Wheelchairs for the CP Warriors

I asked Dr. Ferdz … which weekend are you free to give out the chairs? The only date that matched in our calendar was 12th of August, Sunday. 

I accepted because she’s very hard to catch and she’s an essential member of the team in my plan to finally give away most of the Wheelchairs-for-Kids that has been sitting in our storage for a little over 3 years now. She’s the wheelchair expert while I, handle the rehabilitation part of the process.

At the same time, I was selecting the kids that can use the wheelchairs. I only have on criteria – that they can sit with minimal support.  I tried to be strict because there are very few chairs to give to the number of children that needs them.  These are wheelchairs that are fitted and modified to the individual needs of the user.

All that preparation was done remotely. It was easy, I had years of training working in Palestine and Turkey! 

The coordinator Miss Holly gave me the information about the kids she recommended. I selected them based on the photos and passed on to my colleague to confirm.  Once we had the list, we were all set to roll the coming Sunday.

A little sacrifice for a slice of heaven 

Thanks to a friend, I was able to link and communicate with a group of advocates who will do anything and everything for their children with cerebral palsy.  The seven kids we chose are of the mixed type of cerebral palsy, the youngest is a 3-year old, and the oldest was a 7-year old, all non-verbal and comes with their unique temperament.

The group is called CPCARES.Ph, a newly minted NGO composed of mostly mothers who met each other in hospitals and rehabilitation centers where they get treatments. They decided to bond together and exchange information on how to support their children and each other and eventually get support like the wheelchair-for-kids I was offering.

The chair has to go, it’s long overdue 

The wheelchair-for-kids was given to me by a colleague from Rotary (WFK, Inc) in Australia. I collected them in Pampanga in 2014 to give to ten children in San Pedro. But life happens to my colleagues and to me (that’s for another story) that we didn’t get the chance to complete the donation of the chairs. I only gave one, and 9 other was stored between my house and another friends’ backroom until I find the time to give them out.

Then my accident happened this year, and suddenly I found myself with nothing worthwhile to do, I started reconnecting with my disability network. During one of my doctor’s visit, I dropped by one of the social department run orphanages (Elsie’s Gatches) in Alabang and tried to find kids that can benefit the chair, we were able to find only one.  The residents are either too old, too big or the disability is severe they cannot control their movements let alone sit without restraints.

After some time, through the mother of Gab, our very first recipient, she got me in touch with CPCARES.Ph and the rest as we say “is history.”! (Read Gabs’ latest story here)

Rain rain go away come again another day … please!

As the day of the activity approaches, a severe weather situation started happening in the metro including our province. The typhoon #Karding, though far from land was sucking the monsoon bringing in non-stop rain, and it’s putting my plans at risk of getting delayed again. I thought if I cannot give the wheelchairs away this time, I will not be able to do it ever!

I became friendly with the disaster alert, and the worst is yet to happen.

The day before the event, on a Saturday, I attended a creative writing course that puts me in the heart of EDSA, our infamous parking lot. And the day prior, I was with friends, and there was no problem with rain, but anything can change typical for this period, so I was confident the weekend will be good.

When I arrived at the workshop venue, the rain had started. I was not worried it doesn’t seem to be strong, I was wrong. At around 2 in the afternoon of Saturday all the mobile phones in the room gave out a unison fog horn sound announcing that the whole of Metro Manila and nearby provinces are on RED Typhoon Warning – it was not good.  There is more rain dropped than what can be handled by the cities and provinces – the worst flooding was imminent.

I managed to go home later that afternoon, risking walking in the rain and puddles and running after buses because I will have to get ahead of the situation.  Had I delayed even for 10 minutes I would have slept in one of the hotels nearby and not go home for the event. 

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(Photos above are from the internet – it was what I escaped when I decided to hop in the bus to go home).

I was also on high alert. Continually checking the weather report and updating the coordinators.

My colleagues whose coming from the metro contacted me asking if the event is pushing through because people are being evacuated as the night progressed and there was a risk of the dam breaking or one of the big river overflowing if the rain continues overnight threatening more flooding.

All through the night, I was glued to the news telling people that if the situation doesn’t change I will advise postponing no later than 5.30 in the morning of Sunday. I was praying hard before sleeping, praying that when I check the news, I will have good news.

