Bai Weng…polio victim as a child, today, a happy mother and hardworking vendor

Bai Weng…polio victim as a child, today, a happy mother

and hardworking vendor

by Apolinario Villalobos


I met Bai Weng, a young Muslim mother who sells pastil/patil outside the Margsaysay Park of Tacurong when I took a respite from my walk around the downtown area. Over a mug of 3-in-1 coffee, we had a talk, although, it took sometime before she trusted me. At the start of our conversation, she would just answer my question, but later, she volunteered information related to what we were discussing. I found her intelligent.


I was surprised to find that she walks with a limp until she told me that she was a cripple as a child, a polio victim. At ten, an American Christian missionary found her and brought her to Sasa, Davao city where the mission house was located, unfortunately, she forgot the name of the missionary and the group. She told me that she got operated at the San Pedro Hospital of Davao and after a few months of therapy, she was able to walk, though with a limp. She also confided that among the group of the indigents that the missionary group was helping, she was the only Muslim.


She got married and settled at the Muslim village of barangay Griῆo where she gave birth to seven children. Her husband does odd jobs to earn while she runs a store and pastil stand outside the city plaza, behind the tennis court. She also told me about her 10-year old son who sells soft brooms made from a kind of swamp reed and who earns substantially. Her son does his vending around the city and Lambayong, a neighboring town, on Saturdays and Sundays. According to Bai Weng, her son at his young age, acts independently. He buys his own bath and laundry soap, toothpaste and school uniform.


During my frequent stops at her store, I found out that she uses the “Bombay fund” – money borrowed from motorcycle-riding Indian nationals. She confided that without the fund, she would not have known where to find her start-up fund for her small business. Out of the small-time loans, she was able to invest on two big outdoor umbrellas, school bags for the kids, malongs, and TV.


I am fascinated at the way Bai Weng prepares the pastil, deftly wrapping the rice topped with shredded chicken cooked for hours in oil and soy sauce. She cooks the pastil topping herself in the evening, a batch of two kilos of which could last for one day.


I keep on encouraging Bai Weng to go on with her sacrifice and should be consoled by her children who are all well-behaved, especially, the 10-yearld who sells brooms and whom I found out to be maintaining high grades.


Bai Weng is among the people who inspires me to go on with my advocacy…



My Own Bold Prediction of Things that Will Come in the Future

My Own Bold Prediction

of Things That Will Come in the Future

By Apolinario Villalobos


  • Cars shall be operated by powerful and intelligent chips that contain maps of all countries all over the world. These chips can also be fed with directional information so that by just touching addresses, they could glide on their own towards them.
  • Gliding vehicles shall be equipped with a feature that could automatically avoid obstacles.
  • The vehicle of the future shall, practically, be an intelligent robot that could also detect the “malfunction” of the body of passengers, such as, onset of high blood pressure, heart failure, etc.
  • The vehicle of the future shall have a body with multi-layered “scale-like” cover to allow it to extend or expand as necessary, and could travel on land, water and air.
  • Changing of body organs with synthetic ones made of a super lightweight metal that would not rust and would be much lighter and stronger than titanium would become an ordinary clinical procedure. Today, it is being done, but more are coming.
  • Ulcer shall be a disease of the past as affluent patients shall have an option to replace their intestines with some kind of absorbent foam-like material equipped with processors of synthetic, though, highly energetic foods contained in capsules which shall become a fad among the rich.
  • Intelligent robotic homes of the future shall be equipped with gadgets that could “repel” human intruders with bad intention, as well as, accidental fire. Gates shall have chips that could store information on faces of frequent or unwanted visitors.
  • In the future, different colors of the body aura could be interpreted by a super scanner. Colors of diseases could also be identified, same as with the colors of various characters. In this regard, people with criminal intention could already be intercepted at the gates of subdivisions or entrances of malls and condominium buildings, as they shall be provided with these scanners as a requirement.
  • A gadget that could be strapped around the head to read the mind of the wearer shall be developed. It could be programmed to have compatibility with TV, radio, and phones, and could be connected to an “amplifier” to allow the invalid and bed-bound persons to communicate with people around them.
  • Televised religious service shall prevail over the “personally” conducted at the traditional venues such as churches and mosques or masjids.
  • Priesthood shall evolve further to have a more professional character, with priests allowed to marry, and nuns allowed to say Mass, but shall definitely not be allowed to marry. Priests and nuns shall be required to have IDs and their profession regulated by a “federation of religious groups” in coordination with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). Today, the Roman Catholic church observes a “rotation” of 6-yearterm for each parish priest, and “some kind” of a “rest day” but spent in “some kind” of “weekly meeting” of parish priests at the Diocesan centers, but which unfortunately, I viewed by the uninformed as “day off”.
  • Mind scanning equipment will be invented complete with a feature that could print texts and images straight from the mind.
  • Grasses, leaves and twigs shall become processed food “extenders” and flavorings.
  • More fake foods shall be invented in China, aside from rice and eggs.
  • The sun, wind, and ocean current shall become popular as alternative sources of energy and shall cause many of the gas stations to close. Even the motion of the body shall become a source of energy for small gadgets such as cellphone, radio, hearing aid, etc.
  • Developers of condominium buildings shall be required by the local governments to utilize their rooftops as prep-school facilities before the building permit could be issued to them.


