An Appeal for Help

There is this little girl in my neighborhood that was born without an esophagus. She’s fed via a PEG directly to her stomach by a diet meant to let her gain weight and be healthier. Her neck has a hole to help with breathing and speaking.

She’s seven years old and in grade one. She’s always teased and felt deprived of the food she sees in people’s table and the stores. But in spite of she’s a lovely and lively little girl.

I sought help from friends on how to help her until I landed support from a local television to showcase her story and let people know about her condition and eventually appeal for help. The local charity office funded by lottery gains acknowledged her situation and offered to foot the bill for the initial hospitalization and surgery to reverse her condition (called Esophageal Atresia). But the family will have to raise funds to support costs for medicines and other needs during hospitalization and recovery.

The surgery was successful, but she’s still in ICU and battling complications of bacterial infections and fluid in her lungs. The doctors are doing their best, and now she’s stable and hopefully recover fully.

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I appeal for two things, first to think of this girl Sharie and include her in your prayers or utter a short prayer of healing and second, for your money. I am not asking a lot, though; any amount will help but we are raising close to $900 per set of medicine, and I don’t know how much more sets she needs to recover fully. 

I hope I can count on you …

To find out more about her story and update on her conditions and on how to donate, please visit Sharie’s Operation Fund page.

You can also watch the video of her appeal (in Tagalog) here 

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7

Indifference

“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” Tim Burton

That is very much the situation in my country now.

Before I left home again in 2015, I made some mental conclusion that the childhood place we grew up and spent summer as a child was gone. With it was replaced by destitute image of mediocre life lived by people with either no dream or no opportunity to dream.

People had grown indifferent to the ills of the society, in this case, drugs.

I grew up knowing the lords in our village, they have a name – a name that was spoken openly and sort of like revered because the name equates to beautiful life that many people admire. Regardless of where the money came from, all they see are the beautiful houses, big cards and free flow of cash.

The easy life imagery is what makes many get into the business selling and getting hooked – one cannot be one without being the other.

One has to try their goods, and before they knew it, they are also both dealing and using at the same time. The line in between became blurred making the person crave for more – more money means more buyer, more buyer means more income to support the addiction and the cycle goes round and round, until it’s too late to put a stop to it.

I remember back in the days; I had a boyfriend who told me his story of addiction.

Chiolo (an alias) said being the eldest in the sibling of 3 boys, he has to look after his brothers because their parents both died of cancer when they were young and was raised by their grandmother. They inherited sizable amount and big beautiful old house in the old city. They were considered bratty middle class kids.

Raising three rowdy boys, the grandmother was very considerate. Letting them roam around and meet all kinds of people, bringing friends over and living THE life of teenagers. Chiolo said they are all A students, bright kids but experimental and with that started his brothers addiction to methamphetamine (street name: shabu) drugs. He didn’t know at first until he saw changes in his brother’s attitude and grades in school are all spiraling downwards.

Feeling responsible he told himself he’ll figure out what made his brothers addicted to “shabu” and got introduced to the same friends and eventually to the same drugs. Before he knew it him too was snorting them up his nose and getting the high like his other siblings. Throwing away their inheritance and ignoring the wisdom imparted by their grandmother. 

When I met him, he was the habit, although I knew about it and was even warned by his friend dealer trying to protect me I went along the relationship. He even had a kid from a woman who jammed with his addiction, but at that time the mom was nowhere to be found. I was young and naive but not without values. 

I introduced a more polished Chiolo to my family. Making sure he’s on his best behavior in our house, around my family and friends and he struggled. Having been hooked for years, having no fix anytime he wants was difficult – he was difficult. When he’s at home all he do was stay in the room and sleep, his skin developed bad case of acne and he was always sweating – he was undergoing withdrawal unintentionally (but actually being together almost all the time sort of like kicked start the process). 

I showed him the good side of life – having good time without so much spending 10K to get high or to eat proper meals at the right time of the day. Having family time and structure which he and his brother didn’t have when their parents passed away. He saw that fun doesn’t have to be expensive and you can get high without even using drugs. 

But our story does not have a happy ending.

The pressure from friends and the mother of his child were stronger than the bond we had created in a short time we were together. Chiolo disappeared and was taken back by the system that eventually destroyed him and his brothers.

That made me realize that addiction and getting out of it is a personal choice. A choice no one can take for you.

