Marcilo Qenes, 32, is back at his familiar spot along Rizal Avenue near the old market, hawking at pedestrians for chips, boiled duck embryo or balut, and bottled water in his improvised mobile cart-cum-wheelchair.
He moves around in a DIY mechanical vehicle engineered to help him move around and to carry his wares. It was constructed for him over a year ago by the non-profit healthcare provider Bahatala. He runs the contraption using his hands to power the wheelchair, having lost his legs at a young age.
“Nakilala ako ng Bahatala (Rehabilitation Centre), ‘yong andoon sa Abanico Road. Sila ay gumagawa ng espesyal na paa. Tapos noong nakilala nila ako, tinulungan nila ako para ‘yong pagtitinda ko ay maayos. May bubong ‘yan, sinusuksok ko lang,” Marcilo said describing his cart.
A scribbled note attached at the back of his cart describes it as a “Wilcher Store”. Marcilo could neither read nor write, the note was scribbled for him by someone else who helped set him up for vending and attracting the attention of passersby.
He was born with a disability to a poor family which was unable to send him to school. He learned, however, how to count helping his mother sell balut on the city sidewalks as a young child.
“Noong bata pa ako, simula maliit, nasobrahan daw ako sa gamot tapos natigdas pa ako kasi tinurukan ako, dito sa paa kaya nagkaganito. Kulang din ako sa buwan noong ipinanganak. Hindi ako nakaaral pero hanapbuhay ng mama ko ay balut kaya doon ako natuto magbilang,” he told Palawan News.
Before he was assisted by Bahatala, Marcilo was selling balut in his ordinary wheelchair.
Growing up, he learned from his parents the importance of standing on his own. He would go to places where he could given his limited mobility for the opportunity to sell his goods and make money for his family. He said he has five other siblings.
“Nilalagyan ko lang ng nilalabhan na damit tapos nilalagay ko yong mga paninda ko, isasabit ko lang,” he said.
“Kung saan malakas (ang kita) doon ka kasi talagang tiyaga lang. Kapag wala kang tiyaga, walang nilaga. Nag-benta ako uli kasi kailangan na, meron tayong panggamit sa buhay natin. Mahirap kasi kapag tambay ka lang,” Marcilo added.
To protect himself from the risk of the coronavirus disease outside, he decided he should only stay at one spot at a time.
Even at his physical limitations, Marcilo’s spirit and determination to be productive and independent are undaunted.
“Lakas lang talaga ng loob ‘yan. Mag-pray ka lang kay Lord. Siya ang nagbigay ng buhay mo, kaya huwag mo siya pabayaan. Ganon lang ‘yon,” he said.
“Sa mga katulad ko, lakas ng loob lang talaga kasi hindi natin masabi yong buhay natin, kung ano binigay sa iyo, iyon ang tanggapin mo. Sa mga hindi katulad ko, sana malakas din ang loob niyo, ipag-pray lang natin, maging ang COVID, mawawala rin ‘yan,” he advised.