Until recently, the last time 47-year-oldGilbert Sanchez from La Paz in the Agusandel Sur province of the Philippines felt solid ground under his feet was in 2014 when he climbed a 60-foot-tall coconut tree near his house.
He was determined to spend the rest of his life on the tree until authorities rescued him forcefully recently.
Sanchez had apparently left his home to live atop the coconut tree after being hit on the head with a gun during an altercation.
His mother remembers that he was so afraid that someone would come to kill him that he felt that the only way to stay alive was to climb the tallest tree he could find and stay there.
And that’s exactly what he did over the next three years, surviving only on the food and water his mother brought him every day, which he would pull up in his tree haven with an improvised rope. He would relieve himself from the top of the tree, and not even the raging storms, the blistering heat or the ruthless insects could get him to come down.
His mother, Winifreda, had been trying to convince him to come down from the tree at least to get a bath but he always refused. All she could do for him was deliver food, water, clothes and cigarettes to him every day, hoping that they would at least keep him alive. She would shout to him to lower his rope, tie the supplies tightly, and he would hoist them up to his tree-top haven.
His brother, Aldrin, said that both he and the other members of their family had constantly pleaded with him to come down but he refused.
“One time, I asked him to come down, he said ‘Be quiet, I won’t go down. Someone would kill me if I do’,” Aldrin told KMJS Exclusives.
A widower since 2000, Sanchez didn’t even come down from his tree-top home when his mother told him that she was too old to take proper care of his children, and that they didn’t even go to school anymore.
Even though everyone in La Paz knew his story, no one did anything about it until an obscure article about him went viral on social media and was eventually picked up by major news outlets in the Philippines. That finally convinced local authorities to help his family get him down from the tree.