DAVAO CITY – When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March this year and placed limits on everyday life, its impacts are especially acute for people living with disabilities.
This was particularly true for Balut vendor Iñigo Mindaros, born with amelia or the congenital absence or partial absence of one or more limbs.
Still, Iñigo faces the challenges brought by Covid-19 head on, even against an already difficult circumstance.
Yes, he admits he has been struggling to make ends meet, but like all people who are suffering from the brunt of the pandemic, he says he doesn’t let the situation overcome him, and continues to strive to put food on the table.
If at all, the balut vendor considers the pandemic as a wake-up call, to remind himself to save be more productive to survive life’s challenges.
Iñigo has been selling balut in Toril Poblacion every night for years, saying his regular income enables to fend for himself and not place burden on his family.
“I always think positive. If I will not do anything to earn a living and live a useless life with this disability, what would happen to me?,” Mindaros told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview Saturday night.
Before the pandemic hit, Iñigo usually earned PHP400 by selling more than 100 eggs per night. But with the curfew in place and fewer people out to buy the popular Filipino delicacy, he said his income has been halved.
“Covid changes everything. This time I go home with only PHP200 income. But I still feel happy and contented. At least I am not a burden to anyone. I work hard and still my sacrifices paid off. We just need to move forward in order to live,” he said in the vernacular.
Despite his physical disability, Iñigo said he is living a normal life. He managed to graduate from high school at the Doña Carmen Denia National High School in Toril in 1997.
However, he did not make it to college due to financial constraints. Instead, he started finding any job he thought he was capable of doing.
“I applied to the city government and they entertained me well and they did not reject my application outright. However, I think they pity my situation and did not exactly know what kind of job they are going to offer me,” he said.
When it became apparent it would be difficult for him to find regular work, Iñigo said he searched for any livelihood that would suit him well.
“One time, I saw a group of people eating a balut. Though I wanted to eat but I didn’t have a single penny to buy. Then this friend of mine asked me if I wanted to sell balut and I automatically agreed, and he immediately recommended me to his employer. That’s the time when I started selling it,” he recalled.
Iñigo’s sudden fame on social media started when netizen Randolf Castroverde posted on Nov. 4 about his encounter with “Angkol [uncle] balut vendor.”
In the post, Castroverde said he was inspired to see Mindaros’ determination to survive despite his physical disability.
As of this writing, the post has earned 771 shares. Hundreds of netizens lauded Iñigo’s hard work, and many said he was a good example for anyone looking for the silver lining amid this health crisis.
“I got curious that despite his disability he still manages to work and I asked his permission if I can take photos of him. I even asked him if I can promote him and he willingly obliged,” Castroverde said, describing the balut vendor as a “role model” for everyone.
“With that simple Facebook post, I felt fulfilled that I was able to help him and through that, a lot of customers are coming in to buy his product,” he added.
Iñigo said he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and thanked those who praised him for his determination.
“Some people informed me that I was posted on Facebook and I became ‘famous’. Random people gave me money and put it in my pail since I don’t have a hand to receive it. Some people say they admire my fighting spirit and they salute me for all that I have done with my life,” Iñigo said.
Iñigo said he has always dreamed of owning his own house someday where he can also put up his own balut stand. Currently, he is renting a small room in Toril Poblacion where he pays PHP700 monthly.
While he welcomes all the outpouring of assistance, Iñigo said it was still important to continue to persevere and work hard to achieve one’s goals in life.
“They should not depend on the help of others. If they are able, they should strive hard to earn their living. I keep on fighting and I do not want to have to beg from other people,” Iñigo said. (PNA)