MANILA -- Veteran film, TV, and theater actor Soliman Cruz has ended up on the streets after spending time in the limelight.
Cruz spends his days on Roxas Boulevard, hanging out with street vendors, eating and sleeping on the boardwalk.
Cruz, a son of a former Philippine Coast Guard member, said he has always felt at home near the sea.
Looking at the ships remind him of his father, and how he used to wait for him to come home after spending several months out at sea.
Cruz' father died when he was in Grade 5. His father was cleaning his gun when he accidentally shot himself.
Since then, Cruz chose to spend time alone, walking along the seawall, asking why those things happened to him.
"Naging mapag-isa ako, lagi ako nagtatanong: bakit ganoon? Lagi akong nasa seawall, nais ko laging makakita ng barko."
Cruz found comfort on the stage, performing in front of an audience. He soon became a member of Bulwagang Gantimpala, a group of theater actors.
He became known as a theater actor because of his natural acting and comedy talents.
Cruz had his big break when he was cast as the father of the character of Maximo Oliveros in the movie, "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros".
"Hindi nila alam ang pangalan ko, kilala lang nila ako bilang tatay ni Maxi," Cruz recalled.
Projects started pouring in, with Cruz being casted in the teleserye "Maging Sino Ka Man" as John Lloyd Cruz's father.
Some people even asked if they were related because of they had the same surnames.
At the peak of his career, Cruz was happy that he was able to provide for his family.
"Noon lang ako nakahawak ng makapal na pera. Masaya akong nagbabayad ng Meralco. Nakatira kami malapit sa SM, kaya palagi kami sa supermarket," Cruz said.
He also admitted that he was battling with drug addiction at the time when he had a busy schedule.
Cruz' life went on a downward spiral. His partner left him.
When this happened, his role in the drama was that of someone who was seeking revenge, and he was able to perform well because of what he has experienced.
However, his drug addiction, busy schedule, and crumbling relationship soon took their toll.
"May time na ayoko na lumabas, ayoko na magtaping. [May] dalawang taping days, nagpack-up sila dahil sa akin. Hanggang sa point na idedemanda na ako ng Channel 2 [ABS-CBN], lumabas na ako."
He forced himself to continue with his role on the television series, and the show's creative team changed the story of his character.
From someone who was seeking revenge, his character eventually killed himself.
His addiction became worse, and he looked for a way out. He felt like he needed to leave Manila so he can start anew.
He planned to go to Davao and apply for a teaching position. He was fortunate to have friends who sponsored his plane ticket.
But his plans did not push through after he was robbed on the night before his flight.
"Paglabas ko ng isang convenince store, sa Ermita yata o sa Mabini, may babae kinakapkapan ako."
Shocked, Cruz did not know that the woman took everything he had: his money, his mobile phone, and his plane tickets.
It has been three years since Cruz started living on the streets. Losing himself in the recesses of the city gave him time to appreciate the simple things in life, like having a good night's sleep, or a decent meal.
Despite not having a permanent home to live in, Cruz does not consider himself homeless.
"'Yung pagiging homeless ko, siguro it's not [really] being homeless. Marami namang bubungan na pupwede akong pumunta."
Despite living on the streets, Cruz has not lost his sense of humor.
"Kapag nawalan ka ng hagikgik sa iyong pananaw, wala nang arkitektura ang iyong dignidad."
In order to eat, Cruz offers his services to a local Hindu temple, where he washes dishes in exchange for a decent meal.
"Hindi ako bumabalik dito kasi kumakalam ang sikmura ko. Bumabalik ako dito kasi nakahanap ako ng kaligayahan sa paghuhugas ng pinaglutuan, at saka 'yung seremonya na kanilang pinaniniwalaan."
He also enjoys the ceremonies in the temple, the music and the dancing -- things that he used to do when he was still a theater actor.
Aside from visiting the temple, he also goes to the office of Bulwagang Gantimpala, where he takes a shower and uses the toilet.
A father from afar
He has been so used to his new lifestyle that he does not mind what people say about him, especially when people on the streets recognize him.
"Bakit ninyo sisisihin ang pamilya ko? Hindi nila ako pinabayaan."
He chooses to live on the streets instead of becoming a burden to his family.
"Alam mo naman ang mga nanay, pagsisilbihan ka eh. Todo-todo. Ayoko naman na, ang nanay ko eh nahulog na sa hagdanan, naapektuhan ang kanyang paglalakad, naapektuhan ang kanyang memory, ayoko nang pagsilbihan ako ng nanay ko."
He has also accepted his fate, and does not want his children to suffer because of him.
Instead of trying to force himself to be part of his children's life, Cruz is content on being a father from afar.
"Minsan kapag nasa Quezon City ako, dinadalaw ko sila. Natutulog ako malapit sa bahay nila," Cruz said.
With flowers in his hands, he usually visits his children early in the morning.
Cruz, despite living a life different from what he was used to, seems to be content with his life.
"I am working within my given. Ako ay namumuhay ayon sa aking pangangailangan."