Going Beyond "Limb-itations"
“Pinaglihi daw ako ng nanay ko sa fried chicken kaya ganito ang itsura ko,” says a visibly amused Emman (I look like this because of my mother’s alleged fondness for fried chicken when she was pregnant with me).
Emman, 27, is a graduate of Computer & Accounting Services. He currently works as Administrative Aide I at San Andres Municipal Hall in Catanduanes.
The road to where he is now was not easy. It was paved with gruelling challenges, heartaches and prejudices.
Emman was born with meromelia, a rare congenital anomaly which is characterized by partial absence of limb or part of the limb.
“My mother was quite protective of me. Initially, she didn’t want to send me to school because she was afraid that I might get bullied. She took it upon herself to teach me how to read and write. She painstakingly taught me how to hold the pencil and write the alphabet.”
Keen on learning more, Emman eventually convinced his mother to let him attend classes.
“I was eight years old when I was enrolled in Grade 1. I was so ecstatic to be in school. Since I already know how to read and write, I was way ahead of my classmates.”
However, his happiness was soon tinged with sadness and pain when the bullying started and he became aware of his disability.
“Kids in school would call me pilay (lame) or unano (midget) and mimic the way I walk. That’s when it hit me that I have a disability...that I’m different from the rest. I was so disheartened. I grew ashamed of myself. I felt that with my condition, I am incapable of doing things normal people can do.”
After wallowing in self-pity for quite awhile, Emman realized that nothing good will happen to him if he allows the bullying to get to him. Drawing strength from his inner strength and the love and support of his family, Emman became even more determined to prove his worth and not let the bullies define who he is.
”I focused more on doing well in school rather than the taunting. In the end, it all paid off. I consistently topped our class from Grades 1 to 6 and graduated as the class valedictorian. I even gained more friends.” As an afterthought he adds with a laugh, “Although I think some of them only befriended me so that they can copy my homework.”
As a young adult, he has been confronted with various forms of discrimination and barriers – ranging from lack of access to building facilities, public transport and employment opportunities to disability stigma and pre-conceived notions as to what he can do and cannot do.
Albeit emotionally scarred, Emman emerged stronger and wiser from his day to day battle.
“I learned to just ignore the hurtful remarks. I always tell myself that I’m more than capable of accomplishing things... I’ll just need to work extra hard and do it in my own way.”
Faced with financial difficulties, he availed of the Study Now Pay Later Program to pay for his college education. “I’m nearly done paying for my student loan! I’m being deducted Php600 a month from my salary.”
Now serving as the Federation President of Persons with Disabilities in San Andres, Emman goes around the town of San Andres to look for persons with disabilities in the barangays. He orients them on their rights and privileges and encourages them to avail of the PWD identification card.
“Travelling all over the town to try to reach every single barangay is no easy thing. It’s very tiring and commuting is a real challenge. But I do enjoy my work...it’s very fulfilling.”
His passion for advocating for the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities is only equalled by his passion for music. Over the years, he has joined countless amateur singing contests and won the top prize in most of them.
“When I join a contest, I want to win because of my talent and not because people see my disability and take pity on me.”
Right now, Emman is working up the courage to apply for his dream job – that of being a disc jockey. If that happens, he’ll be the “voice” of persons with disabilities in the airwaves...literally and figuratively.
Emman takes part in a role play during the Psychological First Aid Training.
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