JESUS Christ was emphatic in saying that what we do to the least of our brothers, we are doing it for Him. Feed the hungry. Give justice to the widow. Shed light to the ignorant. Comfort the miserable. Share what you have. Listen to the innocent voices. Or, just teach A, B, C, D to the day care children.
While I was on my way to Iloilo City to attend the conference at the Department of Tourism, I met Doctor Terence Scott, an American neurologist and author doing research on "Divining Mental Processes." At first, I thought he was James Coburn. He called my attention when he saw the Western Visayas Situationer I was holding. He borrowed it and said, "Your islands are beautiful but something is wrong with the leadership."
Well, he said a lot about our government. Of course, we read them all in the papers. His critical analysis sounded painful because he is a foreigner. I was hurt by the truth. Dr. Scott zeroed in on one observation. "I have visited Baguio, Olongapo, San Fernando, Manila, Cebu, Tacloban, Dipolog, General Santos, Tawi-Tawi Island, San Carlos and Bacolod. I am on my way to Iloilo and Antique. In the places I visited, I always encounter Filipinos who are mentally ill."
Smiles disappeared from his face. "I just don't know what your government is doing about them. They are supposed to be in the hospital...treated, given attention. There should be a substantial budget for their recovery. But, I see them in your parks, in the market, in front of your government building, lying at the sidewalk. They could be somewhere else, too."
He opened his pocket notebook and identified some common terms for people who are mentally sick...buang, baliw, sinto-sinto, taong-grasa, lukring nasiraan ng bait, tulero and basag-utak. Since, he is a doctor and I am not; I ask him on what could be the possible causes. He answered me based on his interviews, research and documents in his possession.
"Some have been drug addicts. They were not given proper rehabilitation. Some are victims of extreme hunger. Some are outcast in society...very low self-esteem, rejection by their employers, battered wives, victims of torture, of rape." Long silence. Twisted lips. Sharp look. Uncertain. Deep breath.
"Mr. Pacete, you know what is hurting? These people are your countrymen. They are not in foreign lands. They are right under your nose. What is your government doing? You have complete agencies to handle this case-Health, Social Welfare, Charitable Institutions. And, churches...many of them are just there-priests, pastors, sisters, brothers. Uh! Their institutions receive donations!" Scott shook his head. "I just don't know. You, Filipinos are unique. Your candidates on television spoke about cooperation, honesty, service, housing, livelihood, environment, industry..."
I was not able to hear some of his words. His statements were penetrating. And, why of all people inside MV Weesam Express he found me? My limited knowledge in the field of psychoanalysis as elaborated by Sigmund Freud flashed back. Yes, in the Philippines we see "buangs" in strategic places.
They are in our city streets pretending to be conducting traffic (rain or shine); standing in the middle of the plaza delivering oration or declamation pieces, murmuring at the side of the church, sitting at the sidewalk almost naked while school children and teachers view them in full, inspecting garbage receptacles and gathering whatever pleases them, and worst some of them have been raped or bullied by gang members. Is there a committee in our LGUs looking after their welfare?
Our religion teaches us that we are made to the image and likeness of God. Is it possible that the "buangs" in our midst sport the image of God? If we don't agree on this, probably, it's an acceptance that we do not have the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we come from the apes! And, it is no laughing matter!
When I came to my senses, we were already docking at the port. Probably, Doctor Scott went ahead to join the other apes. I looked up at high heavens and prayed, "Lord, please, send us good Samaritans from among the apes. Amen."