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"Wonder Boy"

Several weeks ago, when me and my wife are into this exercise-walking routine, we met this guy in his 30’s. He came out of nowhere and showed up on us right in front of a Catholic Church where we stopped for a while. All of a sudden, while I am taking photos of the wall art in the other side of the road, this guy in a funny yet sincere tone asked me:


Isang picture naman diyan oh!
(One photo shoot if you please!)



With bit of a surprise, I told the guy, “O sige, posing ka” (Okay, you do your pose). But then instead of just posing the normal way (that moment wherein it is your first time to meet a complete stranger, you know), this guy poses the unusual ways. Quite cumbersome to describe, so here are the photo shots for you to have a look!





Near this wall art is where I met "Wonder Boy".

After this interesting yet mind-blowing photo-shoot encounter, the guy then tell something again.

“Kuya, konti barya naman diyan oh”. (Brother, some small amount if you please.)

As what I can recall, I was not able to give him any amount of money at that time as we really don’t have coins in our purse but money in larger denominations.

So I told him, “Pasensya na kuya, wala talaga barya. Pag nakita kita ulit, bibigyan kita. Ano bang pangalan mo?” (Sorry brother, I really don’t have coins right now. But if ever I will see you again, I will give you. What is your name by the way?)

The cool guy said, “Ayos lang kuya. Ako si… (it’s fine brother. My name is…)


“Wonder Boy!”

Honestly, I’ve anticipated that kind of response from the way he acts and talks right from the start.

Then I asked him, “Saan ka ba nakatira?” (Where do you live?)

He said, “Diyan lang (pointing to a direction). Lagi ako diyan sa PureGold”. (There. I’m always at PureGold.)

After that short conversation, I said goodbye to Wonder Boy telling him that if ever I will see him again, I will give him money.

Then a few days after, when I was about to ride on my bike after buying some groceries at PureGold, Wonder Boy showed up asking for some “barya”. And as promised, I give him some money I have in my purse – ten pesos I think. I asked him if he still remembers me on that encounter in the nearby church. He said yes. I realized he was assisting drivers in going in and out of the mall’s parking zone.

And before we separate ways, Wonder Boy said, “Salamat kuya”. (Thanks brother.)

I politely responded, “Pakabait ka ha. God bless.” (You please be good. God bless.)

Then an old lady noticed what happened and told me, “May bayad ba ang parking ng bisekleta?” (Is there a parking fee for bicycle?)

I told the lady, “Wala po. May kaunti po yun.” (None Madam. That guy has something.)

So the lady just nodded and fully get what I meant with “may kaunti.”

Well, thank you for reading that short story of mine. It is not weird at all for me, to be honest. Encountering such a cool person like “Wonder Boy” is totally not new. In my home town, there are people same as Wonder Boy. Here in my place in Cavite, I’ve helped in small ways someone like Wonder Boy. The funny side of such encounter is that you’re getting entertained with how this kind of people talk to you. You learn something out of those gestures, smiles, laughs, and sometimes really entertaining words coming from them.

On the other hand, there is a very sad story deep inside of them - the Wonder Boys.

Here's another story to share.

Months before I got sick and hospitalized, that was early 2016, I met this person living in a waiting shed near my place. For about 3 or 4 months, every weekend, I used to drive my bike going to him and give him something – food or money. On the first encounter, I just politely approach the person with some bread and water on my hands. I told him that I have something for him and without fear or hesitation, he just took my offers.

Until the time came that I have this confidence to ask about his story - who he is, where he came from, why he’s living in that shed. As if you’re talking to a normal person or friend, typical conversation goes on. What I can still remember is that his home is in Laguna, the nearby province of Cavite (my place). When I asked him how do he survive if he’s not at home with his family, he told me, “Marami naman pong nagbibigay sa akin dito.” (There are many people giving me something to eat.) He’s really polite and kind, nothing to be alerted about.

Every time I stop-by on that shed, he immediately recognizes me. I always have something to give. Personally, I do not care at all if he smells bad or if looks dirty. What I care is if he’s hungry or not. Then I remember asking him if he could make this “origami” thing which I have been doing for quite some time that year, with a promise to give him a gift in return. Weeks after, he was able to show me his creation. Although it is not that perfect, he tried his best and was able to create one. I then give him some old clothes, water, and food that day. T’was really fulfilling!

Then when I recovered from my sickness in about four months, I came back to him but he’s no longer there. I tried going back for several times but he’s really not there. I want to help him more, in any small way possible.

Here in the Philippines, we call people like him as “taong grasa”. Sometimes, people call them “taong kalye”. In the street lingo, most adults understand the meaning when somebody says “may kaunti yan”. In a straightforward language, we say that the person is “mentally distressed”, “mentally-illed” or have mental issues.