Viewers may call me crazy but the inventors of cars and the Wright brothers who invented the airplane were called such during their time.

Thoughts of a Dreamer


By Ire Ysabelle



“Living in defense mechanisms is just a mere façade. Pick yourself up, let go of harrowing things and gut-wrenched thoughts you are a failure.” Those were silent utterances at the back of my mind after realizing that everything in my life was an outright mess. These thoughts actually came by after listening to Jack Johnson playlist while I was in Vietnam.


I am Ire. I am just like other people who dream…who set one’s heart for good things, inclined to just live happy. At a little past 30, I had my fair share of rejections, elfin heat heartaches, even baffled instances that would lead to toil up my way with so much effort.


Looking back and before having a daughter, I was that slap-happy that displayed a nonchalant sort of disposition. I reveled in solo backpacking trips around the country and abroad, taking photos of temples, countryside, food, beaches and others that take my fancy. I took pleasure out of my savings while doing online English tutorial job. Shove my ass off working for several months then travel, after which I came back again to Mindanao after 8 years of living in Iloilo where I took up AB Psychology at the University of the Philippines in Miag-ao. Then on, I habituated myself to what living is here – simple, and everything just minutes away.


I gained friends…and, unfortunately, gained weight. I became a Psychology instructor at the Notre Dame of Marbel University (Koronadal City) where I reaped most of my good memories. In the academe, you get to be fulfilled but at times hated for giving failing grades. That was the beauty of teaching that amused me.


I woke up one day to a letter of invitation for me work in Hanoi, Vietnam as Academic Coordinator at Oxford English Academy. It was a challenge that I did not let go as the opportunity promised travel and fair wage. Several times in the past, I had been to Ho Chi Minh as a backpacking tourist but never been to the cosmopolitan city of Hanoi which purportedly has four seasons. The thought of experiencing “autumn” and “winter” got me excited, so that in no time, had me packing my things and finally booked for the first available flight. And, to make the story of excitement short, I got hired.


In the house where I stayed, I was with Portuguese, Vietnamese, and British nationals. Weekends would see us having dinners, wine with cheese on Tuesdays. We also enjoyed short trips to Thailand and Cambodia, but enjoyed most Vietnamese cakes and coffee that drowned our yearning for home.


From our home, I took two-hour bus ride to school, an opportunity for me to enjoy the patter of raindrops when rain caught me along the way, making me emotional at times. I was pregnant then, and I had to say “bao” (Vietnamese for pregnant) each time I took the bus hoping that a gentleman would give up his seat for me. I find Vietnamese autumn and winter not for me as I had to wear layers of clothes and boots to keep me warm.


I finally decided to go back home to the Philippines in time for the “arrival” of my pretty Martina. To sustain our survival, I worked as Behavioral Management Therapist in a hospital, giving occupational therapy to children with special needs. The job was so challenging and compensating, especially, when I see the happiness of parents whose children have gained improvement…a priceless reward for me as it manifested success on my part.


