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Bravo: One-legged ‘cowboy’ in Zamboanga City inspiring hard work

/ 03:57 AM May 06, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY—His constant companion is Bravo, a brown stallion.

Every day, from dawn to dusk, Jerry Saad nurtures crops and pastures cattle on the 2,000-hectare Bernardo Farm in Barangay Ayala here.

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For Saad, an agricultural technologist, it’s just a job. But unknown to him, he has become an inspiration for many in the village, especially because he has only one leg.

To his admirers who see him work every day with ease and dedication, Saad is the “one-legged cowboy” or the “one-legged agriculturist.”

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Roy Climaco, a former accountant at Sycip, Gorres, Velayo who now runs his own poultry farm here, is one of Saad’s admirers and he is amazed at how he makes back-breaking work on the farm look so easy.

“I didn’t know before that there were still people like Jerry Saad, who, despite their limitations, could work that way on the vast property of the Bernardo family,” Climaco said.

Marlon Duco, 45, a farmhand, said he once thought of quitting his job because it was so hard and required working under the heat of the sun. But he felt ashamed that while he was complaining, Saad was going about his work quietly, and never even once complained despite his physical condition.

But what made Duco admire Saad more was that the one-legged agriculturist walked to work and back two kilometers on rough road every day. Duco lives in the village center, which is near the farm.

“I realized that I could do more,” Duco said. And he stayed.

For Saad, it’s nice to know that people draw inspiration from him. “It lifts up my spirit, all the more I become inspired to do my work here,” Saad said after carefully leaping off the back of Bravo, the brown horse that had become his constant companion at work.

Supporting himself with a handmade crutch, Saad sat under a mango tree to talk with the Inquirer.

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Saad said he was unaware that he inspired other people. “I just work so my two children will not go hungry,” he said smiling.

Saad is a native of Isabela City in Basilan province. He lost his left leg when he was only 7 years old.

“My cousin was killed in an ambush in Tuburan, so the whole family went to Lamitan to pay our last respects,” he said.

During the wake at a funeral parlor, armed men stormed the town. They shot up the funeral parlor, and a bullet hit Saad in the left leg.

“I lost my leg in the incident. I was 7 years old then,” he said.

Saad said that at first he refused to accept what had happened to him. But his dream of getting an education helped him through the difficulty of having only one leg. It took him nearly a year to regain his self-confidence, he said.

“I promised myself that I would not allow my condition to hamper my dreams,” Saad recalled. It was not easy, though, he said, as he suffered from the taunting of neighbors and classmates.

In 2003, his perseverance and dedication paid off: he graduated from Basilan State College with a degree in agricultural technology.

Isabela Mayor Luis Biel hired Saad as municipal agriculture technologist. Five years later, however, Biel died.

“When he died, I lost my job,” Saad said.

That was in 2008. Saad moved to this city and found a job as field agriculture technologist at the Department of Agriculture Western Mindanao regional office. He was paid P5,000 a month.

Last month, he was told he had to go because his services were no longer needed. Luckily for him, Bernardo Farm needed an agricultural technologist. Every day since then, he has been tending to crops and cattle on the farm, unaware of how he was inspiring other workers until the Inquirer told him that he has become a model for them.

Saad said agriculture was already a part of his life. His love for farm work has enabled him to live with his disability and endure hard work for the sake of his children, Reuben Jay, 3, and Jerly May, 7 months old.

Wanted: Artificial leg

He hasn’t forgotten Basilan, but feels no bitterness toward the province despite his sad experience there. “I just hope that the war in Basilan will end so the people there can live peacefully,” he said.

But Saad has one wish for himself: have an artificial leg so he can work more efficiently.

The Tzu Chi Foundation here is willing to help him. The foundation’s Dr. Anton Lim said Saad would need an examination, as he lost his leg more than 20 years ago. “The stump he has may be too short for a prosthesis to fit in,” Lim said.

Still, Lim said, the foundation will try to make Saad’s wish come true.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Cowboy, disability, Good news, Jerry Saad, People, Zamboanga City
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