Cups of kindness

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, August 23, 2013


Ramon Dacawi
Benchwarmer

"WE ARE cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." – Ray Bradbury.

Barely two months after leaving for Saudi Arabia to work as a domestic in Riyadh, Emilia Anayasan had to return home. She arrived in Baguio early morning last August 13. For the next 24 hours - and for the last time - she watched over Crisly, her eldest son, before his burial the following morning.

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Crisly was the eldest of three children of Crisostomo, a 47-year-old carpenter from Bauko, Mt. Province, and Emilia, a 55-year-old seamstress from Bakun, Benguet. He should be 22 come Dec. 30. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was already a miracle that the boy survived and lived 21 years on this mortal plane.

Crisly was born with a congenital and life-threatening heart defect. Aside from difficulty breathing, the tell-tale signs were always there: bluish lips and fingernails, as if the kid had just helped himself to a jar of fresh blue or mulberries.

Still, life allowed him to study at the Quezon Hill elementary and national high schools, even while it took him longer to graduate than did his original classmates. It allowed him to transfer to an uncle's place in San Fernando, La Union, where the flat and, therefore, less tiresome terrain made it more conducive to pursue a two-year course in information technology.

Twenty-one years allowed him to now and then pursue his elusive, amorphous dream of medical deliverance. It’s a dream shared and kept alive by thousands of other charity cases from all over who stream daily into the Philippine Heart Center, all praying along the long queues it would be their turn to be admitted and later wheeled into where their hearts would be opened and mended.

Hours before dawn last August 7, Crisly had a seizure. The attack came while he and his father, Crisostomo, were resting at the back of a small eatery at the corner of Edsa and East Avenue in Quezon City. The boy and his mother, and later with his father, had repaired there before, as the lessee, Cordilleran Vic Sapguian, had long opened the place as a half-way house for patients from home in search of medical attention and healing in the big city.

Sapguian and Crisostomo rushed the boy to the Philippine Heart Center where Cris had spent the day before undergoing a battery of tests preparatory to corrective cardiac surgery.

Crisly passed on 15 minutes past noon at the PHC. The transition ended years of visits with his mother to the center that began when he was in the grades at the Quezon Hill Elementary School. It dashed all hopes for his finally undergoing surgery, the costs of which the family had hoped would be partly covered by his being a charity case, partly by his mother’s would-be earnings as a househelp in Riyadh.

Medical deliverance was now water under the bridge. What mattered, as Emilia wished while neighbors were passing plates for the mid-morning meal for those who came for the burial, was for her family to be able express its gratitude for the sense of community that allowed her eldest to have gone this far.

She felt the need to contact those who, over the years, had reached out to Crisly. She needed to tell them that her son’s suffering and struggle to live, and to grow like normal kids do, were over. She needed to thank them and those who had worked out the final arrangements for Crisly's final trip for home.

Through those 21 years of suffering and hope, help flowed from various cups for kindness. It came from as far as Germany, where students of Shoshin, a traditional martial arts school founded by former world shotokan karate champion Julian Chees, included Crisly in their list of fund support beneficiaries, allowing those follow-up trips to the heart center.

Last May, a local Samaritan who requested anonymity handed Emilia P15,000. When he learned of Crisly’s death, the gentle, generous sould added P5,000 for the incidentals in bringing the boy’s remains to Baguio. (The unused amount paid for the hemodialysis session last Aug. 12 of kidney patient Joel Gal-od. Gal-od, a 40-year old taxi driver who had to part with his house and cab to sustain his life-time dialyis, also earlier received P15,000 from the same Samaritan).

From his end in Quezon City, Sapguian, a teacher-turned-smalltime eatery operator, took the tab for the embalming and worked out the cadaver transport permit.

At city hall, Mayor Mauricio Domogan asked Baguio fire marshall, Chief Inspector Joe Fernand Bangyod, through Inspector John Ullibac, to dispatch a vehicle to bring home the boy’s remains. Fire Officer 1 Jeffrey Losnong volunteered to drive the box-type L300, in the company of Crisly's uncle, Desiderio Astudillo. The two laid on the back a casket that Punong Barangay Tomas Dumalti and other officials of Irisan (where Crisly's dad works as "tanod") solicited from "Beyond the Sunset" crematorium.

City social welfare and development officer Betty Fangasan, whose staff had been supporting Crisly's bid for heart surgery, issued the gas slip and even had another vehicle on standby just in case.

When he learned, Baguio Representative Nicasio Aliping Jr. sent an amount needed to suit up Crisly at the funeral parlor for the trip back home and the wake.

When she learned of her son’s fate, Emilia asked Gadah Al Qabaa, her lady employer in Riyadh, permission to come home for the funeral.

"She understood and paid for a round trip ticket," Emilia said just before Crisly's internment. "She gave me two weeks off."

Crisly is also survived by sister Shermae, 15, and brother Jokim, 13.
It's for them that Emilia will fly back to her household work in Riyadh on September 2.

And to help refill her lady employer’s cup of kindness. (email:mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 24, 2013.

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