The intention of this post is not at all to share the funny sides of mentally distressed people or even put them on shame. The intention is to bring up the issues of mental health in the Philippines and spread mental health awareness to all.

While many Filipino families have one of their members having mental issues, and as part of life, they used to live, laugh, and cry with them, we cannot ignore the fact that still there are people who do not fully understand their true situation. Kids, for example, out of innocence laugh and sometimes fool those kinds of guys. Rude people who regularly encounter such kind of person used to do unacceptable things like beating them, taking their foods or belongings, and uttering ugly words like “Loko-loko” or “Sira ulo”.

Well, even I, wheneve I encountered a mentally-distressed person in the street and that I am not aware of his or her true situation at that time, I would think of something different. That maybe, this guy is drunk or simply think that he or she is stupid. I would not know at first. But my response in this kind of encounter is either I stay away or stop for a while and observe how that person would react, and then leave until he or she calms down. When I then realized that he or she is mentally distressed, I give him or her some money or food, whatever is available in my pocket or purse.



“Taong grasa” came to be as “taong grasa” for some reasons, deeper reasons - tragedy, personal or family problem, accident, unusual experience, abuse, exploitation, etc. Their behavior is beyond normalcy. They need our help.

Finally, I want to share in this post that I have a cousin whom happened to become mentally-ill due to a sea accident. That was very long time ago but as being mentioned in my conversations with my aunts and uncles, this cousin of mine got his mental issues when he used to dive under the sea with this air compressor that malfunctioned. I do not have the exact details but as of today, after several years of getting treatments in a rehabilitation center in Manila, this cousin of mine is now back at his home town in Romblon. There are still incidences when his being mentally-ill strikes back, showing unusual behavior. But the good thing is that he is way better compared to the way he acted years back. My uncle and auntie, his parents, did not back out in helping their son on his condition. They did what they can, with lots of patience and sacrifices, for many years.

Where do I want to go from here?

I just want to say that there are many “Wonder Boys” out there, in the Philippines in particular. But reality will tell that many of our countrymen are not capable enough of sending them to rehabilitation centers for treatment. I remember watching this documentary wherein I found out that it requires a minimum of 2000 to 3000 pesos worth of medication each month to treat a mentally-ill patient. And the treatment spans from a year or more depending on the health situation. For some, it is a life-time treatment.


Poor families, no matter how willing they are to save their family member, really cannot do anything – even asking for help because they have nothing. And we cannot blame them for that, really.

We have treatment centers here in the country, an indication that our politicians are not ignoring their situations. In my advocacy to help in my little ways, let me share to you some of these links that might give you some ideas.

http://www.ncmh.gov.ph/

https://www.webbline.com/mental-health/

http://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2017/10/20/mental-health-facilities.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health_care_in_the_Philippines


But sadly, these facilities cannot fully accommodate many Filipinos with mental health issues. Those who are living in remote areas, many do not get the chance to at least be checked-up and given some words of encouragement from a health practitioner in the field. They are left untreated for years, even decades. But these mentally-ill people we’re seeing on the streets, the “taong grasa”, obviously, they need our help. And maybe, in the smallest way possible, we can do something for them.

This is the message I want to convey in this post. That maybe, in our little ways, we can do something about those “taong kalye”, “taong grasa”, or “Wonder Boys”. Give them food. Talk to them nicely. Motivate them. If you can bring that help further, much better. I believe many of you are doing your thing already and thank you for that kindness.

Let’s help the “Wonder Boys”.



Note: Photos of “Wonder Boy” are shared in this post with a clear intention in mind: Share his brief story and encourage people like you who will see these photos to help him if possible. I personally do not know Wonder Boy’s personal life, even his real name, and I just based my judgement of him as “may kaunti” based on my short encounter with him. For the purpose of this article, I intentionally blocked portion of his face. If you feel that this impression/sharing of his photos is wrong, please feel free to contact me and I will immediately take action as needed. And to Wonder Boy, if ever you will read this post, I sincerely apologize in advance if I misinterpreted your true situation. I asked your permission to post your photos on the internet and you agreed. In due time, I will help you the best I can.


About the Author
Noriel Panganiban is a Filipino blogger, writer. He spends a portion of his time writing blogs about the Filipinos and the Philippines, the real situation we have here. In his posts, he mentioned both the good and the bad things. With his advocacy to help the Filipinos is his own little ways, he used to recommend solutions to the existing problems and issues.

Noriel is also the founder of www.knowriel.com, an education website for all learners. This is part of his bigger ambition to help his co-Filipinos and people of the world as a whole. To get to know Noriel more, you may visit his educational website or stay in the blog site and read a few more of his interesting and mind-awakening blog posts.


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