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Paraplegic, blind lead Inquirer read-‘sign’-along

A paraplegic reading and acting in his wheelchair and a blind girl leading a choir—these were some of the performances during a special Inquirer Read-Along session at Rizal Park in Manila.

Edgar Sison, a paraplegic, led the reading of Apolinario Mabini’s “Decalogue”—a list of “commandments” urging Filipinos to love God, country, environment and their fellowmen. Today marks the 147th birth anniversary of Mabini, the “Sublime Paralytic.”

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The reading event, held on July 16, ushered in National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week, celebrated from July 17 to 23 this year.

It was a special “read-and-sign-along” session with students from the Philippine School for the Deaf and Philippine National School for the Blind joining in as the audience. The deaf children were able to “sign-along” with the aid of sign language experts, while the blind children were supplied with a Braille version of the “Decalogue.”

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A blind singer, 15-year-old Maricor Book, led the prayer that kicked off the session. She was accompanied by a blind violinist and a blind guitarist. Book sang a special prayer-song tailored for the handicapped.

“I was happy to have had this opportunity to perform and to show others that my blindness is not a hindrance to showing what I’m truly capable of,” said Book, a third year high school student at Ramon Magsaysay High School.

In between segments of the “Decalogue,” members of the Earthsavers Unesco Dream Center sang and danced to the tune of Andres Bonifacio’s “Aling Pag-Ibig Pa,” “Karamay mo si Hesus” and “Walang Sinumang Nabubuhay para sa Sarili Lamang.” They capped the reading with an emotional rendition of “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.”

Enhancing strengths

“I do all sorts of things with the group, like acting, singing and dancing, to spread disability awareness and help people understand our place in society,” Sison said. He said performing has boosted his self-esteem.

Like Mabini, Sison was afflicted with polio as a child, and goes about his daily routine in a wheelchair.

“One should not be ashamed of his weaknesses and focus instead on enhancing his strengths,” added Sison, now a programmer in a leading firm after earning a computer science degree in 2007.

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Triple celebration

Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, director of the Unesco Dream Center, spearheaded the event and prepared a repertoire to usher in Disability Prevention Week and the triple celebration this year of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Jose Rizal, the 25th anniversary of Edsa, and the selection of the Philippines as the “1st Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Culture Capital.”

Alvarez led the reading of “the 10 rules to avoid disability.” The rules covered, among others, personal hygiene, proper diet and safe workplaces, and included a strong message against abortion.

Book also sang “Don’t Laugh at Me,” a piece about the plight of the differently abled, and “God Loves the Outcast.” Singing with her was fellow blind singer Eduardo del Rosario, who is also a pianist.

In the last segment, reader Frank Rivera led the audience in a dramatic reading of Jose Rizal’s “A La Juventud Filipina.”

No hindrance

“It is inspiring to be with fellow blind people who share the same interest in singing,” said 17-year-old Jackielyn Pinazo, who performed with Earthsavers for the first time.

“I hope to inspire people and let them know that being born blind is not a hindrance to fulfilling one’s dream,” said Pinazo, a grand finalist in a nationwide talent search last year.

“I myself did not expect her to attain what she has achieved, so the whole family is very proud of her,” Pinazo’s mother, Marilyn, said.

“It was she who honed her own talent in singing and forced me to accompany her to the audition,” she said. “I hope her experience serves as an inspiration to many others.”

The event was capped by an original song, “Makulay ang Aming Daigdig,” where the performers danced “Tinikling” with representatives from the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the International Theater Institute.

Twin parks

“I’m really impressed. Together we really can do anything. I can see the hope,” said Il Soo Shin, member of the International Theatre Institute executive council from Korea.

The session was featured by an announcement that Manila’s  Rizal Park and the Rizal Center Satellite at Eco-Park in Moravia, Czech Republic, were now “twins.”

Next session

The session, hosted by Junior Inquirer editor in chief Ruth Navarra, was in cooperation with Alvarez and the Philippine International Theater Institute, Earthsavers Unesco Dream Center and the National Council on Disability Affairs; Gigi Velarde-David, Bobby Superales and Wally Tuyan of the choreographic team; Anderson Go, Rico del Rosario, Gardy Labad and Leo Quinito, music composers; Joey Nombre and Rollie de Leon of the ITI/Earthsavers production committee; and McDonalds.

On July 9, television host Tonipet Gaba and the Sophia School storytellers participated in a read-along session in Makati City. Last Tuesday, the Inquirer Read-Along took part in the celebration of National Children’s Book Day by hosting 14 out of more than 40 simultaneous reading sessions held in SM malls nationwide and in three malls in China.

The next session will be on July 30 at 10 a.m. at the Inquirer main office and will feature the new Miss Earth beauty titlists. Interested participants may call Ellen Caparros at 897-8808 local 329. Slots are on a first come, first served basis.

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TAGS: Edgar Sison, Inquirer Read-Along, Maricor Book, National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week, Persons With Disability
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