He was a special stranger, a man with a poker face. His face was a blank sheet, too tough to decipher. He’s suffering from a psychological struggle, jailed by insanity, deprived by prejudice. He’s a victim of fate, a product of a stressed and troubled mind.
Let’s just call him “Mang Rob”. Mountains and miles apart, we met in the crossroads of an institution, a very special institution for mentally challenged patients. Dealing with him for the very first time wasn’t easy. It seemed that fear and anxiety turned into a huge barrier between us. He is boxed inside a room surrounded with grills. He’s spending most of his time behind those cold iron bars. The only time allotted for them to see the rest of the area’s vicinity is when student nurses come for scheduled therapeutic activities.
As I spent time with him day by day, I noticed that he’s already beginning to be at ease and comfortable with me. Though he cannot speak the way a normal person does, he’s trying his best to answer the questions I’m asking. There was a time when I asked him,
“Ano pong paborito nyong libangan?”
“Kumanta”, he replied.
I asked him if he could give me a sample of his favorite song, he just nodded and started singing. As I was listening, I can’t figure out what song that was at first for his tone was monotonous. And finally, the chorus came, it was “bed of roses.” Despite the fact that the song didn’t sound as good as it can be, having him singing for me was good enough to move me and put a smile on my face.
After almost a week of my duty in the mental ward, the termination phase came. It is the time when we have to bid goodbye to our respective patients. I explained to Mang Rob that it will be the last time that I’ll be handling him. It was really sad but I couldn’t be emotional for it is prohibited. Before I made my way back to the dorm to pack my things, he smiled to me while saying, “Salamat Eli”. It’s very heartwarming for me finding out that though he’s under a mental disturbance, he managed to remember my name. Seeing that smile and hearing those words of gratitude was more than enough to make me feel that everything that I did in that span of time was worth doing.
In the absence of his normal mental functioning, Mang Rob taught me that WHEN THE MIND WAS WOUNDED AND DEPRIVED, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A HEART TO SPEAK FOR IT.
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