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We’re Getting There

Filipinos pride themselves of the longest Christmas celebration which lasts for more than four months. I heard one non-Filipino express personal approval of this manner of celebration. Maybe, I’m not very Filipino; but is that not in a way ridiculous? Just imagine people singing you “happy birthday” three months before your actual date of birth. It’s like people starting to greet me on December when my birthday is on March. Is that not bizarre?

When I was a kid, I remember it was Linggo ng Wika. I don’t remember when it became Buwan ng Wika. (Then, at some point, it became Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa. I guess someone realized “wika” could refer to any language as long as it could pass as “wika”; so the celebration has to be specific.) Then, in Naga, the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week from July 17 to 23 has been expanded to a Persons with Disability Month on July. So, what’s the difference between the week for persons with disability, and the whole month? Does an extension express exponential efficiency? Somehow the extended celebration serves as memorandum to compel the initiative of activities which sometimes sacrificing the factual fulfillment of the purpose of the party.

On the other hand, one has to admit that the interval of the carnival does stimulate awareness of the existence of the source of the season, as the least of its accomplishments. Regardless of personal opinions on Christmas, that span of time gets everyone aware of its existence, and arguably arouses curiosity which then becomes a potential platform for the implementation of its ideals. A whole month devoted to the Filipino national language encourages the exact exercise and practice of the value being promoted, despite its expected difficulty and discomfort. The stretch from week to month has allowed various venues of expression of advancement of advocacy. Participants get the opportunity to explore the different dimensions of manifestation of principles.

So, perhaps that is what Naga City’s Persons with Disability Month is set to accomplish. Regardless of a person’s exposure to a person with disability or related issues, perchance, he or she would come across some tarpaulin, announcement, activity that would grant him or her some little awareness. Establishments strive through difficulty and discomfort to strengthen the acceptance of PWDs in mainstream society.

In recent years, persons with visual impairment in Bicol have received that once challenging chance to get through higher education and get a college degree. The number of accumulated of graduates are impressive. One could call it a true testament of authentic acceptance of equal opportunity for persons with disability of the right to education, in the Bicol Region. Some of them successfully engaged in gainful employment in the fields of education, government service, and entrepreneurship. Yet, possibly a larger number content themselves with underemployment, and a considerable number struggle with unemployment. Now, here is a gloomy gap in which completed education lacks opportunity of employment. It’s like having a good pen without paper, a good computer without anything to plug it to.

A national non-government organization is sponsoring an employment summit for this particular sector in Metro Manila, where potential employers will gather. Think of it as a job fair exclusively for college graduates with visual impairment. (Come on. You have to understand that these guys would have less of a fighting chance when lined along applicants with hearing impairment, orthopedic handicap or high functioning autism.)

However, the local prospects have raised problems. Getting to the event would entail expenses for transport fare, board and lodging and registration fee. (They are unemployed or underemployed, remember.) For some, this is already a colossal concern which supposedly is sufficient reason to complain. Some cast doubt on the potential of actual returns of investment in involvement in such an endeavor. Some simply show no interest; seemingly signifying suspicion on the success of surpassing the struggles. So why bother? They might as well leave the group. So, think of the interaction among optimistic believers, suspicious skeptics and apathetic leavers. You can guess what’s bound to happen. But underneath all of these, one has to ask the question: Why must a blind college degree holder go to Manila for employment? Can’t the local employers provide the sought after employment here?

The guy who has been cleaning our classroom for some compensation, has not shown up for about a week. After several days, he shows up with the news that he has been hired by a relatively large local business establishment; and is asking directions on accomplishing requirements on SSS, PAG-IBIG and all that sort. He has intellectual disability.

So, I guess we’re getting there.

(But what I don’t get is… why don’t jeepney passengers find it hard to move to give seating space for a PWD?)

“So that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

1 Corinthians 12:25

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