At only 35 years old, Marcelito Galo still has plenty of life left in him. People his age still have a lot to work for: family, friends, and self. Their dreams are ripe for the taking as long as they can reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
But crippled from head to toe, Marcelito has all but halted his journey.
Almost two years ago, Marcelito worked to make ends meet as a truck driver. On one routine delivery of earth to Pasig City, his truck began listing to the left. He raced to unload his cargo, but it became clear that the truck would tip over first. He was thrown out of the vehicle and hit the ground head first.
“My fellow workers carried me to safety, but I could no longer feel my hands or feet. When I regained consciousness, I asked my fellow workers why I couldn’t move my hands and feet anymore. They brought me to the hospital, yet I was still at a loss as to what happened,” Marcelito narrates.
Far from the future he wants to build, he spends his days on a makeshift wooden bed at home in Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal. His mother Teresita takes care of him, but at 68 years old her chores are proving too much. Her weak knees ache at the effort required to lift her son’s body for tasks like cleaning him with a damp cloth.
“I feed him, I clean up after him, and even drain his urine pouch when full. My knees would ache. He would call me if he needed to clean his body [with a damp towel] as he can’t do it himself. I have to wake up sometimes at night in response to his needs,” Teresita explains.
The makeshift bed isn’t making Marcelito’s care any easier. A hard surface covered by a layer of fabric is his only means of comfort for his debilitated state. A movable truss adjusts the back rest, but it’s hard for Teresita to move it at all.
Tzu Chi volunteers on September 7 brought the family an easier way: a hospital bed. Levers below make adjusting the bed as easy as cranking them. Wheels make it easier to move the bed wherever Marcelito sees fit. The mattress is a far cry from the hard wooden board that has been carrying his weight for the longest time.
“[Tzu Chi] was generous enough [to give me this hospital bed]. Somehow, I can lie down more comfortably now,” Marcelito says.
For a weeping Teresita, however, she hopes to see her son back on his feet again.
“I want for him to be able to stand and walk. He really needs that therapy, but we don’t have the money,” she says.
The volunteers’ next destination is a small slum community in Cainta, Rizal, on the opposite end of the province. Through alleys strewn with solid waste and breeding grounds for mosquitoes, they reach the Gepala household.
The two-story house is a loose assembly of scrap materials. In fact, days prior to the home visit, part of the second floor had collapsed. Aileen Gepala, mother of beneficiary Irene, assured the structure to be safe for the time being. Nevertheless, the volunteers conducted their visit with a hint of caution.
With signs of pollution all over the place, it’s no surprise for men, women, and children to fall ill. Four-year-old Irene would’ve been highly vulnerable had she not overcome her malnutrition. In her first years of life, she suffered from malnutrition to the point of dying.
Her mother sought help, only to receive little or none because of her financial troubles. Between her construction worker husband and herself a barangay worker, their combined income hardly pays for Irene’s treatment. Through a friend, she went to Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall and shared her story, sworn to the truth.
“I was told to go to Tzu Chi to help my daughter. Before long, I told my true story to [Tzu Chi volunteer] Michael Siao. I was grateful to him because, at first glance he told me to bring her to the hospital right away,” Aileen says.
The assistance from Tzu Chi began pouring in May 2013: rice, milk, and Php2,000 in cash aid monthly. It continues to this day.
Today, Irene is a bouncing three-year-old who tends to overeat a little. She’s a far cry from the weak Irene of years past. Tzu Chi volunteer Dolores Manjares, part of the visiting team, is glad to be part of the helping experience.
“I’m happy to have helped the families we visited, as they received help through Tzu Chi Foundation. I’m also thankful to have been part of this home visit experience,” Manjares says.
Both cases show one of a million reasons to help others. At such young ages, they know they want to live their lives to the fullest, no matter the odds. Inspired by the little hope that blesses them, they may just find the need to give back to others.
Local males help in carrying Tzu Chi’s gift for bedridden beneficiary Marcelito Galo down a flight of stairs. The path leading to the Galo household narrows down the closer they get, but they managed to deliver the bed. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Marcelito is lifted from his old makeshift bed to a more comfortable one. For two years, he spent his days bedridden after a freak accident paralyzed him from head to toe. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
A soft mattress is a more comfortable alternative to the hard wooden surface he has laid on for two years. Note the urine pouch to the left, which now serves to relieve his call of nature. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
This bedsore on Marcelito’s heel is one of many spread out across his body, a result of his bedridden years. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Despite being able to move his arms, Marcelito cannot pick up things, let alone use them. For his bath, for example, his mother Teresita has to clean him using a damp towel. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Aileen Gepala (right) holds her four-year-old daughter Irene, now a bouncing little girl. Irene suffered from severe malnutrition to the point that her mother thought that she wouldn’t live much longer. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
While Irene may be healthy now, Tzu Chi continues to supply her with milk for her continued nourishment. Tzu Chi volunteers made first contact with Irene’s case in 2013, where her mother was desperate for her daughter’s treatment. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
This hatch is the only way up to the Gepala household on the second floor. With a steep incline and small steps, one lacking caution is bound to slip and fall. This is more or less a possibility in a household of seven children. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Irene eats a simple lunch of rice and mung beans with two of her siblings. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】