My love for food made me come up with Abrazo Rustico Resto-Café in Tacurong City. As I love challenges, it also gave me an opportunity to sort of test the waters of café business, as well as, provide a cozy nook for food trippers and coffee lovers like me. Initially, the café was located at the City Plaza building, and staffed with hardworking and eager team. Today, it is located along the highway, beside the Dragon gas station, a few steps from the NDTC campus.


Having still extra time on hand, I continued my behavioral management endeavor and came up with Little Hands Day Care, a small clinic catering to the needs of special children to help them overcome their disability. I knew it would entail understanding, patience…patience…and, more patience but I did not mind. My Martina has been giving me more inspiration that I could ask for. She has been helping me understand my purpose in life, thus, avoiding feeling emotionally kicked out of poor frustration and tolerance.


Today, as I recall my life inside a Vietnamese bus, tackling the 2-hour drive to my job in Hanoi makes me smile. Yes, I enjoyed my stay in Hanoi, what with the sight of long traffic of motorcycles that gave me fear in crossing the street, the bone-tearing winter, the smell of mint leaves, the super bitter coffee I still crave for, generous multi-national friends, and sunset viewed from Westlake. Despite the unexplained feeling of living in a strange place, I was immensely enjoying myself.


That is how it is with me…with my firm resolve in doing things despite failures at times. I must admit that I am a dreamer and this tendency even makes me forget my flights for Asian backpacking sorties…and, which happened twice! Well, that is life and I know that it can happen as I gain more maturity.




Lorna at Vanni Quimpo…magpuputo at magtuturon ng Tacurong

Lorna at Vanni Quimpo

…magpuputo at magtuturon ng Tacurong

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Nakilala ko sina Vanni at Lorna nang minsang kumain ako ng puto na tinitinda nila, napakamura sa halagang Php5 bawa’t isa. Tinikman ko rin ang turon na Php5 ang dalawang piraso. Dahil nasarapan ako, nakakahiya mang i-reveal, nakaubos ako ng 7 puto at 8 turon! Nang time na yon ay napilitan akong uminom ng softdrink na ang halaga naman ay Php10 dahil wala silang mineral water at ayokong mabulunan sa harap nila, dahil lalong nakakahiya. Sa pagkain ko nga lang ng marami nilang paninda ay manghang-mangha sila. Tanghalian ko na ang nilantakan kong pagkain dahil feeling bundat na ako.


Ang puto na natikman ko ay talagang gawa sa purong bigas, hindi malagkit. Tama lang din ang tamis kaya siguro hindi ako naumay, tuloy nakabubos ako ng 7 piraso. Ang turon naman ay may halong langka at ang wrapper ay napakalutong! Ang nakakatuwa pa ay hantad ang ginagawang pagluto ng mag-asawa, mula sa pagtimpla ng giniling sa bigas para ilutong puto, at ang deep-fry ng turon. Wala silang trade secret. Pati nga ang tulugan nila ay hantad din kaya na-touch ako sa pagsisikap nila. Tiyempo namang may natanggap akong donation mula sa isang viewer na taga-Koronadal, at para sana sa mga kaibigan ko sa Baseco Compound (Tondo), pero pinagamit ko na muna sa kanila para pambili ng dagdag na trapal para sa “kusina” nila dahil magtatag-ulan na.


Sa kuwentuhan namin, nalaman kong naigagapang ng mag-asawa ang pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak sa pagtinda ng turon at puto sa loob ng mahigit sampung taon mula nang dumating sila mula sa Iloilo. Dahil sa hindi mabawasan at nadadagdagan pang obligasyon, hindi sila nagkaroon ng pagkakataong makapagpundar ng tirahan o nakakapamasyal man lang.


Ang puwesto nila ay inamin nilang “iskwat” lamang at alam nilang ano mang oras ay mapapaalis sila kaya ang mga materyales na ginamit nila ay pang-temporary lamang upang madaling baklasin. Bumilib ako sa kanila dahil may dangal sila kahit nang-iiskwat lamang upang kumita, hindi tulad ng ibang iskwater na kailangan pang pakiusapan upang umalis sa iniskwatang lupa…at hihingi pa ng pera!


