Sixty-two-year-old Cirilo Almona stands out from the pack of ambulant vendors lugging wooden boxes as they roam Pasig streets.
Instead of cradling goods in a takatak, he proudly wears them – packs of candies, cigarettes, and biscuits are pinned hanging all over his vest.
It’s undoubtedly a way to turn heads. But for Cirilo, it’s less of a marketing stunt and more of a practical solution to relieve symptoms of a medical condition.
“Kasi hinihika ako eh. Minsan, hindi ako makahinga… ‘Pag hindi ako makahinga, umuupo na lang ako sa tabi tapos magpahunay-hunay. (I have asthma. I can’t breathe sometimes. When I can’t breathe, I just sit down and take it slow),” Almona told Manila Bulletin in an interview.
“Mahirap mag-takatak, nandyan ang barya mo, ang ibine-benta mo, hawak-hawak mo pa. Pag ganitong nasa katawan mo, pitas ka na lang nang pitas. Para kang namimitas ng mansanas (Carrying a takatak is hard, your coins and goods are there, you’re holding everything. It’s easier if you have it pinned on your body. It’s like picking apples from a tree),” he added. Almona has been selling goods this way for the last 13 years.
Like many ambulant vendors, Almona’s livelihood suffered a huge blow amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, especially during the implementation of stringent community quarantine measures.
“Nahirapan talaga kami… Naranasan namin na hindi kumain sa isang araw, minsan tatlong araw. Minsan wala kaming pambili, hindi kami makalabas ng bahay (It was really difficult for us. We experienced not eating the whole day, sometimes, for three days. Sometimes, we don’t have money, we can’t go outside),” Almona recalled.
This September, he had to brave the streets once again to earn money for food, medication, and for his wife who works as a housekeeper in Cavite.
Almona gained attention online after two jeepney co-passengers, Julanie Faith Lumapak and Daryl Bontia, posted photos of him on Facebook. Lumapak and Bontia took the initiative of collecting donations and handing over the money to Almona. As of the morning of Sept. 13, they’ve raised around P7,000 to help the ambulant vendor.