A Visit to Mano Leo
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
As told by Sr. Jenelynne, SSV with Cathy Douglass
Leo Capon is also known by the people of Barangy Cati-an as “MANO LEO”. He is about 65 years old and was born into a large family of 5 siblings, with two sisters and three brothers. Four are still alive but are now living far from Cati-an in Manila and Mano Leo is in Borongan, Eastern Samar.
Mano Leo is suffering from a traumatic experience from his youth: His brother was stabbed and killed in front of him. According to an elders who remember the incident the young boy Leo was inconsolably shouting and screaming at the death of his brother while the dead body of his brother was carried to their house. After this traumatic experience Mano Leo began to be quiet and then he became silent. He speaks very little
His situation is very difficult. Today he lives alone at the edge of the village in a simple, rustic hut made from pieces of wood, metal scraps and tarps. It is very dark, especially at nighttime. His neighbors hesitate to give him the traditional lamp to light his evenings because they are afraid that it might cause a fire and burn his home down. Years earlier his parent’s home, left to him when they passed away, was burned down by a fire started in the kitchen’s wood stove while Mano Leo was cooking. They consider his safety and look out for him to the extent they can. There were times when his brothers visited, but that was long ago. Mano Leo has a quiet, reclusive life in his hut by the stream at the edge of the village of Cati-an.
When we try to speak with Mano Leo, he will answer, “Hmm”, or he will smile or laugh. I have tried to talk to him to gather some information about his personal history, but he told me that he can’t remember anything- even his family name. After my observations and attempt to speak with him, I believe he is a person that is not aware anymore of the situation of his life, a person who is living on earth and each day is enough for him. The people say it is the traumatic experience of his early life that continues to affect him.
Every Sunday we visit Mano Leo to bring him food and at the same time to monitor his situation. One day our youth group, Our Lady of the Visitation Youth Organization, decided to organize a social action day to clean and repair Mano Leo’s home with the help and support of the SSV Sisters. The Ain Karim children were also there to help the OLVYO and the Sisters. They tried to do the little things they can do as children. On that day Mano Leo was very cooperative. He didn’t say any words as we removed all the trash and things inside his house, but he allowed us to do it. We were able to secure the walls of his hut so it won't blow over in a storm and to add more tarp walls to keep the rain out. He allowed us to clean his simple home and wash his clothes, take away trash and sweep the area around his hut. Mano Leo took a bath and also allowed to have his hair cut.
It is a great privilege to, in simple ways, care for this humble soul whose trauma and silent life have confined him his small home. He is a child of God, our brother, our neighbor in need. We respect his wish to live as he chooses while we try to lift his health and preserve his dignity. We were very grateful he allowed the OLOVYO youth to assist and serve to him in a special way on that Sunday and we continue to make a visit to him every Sunday.