Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tarung nga Buang

Could there ever be one? Tarung nga buang? The only English translation I could think of that would approximate what this term is trying to get across, is “sane lunatic”, and that’s insane. For can somebody who’s insane be sane at the same time?

Not possible? Think again!

Take this woman named Elsie, for instance. Some twelve years back, Atty. Frank Yap took her under his wings. During her lucid moments, he allowed her to work in Gemini in exchange of free meals and a meager income. According to him, she was in and out of “Talay”, referring to a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill located in Talay, Valencia.

Elsie did have her lucid moments. She used to buy food or bread then walk all the way to Talay to bring these presents to her friends.

But she often disappeared for days on end. When she would finally return, she’d be grimy and reeking with the sweat and dirt that had accumulated on her unwashed body for days, weeks even. She’d be totally incomprehensible and often appeared dazed and every bit the “buang” as how we’d all imagine a buang would look, sound, and smell like.

Elsie had three pregnancies that I know of. I don’t know what happened to her first child, but I heard that her second was given up for adoption. I witnessed her third. It just happened. One day, we began noticing that her belly was bigger and rounder. We could only surmise that she conceived during one of her dark periods, when she was lost in that hazy world known only to her.

Elsie did not forget me over the years that followed. Whenever she’d see me, she would immediately rush over with her big broken smile and that look of pure gladness in her eyes, calling me “Uu-gah” again and again. She must have been living in the streets by then. Shame on me … except for the food and cash that I used to hand over to her, I did very little to help her.

The last time I saw her, she was slumped on the sidewalk, thin as a reed. I went over, expecting that I’d be met by that same big smile. But Elsie wasn’t there anymore. There was only blank look in eyes that used to light up whenever they’d see me.

I don’t see Elsie around Dumaguete anymore. I heard that she passed away.

Memories of Elsie kind of fades away but they come back whenever I’d hear stories of aborted babies like the 7-month old fetus found buried in Silliman Beach recently.

Elsie, and everything that she stood for, came sharply into focus when a friend narrated to me the fate of another aborted fetus found in Bantayan. As if killing it was not enough, whoever had this baby doused it with gasoline to burn it, then ran a vehicle over its burnt little body, crushing its tiny skull. I can’t think of anything more to say on this subject. I can only cry.

And then, I’d think of Elsie. Her story is not over yet.

Social Welfare Office personnel took custody of her third child after she gave birth. My friend LB was present when her baby boy was taken away from her.

Years later, Elsie continued to seek out LB to ask for her baby. She used to say that she would save the money that LB and her officemates gave to her so she could go to America to see her child.

Yes, Elsie, an eyesore whom city officials would rather be anywhere but in Dumaguete, remained a mother in her heart. In that hazy world that she lived in, she remembered and she cared.

And now, I’d think of those who deliberately kill their own innocent defenseless children to hide their shame, or those who commit acts so despicable, I cannot find the words to express my disgust.

I can’t help but ask … who is tarung and who is buang?

No comments: