by DESIREE CALUZA
BAGUIO CITY—Avelino Tomas was five years old when he was first exposed to the realities of poverty.
It was at that age that Tomas, who was born without lower limbs, was thrust into the limelight of carnivals in Zambales in the early 70s to help his family make ends meet.
For 25 centavos per person, townsfolk could watch Tomas do his stunts: balancing his body on a piece of wood or by climbing a pole using the strength of his arms.
The carnival shows made spectacles of children like Tomas and christened them with titles such as “Batang Sirena” (little mermaid) or “Taong Manyika” (human doll). Tomas was given his own.
“I was called Little Lino, the little frog,” Tomas, now 47, recalls. He said that doing those stunts to entertain people was “all play” to him then and he did not know it was tantamount to child labor.