Singing homeless man’s life getting back in tune

Published October 7, 2021, 8:31 AM

by Marie Tonette Marticio

TACLOBAN CITY – A video of a homeless man singing James Ingram’s classic hit ‘Just Once’ turned him into an instant celebrity and changed his and his brother’s life.

Vivencio Empalmado Jr. alias ‘Tagapok’, 43, whose video was posted online by his childhood friend Fernan Fabrigaras from Catarman, Northern Samar is still raking millions of views a week after it was posted.

Homeless man’s video singing James Ingram classic gets nearly 3 million views

However, far from his old appearance, ‘Tagapok’ is now well-groomed and is living with Fabrigaras.

Viral homeless man and his brother who suffer from mental condition became instant celebrities in Catarman, Northern Samar. Tagapok’s video touched netizens who gave them a makeover, checkup, and groceries. (Photo contributed by Kan Fernan/Manila Bulletin)

Fabrigaras also took in Tagapok’s younger brother Jeremiah, who is suffering from the same condition.

“We already had them checked in the hospital. Some people gave them food and groceries,” Fabrigaras shared.

Tagapok is under medication after it was learned that he has a problem with his lungs.

Fabrigaras said Tagapok, the sixth of the nine siblings used to work in Manila before his parents died. Before that, he studied engineering in Zambales.

He allegedly suffered from depression when his sibling was killed in front of him, his parents passed away after, and their house washed out by a typhoon.

Most of their siblings are based in Luzon while Tagapok, his younger brother Jeremiah, and another brother were left in Catarman.

However, due to poverty, his brother who is a pedicab driver could not sustain all their needs since he also has a family to support.

Meanwhile, Fernan appealed to the public not to judge people who are suffering from the same condition but to take care of them instead.

“We don’t know what’s in their hearts and what they have been through. It’s better to be kind and help them change,” he said.