If you pass by Padre Faura in Manila a lot, you have probably come across Mang Ben at some point. Roy Dahildahil is one of the people who has passed by Mang Ben on his travels and he sat down with him for an interview with hopes of sharing his story and maybe even getting in touch with ‘Wish Ko Lang’ to help him out.
This is Mang Ben’s story as told by Roy (translated into English – for the original version, click here):
“Do you have a family, Kuya?”
“No. I haven’t let myself fall since the last time I got hurt.”
“When was the last time you fell in love?”
“High school. *smiles*”
One random afternoon today, I stopped by amidst the busy streets of Padre Faura, Manila to talk to Mang Ben, a shoemaker.
We oftentimes see him sitting by a DOJ post, smiling, busy fixing shoes. Throughout my three years in UP Manila, not a day has gone by that I wasn’t greeted by the infectious smile of Mang Ben – he doesn’t know me, and he probably doesn’t know the other thousands of people who pass by Padre Faura everyday, either – but he will still greet you with a smile so big, you’d think you’ve been friends for life.
Mang Ben is 75 years old and has been a shoemaker at UP Manila for 9 years now. He lives in Caloocan, but goes all the way to Manila just to make a living. He told me that he used to live near Manila; but because a lot of people would steal from him there, he had to look for a new place to live – and that’s how he ended up in Caloocan.
Mang Ben isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids; he hasn’t loved anyone after he got hurt by someone he loved back in high school. Apparently, she didn’t like him because he was just a driver. Although Mang Ben does have siblings here, he has chosen to be alone so as to avoid being a burden to them; and because they all have their own families to take care of now.
Mang Ben’s shoe shine only costs 30 pesos, while shoe repairs only cost 120 pesos a pair. Some days, he makes enough to fill his stomach and pay for rent; other days, he doesn’t (he laughs as he tells me this).
He says he is happy and contented with his life. Armed with old materials to fix shoes, a plastic box, an old notebook and a ballpen, a broken umbrella for when it rains, and clients who talk to him and ask him to fix their shoes – Mang Ben faces each day’s obstacles with a smile.
It’s amazing how in the middle of the busy and fast-paced world of Metro Manila, there is one Mang Ben who just sits in a corner – content and happy about being alive.
After our conversation, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mang Ben. I want to go back, make him happy, help him. As such, I am knocking on the hearts of the readers: if in case you pass by and see Mang Ben (and others like Mang Ben), take a break and get to know them. Support them and their lifestyle. Make them happy.
And if you have any clothes, belongings, or anything big or small that you can give to Mang Ben; let’s collect these things and give them to him as a gift. He will be beyond ecstatic if this happens.
And since I don’t have anything to lose, I will hope that Mang Ben’s story will reach ‘Wish Ko Lang’ and that they can help him, too.
Here’s to making Mang Ben happy!
Roy has also compiled Twitter moments of other people who have also been touched by Mang Ben, which you can find in this thread.
In case you want to help out Mang Ben but don’t know where to begin, feel free to send When in Manila Angeline a message on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org so she can refer you to the right people. :)