Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A High-Spirited Sepulturero

Noel Evangelista is the one-handed Sepulturero
He was born with only one hand, grew up being called names, was not able to go to college due to financial reasons, and now lives a life working for the dead.  Life wasn’t easy for this 31-year old sepulturero but he is in high spirits every day.

Noel Evangelista, or “Putol” to his close friends, is the youngest among the nine children of couple Salvador and Anita.  He started working as an undertaker at Evergreen Memorial Garden in Pasig City in April 2005.  He previously worked for five months in a small laundry shop in 2003.  He had difficulties getting a new job in the next two years.  That’s why when Evergreen came into the picture, he did not have second thoughts of accepting the offer in spite of the strange stories he hears about working in a graveyard.  

After eight years in the memorial park, Noel has yet to encounter any unusual experience though almost everyone in their group already had a hair-raising tale to share.  One claimed to have heard a crying baby in the middle of the night while another said he saw a white lady in the vicinity.  Maybe Noel is just lucky to have a 7 am to 4 pm schedule.

The only extraordinary moment at Evergreen that Noel will forever cherish is seeing the lovely Angel Locsin in her Darna costume running around the cemetery during a shooting for an episode of the popular TV series a few years ago.  Second on his list would be a chance encounter with respected TV journalist Jessica Soho who also taped a segment of her show there.

Noel works with seven other undertakers in the said cemetery.  All of them are males --- five married (including Noel), two bachelors and one is gay.  They call themselves “Samahan ng mga Baog” (gang of barren or sterile people) because all of them are yet to be blessed with a child.

Whenever asked what it is like working in a cemetery, Noel jokingly answers that they are like call center agents.  While call center agents work on the graveyard shift, the sepulturero is also working in the graveyard, only literally, he explains.  And the sepulturero also extends good customer service to clients like what those individuals in the BPO industry are doing.  At the cemetery, there are also VIPs called “alaga.”  These are the ones that the sepulturero takes care of everyday.  All Noel has to do is make sure that their tombs are clean from dirt or wild grasses, and he gets paid Php 200 per “alaga” every month on top of his salary.  In call centers, they call this a bonus.

This graduate of Rizal High School (the largest secondary school in the world according to the Guiness Book of Records) may only have one hand but he does more than just burying the dead or cutting grasses in the park.  He is also a talented athlete who excels in both volleyball and basketball in local tournaments. 

A proof of his remarkable skill was documented by ABS-CBN ace newscaster Korina Sanchez in her program Balitang K in 1999.  Noel was given 12 chances to shoot from the 3-point line and amazingly made 10 baskets under time pressure using only his left hand. 

Contrary to public perception, there is life in the cemetery.  Noel and his colleagues are such friendly and fun-loving people.  No matter how difficult their assignments are, they continue to deliver good work whether under the sun or pouring rain -- with a smile.   Any tough task is bearable because of their camaraderie and close relationship with one another.  Also, they are united by the same reason that compels them to work in the cemetery.  They are all breadwinners of their respective families. 

But Noel admits that he sometimes encounter difficulties at work. Being handicapped, he struggles when he is assigned to do tasks like digging the soil, carrying the coffin and other work that requires the use of two hands.  He is thankful that he has an understanding employer and co-workers.  But he always tries to make it up by volunteering as a messenger for their office every time his brother Edwin lets him use his motorcycle.

He is also known to his family and friends as a good cook.  His specialties include spaghetti, soup and spicy sisig.  He is still keeping his fingers crossed. He hopes that somehow he can still fulfill his dream of becoming a successful chef.

Noel, who was a sacristan of San Miguel chapel in Pasig City for four years until 2003, is just thankful to God for giving him an opportunity to be a productive individual despite of his disability.  He used to hide his handless right arm in his pocket when he was young.  But today, people won’t even notice that he only has one hand because of his hard work and dedication.  Truly, it is inspiring how this high-spirited sepulturero has overcome every challenge he encountered in life -- single-handedly.  


halfwhiteboy said...

props to him for still working despite his disability. shame that a lot of able-bodied people are lazy.


Gus Cabredo said...

"Contrary to public perception, there is life in the cemetery" hahaha

Richard Mamuyac said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, guys!

@halfwhiteboy...yes, that's why he deserves to be recognized at least with a feature.

@Sputnik... I totally agree with you :)