From Challenges to Courage, From Struggles to Strength, From Worries to Worship
by Ma. Bless Salvador Adriano
This pandemic indeed brought a huge change in our lives. We have even labelled it as the “new normal” because everything is no longer happening as they used to. Please allow me to read back a few pages of my life before all these came about.
I can still remember how the atmosphere suddenly became festive as I shared the good news to my family that I qualified as a scholar. I was ecstatic for being able to fulfill my promise to them and to myself that I would do my best to maintain good grades. In a moment though, my faith about finishing my degree was tested.
In my months in college, it was never hidden to me how my family worked together in order to meet my financial needs. Even if they never complained, I could feel their struggles in sacrificing their wants and needs just to give me enough. It was truly difficult seeing other people sacrifice for me, so I told them that I was willing to transfer to a public school to lessen the financial burden for the next school year in case I would not qualify for the scholarship grant for which I was then applying. I also prayed hard and lifted everything to God saying that if pursuing this course was really in accordance to His will, nothing was impossible. That email I received last May 2019 served as God’s clear response that I did not have to be weary anymore, and that all I had to do was trust Him. It felt like a thorn was removed from my flesh, it was the only way to lessen the burden of my loved ones and my fear of stopping in my studies.
As the semester continued, being a recipient of a scholarship was a seesaw between privilege and pressure. It is a privilege because to study in an expensive school, which compensates through the excellent education it offers, without pay is indeed such a blessing. To those with sincerest of hearts to pioneer and continuously execute this program, I cannot thank God enough for all of you as you served and serve as His instruments for people like me to succeed. On the other hand, of course, there is pressure. It is just right to treasure this privilege with the sense of responsibility by striving to prove that those granted with it deserve it.
One unforgettable challenge I faced last academic year happened in my Biochemistry and Human Anatomy and Physiology subjects. For a totally blind student like me, such subjects, which require visual understanding, are very challenging unless there are available, accessible and accommodating study materials. Unfortunately, here in our country, even though the primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions are already implementing “inclusive education”, there are still no standardized ways on how to practice it.
One way of implementing inclusive education is through the “no rejection policy,” which is the rule that educational institutions cannot decline anyone with disability from enrolling and studying alongside regular students. Sadly, aside from this, there are no protocols about any formal training, seminar, or workshop for any teacher who handles these students with disability. As a result, the learning process becomes more challenging to both the educators and the students themselves.
In order to overcome this challenge, I started an advocacy. Whenever I notice that my professors find it hard to handle me, I try to speak with them and collaborate with the alternative ways on how we can do teaching and learning. I am just truly grateful that most of them are compassionate enough to listen and reach out to fill in the gaps. I also have classmates who were very willing to give any help they can offer. As a result, our teamwork became very fruitful and by God’s grace, I was able to maintain my status as a Dean’s Lister.
These personal experiences were also the reason why I never stopped finding ways to spread awareness on a more inclusive environment. Of course, it all begins within one’s self. Thankfully, the Resources for the Blind Inc. Philippines, a non-profit non-government organization continues to conduct trainings, seminars, and workshops towards reaching this goal. Last November 8-10, 2019, I participated in their Soft Skills training, which focused on helping us develop our personality whether in school, work, or in our daily interactions. It was participated by visually-impaired individuals from different regions. Another was the Youth as Advocates Philippines Conference, which was participated by visually-impaired youth leaders from different parts of the country. I was so blessed to be with those young minds in pioneering an organization that aims to address the first-hand challenges faced by visually-impaired persons like us. Being a Psychology student, I was assigned to the sector concerning family and community and tackled challenges specific to it. Whenever there are opportunities like this, I do not want to miss the chance to participate in building a network of change-makers.
Aside from my subjects, another challenge I face is my finances. Though I don’t have to worry about my school fees, I still have other expenses like my medicinal maintenance for my Systemic Lupus, the room that I rent, the daily food and fare allowance for me and my personal guide, as well as the monthly salary for my personal guide who accompanies me in my house and in accomplishing school activities. As of now, it is only my sister, who is an accountant, who provides for all these. In order to help her, I try selling native food products in school. Whenever I go home to Bulacan, I gather orders from my classmates and professors. When I go back to the city, I deliver the goods and collect payment. The first people who ordered from me loved these products and the number of customers increased within just a few months. As a result, I already have enough for all of my expenses and even save for some assistive devices that I am planning to purchase, which can help me in my studies.
One time, on a three-hour bus ride from the city to our province, I had a chance to talk with a stranger sitting beside me. He was amazed upon learning I am blind since it is not noticeable in the way I faced him and the fact that I travel alone. In our conversation, he said he is so amazed by people like us who persevere despite our disability. In response, I honestly told him that it is not really that easy. Everyday is a challenge that one has to surpass. Being a visually-impaired person is only a part of our being, and we are not exempted from problems other people face. The only reason why I am able to push through, aside from the strength that God gives me, is the unending support that people surrounding me never cease pouring. And every time someone believes in what I am capable of despite of my disability, it boosts me and reminds me to also believe in myself. If not for these things, maybe I would have succumbed to my suicidal thoughts, which once engulfed me during the time I lost my sight. And, it would be impossible for me to sit beside him at that moment and inspire him with what I’ve been through.
In my 22 years of existence, I can say that more than half of it was filled with countless challenges of many kinds. My sudden blindness, health issues, which almost caused me to stop studying, my financial struggles, and all the emotions those experiences brought me. It has never been an easy journey. But one thing I’ve got from all these is that there is Someone who is in control of everything. When we no longer know what to do, when everything surrounding us seems out of what we desire, when everything is not right, we have a God who can turn mourning into dancing. The sorrows may come at night, but joy will always be there in the morning. It might be difficult to see joy in the midst of the uncertainties brought by COVID-19, but trust me, it is all a matter of faith.
Let me end with a portion of the lyrics of one of the songs that give me strength.
“God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
TRUST HIS HEART”
About the author: Ma. Bless Salvador Adriano is an incoming third year BS Psychology student who is a consistent Dean’s Lister and recipient of Scranton Women’s Scholarship.