Good news indeed, the sun had shown its face … finally! 

I knew it, the moment I woke up, I know it’s a go. The RED warning was lifted, but it left significant devastation in the whole of the metro, where half of the kids and my colleague was coming from.

With God’s providence, all came, and nobody was affected by the massive flooding even if they lived in the area that was underwater. God really want these kids to get rolling in their new chairs, rain or shine.

One by one they arrived at the venue, and one by one the chairs were assembled. All hands were on deck, anticipating 3-hours each chair including fitting and adjustments, we needed to hustle.

After assembly, each kid was fitted in the chair while adjustments were made by mostly their dads. The moms were busy taking care of their kids until they are needed to sit and fit in the chairs.

Since the venue that was lent to us, thanks to another friend, was indoor we were not affected by the afternoon rain that continued to pour. It was less troublesome than it was the day before, and each one of them brought their own transport I was not worried they cannot go home with their chairs or get the chairs wet.

We finished in good time and was able to give out all the seven chairs without a hitch and immediately they were a hit to the kids and especially to the parents who witnessed the transformation of their child the moment they sat in their new and appropriate Wheelchair-For-Kids.

I think God was happy with what we had accomplished that day that the rain stopped altogether after.

Kalayaan Para Sa Pilipinas (Independence for the Philippines)

Today is the Philippine Independence.

This is the 120th day of independence from the Spanish colonizer. But we were also colonized by Japan and then the American who until now have very strong influence in our lives as a free country.

The Americanism is so engraved in our veins that we reek of anything and everything American even though many of us shouts patriotism. But that is not what ails my country now, we have a new set of colonizer – the Chinese.

Historically, colonizers are countries who invades a free country and claim it as theirs. They impose their own culture and their might if the people try to fight them off. Which is what our heroes did back in the Spanish, Japanese and American time. Our heroes are proud Filipino who knew what is important – our sovereignty.

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Screengrab http://www.google.com

Unfortunately, when you thought that Filipinos had learned from its history, now our supposed leaders had sold our soul to a new colonizer for the price of what?

The rise of populism

time-magazine

We had been fooled during the election campaign of 2015. The president that won promised so many nice things and sold change as the only way for our country to progress and many people who knew any better believed in the power of change. It was no different when an actor became our president he also promised of change especially to the poor, the disenfranchised, the dreamers and later impeached because he doesn’t know how to lead.

We are back in those time but the worst thing is, now the government are supposed to have well-intentioned and intelligent people, we thought are promising politicos that’s why they fooled a lot of people but by now I know they are also trapos (traditional politicians) in the making.

This time we as a country, and its people are bullied by our own government. The rise of populism not only in the Philippines but in other countries with an equally vile government have only one tactic – intimidation!

So yes, change indeed came! Because instead of the old colonizing method, the current government invited the colonizer to our shore. Offering the country like its a worthless nation with worthless people who cannot think and fend for itself.

Yes, the Philippines remains a developing country. We still belong to the third world, but with what’s happening we had gone down to maybe a notch lower — we are becoming a laughable country whose devastated by nature year in, year out and led by a clown.

We fought, we won, but we were sold by the devil to the devil

The contested islands within the water boundaries of the Philippines had been fought and won in the international court of the seas. The Philippines won based on historical data and facts! We were so proud because as a small nation of proud people we won over China. The other ASEAN brothers and sisters congratulated us because our win was also a win for them. We were a beacon of HOPE.

But that hope was easily put off. The current government did not act on that win – they didn’t even try! They let the Chinese encroach on the disputed island claiming we are too weak to protest and we don’t want to incite war. A war that we have no way of winning according to our enlightened leaders. While they say that the Chinese are they are stealing our natural resources and taking the livelihood of the rightful owners of the seas – our fishermen who brave the swells of the seas to find the fishes to feed a nation. They are braver than our government, they are claiming what is theirs! what is ours!

All talks but no actions to protect what is ours, to begin with. Instead, they are protecting their own interest, and still we don’t know what are those — power? wealth? nobody knows outside their inner cult.

We are not giving up

We are fighting back. There are still patriotic Filipinos that remains.

We are afraid that populism will take root in the country and many stupid people will rise to the ladder and lead a dumb country. In fact, it’s already happening — the executive and legislative branch already have jesters for leaders! And anything intelligent is taken out as you have seen in the drama that happened in the judiciary.