But that realization is not known to many in my village. Their reality is money and drugs – I need to sell to get money to buy me my addiction! Not caring if they destroy other people in the process.

Now with the new administration hell bent on killing drug pushers and user (only) – I say only because if you’re the “drug lord” you get an invitation to meet the president to get a slap on the wrist while a destitute member of the club gets a bullet in the head, they forgot the most important element in the fight against drugs – an appeal to the self, to the humanity of the addict themselves. 

Easier said than done, I know, so I believe we need to appeal first to the compassion of the government – that life is more important to preserve in spite of who own it or how it is lived.

When that happens, the measure of success would be a different reality to the craziness we have now in the Philippines.

It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.

                                                                                                            ~ Albert Camus

Date with Time

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Dad in VSU high school building Baybay Leyte, Philippines

Dad went back to visit his elementary and high school in his hometown – Baybay, Leyte. He graduated in the early 50’s and moved to the capital city of Manila by mid 60’s where he started a new life with us in it.

When I arrived from my last work related trip, we received news that his older brother passed away, at the prime age of 90, a good time to rest. Dad is 82, one of the 4 remaining siblings and the trip we had last November was a good time to go back and have a date with time — the time he left behind.

 

Interpreting Lent In My Life

Kept telling myself I will try to keep up with the times and update my blog while at the same time looking back at the good memories few decades back and writing about it.

Was I able to accomplish that?

Well not really but I did find the time to go through the life I had way way back, when I turned my room upside down trying to find more space for the stuff I recently accumulated. Spring cleaning came early in my room even though we don’t have spring weather here literally 🙂

You imagine the surprised looks I received from my family when I asked for cleaning materials — they asked if I am sick because I said I will clean my room. Actually my family attributes my desire to clean only when I am sick because it rarely happens. They let me.

I had blasts from the past during that week.  I am never good at cleaning, at putting back what I took the same way I took it. That’s why I can never be a thief, I am noisy and I am forgetful how the place look like before I started moving things around — not that I have plans to be one in the future, but I had a good time with my accomplishments that week.

What I found in my cupboard …

Anyway, as I go through the tasks at hand I found in the deep recesses of my cupboard box full of computer discs and readers I had during the first part of Y2K. I forgot all about those and I have no opportunity to see what I had kept in those discs, so I guess that would be a mystery left to be discovered by e-wall.

Then I found all my university and early travel photos – printed in 3R and 5R sizes. Raking my brain to remember all the names of the people in each photo while a smile was plastered on my face all the time. I am one of those people who is good in remembering images like faces and good at reading maps so I don’t forget places but I am very bad with names.

Did you experience riding in a public transport or walking in busy streets or mall and someone called you and started talking to you about your history together and you just kept on smiling and uttering “uh-u” but trying hard to remember who the person is in front of you? 

Read More

My Country’s Love Affair with Super Typhoon

Do you know the Philippines?

We are an archipelago north of the equator and part of the Asia continent. We are composed of 7,101 islands and we hit the 100M population middle of this year and that baby will be supported for life according to the government – a reminder that we are on the way to starting from 1 again – 1 million 1, 1 million 2, 1 million 3 …

We are a country colonized by Spain for over 300 years and gained our independence in 1898 so we are a free country for over 100 years, 116 to be exact but we have to fight off the Japs and the Joes during WWII. We have presidential form of government and boast to be a democratic country but was in dictatorship for over 20 years and Martial law for the early part of it

My countrymen, as of the twenty-first of this month, I signed Proclamation № 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law… President Ferdinand Marcos September 21, 1972

We are known for nice beaches, friendly people and corrupt government. We speak English as second language (first for some) but only if you live in the city and working in BPO industry, we have over 100 languages and dialect so you can have choices but generally everybody can carry a conversation even in the remotest part of the country.

http://www.kiwicollection.com Boracay Beach Resort – Philippines

We are a proud country. We take pride in our achievements and take offence at the slightest mention of the realities in the social media. We are admired by the world for our great talents in singing, hospitality and resilience in times of natural calamities.

Yes, natural calamities are part and parcel of the Philippines. There is not a year where we are not visited by typhoon and we are not just talking about rain … what I mean is RAIN that causes all spaces filled with water and more.

Of the 36 alphabets, the Philippines sometimes uses all of them to name all the storms, typhoons, cyclones that visit the country. We average 20 per year and like  1 or 2 will become massive, gathering speed and strength in the sea and dump it on land wrecking havoc no Miley Cyrus can sing off.