Dalawang anak nila ang may trabaho na, subalit ang dalawang nakakabata ay nag-aaral pa. Tabi-tabi sila sa pagtulog sa isang papag na ang dingding ay pinagtagpi-tagping yero at trapal. Ang lutuan nilang kawa ay nakapatong sa isang lutuan na ginagatungan ng mga hininging basurang papel sa isang opisina. Kung minsan ay nakakabili si Vanni ng ilang sakong bao ng niyog (coconut shell) sa palengke.


Si Lorna ay hindi puwedeng magluto dahil operado ang kanyang mga mata kaya hanggang sa pagtinda na lamang siya. Si Vanni ang namimili ng mga iluluto, madaling araw pa lang. Inamin ng mag-asawa na kahit mahigit sampung taon na sila sa lunsod ay hindi sila gaanong nakakapamasyal dahil ang buong panahon nila ay ginugugol sa pagtitinda. Ayon kay Vanni, napakalaking kawalan nila kapag hindi sila nakapagtinda sa loob ng isang araw.


Kahit hirap sila sa buhay, pinipilit ng mag-asawang mapagtapos ang dalawa pa nilang anak ng senior high school man lang dahil edukasyon lamang daw ang kaya nilang maipamana sa kanilang mga anak.


Abrazo Rustico Resto Cafe…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

Abrazo Rustico Resto Café

…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


When a facebook friend, Macmac Albenio Delfin referred to me a resto café with an Italian sounding name, I was intrigued. The name he mentioned was Abrazo Rustico Resto Café which when I checked, found it to be within what the Tacurongnons refer to as “Dragon area”, the name being that of a gasoline station-cum-convenient store-cum open-air café. But the Abrazo is an air-conditioned cozy enclave fronting the highway and a few steps from the aforementioned station.


I was hoping that after an unfortunate experience in another coffee shop with a name that I would rather forget, this time around, I would be lucky enough to have a better encounter. Just the same, as I had my lesson, I did not expect so much from the service crew of Abrazo.


Fortunately, I was more than satisfied when I opened the door and was greeted by the smiling guys at the counter. The café was unpretentiously simple, yet cozy. Compared with other cafes, Abrazo is small which however, has become an advantage as it made the atmosphere assume a homey ambiance. I immediately ordered my favorite coffee mix – cappuccino which came thick in consistency, with accompanying two tube sachets of branded muscovado sugar…another plus for health-conscious customers.


Looking around, I was impressed immediately by the miniature antique typewriter safely entrenched in a frame on the wall. Practically, the interior was Italian, even the food offerings. I found out later that Abrazo is popular among students of the nearby VMC, as in a little while, three students came to make an order of pizza and one of the joint’s popular mixed cool drinks. As I observed the satisfaction on the faces of the young customers, I asked their permission for a photo to which they obliged. During that quick visit I failed to meet the owner and resolved to come back in the afternoon to try my luck. At that juncture, I opened up myself to the café staff by revealing to them that I was a blogger, although, they have already permitted me to take photos of the joint without much ado, a show of pride for their coffee shop.


When I came back early in the afternoon, two of the staff were talking to a young petite and pretty lady, who I found later found to be the owner. My effort finally paid up! And, I was more than rewarded when I found out that the two gentlemen who just finished their coffee were officers of a reputable bank in Isulan and Tacurong City….proof enough that indeed, Abrazo was a class by itself. The gentlemen gave me their permission to post their photo that I took, but I opted to withhold their name.


The owner of Abrazo assumes a facebook name as IRE YSABELLE and I want to maintain her identity as such. What’s important to me at the time was my having touched base with her to express my admiration for her guts in venturing into an arena overflowing with cutthroat competition as the city is literally dotted with various kinds of food outlets from the traditional “pastilan”, carinderia, “batchoyan”, “barbecuehan” and open-air cafeterias.


