PWDs hold first ‘Freedom Walk’ in QC Circle
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) want their independence, too.
In an inspiring show of force at the Quezon City Memorial Circle early Saturday morning, hundreds of PWDs and more than a dozen PWD support groups held the first Freedom Walk, an awareness campaign and fundraising activity in time for Independence Day today.
“This has symbolic significance. I think we do not yet feel full freedom because of obstacles to our development as a sector. We want freedom especially from what ties us down, what blinds us, from those who cannot hear us, from discrimination, being seen as second-class citizens, from our government not giving high priority to PWD programs,” said retired Navy Capt. Oscar Taleon, president of Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAPPinoy), in a speech.
AKAPPinoy is a multisector federation of PWD groups.
As participants set off at around 7:30 a.m. from the Liwasang Aurora at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, the disabled—wheelchair-bound, deaf, mute, blind, autistic—assisted by supporters, proudly bore banners, waved Philippine flaglets, and smiled at and greeted the early morning parkgoers.
The Freedom Walk went around the 2-kilometer bike trail at the park. The PWDs were able to complete the round in about an hour.
Most of the participants came from cities in Metro Manila and from nearby provinces like Cavite and Batangas.
Only nondisabled supporters were asked to pay the P200-P300 registration fee. But the PWDs, who composed around 80 percent of the particpants, joined the walk for free, overall event chairman Emer Rojas said.
But more than the fundraising, he underscored the importance of raising awareness for PWDs. “Most of PWD rights are not given recognition, so PWDs cannot contribute as much to society. We want people to be aware that PWDs are here and are capable to help in nation-building,” he pointed out.
Rojas, who survived throat cancer, now speaks through an electropharynx, a small buzzing gadget that when held to a speaking throat amplifies the sound, producing an electronic-sounding voice. Instead of letting the cancer impede him, he has made an advocacy of surviving it by being the Global Cancer Ambassador and president of New Vois Association.
He was delighted with the PWD turnout and expressed hopes the activity could be repeated next year, and in other areas in the country.
Also taking part in the walk was activist-priest Fr. Robert Reyes, former Isabela governor and PWD rights champion Grace Padaca, Quezon City councilor and actor Alfred Vargas, and online celebrity Mae Paner or “Juana Change,” among others.
Padaca called for “strength in unity” through logistical obstacles. “Doing [the Freedom Walk] even if we are disabled means, if we can do it physically, we can fight for our rights,” she urged the PWD participants.
She warned that there are those who are also “disabled” by selfishness and laziness. “Let’s not add that to our disabilities,” she appealed.
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