It is true when you empower stupid people, people with their own interests in their sleeves, they do not get better they become a strong influencer and claiming more and more minds to corrupt into becoming stupid!

We should not let that happen.

We are intelligent people!

Women this is our time to shine … the misogyny has to stop we should shout back and claim our right to be respected #BabaeAko.

Young people this is your future they are taking ... you should take it back to ensure you will have a future to look forward to. We still look forward to you leading the Philippines to greatness like what Jose Rizal said: “and bata ang pag-asa ng Bayan”.

Parents our values are being attacked as a person, as a family … our forefathers had thought us better, and we should continue to teach our children how to be good people and respect our history and our ancestors. #UpholdFamilyValues

To the new heroes – our overseas Filipino workers … is this why you’re toiling the land other than yours, to give better future for your country? You have the power to influence those left behind to be better human being and reach their potential so you can retire, provided for, and be the happy men and women you deserve to be at a ripe age. #BagongBayani

The Church regardless of denomination … it is being demonized by someone with two faces like the devil. We should not let the darkness envelop us because we are a nation of enlightened people. We were taught well in school and in life that evil doesn’t win over good!

Good people of the Philippines, those who still have their values and morality intact, still have their intelligence to know the difference and are still PATRIOTIC in the true sense of the word, this is our country, we should take it back from the new oppressors, from the new colonizers, from the devil.

Celebrate THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE like we really have it!

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Lupang Hinirang – Philippine National Anthem sung by Joey Ayala

Lupang Hinirang – Philippine National Anthem (Traditional)

Photo and video credit: All photos seen in this post are from http://www.google.com/image

On Becoming A Better Human Being

Yesterday I started sending messages to my friends in the Middle East wishing them “Ramadan Kareem” (which means Have a Generous Ramadan) despite all the sadness we hear in the news of Palestinian women, men and children being killed for wanting to return to their homeland and all the other countries at war now and of people being ostracized and killed for being different.

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
[Quran 2:185]

The faithful continue to believe that all these shall pass and we will see a peaceful world. As Catholic, I also wish the same, and I think others too practicing other religions, wants a world where we can co-exist and enjoy the freedom to express who we are, what we believe and who we want to be.

***

Then I remembered a chapter in the book of the Dalai Lama talking about religion and how it can make us a better person.

We know that most of the crisis and war around the world are fought in the name of religion or the belief that that is what their gods believe they should do and gain their place in their heaven.

But many of us know that the teachings of the different religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism) and other faith practices are towards peace, love, tolerance, acceptance of our differences and in fighting off excessive desires (in wealth and fame). And all of that is inert individual characteristics that we already possess. That is why, if we banded together, we would eventually win the war that is ravaging our world now.

According to the Dalai Lama, we can have philosophical and metaphysical views on religion at the same time live it according to your daily existence. But he also said that although the philosophical views differ and sometimes contradicts each other, in spiritual practice all religions are connected. They all recommend inner transformation of our stream of consciousness which will make us better, more devout people”.

True right? It all boils down to our understanding and accepting that we may have different faith beliefs, but we are similar on a spiritual level. Others may profess it outwardly, but it doesn’t mean they are more faithful than the others. It really depends on how you live it out, on how you’re spirituality makes you a better person for others.

Each one of us may believe in one way and one truth but it doesn’t mean that it is the same for the next person, we should be open to accepting the truth of other traditions even if it goes against our own convictions regardless of its reasons and how it affects others.

We as a person should have our own conviction but we should keep an open mind and be tolerant to those who don’t share them because that makes us different from each other but at the same time similar in a way that we accept each other to be like you — a person living each day trying to be a better person for others.

Postscript:

I am happy to say that all my friends who responded to my messages are all fine together with their families. They want us to remember them in our prayers and to keep up wanting for world PEACE!

Reading suggestion(s):

My Spiritual Autobiography His Hoiness The Dalai Lama

Adjustments to the realities of war and violence

Note: This blog post has been published in https://mydecadelongtravels.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/adjustments-to-the-altered-realities-of-war-and-violence/

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But what if you didn’t die when exposed to the cruelty of the world?

