A Grade 4 pupil nervously runs his fingers on raised dots on thicker paper. He softly recites. Teacher interrupts to tell him to read louder and put some emotion while he’s at it. Pupil tries again with very meager improvement. Teacher cuts him some slack; but after a while, pushes to raise the decibel level. The fourth grader slowly picks up. He does his best to read audibly fast enough to tell the story of the text; but reading Braille is simply significantly slower than reading print. Three other intermediate elementary level pupils with regular visual acuity, suddenly become silent, presumably out of curiosity at this manner of decoding information with hands, not with eyes. Minutes earlier, they had been actively rehearsing some form of reader’s play, reading the same text that the Grade 4 boy was reading, and had paused once the Braille reading started. They would be in one team, and this was the first time they would be reading altogether; albeit, one teammate would be reading in Braille. Teacher was concerned that Braille reader boy would not read at the same acceptable rate as his teammates. But the other children didn’t seem to mind. So did their coach.
The category is “Madulang Pagkukuwento”, and the memorandum states that ”Ang mga kalahok ay binubuo ng tig-iisang mag-aaral mula sa Baitang 4, 5, 6 at isang Graded SPED (Visually Impaired)” There’s also a choir competition which prescribes that the participating group “should be a composition of the following: 12 members with at least 2 SPED learners. There will also be a Braille Quiz Whiz which would be “participated by learners with visual impairment. Questions will be read by the quiz master. Answers will be written in Braille and translated by the official translator.” On the other hand, “Sign Language Quiz Whiz would be participated by learners with hearing impairment.” (www.deped.gov.ph) This is a landmark development in the implementation of the National Festival of Talents. I don’t think I need to research historical records to say that this would be the first time that participating groups are actually required to include SPED learners. Furthermore, competition events specially catering to children with visual impairment, and children with hearing impairment would be held. There is no better venue than in the academe, and during childhood to promote an inclusive society, especially of children with disability.
At least, in our side of the world, we burn that torch of inclusion and together with it, respect of differences, of ability or disability, of enhancement or impairment, of political affiliation or ideology, of race and religion. It is a personal fulfillment that mankind now thrives in an age in which Nick Vujicic is a celebrated motivational speaker, China is actually riding high in capitalism, Moscow floods with billionaires, an American of color have made it to the White House, and racial prejudice has become a taboo. Humanity has evolved towards respect of political differences, of religion, of race, or does it?
Just when we thought air mail is obsolete, some allegedly presidential fanatic decides to sends explosive correspondences to people of different political stand (And is he really Filipino-American? The name does sound like from around the neighborhood.) Within days after that, as if keeping with the trend, some trigger happy allegedly anti-Semite rains hot lead on a place of worship, dismissing some souls to death. These are stark wake-up calls to the tremendous truth that pride and prejudice are proudly prowling among us. The curtain call of the 20th century and the dawn of the next supposedly marked milestones with decimation of dictatorships, removal of racism, dismissal of discrimination, breaking down walls and reunification of east and west sides, and warming up the Cold War, among other accomplishments of amity. Or has it been an illusion all this time? Because along with the mail bomber and Anti-Semitic shooter of Pittsburgh, a singular government has almost admitted to ganging up on a journalist
who is unfriendly to them, casting a looming shadow to free speech. Iran is throwing its weight around; with Western rhetoric not helping, and as an offshoot, the oil consumers may have a hard time in few months’ time. Putin has displayed himself to be a discreet dictator. Syria is still a mess. Cultural minorities are kicked around like pups in sporadic spots across the world. Maybe, the world just forced to push down the lid of Pandora’s compost pit, and now the evil under it has been helplessly creeping up to the surface.
At least, in a festival, respect remains resolute.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28