The sun’s scorching heat is invading the jeepney’s left seat. There are only three passengers sitting on that side as I enter the jeepney. Two passengers on the rear end hiding behind the jeepney’s cover and Lolo (Grandfather) sitting behind the driver while the sunlight is hugging his back. He’s sitting there amid the intense afternoon heat. I sat on the other side just right in front of Lolo. I’m not avoiding him, I’m avoiding the heat.
A girl sat beside Lolo but because of the heat, she transferred beside me. Lolo suddenly talked to her. I don’t know what he’s saying. I thought he was angry because the girl transferred. Maybe he thought that the girl doesn’t want to sit beside him. I thought he was just like other senior citizens who tries to talk to others in public places. You know, the usual senior moments.
The jeepney was ready to go but the barker said one more passenger is not surrendering his ticket. Lolo said he doesn’t have any ticket and he’s going to Mental (National Center for Mental Health). The driver said to the barker, “His (Lolo) fare’s free. He’s part of the company (NCMH).” Lolo said to us, “I’m visiting the Mental because I’m having an attack.” Lolo is a mental patient.
During the travel, Lolo was talking to the passenger beside him. Luckily, the guy was responding to what Lolo was saying. I eavesdropped on their conversation even though I only hear murmurs since the jeepney ride was full of noise. Lolo was full of stories and the guy was just nodding and smiling. At one moment, Lolo cried but there were no tears. The driver said to Lolo that we have arrived in the Mental so Lolo needs to alight. He alighted while saying, The people in the Mental are the ones who understand me that’s why I’m going here.” He said thank you to the driver and to the guy he’s talking to. Lolo was crying while getting down. There are no tears in his eyes but his heart might be flooded with it.
The jeepney roared its engine and we moved on. I wondered, are mental patients should be considered patients? Look at Lolo. He commuted all by himself. He doesn’t have any money with him. Thank you to that driver who let him ride the jeepney. Despite his age, he was able to manage himself. He was so brave to face other people who don’t understand people like him. He was so brave to reveal to others his weaknesses. He was so brave to admit that he’s mentally-ill. He was so brave to admit that only a few people understand him. He was so brave because Lolo understands the people who don’t understand him.
Let’s not call them patients. They’re maybe ill but they can still function. They can function if we treat them normally. Aside from understanding, people who are suffering from mental ailments need to feel that they belong in this world. Understanding and belongingness are the cure they need. Not judgment and ridicule.