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Favorite Words

Oct. 3rd, 2009 | 11:13 am
location: Wewak City
mood: cheerfulcheerful
music: Sino ang Baliw?

Favorite Words


(Dedicated to my friends Kevin and Nadia)

Where I grew up in the Philippines, second is an adjective that means, well, next to first, say, the first and second commandments. Occasionally, it is a noun as in, a poor second: also, the beyond disputing two minutes and one second. It is very rarely used as a verb (stress at the second syllable: \si-‘känd\), which means to support or assist. The only time it is ever used as a verb is during classroom elections when the motion for nominations is being closed and one voter is apt to rise ceremoniously in declaring, “I second the motion.” I remember one of my childhood friends whose mission in life it was to solemnize that part of the electoral process. She would raise her hand, stand up to her full height, inhale a lungful of air, and with all the pageantry that she could muster, pronounce, “I second the emotion.” Yes, putting unregulated emphasis on the e. I swear that was how she uttered it at the time.

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Wheelchairs and Nation Building

Aug. 11th, 2008 | 07:50 pm
location: Cebu
mood: contentcontent
music: Rainbow Connection

Wheelchairs and Nation Building

One sublime paradox in rehabilitation medicine is the international symbol of access. The symbol depicts a person with disability (PWD) seated on a wheelchair. It is ironic because doctors and therapists have conventionally prescribed wheelchairs as a last resort (walking being the highest ethical goal), recommending hospital-type one-size-fits-all models that usually end up useless at best and unsafe at worst.

The resolution of this irony does not lie in altering the symbol but in improving reality. And the reality encompasses this: Even the best-intentioned rehab practitioners are hard put prescribing safe, functional, and well-fitting wheelchairs simply because in this country hardly anyone manufactures them. The main problem is not the lack of knowledgeable prescribers but the scarcity of the suitable product. 

Reality is further muddled because government has not carried out distribution parameters, leading to indiscriminate donations by otherwise magnanimous organizations who apparently believe any wheelchair is beneficial for any paraplegic. Such misplaced generosity is unwittingly shown on TV when some foundation goes on a charity binge. The footage would feature, say, children with cerebral palsy slouching on wheelchairs four times as wide as their bodies, their heads lower than the armrests, their knees unbent.

Such incongruity contravenes a tenet in wheelchair design: the chair must be as unobtrusive looking as possible. This way, people meeting the PWD for the first time shall notice the rider first, not the wheelchair.

Paraplegics can contribute to the national economy. This has been proved so often it no longer admits of argument. If they could drive wheelchairs appropriate to their size, disability, and environment, many paraplegics can directly contribute by becoming gainfully employed. Some can indirectly contribute by increasing their independence in self-care (eating, dressing, personal hygiene, indoor mobility), courtesy of certain wheelchair accessories such as lap trays, one-hand drive, headrests; thus, allowing their carers to pursue a modest livelihood.

It is specious and condescending to conceive of handicraft as the sole occupation wheelchair riders can be good at. History does not lack for great men and women paraplegics who have made a mark in the arts, politics, sports, the sciences. And yet many NGOS are apt to view wheelchair users as nothing more than potential weavers of rattan, abaca, or bamboo.

Education is the key with which paraplegics can attain their highest potential in their particular inclinations. Paraplegics studying at universities and joining the professions is a slow but continuing process in the Philippines. Thanks to certain legislations, notably the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability and the Accessibility Law. These two laws may inherently lack teeth in the aspect of implementation, but they have definitely whittled down discrimination in schools by leaps and bounds; hence, enabling a growing number of wheelchair riders to obtain college degrees in their fields of interest as well as participate in sports and socialize along the way.

Still, the eradication of discrimination erases only half of the problem. The other half consists of the provision of the appropriate wheelchair itself. For how good is your undiscriminated paraplegic without a proper wheelchair? He shall have remained isolated, and his immobility shall not cease to sap the economic and moral health of the rest of us. 

There are 100,00 Filipinos today who have no wheelchairs. Their chief complaint, in their own words, is not even disability but poverty. Their dilemma is not so much kinesiologic as economic. 

The government remains the biggest potential redeemer of these paraplegics. In addition to imposing regulations on wheelchair production and distribution, it can address the issue of provision. 

The answer is in the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability, which entreats LGUs to make annual allocations for PWD necessities, such as wheelchairs. Some communities are fortunate to have concerned groups and NGOs in their midst who make it their calling to diligently remind their local officials to annually approve this meaningful apportionment. Needless to say, if such vigilance is duplicated in every town and city, more paraplegics can help themselves and their communities. 