Category 5 typhoon that hit the country November 8, 2013

Floods, landslides and tunnel winds are normal during typhoon season and even with slight rain the metro gets flooded because of poor urban planning and people’s lack of respect for cleanliness – garbage all around.

As I write, the country is taking a beating from the current typhoon that is hitting the country #RubyPH with international name #Hagupit (which means lashing in Tagalog) – less than #Yolanda but equally devastating with speed of 195kph and gustiness of 230kph entering the country last Thursday and Monday traveling westward had reduced to 160/195kph. That is the strength we are anticipating where I live. The typhoon is moving slow at 16 km/h means that the more time it stays in the country more rains will be dumped and more landslide and flooding expected before it leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).

Historically the country had survived many of these calamities and not discounting the earthquakes that almost flattened the north of the Philippines in 1991 and recently the islands of Cebu and Bohol in 2013 and volcanic eruptions of Mr. Pinatubo in 1990 and Mt. Mayon whose acting up at present.

Just to illustrate, we have list of Typhoon andTropical Storms per year categorized according to the number of fatalities or the cost of devastation. There are also list according to Categories and of course the higher the ranking the more problems they are for the seven thousand one hundred one island of the Philippines.

Here’s my top 9 based on what I can find in the net #Ruby will be added to the list after it leaves the country …  Read More

Show Me the Money: An observation on how funds should be used for the people of San Pedro

I am home for a year now. I have made friends with the local NGO of people with disabilities. I got acquainted with the city hall and have seen how the local government works.

I’ve worked in different countries strengthening local NGO, conducting disability awareness, developing community programs, teaching, dealing with government ministries and lobbying for the rights of people with disabilities. When I do all that, small wins are celebrated big time. Like when the able bodied football players compete against a team of people with disabilities using crutches and other leg devices in Sierra Leone or the signing of the first ever National Disability Policy in Timor Leste and let me not forget the bridging of Singapore and Cambodia PT Association therefore giving Cambodian PT opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills in rehabilitation and upgrading them to bachelors degree.

There are more … the first graduates of the CBR diploma 1 course for community workers and more than half of the participants are people with disabilities themselves, improvement of service records of regional rehabilitation centre, the creation of the wheelchair basketball team and using it to be an awareness campaign tools for the community to understand more about disability and their abilities in sports and recreation. The creation of national DPO and continuous training of local leaders. All that are small wins and all of that are always done in collaboration with the PWD themselves.

I am happy to be part of those development, but those are from other countries. I like to be part of the developments in my country, I know that there are already many players in the sector and there are many empowered individuals leading changes in the sector but there’s none in my city.

All I heard when I started collaborating with the people in my city, all they can tell me are problems after problems and when asked for solutions they have many too but they cannot do anything to change their situation because they don’t have MONEY. The local organization is dependent on what dole out they can get from people and from the local government even though they are in operation for over 9 years, they still have to show changes in the lives of their members. They have very minimal proof of change and often changes are not sustained. The LGU does not help unless they follow what the LGU wants not what they want.

I partially grew up in San Pedro, now a city, but in my younger days it’s a farm land for Sampaguita flowers – the national flower of the Philippines. My city is not far from the capital city of Manila where I was born, bred and educated and every summer we would go to San Pedro and enjoy fresh air and rural life with my grandfather when houses can be counted in my hand. My parents decided to retire here and gave up the house in the city, it has become too crowded for them and they needed the space to grow their flowers. Now every time I go home, even with my own house, I stay here in San Pedro, in my old room above my parents. Life remains simple in our household but San Pedro has changed into a chaotic semi city with too many people, new people, traffic and garbage.

The Sampaguita flowers are now imported from other provinces even though the city still celebrates it as a symbol of the city next St. Peter’s rooster. The old city hall is now abandoned for a much bigger monstrosities that still gives mediocre government services. Transport services proliferate but you still have to cue to get a ride to home 4 kilometers from the town. My city looks poor and overcrowded and I wonder why.

