Many PWDs, if not all, have been subjects of discrimination and pity. It’s not new if we get discriminated or pitied by people close to us and by those who barely even know us. But what they don’t know is the effect it gives us every time we hear, “baka hindi mo kaya”, “wag ka na lang mag-aral, sayang”, and “hindi ka naman matatanggap sa trabaho eh”. To tell you honestly, we have been psychologically tormented with every word.
I’m Paula and I am a PWD from the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, General Santos City. I was born in a marriage that ended too soon so I lived with my grandparents and relatives in my mother’s side– a blessing that I would always be grateful for.
My parents separated when I was only two years old because my father had drug issues which was only resolved on his deathbed. He was drowned with illegal drugs that was why my grandparents feared for our lives. If he did not die with his illness, he would have died with a gunshot because he was already included in the hitlist. Drugs definitely ruined his life.
His decades of absence somehow did not bother me because his fatherly role was replaced by my loving grandfather, two uncles and my step dad. Yes, my mom remarried because she deserves to be happy and to find her second chance at love and I’m glad she did because she gave me another sister to love.
When I was just a baby, my father brought me to the hospital because I got sick with pneumonia. The nurses had a hard time finding my nerves so they tested needles in different parts of my body just to find the vein that could be injected with the fluids. My dad allowed the nurses to do all the injecting and reinjecting of needles, he trusted the medical practitioners. I was healed from the pneumonia but the worst took place a year later. I was two years old when my uncles noticed that I wasn’t walking like the other toddlers. I looked like I was limping and they noticed that my right arm and feet were smaller than the left extremities. We were told that I had polio but nobody in the family had any idea how and where I got the sickness.
My uncles brought me to therapy so I could walk and write using my left hand. Walking wasn’t easy for me because I had a hard time fitting in my shoes or sandals. It’s difficult for me to lock or secure my feet in my shoes (or the other way around). My physical feature was something I was not confident or proud of, I always get the “judging” or the “pity” looks of people whenever they see me. I’m just blessed that I don’t experience that at home because I am equally loved by my grandparents and uncles and they don’t treat me like I have any condition that was why I lived a normal life during my younger years.
I had fun when we were kids. We lived comfortably because our convenience store family business was doing well. But when I was in second grade, our family experienced the worst financial crisis because our business suffered from bankruptcy. Our whole family had to sell our house and stay in a rental. My sisters and I transferred to the public school. But even though we suffered from the uncertainty of the economy, we remained intact and closer as a family. Our uncle helped us from the rubbles and kept our home afloat. He is a banker and he is the breadwinner in our family and continuously helps us even until now.
If during my elementary days I didn’t have much challenges, high school and college were different. High school was the window to the reality of the world and college was the door that showed me what it is really like when you’re not in the comfort of the people you love.
I was bullied, discriminated, and treated differently. The social standards of beauty and normalcy constantly reminded me of my oddness from the rest of my classmates and friends, and that I am different from all of them. Insecurities slowly piled up a brick after another.
Unknowingly, the bricks of insecurities, caused by the people around me, pushed down my self-esteem and self-confidence. Even when I was in college and after I graduated from my college degree in Entrepreneurship, the treatment of people has weakened my spirit and diminished my aspirations. I would be constantly reminded that I am a PWD and that I can’t do what usual people do. I’m just too fragile or too weak and that I can’t give the output they need.
Their words continually ring in my ears even until now. I lack the self-confidence of accomplishing things and reaching for my dreams. This is why I am still in the process of overcoming my fears and insecurities.
I am not “too fragile” or “too weak” but for years I made them (the people) believe that I was. Day after day, I am trying to throw away the bricks of insecurities because I know better now. I am as able as everyone, even better. I shouldn’t have listened to all the discouragements and criticisms because I would have soared higher today.
But it’s never too late for me to rethink and change my mindset. And I’m sure it’s the same with you. Yes, you who are reading this! We can always learn from the past but we must not be dragged by the failures of it, instead we must learn to move on and move forward, one step at a time.
Paula de Pedro