The Metaphor of Dave Pitin
by Danny Castillones Sillada
Portrait of Dave Pitin, photo by Danny Sillada
“Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.”
~ Henry Miller (1891 - 1980)
DURING MY THREE-MONTH stay in my hometown in Cateel, Davao Oriental, from December 2008 to March 2009, I let a homeless boy stay with me. I fed him, washed his clothes, and treated him like a family member.
For a while, that cavernous emptiness that I felt in the absence of my mother and brother, who recently both passed away respectively, had been filled out with something “ineffable”, something sublime and tragic yet expectant and promising, but not for long.
When I was about to leave and come back to Manila, I had to turn him over to DSWD in my town. It was the most difficult decision that I ever made, because the boy had already trusted me and looked up to me as an uncle, friend and, perhaps, a father.
Embarrassingly, I must also admit that I began to love him, as a substitute to my lost siblings. And I could feel and see how that love slowly changes him from a rascal, ill-mannered kid to a sweet, thoughtful boy. He began to have his own self-worth and self-respect and like any other kid; he began to dream of becoming “somebody” when he grows up.
On the day of my departure, the two staff from DSWD came to fetch him. It was still dark at 5 o’clock in the morning, we were at the waiting-shade, and the rain was pouring heavily. The bus, bound for Davao City, was waiting for me, but the boy refused to go. He was crying, holding onto my arms tight, pleading that he wanted to go with me, instead.
I whispered through his ear and asked him to let go with a promise that I would come back for him soon. He slowly loosened his grip from my arms; I hurriedly climbed on the bus without looking back; I was deeply broken.
As the bus staggered on a sinuous, guttered road, I leaned over by my left on the glass window; I could see raindrops trailing at the other side, dripping recklessly down to my cheeks.
THE QUESTION OF DAVE PITIN
“What will I do when you’re already gone?” he asked me point-blank, a question that I had already been asking silently since my parents and all my siblings left on a journey of no return. But Dave’s question was more urgent and temporal; it involves the security of his own world: his shelter, his food, his toys, his clothes, and, to say the least, my company.
“You will survive as you used to be,” I said to him in a gentle manner, withholding my bursting feeling. Silence followed as if both of us were talking from our hearts without saying a single word. His tamed eyes eluded mine, as he looked away without really seeing.
“People here aren’t really that nice, they can be cruel sometimes,” he said as if he was begging that I should continue caring because no one gives a damn about him, harshly speaking.
"It was not part of the deal," I murmured to myself with ambivalence in my heart.
MY HOMELESSNESS INSIDE
Dave came into my life when I was hurting (or mourning) and, for a while, I took him in, gave him shelter, food and clothing. I gave him what a child needs in his age, the necessary attention that he needed, had he been with his mother or father.
Before I met him, he was just a homeless street boy, who tried to survive from the remnant of others’ generosity. He used to sleep at night with an empty stomach, and wander on the street without minding what to eat or wear. He could go wherever he wants without worrying if his parents were looking for him; his real family doesn’t give a damn whether he was still alive or already dead. He could sleep and play anywhere, and anywhere was his home and playground.
Now, he asked me what he would do when I’m gone. It is ironic because I had been asking the same question over and over since my father died when I was nine years old; and then, my youngest brother and then, my younger sister and then, most recently, my mother and my younger brother, who both died within a period of one month.
All of a sudden, I woke up like an abandoned kitten in the middle of an empty road, alone and broken. That sublime feeling of looking forward to or being at “home” had already been dissolved permanently. All I have in every corner of our empty house is the lingering memory of the dead, beautiful and sad memories that continue to haunt and make my present existence almost unbearable to live.
And here’s a run-away boy who still has his father and siblings, asking me what he would do when I’m gone. It is lamentable for a twelve-year old child to absorb all the pungent words hurled on him by the rascal kids on the street, the physical abuse by the strangers and yet, he could not stand from the abusive authority of his own father. He could let days or nights go without eating, sleep on the dark alley at night without a blanket, or let other children taunt and hurt him, but not his father.
Even if I would tell him the significance of family, particularly the presence of his parents and siblings, no matter how poor or troubled they may be, he won’t understand. What occupied his mind – at the moment – is to run away as far as he could – far away from the people who hurt him, the same people that he once loved and called a “family”.
Perhaps, he won’t stop running until he finds what he was looking for, and whatever it is, he will surely find first the cruelty of this world.
© Danny Castillones Sillada
How to cite this essay:
Sillada, Danny Castillones. “The Metaphor of Dave Pitin.” Manila Bulletin (Art & Living) 27 April 2009: E1-2. Print.