Everyone handles trauma differently. The difference between people’s healing journeys is whether or not they will face the source of their fear or allow it to drive them further into despair. While it is unfair to judge, as none of us knows exactly what someone else is going through, it’s fair to say few people would retreat from a harrowing situation like a 47-year-old Filipino man did.
For the past three years, Gilbert Sanches, of La Paz in the Augusan del Sur province of the Philippines, has lived in a 60-foot-tall coconut tree near his house. Reportedly, he climbed the tree after surviving an altercation where he was hit on the head by a gun. He likely would have spent the rest of his days in the tree, had authorities not recently removed him by force.
A man has lived on a coconut tree for nearly 3 years! How did he manage to survive? Will he ever set foot on the ground again? #KMJSExclusives
Posted by Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (One at Heart, Jessica Soho) on Friday, October 20, 2017
Oddity Central reports that despite raging storms, ruthless insects, or the blistering heat of the jungle, Sanchez refused to climb down the tree. He survived thanks to his mother, who has been bringing him food and water every day for the past three years. Reportedly, he would use a rope to pull up the food and water and would relieve himself from the top of the tree.
Reportedly, the man’s mother, Winifreda Sanchez, has been trying to convince him to come down the tree to at least get a bath. However, he always refused. All she could do was deliver him food, water, clothes, and cigarettes, hoping to at least keep him alive. Their daily interactions included her shouting to the top of the tree so he would lower his rope. She would then tied the supplies into the make-shift pulley device, and the goods would be hoisted up to his tree-top haven.
According to Aldrin Sanchez, Gilbert’s brother, he and other members of the family have been trying for years to encourage him to climb down. Adrin told KMJS Exclusives, “One time, I asked him to come down. He said ‘Be quiet, I won’t go down. Someone would kill me if I do.’”
Gilbert, who has been a widower since 2000 when his wife died giving birth to their second daughter, didn’t even retreat from the tree when his mother informed him she was too old to babysit his children. He refused to come down, even after he was told they had stopped going to school.
The sad routine has continued for three years and only changed when an obscure article went viral on social media. Eventually, it was picked up by major news outlets in the Philippines. Film crews were sent to his village, and the amount of coverage eventually prompted local authorities to intervene.
On October 11, 50 people along with Gilbert’s family attempted to convince him to come down the tree voluntarily. When he refused, they began to cut down the coconut tree with a chainsaw. The plan had its risks — as it would have been incredibly easy to harm Gilbert during the process. Fortunately, he touched the ground unscathed.
Videos that have since been shared show Gilbert covered in blisters and insect bites. He also suffers from muscular dystrophy and his spine has become deformed from crouching in the coconut tree. By far, however, it is his mind that is most damaged.
Psychological assessments reveal that the 47-year-old exhibits symptoms of psychosis — including delusions, hallucinations and the fear that someone is trying to kill him. Though he has been put on medication, it will take time before he may once again live a “normal” life.
Though the story itself is quite tragic, a positive outcome has been the outpouring of generosity, specifically by Filipino people who seek to help. Many have asked how to help Gilbert and his mother, which resulted in a bank account being set up for people to donate funds.
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