Monday, May 01, 2006

MANILA VOICES: LUISITO BAYANI, 23

My Labor Day turned entered a bizarre twist when after work and after a quick visit to Divisioria, I decided to rest on a bench at Plaza Lacson, besides the Carriedo Station of the LRT Line 1.

Around me were tired protesters grabbing quick naps, women selling Japanese sweet corn, men selling cold juices, water and C2. 15 minutes into my rest, a very thin boy - nay, a man - sauntered towards me and was gesturing for something. He first appeared to be mute but he can hear me alright. I offered the rest of my bring-home pizza but he didn't seem hungry and returned them to me. He gestured towards the man selling cold juices, and I gave him Php 5 and he bought himself a nice cup of buko juice.

He seems to be well known around these parts as kids were calling out his name - Lui. He sat beside me and I offered him the pizza again, which he accepted. He just kept gesturing and making the sign of the cross and pointing towards the general direction of Quiapo. I suppose he goes there a lot.

(photo here)
Luisito, with the Carriedo Station behind him

The woman selling corn, who was seated besides me, said that Lui - actually, Luisito Acunsion(sp.?) Bayani, 23 years old - already had a full meal before he left the house. The woman, who called herself Manang Sally (real name: Salud), turned out to be Lui's mother.

Lui is the youngest in a brood of 7. Manang Sally confided to me that she wanted to abort Luisito long ago because after having had 6 children, she didn't want another kid. She said she took several medicines, citing Medicol (a paracetamol) as an example. The baby wasn't aborted but he turned out to be like what Lui is now - a bit retarded, with a mind-age of 5 or 6 by my calculations.

The family are from Valenzuela originally, but moved to Villalobos (Manila) upon the invitation of her eldest son, who has a stall selling mangoes and corn. She was complaining about her husband, who now is living with his mistress. He has 5 more children with the other woman - and he is already 59. "I guess there are men who really are virile even at an old age," Manang Sally opines. She says she doesn't want to creat a ruckus by making her husband come home. After all, she is old now and wants to enjoy life more with her grandchildren - all 15 of them (the eldest son alone had 8 children!).

She also told me an interesting story of how Lui once disappeared from their house in Valenzuela and wasn't seen for three days. They searched for him everywhere until one day, Manang Sally received a call from her daughter in Carriedo that Lui is with them. Apparently, Lui remembered the way from Valenzuela to Carriedo from their constant trips, and may have walked all the way to Manila. Amazing, isn't it?

It isn't difficult to like Lui. He always raised my arm so it can rest around his frail shoulders, and he'd lean his head on me like a kid wanting to be hugged. He makes it a point that my hand would rest on his sternum. Very unusual but because of this, I can feel how thin he really was. Except for some rashes on his inner arms, I am thankful he isn't sick of anything related to the lungs given his obvious frailty and malnutrition. Manang Sally said people would always take pity on Lui - the saleslady at the nearby Isetann would always sneak out to give him a cone of sundae, or somebody would give him a shirt, or offer money, even if just coins.

(photo here)
Lui's hand on my knee

Since it was getting late and I had to go home, I said my goodbyes to Lui and thanked Manang Sally for her time. I promised to visit them again since we always hear Mass in Sta. Cruz Church.

2 comments:

loella amadonja said...

Hi, I was blog hopping and came across yours.
I just want to comment - about this snippet of Filipino masa life you have up there, tragic stories like that are commonplace arent they? But the sad thing about it is why did the mother have to take inappropriate meds to abort the child..what kind of mentality is that? Do you think its their (the masses) fault that they dont know any better? sigh

Citizen of the World said...

Amadine, thanks so much for dropping by and leaving this wonderful thought. Like your blog's title, maybe it's chemical imbalance, as well, that made her think that way. Poverty, too, maybe. It's really hard to tell. Why, it even happens to people who are better off. Circumstances demand such actions, I think.