We were going out of the office building when we noticed him wandering aimlessly on the corridor. A security guard called his attention, but he did not mind. He exited the building, walked to the ATM and pressed some buttons, and walked some more. He climbed down the stairs and entered a fast food chain. Another security guard escorted him out.
He looked presentable enough not to be mistaken as a beggar, but his actions say otherwise. I approached him and asked him if he's hungry. "Oo, he said." I handed him my friend's sandwich. "San ka nakatira?" He said he lives in Alabang. I asked him where he had been. "Sa Starmall," he answered. The mall is right across our office building. I asked how he would go home. "Sasakay ng bus na hindi aircon. Baka nga lakarin ko na lang kasi kulang na pamasahe ko." He said his name is Angelo. "Eh ikaw anong pangalan mo?" He called me Ate Jam. Then I bade him goodbye.
I walked back to my friend and told her my short chit-chat with Angelo. Little did I know that he was actually following us as we crossed the street. My friend saw him walking behind me and motioned to act like nothing was happening because he would surprise me. Then I saw him.
We walked together with him to the bus stop. We asked him about his family. He said he left home at noontime. "Umalis ako ng bahay. Pinalayas nila ako kasi bakla ako." He was referring to his parents. But he said he is going home to his lola. "Oo, alam niya. Tanggap niya ako," he said.
He said he is celebrating his birthday next week. He jokingly asked what we would give him as a birthday present. "Ito lang ibibigay niyo sa'kin?" he said while holding the sandwich we gave him moments ago. We laughed. "Sige nga titikiman ko nga to kung masarap." He said he will also make one when he gets home.
We arrived at the bus stop. An Alabang-bound bus loaded some passengers a few meters away. "Ayan na Alabang na bus oh," my friend said. Angelo refused to leave. "Dadaan yan ng Sucat eh," he said. My friend and I waited until another non-airconditioned bus made a stop. "Bye! Ingat kayo!" he said as he sat down on the bus.
When he left, my friend and I regretted not giving even an additional penny for his fare. He did not beg. He did not ask for anything. He only wanted to talk. And he called me Ate Jam like we had known each other for years.
He left home because he is gay. He is only 12-years old. An adolescent who is just starting to discover himself.
He left home because he told his parents the truth. He left because he was not accepted in his own home.
May our paths cross again, Angelo. Ate Erika and Ate Jam are praying for you.