Seth and his mother, Juliet -- they are each other's life.

(I will write about Seth's case in greater detail for my newspaper column. This is just the back story.)

Today I trooped to Las Pinas City, at the other tip of the metro, to visit the home of a formidable mother-and-son tandem.

I spent two and a half hours on the road (one way), got lost, found my way back -- all in the noontime heat. When I got to the Cerillos' in Gatchalian Subdivision, all the trouble melted away. I found a gem of a story.

This story started nearly six years ago. Seth was an ordinary 14-year-old high school freshman. But in science class, held in an air-conditioned classroom, his teacher passed around a beaker -- without seal or even a cover -- containing the element mercury, which we know now to be highly toxic.

His life has never been the same. Today he is a man of 20, but he has stopped going to school and spends his days at home. He has been diagnosed with neuropathy and Parkinsonism, he is constantly plagued with tremors and unnaturally high fever, and has difficulty moving about like he has lost his balance. His immune system has become so weak that he easily catches cough, colds, and any kind of infection.

Juliet, a small, feisty woman of 41, says their lives have never been the same. She also knows that Seth's condition is irreversible and his future would thus look different from the ones being pondered by his friends. Gainful employment is likely out of the picture. So does marriage and family. "I do not think I can assume any responsibilities," he tells me.

Mother and child have filed a suit against the school that until now refuses to acknowledge any culpability in the unfortunate life-altering incident.

Seth is an only child and his parents have been separated for as many years that he has been alive. He is Juliet's life. It is revolting to think that an accident, arising from the negligence of others, has caused an otherwise healthy, active and promising young man to be confined to his house day after day for the rest of his life.

What I find most compelling is Juliet's devotion to make Seth's life as normal as possible even though they both know it is not.

The picture says a lot about their relationship. I think it is love at its elemental form.