  • It is relocation city then and now – those removed from the city as informal settlers are dumped in San Pedro and those that are affected by flood in the plane are moved up to the hills
  • The leaders of San Pedro are recycled families – if it’s not the husband running for office it’s the wife and soon I heard would be the children; if one family finished their term another political dynasty will take over and the cycle repeats; and in spite of reports of corruptions people are not deterred they still vote for the familiar names
  • The public servants are still slow to react – however old I get I still see the same kind of government services all over – mediocre and people never grew compassion towards their beneficiaries; I worked in government hospitals and I know pencil pushers are like that and most of them by now had grown roots in their chairs it’s hard to teach them compassion and new tricks J
  • Corruption has become a past time for many including jeepney barkers – it has become so common that even ordinary people are doing their own fix to get extra money in the pocket and imagine the bigger fish with longer hand, with wider and tighter grips
  • The poor becomes poorer – in my village alone people rely so much on lending projects run by NGO or from private individuals giving loan for a higher interest; there’s proliferation of lending shop and pawnshop which is a sign that people are dependent so much on credit and debt
  • The rich becomes richer but they are not investing in San Pedro – there are not so many big private investments in the city that can create jobs for the people of San Pedro
  • Subdivisions and other private enclaves replaced the farmlands around San Pedro and Laguna province and low cost housing makes rich people richer while regular workers’ pay their mortgage via banks or government run investment institution (Pag-Ibig) for 10 – 25 years.
  • The disabled sector remains the same – no development except their numbers – the population of the country is getting old and lifestyle has changed tremendously that more and more are getting sick but the health support and the cost of living to avail of basic services are getting more and more expensive; what’s being done to augment these problems? I don’t know …

I don’t want to sound very negative and don’t want to paint a picture so grim I am sounding very bitter. But actually I am – bitter and sad. Read More

“My Disability is Not an Obstacle” : An Interview with Myra Musico – Focal Person for Disability Affairs in San Pedro City

When I was contemplating about what to write I decided I would write about real people. Meaning, people I know, knew, met and will meet and try to tell their story that celebrate them and their cause or what they represent.

For this first venture I will introduce you to Myra Musico, a young woman in wheelchair advocating for the rights of people with disability.

Myra MusicoWe met in August this year when I started looking for someone to help me understand the current situation of disability in my hometown. After several phone calls and FB messages with friends I met Myra and I was easily accommodated in her busy schedule as the Focal Person for PWD* in the city hall and after that first meeting we became good friends.

I met a lot of people in my long experience of traveling and working in the disability sector and I am always happy to meet those that really show the real meaning of “being one with the people” not only because they have disability but they overcome their limitations to become shining examples to others and dream big not only for themselves but for the disability community.

D: (Phone interview) Good afternoon Myra, I have several questions I like to ask you and after I will post this conversation online in my WordlPulse journal and maybe my personal blog. Are you okay to go along with me?

Myra: I am fine as long as you don’t ask me about mathematics. 

D: Thank you. 

D: Can you please tell us how is your everyday routine? 

Myra: Everyday I go to work in the city hall. A tricycle picks me and brings me to work and pick me up in the afternoon back in my house.  My driver is our neighbor he assist me to get in and out of the cab and put me in my wheelchair and wheel me to my office. He knows how to fold and open my chair, very helpful.

At home, though living with relatives, I take care of everything I need including preparing my food. My parents are living with my other sister to help take care of their grandchildren. I am single by the way. 

On weekends I became just a regular person that my friends picks up to hang out or attend to meetings and visit other people with disability and sometimes government officials unofficially advocating for support for the people in need. 

D: In your current situation, how is it to be a woman with disability?

Myra: The easy part is that I get noticed now after working in the city hall for over 2 years now but it’s still  difficult to get pass the stigma that because I am disabled and I am a woman I cannot do more or not able to share good ideas. People you expect to help or know the situation of disability are often the people who look down on you – I mean, they often make decision for PWD without consulting us (them) assuming that its fine and expect us to just accept their plans. It’s hard to be working in a politicized institution, you always have to an allegiance like my life and work depends on it. 

Though over the years I’ve made good friends both public and private individuals that understand the plight of the PWD and are very approachable when asked for help. For example we need transport to attend meetings or some people I met in the villages need wheelchair they get out of their way to help and I attribute that to my having good relationship with them. 

But we also know that PWD cannot just depend on dole out or free help, we have to do something for ourselves by ourselves to be taken seriously and I am trying very hard to make that happen with the group of persons with disability and volunteers. If we are given a chance to prove ourselves, I think we can, someone just have to believe in our capabilities.  Read More