That person ends up disabled changing the dynamics of his or her life and of the lives of the people around them. Especially those closes to him or her whose coping with the change also affects their being starting from their psyche.

I call it the ripple effect as a consequence of trauma.

The impact of disability, which brings change to the person himself is too much. It is life changing, altering everything he worked all his life for. Everything that they know is normal is altered forever. In their mind, more often than not their lives are over, and with that thought, it is often difficult to convince people of the alternatives. That life continues with some accommodations to start over and build a new reality.

Like in any situation of trauma, people with disabilities undergo the process of grief and acceptance. No one can do it alone, help should be available when traumatic events happen in one’s life.

The assurance that “you are not alone” should be there to see the person through the initial shock of the new reality of being alive and of being different.

The difference should be a part when the person learns to accept that it does not change anything more than the appearance. His or her mental health should be considered immediately to allow reality to set in with less dramatic effect on his understanding of his or her new person. Accepting together with him or her would be the closest people in his life because, like rearing children, acceptance of change is a “village.”

Not knowing what is there for him or her, and for them further traumatizes the person’s mind and body that is why it is important that during emergencies, psychological first aid – counseling is available and accessible to all.

Mental health support is for all the people that surround him or her as it will buoy them over to the new reality of their lives and prepare for their environment. This is accompanying immediate medical and physical support to get the person back on his or her feet and start to follow the process until a new life, an accepted reality is reached empowering the person himself and those around him into continue living because at least that they can do something about it.

No one support is more important – be it physical, medical or mental health support. We have to look at the person and acknowledge that what s/he needs is a holistic approach to allow full and complete recovery.  And continue to be part of the environment with the support of the people around them, equally able to adjust to the new life brought on by senseless war and violence in our world.

#NoMoreWar

Signs of Times: A Summary of My Two Decades of Experience in International Development

The world has changed since I set out to conquer it two decades ago. Progress has reached most of the countries I worked with and new challenges had risen overriding perineal problems of poverty, accessibility to basic services, human trafficking, joblessness. With the rise of populism, strongman syndrome, and complete disregard of humanity in war-stricken countries (Syria and Yemen) and man-made disasters (Plight of the Rohingya) that targets us humanitarian workers and civilians especially women and children.

We still have a lot of things to do.

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Screengrab (Link embedded in the photo)

Many airports have improved from the list of countries I visited, it was my sign of progress. I used to experience eating “fish and chips” for breakfast in a 1-hour flight in Cambodia flown by Russian pilot I was having smashing drinks the night before. Or travel 12 hours by road in the pot-riddled hi-way going to the north and only after 4 years, public buses started to ply the paved road and the 12 hours going to Siem Reap reduced to 4 hours if the driver doesn’t decide to sleep before continuing.

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Screengrabbed: Google Image

I had the exposure to life and situations I wouldn’t have known if I stayed working in the hospital in the Philippines even if the people I am helping are those that would rather buy food than to go to hospitals to seek medical attention.

I worked for a long time in the disability sector. My training in school didn’t prepare me for the training I learned in the field. I learned how disability is created and become part of the big and dynamic disability movement advocating for the rights of the vulnerable and the marginalized including people with disabilities. I was immersed in the sector when the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities was launched in 2006, a significant treaty that made history – it being signed by over 100 countries when it was launched in March of that year. Many laws and treaties followed, and new goals were designed to continue to support the most marginalized sector in the global society.

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Screengrab (Link embedded in the photo)

I trained a lot of people. I told my friends I teach in classrooms with no walls. In return I learned a lot from them too, I become self-conscious that I am just one tiny person in the vast world of issues that matter.

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Community Training in Bo, Sierra Leone (Dhidhak Collection)

The problem doesn’t get solved. There are still countries willing to fund wars and fund terrorist and pretend to do actions against them. I was in France when the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and the year after the issues of cluster bombs was discussed in Paris, and the Convention on Cluster Munition was launched much later. The organization I worked the longest (www.hi.org) actively advocated on banning the use of landmines and cluster munition during a war. Sad to say, some countries producing them won’t agree to stop because there is no livelihood alternative for them (Billions $ invested in producers of globally banned cluster bombs) to do. But what is sadder is the collateral lives affected by the use of cluster bombs and landmines … especially children (The human impact of cluster munitions) long after wars has ended.

