I mustered every inch of nerve to talk to THE PLASTIC MAN.
I call him the Plastic Man since he was accumulating plastic bags he finds. He then inserts all of them under his one and only faded and torn blue polo shirt, that made his stomach look big and bulgy. Sometimes when I pass by him at dawn, all parts of his body are covered in plastic. He also sleeps in a very uncomfortable upright sitting position.
Despite all of this weird behavior, I knew there’s a story behind it.
I knew he was alone, just begging for food and just waiting for time to pass by. So I decided to sit beside him after playing basketball with strangers in the nearby barangay.
I opened with, “I’ll sit beside you sir for a few seconds. I’m thirsty. Just played basketball.”
After five minutes, I asked him a question in which I already knew the answer to, “Is Victorio, the pedicab driver, your brother?”
After asking this, I saw a glimmer in his eyes, of passion, a chance to have a genuine conversation, of wanting attention, as almost everyone just passes by him day after day, basically ignoring him.
He then talked endlessly about his life as if he was in a talk show on television.
His realname is Felicisimo, he prefers to be called Junior. His father was an American Ex-Military who seeked retirement here in the Philippines. He worked for Rizal Lumber as a wood cutter. He had three children. The eldest being 20 years old.
I asked him if he retired from work which made him a bit teary-eyed.
He told me that the management just asked him to “rest”, like, indefinitely. He told me that it was “fair” since the company paid for his son’s hospitalization and burial.
I felt sorry for him.
Anyway, I asked him if there’s someone taking care of him. He told me that he still has some relatives who gives him something to eat from time to time. Although he prefers to rely only on the goodness of the people around him since he has hatred towards his family.
I asked him about his remaining two kids.
He told me he’s never heard from them or seen them for quite a long time now. He doesn’t care. He also asked me basic questions like where I lived, or worked, did I graduate highschool and I responded accordingly.
Then after quite a long exchange of words, I remembered the elephant in the room.
I just couldn’t resist asking this personal question that I have been avoiding ever since I first saw him.
“Manong, what’s under your polo shirt? Don’t you feel uncomfortable?
I just had to smile and ask jokingly to ease the tension. He then told me that he feels cold most of the time and that it doesn’t itch.
What’s under his polo shirt was a contraption containing all his remaining prized possessions, his survival pack plus various types of plastics.
If I was a branded backpacker, this guy was a resourceful frontpacker.
I got everything that I needed to know. We talked for like five more minutes. It was just him blabbering things I can’t comprehend. I then made up an excuse to go home. Mystery solved.