God or Steve Jobs or Isaac Newton will show you this post.

Rest in peace, manong. I guess it’s true that you don’t need to know someone for very long to love them. I loved manong, as a friend, a father, a grandfather, even though I had only known him for a short while. Thank you so much, manong, for broadening my mind and my perspective of life. I will carry this with me forever.

Thank you, manong, don’t worry, I will help my parents. This is my promise to you.

Summit, 2013, Engineering

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