The First Time I Got Shocked
In the Course of Doing My Random Acts of Sharing
By Apolinario Villalobos
When I made a short stop in Luneta where I planned to take a late lunch one Sunday after I finished my rounds in Divisoria and Tondo, I met Aileen, a young woman who sells tinsel ground tarps. She was wearing a hooded jacket and who gave me her sweet smile to entice me to buy. A few steps away was a child who I learned was Tokong, her “daughter”. I bought her five tarps and began a conversation. I learned that at her young age of 23, the father of her 3-year child abandoned them. She consented when I asked to take a photo, so she removed the hood off her head.
After buying them snacks, I continued my queries about her life which led me to learn that she came from Samar almost five years ago to try her luck in Manila. Luck, however, did not smile at her as she transferred from one job to another until she met the father of her child. When she gave birth to Tokong, they were abandoned by the man she thought would be her lifetime partner. She lived with her relatives who ran out of compassion, forcing them to sleep on sidewalk, and thrived on junks that she collected from garbage bins, until a new-found friend, also a vagrant in Luneta told her to sell tinsel tarps to park strollers.
The child was barefooted so I told her that when I come back I would bring a pair of slipper or sandals, aside from clothes for them. After bidding them goodbye and started to walk away, the child shouted to bring toys, too. The shout made me look back in time to see “her” lift up and bit the seam of “her” dress, as a gesture of embarrassment. I was shocked to find out that “she” was a boy, as the nakedness down there showed the glowing evidence – a male organ!
When I went back to Aileen to ask if there was a problem with Tokong, she was at the verge of crying as she told me that she could not afford to buy appropriate clothes for him. That day, he was wearing a dress that was given the day before. I found out that he gets a change of clothes only if new clothes were given. The impression that one gets by looking at the child is that he is a girl, as the hair is cut with bangs on the forehead.
I asked more questions till she told me that they are spending the night on the park sidewalk, as the gates are closed at midnight. After hearing this, I gave back the tarps that I bought and told her to sell them to others, and handed her some cash courtesy of Perla who is an avid supporter of my effort. I left them with a heavy heart, but with a resolve to be back soonest…..