“I could have been most miserable, fumbling on the chores: bound at home to cook, wash the dishes and feed the pets.”
It could have been the kind of life Estrello Dag-um was bound to after his 16th year.
It was a nasty case of typhoid fever which refused to be cured that emptied the family piggy bank.
Confined in city private hospital to fight off his illness, days stretched which slowly drained the family savings.
Then the young teen has to take the leap to a public hospital to get his cure at a cheaper cost.
More weeks later, he still has to find a cure and his chances of seeing good light are dimming.
His left eyesight first dimmed, clouding, until it makes him see colors a blur.
He has to stop school where his parents kept him home to do the chores instead.
I would have wanted to go out but it was tough without somebody guiding me, Estrello recalled.
All he could do with his acquired debility was to sulk and fumble in the dark world of blindness.
Born eldest to a family of four, Estrello’s dim future saw light years later.
His father Rafael, a carpenter worked in a house project of the town social welfare officer Carmelita Tecson.
There, on an occasion, his father shared his disability and Estrello’s desire to help out the family.
“It was she, Maam Mita, who convinced my father to get me to Area Vocational Rehabilitation Center, (AVRC) a training facility for the handicapped, run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD),” he recalled.
AVRC provides rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities (PWD) to allow them to achieve the highest level of physical, mental, social and economic sufficiency through trainings within the bounds of the person’s capability and capacity.
AVRC offers a wide range of social and vocational skills one can acquire after a series of occupational and physical therapies.
All of these fall under its comprehensive vocational rehabilitation program.
Nobody thought I’d come out better after a year of training, within it two months of on the job training for masseurs, he narrated in between wringing his hands, betraying his being nervous.
I had to get to the pier, and an occasional visits by clients and co-workers who need a good days massage, before I earned the confidence to do therapeutic massage.
Much later in life, he met a woman from Lourdes Panglao, a PWD polio victim whom he would later marry and give him a son and two daughters.
In between those, now a full time masseur who is based in Bohol, Estrello kept a certain degree of diligence in work, and the wife who took cosmetology jobs when not preoccupied.
“She manages the income well and we spend sparingly according to our needs,” he confessed.
Twenty five years later, Estrello and Silencia Horcera his wife have pooled a decent income, two decent houses: on in Carmen and another one in Lourdes Panglao.
Both live in Barangay Tamboan where he offers massage services for tourists at the nearby Chocolate Hills, while she keeps the house while on call to render manicure and pedicure to tourists.
They now own a tricycle in Carmen, they use to fetch the kids from school. They also own a good patch of Riceland, one that gets them more than enough food to last the year.
Great family to their neighbors, the Dag-ums in Barangay Tambo-an own a respect that most would not achieve in their lifetime.
Now a popular go-to guy not just for PWDs needing money, the Dag-ums have proven that through a good support and diligence, nobody would be unlucky enough to be miserable.
Well, I could have been washing dishes now, had not my parents decided to get me to the AVRC where I was taught to be self-sufficient, he said.
Had my parents continue to keep me home, I would be more miserable now that my mother has died and my father is getting older, he added.
To parents out there who have kids with disabilities, either you keep them and cause their problems when you would be gone, or you allow them the trainings which would rescue their self esteem and the will to stand on their own, he called.
The municipal DSWD is the conduit for the government to reach out to the PWDs interested in the different skills training, he added.
It was a rare opportunity the government afforded for me, he bared in Cebuano, as he squinted in effort to see through the future that has in store for them.
Whatever it may be, with the couple striving to get their kids through school and be successful, the future for the Dag-ums may not be as gloomy and dark as before. (PIA)