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Signage like this are found all around Cambodia (Dhidhak Collection)

I was exposed to the consequences of war. I lived in the biggest outdoor prison called Gaza Strip while I enjoy the perks of drinking alcohol in the land stolen from them by their oppressor across the border. I also lived in the most reclusive country in the world that is already opening up (latest news: North Korea changes its time zone to match South). But they are not comparable.

I got stopped at checkpoints and lied to get my way out of a bind. I escaped narrow death coming down slippery slopes in places where the road is an imagination. My drivers are my best friends in all my mission, including taxi drivers.

I lived with people who otherwise I will not encounter in my life. I worked with a lot of French people but never learned the language but adapted their accent for better understanding. I sometimes return back to the American accent I am always mistaken to have, but I guess that’s just my Filipino accent muddled with all the language I have stored in my head.

I tried to impose self-gag because sometimes it is the right thing to do. My actions, my words and maybe my thoughts (out loud) can have consequences. You never know but what I do know is that Big Brother is always watching.

Join me as I continue to be an active observer in this crazy world of ours and try to be chill with it accepting that we live in an imperfect world.

The late Joy Irving, my first mentor as community worker and educator told me “we cannot change the world all at the same time but we can make a difference alone one brick at a time”

And that is what I am doing. I will continue to stack my bricks to create the foundation to support all that I and like-minded people want to achieve in our lifetime.

Harry Styles – Sign of the Times (Audio)

I Am My Own Pearl

Have you heard this quote before?

The quote made a mark in my life, especially when I decided to venture outside of the Philippines and pursue a life different from what I imagine for me.

It was the very words said to me by my very dear friend – Lolo Etoy. He’s been dead for ten years, since November 2008, but I am very sure he lived a long, fun-filled, fulfilled life for 97 years.

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The late Hector del Rosario and I met during my UHF and VHF hobbyist days back in the early 90’s.

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Lolo Etoy with white hair was being presented a plaque by another friend – Rey

It was my brother who introduced the radio to me, it being part of his equipment as a radio technician back in the days. But it was my being talkative that brought me to the radio world and their frequencies, and I was schooled on the proper use of the very high-frequency radio. Eventually, I became part of their group and joined in social and emergency activities. That was the pre-cell phone and social media days!

When I decided to accept the job being offered to work in Cambodia, he was one of the first people I mentioned it to. That’s how much respect I had for him that I considered him one of my life’s mentor.

The week before I left, Lolo Etoy shared the pearl quote.

“The world is the oyster, you are the pearl”

That was in the year 2000, my first time to travel outside of the Philippines. He told me that “working overseas would not be easy”, and it was not. He also said that “only experience will teach me to find out who am I and discover my potentials”. And I “should always be the better version of me”.

I realized over the years, that I was given pieces of advice that were full of wisdom before I even knew it. I valued all his advice including those about savings and living a frugal life but it was hard to follow and live up to it sometimes.

Until the time he passed away he was still working. He still goes to work and visits different institutions his foundation run every day even if he doesn’t need to. Without a doubt, he died a wealthy man, leaving behind more than money, he left a legacy.

They were one of the first family to give quality funeral services to the Filipino and over the years, they diversified to include schools and hospitals.

Every time we met when I return home for breaks, I get picked up by his chauffeur – Mang Romy, and we always dine in a five-star restaurant. For a young woman, earning just enough, it was very fancy but he always reminds me that he can enjoy it because he had worked hard for it. And told me I can enjoy it too someday.

He doesn’t look the part of being a wealthy man but every place we go and every people we meet knew who he was and was appropriated the respect his stature and his person deserved.

He showed me how to enjoy life and how to accept myself. He showed me that with perseverance you can achieve what you put your heart and mind into. He showed me that everybody can be good if given the chance.

He was one of the few people that left a mark in my life and will remain in my heart.

Falling in the Cracks

I thought I could resist.

Falling through the cracks.

But the loneliness,

The boredom,

Is getting to me.

I may look fine on the outside,

But inside I struggle

To fend off this feeling

Because I know I am better than this,

But I still am falling

In the trap.

I will continue to fight it off

It is not what defines me.

Thinking that one day

I am back to my old self

Once I crawl back out of the cracks.

Daily Prompt: Thwart