Genuine national progress begins with the achievement of individual dignity. For the Filipino paraplegic, it begins with a wheelchair that will set him free.



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Communication Y O Y

Mar. 3rd, 2008 | 11:03 am
location: CDO
music: Magsimula Ka

Communication Y O Y


It’s almost painful to talk about. But not really. In fact, yes, I’m telling you, so it should not be that hurtful. No, I’m not pained, I promise. I am puzzled. I was watching two deaf-mute people, girl and boy, at a pizza restaurant last Valentine’s Day, and they killed me with their super sweet—no, amorous—gesticulations. I studied sign language some years ago, you know, and I could read what the two lovebirds were telling each other right there in the middle of a . . . I can’t remember if the restaurant was full, so maybe I should not say crowd. I hate it when people say crowd when it is not exactly that.

I was engrossed on the two sweethearts: their hands in constant, vigorous, multifarious ejaculations. Yes, ejaculation—almost in its other signification. You see, the woman was actually suggesting what sex positions they’d assume later at the motel. Que horror. There is no hand sign for motel—she had to spell it out. There is a hand sign for every letter in the alphabet. So that was how I learned they were to copulate later in the night.

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Indiana Jones

Oct. 31st, 2007 | 04:46 pm
location: Mindanao
music: Bawal na Gamot

Indiana Jones

Yes, Doc. Flying is my hobby.

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Down with Yahoo Address Books

Aug. 30th, 2007 | 05:54 pm
location: Cagayan de Oro City
mood: curiouscurious
music: Harana

Down with Yahoo Address Books

Once in a while I receive an update on a Yahoo address book: it consists of names of people who went to my high school. I didn’t start that list—oh no, somebody else did. One of the last things I will ever do in this finite life is make a list of people who attended the same high school as I did. I mean, what’s the point of knowing Miss So-and-so graduated thirty-four years earlier than you did? She probably wiped her booger under a different desk, so what’s the point? (Talking of booger, one popular joke in my youth went like, what’s the difference between booger and rice? The stock answer was that people usually put rice on top of the table, while booger was usually placed beneath it. How I would grimace at the narration of this folly.) The only names I shall ever be interested in are those of loonies who sat in the same graduation rites as I did. Naturalmente, such a list is long, with only my multifarious selves printed all over it.

This is true of Everyman.

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Growing Old

Aug. 22nd, 2007 | 05:38 pm
location: Cagayan de Oro City
mood: awake
music: Someone to Watch Over Me

A stolen shot at work, really. An affirmation of my serious side. That's almost funny, you know.

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An Eruption of Wheelpower

Jun. 2nd, 2007 | 12:14 pm

An Eruption of Wheelpower

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One Summer

May. 10th, 2007 | 06:35 pm

Fat with hidden riches: The allure of Tinago Falls

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Portrait of THE Gago

Apr. 26th, 2007 | 06:44 pm

Portrait of THE Gago

Justice secretary Raul Gonzales should stick his finger to the wall socket.

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Seating Therapy

Apr. 13th, 2007 | 04:49 pm
location: Philippines
mood: contemplativecontemplative
music: Love in Any Language

Seating Therapy

I have been honing my craft as a seating therapist for the past seven months. Seating therapy is pretty much a novelty in physical rehabilitation medicine, especially in the Philippines. The wheelchair is a dangerous thing to be on, and our chief mission has been to design seats with accessories that best conform and adapt to a patient’s specific disability, size, lifestyle, goals, and environment.

Most people know only about hospital-type or institutional wheelchairs, which are one-size-fits-all and are, therefore, ill-fitting and inadequate for permanent use. Worse, wheelchairs in third world countries are not prescribed with pressure-relieving cushions, an oversight that can lead to pressure sores in the butt. Pressure sores, of course, are deadly.

Above is Shen, a nine-year-old child in Mindanao born with spinal muscular atrophy. She lives in a cramped and dark room, with a bed that has no mattress. With her new supportive seat, her family can now bring her outside on a whim to breathe the fresh air in the yard, without poor Mama having to carry her in her arms.

The very act of sitting up cleared up Shen’s congested chest. The wheezing stopped, almost like a miracle. Her scoliosis will most likely progress, but I am hoping that the upright, balanced orientation of the trunk, replete with lateral supports, will retard it. In Shen's case the scoliosis is caused by the asymmetric muscle control on the spine, which happens to growing persons with disabilities condemned to a life on bed, their sole interaction only with the ceiling.

There's my countenance, shining with toil. Fitted this kid for an hour in a room that resembled an oven. Man did I sweat. Plus I had to launch into some special education stuff out of the blue. I had a truly wonderful time, though. Sharp kid. Athetoid cerebral palsy cases are smart like that.

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