It was early 2015 when Agustin Magbuo noticed some changes on his eyesight. His vision was becoming cloudy and hazy. Just over a month later, the 54-year old barangay tanod (village watchman) could no longer see anything even from a couple of feet away.
He has nearly become blind and doctors advised him to undergo surgery to remove an apparent cataract off his eyes.
A resident of Bacungan village, in Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa City, Magbuo sought help from different people so he could get the operation. Just as he was about to get it late that year, fate played a horrendous prank on his family.
Agustin’s wife Rose Jean stepped on a thumbtack while working at their home. Her foot was punctured but the wound suddenly worsened, infecting her toes before climbing up to her knee.
Rose Jean has diabetes and her right knee to her foot had to be amputated or her condition would further worsen.
“I had to make a tough decision right away: My eyesight or my wife’s life,” Agustin, now 58 and bedridden, said in Filipino.
“I chose her,” Agustin said.
Rose Jean was brought to the nearest hospital capable of amputating her diabetes-affected limb.
But the couple’s only source of income then was from the charcoals and bamboo slat-walls (sawali) they make, which were not enough to raise the more than P200,000 money they needed.
Their two daughters could pitch in funds, but they had their own families to take care of too.
Luckily, several individuals helped in raising the amount needed and Rose Jean was able to get the operation she needed. She was brought back home unable to walk without the aid of crutches and a prosthetic leg.
While Rose Jean was recuperating, Agustin’s condition also deteriorated.
They survived with the little support they are given by their children, often embarrassed to ask for more because they too, needed money.
“We cannot always rely on them because it was their husbands who earned for their families. We’re ashamed to always ask for their help,” Agustin said.
The couple lives in a thatched hut beside a well-paved road that snakes up to the Yamang Bukid at Sitio Candes 2 in Bacungan.
For nearly three years, the couple lived and struggled inside their home; physically-handicapped husband and wife who vowed to love and not to leave each other come what may.
“There were times we’re so down that I would wish for everything to end. But when I see how my wife was struggling too, I realized we have to continue living,” Agustin recalled.
Rose Jean, for her part, wanted and prayed to have an artificial leg so she could move easier and maybe find a source of living for them.
“They were so poor and pitiful,” said Margie Anjan, neighbor and wife of the village councilor.
When Margie’s employer, Yamang Bukid, hosted a party for senior citizens in Bacungan, the village official’s wife remembered her physically-challenged neighbors.
“I wanted them to partake the food and maybe get some gifts so I tagged them along,” Margie narrated, nearly tearing up because of the sad situation of Agustin and Rose Jean.
She said they got the surprise of their lives when Yamang Bukid officials offered to shoulder Rose Jean’s prosthetic leg.
The agri-tourism farm gave the couple P15,000 cash for her artificial leg and another P20,000 to start a sari-sari (variety) store.
“Many of those who witnessed the event wept openly. It was just overwhelming,” Margie said, sniffling for the help her neighbors have received from Yamang Bukid.
“Thinking about it now still brings tears to me,” she added.
Since January, Agustin and Rose Jean have been relying on the profits of their sari-sari store in Candes 2. Their house was also repaired with the help of caring relatives and neighbors.
“All the money intended for buying resalable goods were used for the purpose, as well as for the purchase of a prosthetic leg. No money was wasted,” said the 53-year old amputee.
Rose Jean said they are grateful for the generosity of Yamang Bukid which was extended to them, giving them hope during a time when everything seemed so bleak for them to survive.
“I could not really contain my happiness because they gave us the chance to start our lives again. The store has helped us in our daily needs,” Rose Jean narrated between tears.
Agustin said their life has improved with the “livelihood showcase” Yamang Bukid gave them.
“Before, when I want to drink chocolate, we have to beg our relatives so we can have them,” he said.
While their struggle may still be far from over, the Magbuos are grateful to the organizations and entities like Yamang Bukid for caring for people regardless of their circumstances.