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BLIND SPOT: How community builds empowerment in education

Against the backdrop of Brigada Eskwela this week, “the challenge facing… schools is the empowerment of all children to function effectively in their future, a future marked increasingly with change, information growth, and evolving technologies.” ( I was talking to Junjun and I could tell that he was having a hard time containing his excitement in the wave of attention they have been getting after graduating with degrees in B.S. Information Technology in STI Naga. He lightly laughs in unbelief in relating how they were featured in ABS-CBN’s Mag TV na Oragon, while recalling how they were ambushed for an interview after the baccalaureate activity and how he struggled with giving sensible responses for questions he could rather have prepared for, and how they were interviewed for an article in a national tabloid. Now, you’re probably thinking, “what’s the deal? A throng of youngsters graduate in a computer major every year.” Mark Aborde, Rosendo “Junjun” Hubilla Jr., and Donilo “Don” Sarcilla, all with total blindness, graduated each with their own degrees in B.S. Information Technology in STI Naga, in the commencement exercises last May 6, 2017. Yes, you read it right that was “information technology, computer, visual, “information technology”. If you’re asking “How did that happen?” I’ll be asking you back, “How could it not?” Mark and Junjun have had their visual impairment since birth and have been classmates at the Naga City SPED Center and Camarines Sur National High School. Even at the early stages of elementary education, Mark has shown a propensity for academic achievement, having been a consistent honor student, and exhibiting proficiency in major learning areas. My personal favorite anecdote is when he barely bagged the quiz bee championship by missing the pressing of the buzzer. As a result of which, he won second place in the contest with regular sighted pupils with him as sole competitor with total blindness. I could remember when Junjun would play with toy cars and X-Men action figures. As though a natural prodigy, it took a few basic lessons in the computer, and he was operating the device with ease and independence. Born with normal sight, Don isn’t going to let an unfortunate gunshot to the head which caused his total blindness less than two decades ago, get in the way of picking him up and persevere in the pursuit in the field of technology. This trial transcending trio was each awarded by the institute with certificates of recognition for achievement of completion despite naturally debilitating conditions, with Hubilla receiving a special citation for exemplary performance in the final thesis. Mark, Junjun and Don join Macy Tang (who has graduated with a degree in Law in the University of Nueva Caceres last March) in the latest roster of college graduates with visual impairment. When asked of motives in pursuing his chosen major in the radio talk show “Manindugan” hosted by Mina Bermudo and Beda Priela broadcast over RMN 91.1 DWNX , Aborde cites his passion for technology in its extensive capability for information and entertainment. Responding to a question on his career plans, Hubilla hopes to engage in educating persons with similar impairment in utilization of most recent technology. Tang on the other hand, envisions implementation of programs towards settlement of civil disputes, offering parties counsel for reconciliatory arrangements. A key concrete resource in the accomplishment of the school work of these graduates is assistive technology which greatly aids in accessing information plainly available to sighted peers. In faithfully Filipino fashion, they all attribute success to family support, interestingly, Mark and Junjun to their mothers, and Macy, with much emphasis on her bond with her father. According to an article by Daniella Abinum of Florida State University “Blind kids have to… figure out a way to get around on their own,” “Non-verbal communication is… especially crucial in college social settings.” “People who are blind end up missing out on a lot of those interactions.” Visually impaired kids are rarely provided the opportunity to make the decision” to “build… a professional and responsible individual.” ( This recent achievement of Aborde, Hubilla and Sarcilla has proven that they, their families, immediate community and our local society have surpassed the aforementioned challenges. The Bicolano society has believed in the capability of, and has given opportunity for youth with visual impairment to figure things on their own. Their completion of college education goes without directly stating that they have managed to get a grip on non-verbal communication, and has successfully engaged in sighted socialization. The community may not be fully aware of it, but they have all held hands in laying the ground work for building professional responsibility among youth with disability. In a living room, a child with total blindness watches their TV interview with newly sparked confidence and inspiration. Recognition of the expertise of persons at a disadvantaged in a field which requires the faculties they lack, attests to the growing maturity of Bicolano and Filipino society in rising above the doldrums of perception of incapability. If you are looking for progress, this is progress, a progress of the mind. Now, the challenge is to continue this progress in the opportunity for employment. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:30

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