Tuesday, 26 February 2013

I wanna be ?? when I grow up...

So what you gonna be when you grow up? My father asked me this question when I was still a little girl. In answer to him, I hummed the tune of  "Que Sera, Sera",  What ever will be,  will be". This song was in my head even at that early age.

What I actually wanted was to have a title besides my name. I remember  there were moments that I tried to imagine being a Doctor or a Lawyer.  Then reality came crushing, a doctor?? No, that's not gonna happen ..  too expensive ,  Mama and Papa  can’t afford it besides, my head said, a disabled person could not be a doctor. OK, so how about a lawyer???  Hmm… still expensive and requires lots of years in school.

Diploma in Civil Engineering
I got an Aha!!! moment when I received the letter that I was accepted in the Engineering Technology Department in one of the good schools in Mindanao, Philippines. It was clear then, I want to be an Engineer. Money was a constraint, so I had to take the Diploma of Civil Engineering Technology first because I didn't have to pay tuition fee plus I received a monthly allowance from the school for the entire duration of this 3-year program.

Getting to the Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree was harder than ever financially, because by then my father was already dead due to politics and unrest in the area, where he was farming. It was only my mother who struggled and solely paid for mine and my two siblings' education. But hard work and commitment to my studies finally brought me the title I dreamed for. In 1992, I received my license as a full-pledged Civil Engineer.

During the Oath Taking
In the Philippines, you are fortunate if you get a job that is inline with your education. As for me, it was not part of my plan to work in construction sites - I had bad experience of tripping and stumbling at job site during practicum classes. My plan was to work in an office like those that designed and planned structures or in an office that evaluate plans and designs of structures. I did not achieved this plan  right away. I had  two non-engineering jobs before I finally got the position as a Building Inspector in the Office of the City Building Official in our place.

I was also actively involved in our local disabled organization. The group wanted someone from the disabled sector to be employed in the Building Office,  to monitor and implement the Accessibility Law. This led to my designation as the Accessibility Officer of the Office of the City Building Official, year 1998-2005.

Job Description
Now that I'm living here in Canada,  my  title as an "Engineer" is not recognized anymore. I have to go back to school and take the exam to become a Professional Engineer here. But it was my Engineering degree and work that got me and my family to be accepted as skilled worker immigrant. It also helped me got the job that I have now. 

Through this all, It was the hard work and sacrifices of my parents, specially my Mama who helped and guide me to achieve my plans and dreams. For that, I am thankful to the Lord, my God.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Name calling... names... and terms..

Do you all agree that growing up is exciting and challenging? True, right? But for some, the experience was like in a roller coaster - a ride of highs and lows but sometimes more lows than the norm.
A photo of me seating
in a wheelchair.

When I was a kid, most of my bad moments were because of name callings that other kids did at me. Some kids thought that name calling are fun, others did it because they're bullies and some maybe because they're not happy with me or just maybe did not like me.

I always heard them used the name," Ki-ang" or "Pi-ang", the Filipino Visayan dialect of "Lame or Limping", in Tagalog, " Pilay".  Sure, this was painful. But they were kids and I was a kid. But mind you, there were times also that adults did the same thing. Those were the most hurtful episodes. Yes I did cry a lot, but those moments also made me tougher. 

Now, society tried to use some words to refer people with condition like myself - such as: person with disability,  handicapped, differently abled, or disabled.
I started to use a cane when I
got pregnant for my second
child. In this photo I was three
months pregnant.

To avoid giving offence, the word: disabled is use to describe a person who has a permanent physical condition that limits activities - example: walking and running. The word, handicapped, is referred to both physical and mental disabilities, which is now usually considered offensive.

The term differently abled was used in the 1980s as alternative  of disabled and handicapped, which was supposed to give a more positive message and to avoid discrimination towards people with disabilities. It did not work, however, it has been criticized as too euphemistic and condescending.  
Me and my husband at Port Stanley 

While the word "challenged" - used in compounds like physically challenged or visually challenged, describe disabilities in a more positive way. In the end, accepted term in general use is still "disabled".  In more formal contexts, disabled people are generally described as People with Disabilities. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Polio Touched My Life

How did it started?

My life started in the town of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte in southern part of the island of Mindanao, Philippines. I was 8 months old and almost able to walk on my own, when I became so ill that my parents and doctor struggled to keep me alive. Somehow the doctor got my fever down but then most part of my body was already paralyzed. My devastated parents could not believe that their healthy first born was now immobile from the neck down.

How did I survive?

The virus poliomyelitis was a worldwide epidemic in the 1940's to the 1960's. Polio was also named as an infantile paralysis. This was what happened to me. 

Early morning, most days, my mother would take me to a sandy beach, find a good spot where the sand is warm and bury my body up to the neck believing that the morning sun rays and heat from the sand will awaken weak nerve endings and will make my limbs and arms move again. Along with water therapy and regular massage, my mother's patience, sacrifices and hard work paid off when slowly I was able to move my arms then my right leg. Still the effect of polio did not totally leave my body because my left leg remained so weak, small and deformed.

At that time, there was limited resources and information for parents who were looking for answers to their questions about the disease and how to manage and move on from the effects of polio. Even leading nations like the United States of America and Canada were still on the process of understanding polio and how to fight against this fearsome virus. Third world countries like the Philippines, were doubly challenged on how to deal and treat those that were affected. 

How was I able to walk and be part of the mainstream?
My Papa and Mama had to
carry me before I had my
leg operation as I was
not able to walk yet

At the age of 5 years old, I underwent a major operation at the Cebu Doctor's Hospital. There were two incisions  - one in my left  hip and then in my left knee, both to straighten my left leg so that I can wear a brace. In the early years, my brace was from the hip down to my entire left leg. When the doctor observed that my hip had improved, the brace was adjusted so that it is now from the thigh down to my ankle attached to an orthopedic shoe.

How are Polio survivors now?

People who had polio are living in  different areas of the world. I have migrated to Canada almost 8 years ago. The challenge or ease of living with polio differs for each survivor, depending on the availability of medical care and rehabilitation opportunities; and their family, community and government support.

These days, a lot of information and resources for polio survivors can be access from the internet, books and medical researches and even local and international disability groups. Leading organizations like the Post-Polio Canada that works with peer support groups nationwide to connect polio survivors; and the Post-Polio Health International in the USA dedicate their mission on making polio survivors lives easier and better.