“KUYA, mutuo ka og impyerno (Do you believe in hell?)?”
Louie, one of the first people to know about Kurt Aviso, the 10-year-old garbage collector who caught the attention of social media, recalled one of their conversations that made his heart swell.
“Why’d you ask?” he asked Kurt in Cebuano.
“Ako, paminaw nako ang impyerno mao ang yuta. Impyerno ni kay daghang krimen, droga ug abuso (I believe that the Earth is hell. This is hell because there are a lot of crimes, drugs and abuse),” Kurt said.
Although he had always had a soft spot for street children and the like, Louie said it was that exchange that showed him that there is so much more to Kurt than the boy who helped around the store in hopes of earning money to buy his school requirements.
After learning that his story was published in a newspaper, Kurt went to the convenience store he frequented for the past two months.
People learned about Kurt after Cristina de Guzman, a call center agent, uploaded a photo captioned with details on her exchanges with him.
Kurt’s aunt, Shirley Nudalo, 23, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, said Kurt told her to come with him and see for themselves the school supplies and groceries that await him.
“He said, please come with me. I don’t want to go there by myself because the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) will get me and I may never see you again,” Nudalo said in Cebuano.
Although a generally jolly kid, Kurt was hesitant at first to share his story with the media.
He said he does not want to be featured, especially in television, afraid that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte might find him and lock him away.
“Please don’t have me seen on TV. The redemption fee costs P5,000. It’s expensive,” he said.
Minutes later, Kurt slowly loosened up and said he is looking forward to the opening of classes.
Kurt enrolled last Tuesday at the Mandaue City Central School. His enrollment fee, school uniform, bag and shoes were paid for by a certain Niel.
“Nindot akong bag kay kanang guroy-guroy (I like my new stroller bag),” he said.
Kurt, amid the spotlight currently directed at him, remains his humble self.
Nudela said that on their way to the convenience store, Kurt saw a garbage truck and told her they should scavenge later to earn money.
“He is now in my custody because he doesn’t want to live with his mother. His father, on the other hand, applied as a security guard and I think it’s best if I take care of Kurt,” she said.
Kurt and his father, Ronald Juntilla, 37, lived under the Banilad flyover bridge for two months until his father got stabbed last week.
His father now lives in Mandaue City while he stays with his aunt, his father’s younger sister.
Kurt said their separation made his father cry, but he assured them that it’s what’s best for both of them.
“I love my father and I will still bring him food whenever I could,” he said.
Mid-way through the interview, Kurt was given money to buy himself a snack.
He bought graham crackers and a juice pack. He also returned the P50 change to the man who gave him the money.
Although no longer helping around the store, Kurt still took the mop to clean the floor and threw trash in the bin.
On one occasion, he jokingly asked, “Mga gwapa lage ug gwapo ang mga reporter sa (Reporters are quite beautiful and handsome, right)?”
But he went on to say, “I’d like to be one, but what I really want to be is to become a policeman when I grow up. I will catch the drug addicts to get rid of the bad elements in the world.”
Louie, who also taught Kurt about personal hygiene and other lessons, told him not to join the other kids who sniff rugby.
Kurt said he won’t because rugby will destroy his future. He said he is intent in doing well in school to make those who helped him proud.
Asked if he ever thought of joining kids who rap to beg money from jeepney passengers, Kurt said it never crossed his mind.
“Matagak pa lang ko. Maypa ari ko, mutabang limpyo kay makakaon pa ko og tarong (I might fall. It’s better here that while helping around, I can eat proper food),” he said.
Louie initially wanted to pay for Kurt’s enrollment fee, but he was not able to come to the convenience store when the boy went there to claim the gifts private individuals had brought for him.
Nudela said the boy begged him to wait for Louie because he wanted to show his report card to the man and prove to him that he is really serious about his intentions of going to school.
“He is still a Grade 4 student as of the moment because he wasn’t able to take his final exams. His father took him from school immediately when he and Kurt’s mother got into a huge fight, afraid that she’ll run away with Kurt,” she said.
Toward the end of the interview, Louie offered to buy meals to which Kurt immediately said, “Burger steak akoa (I’ll have the burger steak).”
Asked why, he answered, “Burger steak gyud kay mao na akong pinaka-idol (Of course, I’ll have the burger steak because it’s my favorite).”