I assumed however, that her courage is enflamed by her penchant for Italian foods, foremost of which is the pizza and java beverages that the joint’s barista yummily concocts. Simply put, she is fond of Italian foods, a variation of Mediterranean cuisine. Her fondness is shown by Abrazo’s various food and drink offerings that customers may not tire of coming back. By the way, customers who want to relax while tapping on their smartphone or laptop may be glad to know that wi-fi access is free!…check out “Abrazo Rustico” on fb to find more about this joint operated and staffed by energetic young-blooded Mindanaoans.

Cebu Dragon Boat Fiesta 2017 Gets Ready to Rock!!!

Color My World

With just 2 weeks to go before the big event, the organizers of the Cebu Dragon Boat Fiesta 2017 are bracing to host a record-breaking 1000 plus participants for this summer’s newest sizzler! For a new event, Cebu is serving notice to the international dragon boat community – as well as the local dragon boat authorities – that the potential of Cebu as a dragon boat hub for the Philippines is truly a very attainable goal.

It’s time. Paddles up, everyone!!! (courtesy of

Already, there are 1,013 paddlers registered, with others still signifying their intention to join. It is a record, as the 1,000 threshold has never been breached in any previous dragon boat event in the country. This augurs well for the sport, and for youth development in general, as it indicates a growing interest in a sport that we can excel in, and where we actually used…

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Marlyn “Nene” Dampog…young mother at 16, successful businesswoman at 53 and proud mother of Notre Damians

Marlyn “Nene” Dampog…young mother at 16, successful businesswoman at 53

and proud mother of Notre Damians

By Apolinario Villalobos


There’s more to the smile of Nene who sells any fruit in season along the highway going to barangay San Pablo of Tacurong City. She had been through the harrowing trials as a young mom at 16 and a single mom before she reached 20. Her parents were from Iloilo who migrated to Kapingkong a rice growing barangay of Tacurong.


Looking back her younger days, she told me that to be able to help her parents, she became an itinerant vendor when she was in Grade 3. She sold just anything, such as balut (boiled unhatched duck egg), rice cakes and fruits. She confided that she used to climb the high fence of the National Food Authority (NFA) instead of taking the circuitous footpath that led to the compound’s gate to be able to bring her basket of goodies to the employees quickly. Despite all the hardship, she was able to finish her high school, but fortunately, settled down at the young age of 16.


She doubled her effort as a vendor when she became a single mom. During the early 70s, she did not need much capital as her supplier trusted her with the then, prevailing “alsada system” or consignment. That was how she was able to earn and save more money to expand her “business”. She would also carry on her head sacks of fruits, herself, to save on the porterage.  During the time, her three daughters were in high school and as they would transfer from one rented shack to another, one of her daughters tearfully told her that in school, she was taunted that they lived like chicken. She consoled her daughter not to mind her classmates who looked down on her. To save on food, Nene and her daughters subsisted on a “pastil” each (a one-dish meal of rice topped with a spoonful of shredded chicken and wrapped in banana leaf) as breakfast.


As a single hardworking mom, she almost spread herself too thinly…and there were times when she felt like giving up. But, seeing how her daughters diligently pursued their studies despite financial difficulties, she more than doubled her courage and effort. She confided that did not attend a single meeting in school because her time was devoted to earning their daily subsistence. All her daughters graduated from the Notre Dame of Tacurong Girls’ Department, today, Sienna College and it was only during such occasion that she really took time to show herself up in school.


She is consoled today by the thought that she did not buckle down despite various pressure in her life and instead, has been able to have two daughters finish Nursing course, with the third, that of BS Commerce. Still selling fruits at 53, Nene, does not mind as her weariness at the end of the day is vanished by the giggles of her four grandchildren. They have their own big house in barangay San Pablo. She ended our conversation with her parting words, “nobody should be ashamed to work hard in order to survive”.



Pico de Loro (Cavite, PH)

No Juan Is An Island

“I like the mountains because they make me feel small. ‘They help me sort out what’s important in life.”


