By Rey Anthony Chiu, PIA-Bohol | 01:17 PM March 07, 2021
After standing to honor the national anthem, a guy with an unmistakable Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) vest walked up to him, to offer him a seat. But, Felix Barrete, 51 years old and a native of Agape Loay knows that there are still more hymns to honor, so he remained standing, balancing on his good feet with a bamboo cane.
Felix, who has been crippled for seven years now, shared an incident where he bathed in the overflow of a water tank while he was 7 years old led. That night, he had a fever, which lasted for over a week.
Having no money to spend for medications, Felix’s parents opted to get a quack doctor’s remedy.
Months later, he felt he is slowly losing his muscles. That was when their neighbors told him and his family that he had polio.
Born from a tuba gatherer and a sickly mother, Felix and his siblings were at the tipping end of the pole. His younger brothers, too have afflictions that bore on the family’s meager income.
Sometime, Felix had problem urinating, they resorted to a home-remedy, which also somehow restored some functions in his feet.
From then on, he would drag himself from bed to his chores at home. That is, even when he too would have to defend himself from a brother who gets to him because he could hardly move.
Losing the strength of the muscles in his feet however did not affect his desire to live his life. Even if he has to limp his way to elementary school which is over a kilometer away, Felix was the dirt road fixture day in and out.
Felix Barrete receives his new wheelchair. Photo: Rey Anthony Chiu
One time, I walked with him, a vehicle stopped and offered him a ride. Naturally, because we were together, I too hitched in the ride. More often, we walk or ride together from then on, confessed Ernesto Obod, a school mate.
As if the misery befalling Felix was not enough, a bunch of young coconuts hit him in the head, when he was younger.
Still nurturing a resolve to learn, Felix limped through elementary and, having gained unusual upper body strength, he learned woodcarving, if only to start earning and be productive.
When his parents died, Felix stood, no limped, up to the task of becoming the head of the family.
“It was hard for him to stand to stand, but still he worked tirelessly, devoting his skill in furniture, while sending us to school,” narrates Felix’s nephew, Nerie Santos.
“He urged me to train with him in wood carving, because I had no job then. I did, and realized it was good because I have something now, states Renren Barrete, a cousin.
Now a full time wood carver and into furniture, Felix converts his house’s front porch into a makeshift shop, accepting small orders enough to feed the family.
Now at 51, Felix, who feeds his two unmarried and physically incapacitated brothers and helps his nephews and nieces, now dreams of going farther from his shop.
“I saw an e-trike, and I think I can operate that,” he mused, as he was sitting on a monobloc chair at the Loay Gynmasium.
With that, maybe I can go to places where there are furniture orders, somewhere where my bamboo cane could no help me, he said, showing a rutted cut bamboo pole, even knowing that the luxury of buying that would seem so distant.
My neighbors, Agape viners did a story of my life and uploaded it on youtube, we were hoping this could reach “Wish Ko Lang,” a popular wish TV show. Up to now, we have not heard from them, he timidly said.
Still not losing the itch for life, when most persons with standing disability would simply honor the Philippine flag and sit while singing the national anthem, Felix stood at the front of the line, one gnarled leg in front of the other, the bamboo cane providing his other support.
Felix was among the 998 PWDs, workers displaced by the corona virus pandemic and motorcycle service drivers who were set to receive the government’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS).
Coursed through the DSWD, the AICS distribution also came together with the assistance of Senator Christopher Lawrence Bong Go, in the form of grocery packs, food packs, face masks and shields, sports shoes for men and women, ten mountain bikes for additional family mobility in crisis and 10 computer tablets to aid students in their online classes.
There, the DSWD also brought in unannounced, two wheel chairs.
Unknown to Felix, who had his right hand over his chest singing the national anthem and Bohol Hymn in his full heart, across the gym was DSWD undersecretary Jade Jamolod wanting to just allow Felix to sit through the hymns.
After the hymns, I saw the guy wheel the wheelchair to me, and placed it beside my chair, Felix said.
I asked him, how much would this chair be, he told asked me instead, do you wish for this?
I have no money to buy that, he humbly remarked.
I will give this to you, from the government, the DSWD guy accordingly told him.
Not long later, DSWD Usec Jamolod and Loay mayor Hilario Ayuban helped Felix into the new wheel chair, his now ride.
In an interview later, Felix said he asked God for an e-trike, or if not, a little capital to start his own furniture shop in his barangay in Agape.
Now, with a two wheeled chair, and some P5,000 pesos as a gift from the DSWD for his medicines and needs, with brimming happiness, Felix thanked the President Duterte, Senator Go, the DSWD and the people who motivated him to struggle some more.
With the infectious joie de vivre Felix showed, gratefulness spilling in his words, getting a wheel chair could be giving him a good rolling start. (rahchiu/PIA-7/Bohol)