A Filipino man with a rare and painful skin condition rarely leaves his house after being relentlessly bullied by locals who consider him to be a ‘cursed’ ghost man.
Antonio Reloj, aged 26, was born with a severe form of ichthyosis, which causes his skin to harden, crack and take on the appearance of fish scales.
His mother abandoned him when he was 12, leaving his grandmother to raise him in Aklan province.
Antonio’s condition worsened as his skin became thicker and harder and his eyesight started to deteriorate as his eyelids were affected.
Antonio, who dreams of becoming an electrician, spends his days listening to the radio and tinkering with electronic equipment.
He said: “When I was a child I was happy to go outside. People say that I am a ghost. I stay at home now.
“I dream of being healthy again and having a job, to become an electrician is my dream.
“My skin hurts a lot when I move too much. I hope people will understand that I am just human like them.”
Antonio is due to speak with medics as he leaves the village for the first time in his life after good samaritans were alerted to his plight when he was featured on a television documentary.
Doctors first need to diagnose the exact form of ichthyosis Antonio is suffering from. They can then prescribe a lotion to hydrate his cracked skin. However, a permanent cure is unlikely.
Antonio’s cousin Jesselyn Rebutar said ignorant locals had dubbed him a “creature, ghost or monster”.
She said: “Antonio told me that he just wants to stay at home and not go outside. He said that people call him a creature, a ghost, a monster, so he is shy now.
“They believe he is cursed. It makes me so sad. He has a beautiful smile and is a human being.
“I am thrilled to be able to help him. To see him is to understand what pain and suffering really is.
“People are derisive to him because of his illness. He has been like it since he was two three years old. He has grown up but it has not been a normal life and his illness has always got worse.
“I hope and pray he can go to school to study and live a happy life and people are kind to him.”