No crawling to class anymoreBy Julie Alipala
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Two things would immediately attract your attention when you see Roque Tapales, a 20-year-old student of Zamboanga City High School.
First, he goes to class in a modified wheelchair that he pedals using his hands. Second, he always arrives in class with his uniform dirty after crawling from where he parks his wheelchair to his classroom.
He was born without limbs but with what could be the strongest resolve yet seen in a student to finish school.
At the opening of the current school year on June 24, one thing changed for Tapales.
He still went to school in his wheelchair but didn’t have to crawl to his room anymore.
He received prosthetic legs donated by Tzu Chi Foundation.
Dr. Anton Lim, of the foundation, said Tapales’ limbs failed to develop normally after he was born.
“His fingers were not developed, including his legs. He has no right eye,” said Lim.
What drew the foundation to the young man was not pity. It was the visible determination of Tapales not to give up on life despite his condition.
Tapales admitted he sometimes thought of quitting school, recalling how he had to pad his elbows with slippers as he crawled his way to class.
He didn’t mind being taunted. “They called me names, such as turtle, but I tried to show them that I am good in academics,” he said. “Gradually, I earned their respect,” he said.
Tapales also had to deal with parents who could not live together. He stays one day with his mother and the next day with his father.
Members of the Tzu Chi Foundation one day saw him crawling on the Ma. Clara Lobregat Highway on his way to school.
The foundation first gave him a wheelchair which his father remodeled so Tapales could use his hands to pedal it.
“He installed a pedal and brake lever on top so I can use my hands to make my trip to school a bit faster,” Tapales said.
His perseverance paid off when he graduated from elementary school with honors.
Tapales said he nearly lost interest in education “when I had a crush and the girl ignored me because of my physical appearance.”
He said he envied normal teenagers. “How I wished I had their arms, their legs and their eyes,” he said.
With his new artificial legs, however, Tapales started to dream of other things, like being able to dance at his school’s juniors-seniors prom.
“I am ready for more challenges,” Tapales said.
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