Toto or Nono,as people at the slums refer to him [mimicking his nasal twang], was born with a harelip. It is interesting to note that despite his mal-articulated speech, the nine-year-old boy is very outspoken and opinionated, thanks to the positive reinforcement and upbringing of his mother ALING GLENDA – a single parent.
Seemingly oblivious and somewhat unaffected by the attention his speech gets, Toto juggles his days criticizing his mother’s transient love life and providing much needed moral support for the woman’s ailing aspiration to become a Japayuki [ Filipina entertainer in Japan ]. Aside from these, the boy must also, on a day to day basis, try to elude the neighborhood bully [BADONG] and help a chronic stray boy [OGOY] find his way home. To top it all, there’s also this struggle with his class adviser MISS DIMACULANGAN at the local public elementary school, who fully believes the boy needs to be cuddled and be given special treatment by merit of his facial and verbal malformation.
Though, the teacher’s brand of compassion might suit others, for Toto – a boy who grew up equipped with the confidence and knowledge that he is just like everyone else – no more, no less, this segregation, as he would put it, is downright discriminatory.
So though, it is surprising to hear that the boy, vehemently, challenged his teacher after being excluded in a very important, patriotic class song [ she worries that the boy will be malign and ridiculed ], this turn of event is not highly unexpected. The boy, after all, speaks what on his mind and fights for what he thinks is fair and right, thanks, again, to the coaching and life lessons he gets from his liberated and equally willful mother.
It wasn’t also unexpected that the boy got his demand [to the dismay and frustration of his class adviser] and things, easily, reverted back to normal at the Tulyahan Elementary School. Well, normal at least until the very next day.
For you see, you can’t really underestimate the power of a child’s limited attention span especially when the child in question is someone like Toto.
After winning his demand to sing with his class, Toto suddenly ditches his original plan and jumps on the prospect of competing on the school’s prestigious Creative Declamation Competition – a contest of narrative drama and eloquence set on the very important and high-profiled Linggo ng Wika celebration – a national language week celebration observed by every school in the Philippines.
While Miss Dimaculangan convinced herself that this new development poses a bigger problem, Toto’s mother saw this as an opportunity for his son to shine.
With the help of his mother’s new fling and her japayuki friends plus the support of the boy’s new found friends – a stray boy and a bully, Toto did manage to shine, quite brilliantly, in more ways than one.