Pico de Loro and Its Monolith
Maragondon, Cavite and Nasugbu, Batangas
Major jump-off: DENR Station, Magnetic Hill, Ternate, Cavite
Minor jump-off: Ternate-Nasugbu Highway, Nasugbu, Batangas
LLA: 14° 12.855 N; 120° 38.785 E; 664 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 2-5 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Distinctive spire at the summit, forests, scenic views of Cavite

*Details above is from from pinoymountaineer.com000

Mount Pico de Loro, also known as Mount Palay-Palay, is a dormant volcano in Cavite. The mountain is 664 m (2,178 ft) above sea level, and is considered the highest point in the province. It is considered to be the most notable mountain and is considered as one of the two prominent mountains of the protected landscape together with Mount Marami.DSC_1790

This mountain rose to fame because of…

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Walang Perpektong Pamahalaan, Subali’t…

Walang Perpektong Pamahalaan, Subali’t…..

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Saan mang panig ng mundo ay walang matatagpuang perpektong pamahalaan. Kahit ang mga kinabibilibang bansa ngayon tulad ng Japan at Singapore ay may mga tiwali o corrupt  rin na mga opisyal sa kani-kanilang gobyerno. Hindi lang sila napapansin dahil napakaliit ng mga nagagawa nila kung ihambing sa mga bansa kung saan ay talamak ang korapsyon. Sa Singapore ay wala pang nagpatiwakal na opisyal dahil inimbestigahan tungkol sa katiwalian. Subalit sa Japan ay meron nang ilan.


Sa puntong ito, kahit ang sinasabing pusod ng Kristiyanismo, ang Vatican at ang malawak nitong nasasakupan sa buong mundo ay tadtad din ng korapsyon at mismong ang bagong santo Papa na si Francis ay dismayado dahil dito. Paulit-ulit siyang nanawagan sa mga kasama niyang “pastol” na magbago, subalit tulad ni Duterte, kahit nagkandapaos na siya sa kanyang paulit-ulit na panawagan ay wala halos nakinig. Malayo kasi ang Vatican at walang ultra-powerful CCTV camera na aabot sa mga parishes sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo kung saan ay may mga tiwaling kura paruko.


Sa Pilipinas, ang itinuturing na pundasyon ng pamahalaang nasyonal, ang Barangay ay hindi na rin maaasahan dahil karamihan sa kanila ay kinokontrol ng mga mayor na korap. At, dahil sa pangyayaring yan, walang nangyari sa pinangarap na sana ang mga matitinong opisyal ng pamahalaan ay matuto ng lahat nang dapat malaman ng mga susunod na ibobotong opisyal. Pati ang mga Kabataang Barangay ay nadamay dahil saksi sila sa mga ginagawang katiwalaan, kaya marami sa kanila ang natuto na ring “magpalusot”.


Inaasahan ang pangungurakot saan mang gobyerno. Ang pinakaswabeng katumbas ng “kurakot” ay “gift” at ang medyo mabigat ay “komisyon”. Kung magpakasimple lang sana ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno pagdating sa “komisyon” na ang standard ay 10%, wala sanang problema. Subalit marami ang hindi kuntento dahil ang gusto ay 40% at ang iba pa nga ay 70%! Ang ibang buwayang opisyal ay humihingi pa ng buong floor ng condo building na ang kapalit ay pirma niya upang maaprubahan ang pagpapagawa ng project. Ang iba namang garapal ay humihingi ng puwesto sa kumpanyang bubuksan sa lunsod na nasasakupan nila.


Ang nangyayari sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas ay isa na yata sa pinakagarapal na kurakutan sa buong mundo. Hantaran ang garapalan at kung umasta ang mga kurakot, animo ay sarili nila ang kaban ng yaman ng Pilipinas! Sa Pilipinas lang makakakita ng talamak na ghost projects!




Remembering Sarah Jane Salazar (the first Filipina HIV-AIDS victim)

Remembering Sarah Jane Salazar

(the first Filipina HIV-AIDS victim)

By Apolinario Villalobos


During the time that Manila was gripped with the detection of HIV-AIDs among the sex workers, I was just reading about the news that were splashed on the pages of tabloids, until the name, Sarah Jane Salazar was mentioned as the first  victim. Her photos accompanied news and commentaries about the disease. She was very young and beautiful. Never did I expect that I would meet her….


