A story that nobody cared about.
As everyone hurriedly took their orders and grab their lunches in that famous fast-food restaurant with an over-sized smiling honeybee as their logo, one man was oblivious and unnoticeable of them all.
He sat there in a corner, singled-out from the rest of the dining tables, carrying the most precious things he had left: his fragile, ailing daughter wrapped in his caring arms and a bag that contained everything her daughter needed (or what he can afford of at least) for her first consultation in Philippine General Hospital.
His daughter has been suffering from a rare disease he could not even pronounce. She was a lovely angel since she was born, bringing light to their otherwise gloomy life in the farmlands. She was their sunshine, their love, their princess. Until that fateful day when her symptoms started to appear. It started with a high fever, then she stopped eating and she became more and more weak each passing day. On her second year of life she was already bed-ridden: unable to run and play like she used to, unable to laugh like she used to, unable to even smile like she always used to do. Their world was shattered into pieces, they have to do something, anything at all to get her back to what she was before.
They tried visiting the albularyo in the nearby barrios. They had to carry her to the next village where the albularyo resides, hoping a miracle would happen. But it was all nothing but a disappointing failure. Then they went to the nearest health center which was an hour of jeepney-ride away. Still, no definite treatment was given. Her condition was something that they cannot handle, he was told. They should visit a physician the soonest, or at least go to the metro, to PGH, or risk losing their dear angel if they don’t. It was a race against time, and they have to decide fast.
It was the heaviest decision they have to make. They have no money, nothing at all. What could a farmer who sell rice grains for mere P50 per sack a day could afford? And the trip to the metro would cost them all the fortune they have long and painstakingly earned and saved for years. But is there even another option than that? After all, she’s our daughter, our angel, his dear wife told him. We will do everything we can.
And so they exhausted all means they could get. They knocked on their neighbours’ doors, they went to barangay officials, to anyone they could ask help from. Some were generous enough to give them a few cash while some turned their faces away, not even listening to their pleas. In the end, what they were able to gather was only enough for a single trip for a single person to Manila. And they were racing against time.
With her eyes full of tears, his dear wife sent them off that one sunny day. It’s all we got, she told him, and I will pray and wait for you two to come back. And off he went to Manila, carrying his fragile angel in his loving arms, listening to her wails while calling her mother again and again, and not even knowing how and when they could come back and be together again…
“Eto na po order niyo sir” (Here’s your order, sir) the waiter placed the steaming bowl of chicken soup on his table. He gestured a “thank you” but the waiter was already hurrying away to serve other costumers in that restaurant. It was lunch time and his daughter was getting hungry. This was all he could afford to buy, he have to save the rest for any medicines that her daughter’s doctor might ask him to buy. He won’t even need to eat at all… He is a strong, well-abled man after all, his fragile daughter needed it most. At least if he could get his daughter to eat and that would be enough for him to get by the day…
He went to his bag and took an old face towel from it, placed it in his daughter’s chest and slowly started to wake her up. She opened her eyes slowly and perhaps it took some time for her to realize that they were still far away from home. There were too many people around, the place was too noisy, too different from their house in the farms. She was already looking around… looking for her mother… Noticing this, he whispered in her ears, and told her that mama was away, buying some toys for her. Again, he lied to her. It was all that he could muster to appease her crying and longing. Here, eat something, he told his daughter, your mother prepared this for you. He blew on the hot chicken soup and slowly brought the spoon to her mouth. She tasted some, and then she started it again…
“Mama…” she said it like a whisper at first, then an audible mumble… “mama…” and then she started crying again…
He put the spoon back to the bowl of chicken soup and started shushing his crying daughter. Shhh, don’t worry mama will come, he lied again, mama will surely come. He could do nothing else but that. And he found his eyes starting to well up with tears as well.
In that corner of a room in a noisy fast-food restaurant.
A man silently wept as his daughter kept calling for her mother from afar.
No one knew about them.
No one would even know their story.
Until YOU read this.
And I hope their story would remain in your hearts as well.
I was there witnessing all that happened. And that image of seeing them weep in front of me will forever be engraved in my mind. This is nothing but just one of the many stories our patients in PGH have. They deserved to be heard. They deserved to be acknowledged.