Four times, as I would leave the gates of our subdivision as early as five in the morning for work, I would see an attractive young girl sitting in the waiting shed of the tricycle terminal. She was always puffing a cigarette and would courageously stare back at me as I made my way to the jeepney stop by the highway. On the fifth time, she returned my smile and that was the time that I finally recognized the face – she was Sarah Jane. As I already knew from write ups that she hailed from Cotabato, I spoke to her, but asked which Visayan dialect she knew, Hiligaynon or Cebuano. She said she knew both.


From then on, I would sit by her in the waiting shed for a few minutes every morning before making my way to the jeepney stop. She told me that she was boarding in the house of her “manager” not far from our subdivision, and, that she made it a habit to take a few minutes of rest in the waiting shed before finally taking a tricycle ride home. She was then working as a guest relations officer (GRO) and the manager she mentioned was her real manager in the joint. I did not know that she was referring to a woman I knew as her landlady. She was all praises for her landlady who showed her motherly love while the rest of her friends began to drift away when they learned about the sickness that she was carrying. In fact, she even had a close relationship with her landlady’s son who also pitied her.  The relationship, though, did not last long.


When I asked her about what I read in tabloids, she honestly admitted them without batting an eyelash and a tone of sadness. That was how I began to admire her toughness. She told me about the poverty that her family was suffering back home which forced her to work in beer joints even as an adolescent, adding that all she wanted was to help her family. Her frail frame barely stood at less than five feet. She had smooth brown skin and heart-shaped face with a ready smile, a beautiful face, though petite in physical structure.


After less than a month of friendly encounters, I no longer found her in her usual corner of the shed. I found out that she transferred to another boarding house somewhere in Pasay City. Later I came across interviews of Justo C. Justo, a Councilor of Pasay City who claimed that Sarah Jane was in his care and he was planning to sponsor a project about HIV-AIDS. I thought it was something like regular check- ups for sex workers or free hospitalizations. I was shocked when I learned that it was about a nude statue of Sarah that will be erected on a strategic portion of the EDSA extension, within the Pasay area. According to him, it will “ immortalize” Sarah Jane as the first Filipino victim of the dreaded disease, a reminder for the rest who would be careless about their sexual practice. When I contacted Sarah by phone, she told me that she did not know about it and that was the first time that I hear her cry. Good thing, the project did not materialize, as the local citizens perceived it as immortalizing the dreaded disease at the expense of Sarah Jane.


Months after, I saw on TV that Sarah was living in with a boy, barely past his teen years and who fathered what she was carrying for a couple of months that time. Comments about such carelessness were printed in tabloids. The parents of the boy were being accused of negligence. Sarah was already adamant and uncooperative during interviews until she finally gave birth to the child. I lost track of her after that.


I just learned that she was confined in a government hospital with facilities for HIV-AIDS victims due to her rapidly deteriorating health when it was flashed on TV. For the last time, I visited her and gave her the original handwritten copy of the poem I composed. I told her that I made the poem several days after our meeting in Cavite. I did not ask about her young husband or the child supposedly in his care. She cried (for the second time) after reading the poem in Filipino. I honestly told her that it was my last visit, so that she can have more time for rest. Her last words for me almost in whisper were, “sige lang manong, okey lang ako, daghang salamat…damo gid nga salamat” (it’s alright manong, I am okey…thank you very much…thank you very much.)


How many Sarah Janes do we still see around us roaming the streets of the cities throughout the country at night or entertaining customers in beer joints? They who are carrying responsibilities on their shoulders to augment the income if there is, of their parents? They who are supposed to be carrying bags of notebooks and books on their shoulders to school?….. They who are robbed of financial benefits as young citizens, by greedy government officials and politicians – all, without conscience?!!


(Note: “daghang salamat” is Cebuano/ Visayan, while “damo gid nga salamat” is Hiligaynon/Visayan, and both means “thank you” in English).