Blindness has not stopped Cyril Bergado from working for her dreams. First in her class and fifth in the overall school ranking, Cyril has not allowed her disability to limit what she can do.
Cyril’s family did not have the money to send her into special schools for the disabled. Their farm, which was their main source of income, had been pawned off for the treatment of Cyril’s sister who died of Aplastic Anemia.
Glaucoma had completely taken away Cyril’s sense of sight. It manifested in one of her eyes when she was in the fourth grade, and down the other one as well, when she reached high school. Completely blind, and unable to participate in any school activities, Cyril was forced to stay home.
Cyril would cry every time she heard her fellow students’ footsteps on their way to school. She wanted to be with them, she wanted to go to school as well.
“Inig ka hapon kay naa gani mamaktas nga mangeskwela, makasabot man siya. Mag-hinilak man siya kay gusto man lage mu skwela”
(When school children walk by in the afternoon, she would know. She would cry because she also wanted to go to school), recalls Cyril’s mother.
Unable to bear this, her father decided to move their family to the mountain.
“Nawad-an ko’g paglaum nga magpaskwela pa. Kay mismo man gani nang nakahuman na og college, di man gani kasulod og trabaho. Mga normal ba, mga sakto ila pisikal. Buta pa ba kaha maka trabaho? Mao na nga nawad-an gyud ko’g paglaum nga magpa skwela. Mao tong ingon ko nga si dodong nalang ako pa skwelahon.”
(I lost hope of sending Cyril to school. Even those who have finished college, those with no physical disabilities, they would have a hard time finding jobs. What chance does a blind person have? So I lost hope of sending her to school. We decided to just let her brother continue going to school)
Their stay in the mountain did not last long, however. Cyril still wanted to go back to school. She would hear over the radio that there were still opportunities, even for Persons with Disability, to attend school or go to work.
She would ask her father, “tay, hangtud ba gyud sa hangtud, ing-ani nalng ba ko?” (Will I live this way forever?)
After a few months in the mountain, they decided to move back home. According to Cyril’s mother:
“Ni adto na mi sa mayor sa Mahaplag aron mangayo’g tabang, pero kinahanglan pa man kuno allotan og budget. Unya ang tambag sa DSWD nga ipa dala kuno namo siya sa Cebu sa AVRC aron mag train og massage. Pero ingon iya uyo-an nga pastor sa Cebu nga ayaw kuno ipadala didto kay bata pa kuno unya ma layo siya namo.”
(We went to the office of the mayor of Mahaplag, but they said they still needed to allot a budget . We also went to DSWD and they said we could send her to AVRC in Cebu to train for massage, but her uncle who was a pastor in Cebu, advised us against it because she was too young and should not be away from us.)
A student from PCP, who also shared the disability, told Cyril’s mother that there was a teacher for the blind in Baybay. They were given the number of a teacher named ‘maam Risa’, who was stationed in Baybay North. They contacted maam Risa Lopez, and she told them to come to Baybay so they could talk. With Cyril’s form-137, and the hope of finally getting their child back to school, they went to Baybay City, not knowing whatever it was that awaited them.
Maam Risa looked over Cyril’s records. Then she told them to go back on Tuesday.
Cyril’s mother found a place for them to stay in the near barangay. Then on Tuesday, they went back to maam Risa and Cyril was immediately allowed to start school.
Cyril’s mother worked as a Baranggay Health Worker in Mahaplag. But Cyril needed someone to look after her whilst in school. Her mother had to give up her only means of work. This meant they had to rely solely on Cyril’s father now, who had no steady job and was just currently harvesting copra.
Thankfully, however, maam Risa was able to offer Cyril’s mother a job as a stay-in housekeeper and babysitter. Cyril and his mother now stay at maam Risa’s place during schooldays. This has been a huge answer to the basic needs of Cyril’s schooling.
Cyril is now part of a regular class in Baybay Highschool, together with all the regular students. After class, she attends a ‘supplementary’ tutorial session with a specialist teacher.
Mrs. Lara Nunez, the in-charge of the program that oversees Cyril and a number of children in the ‘Special Education’ section, is quite fond of Cyril.
“I am usually there for Cyril during exams and in math class. Since she was not born blind, she still is able to distinguish letters so that really helps. During exams I would read the questions to her, or give her questionnaires transcribed in braille” says Mrs. Nunez.
Mrs. Nunez also facilitates the checking of Cyril’s papers, since she writes her answers in braille. With other subjects, Cyril’s classmates would help her by reading the questions to her, or guiding her in what the instructions say.
‘It was not easy at first’, admitted Cyril.
“ Sa sinugdanan tinuod, nag hilakhilak gyud ko kay murag hunahuna nako nga dili gyud nako kaya kadtong first pa nga buwan.”
(I was crying all the time during the first month, because I thought I couldn’t do it [learn braille].)
That was just a minor setback, however. Cyril soon mastered braille through constant practice, the help of her teachers, and an amazing amount of determination.
“Gusto gyud nako maka skwela kay dili gyud ko ganahan nga naa ra ko pirme sa balay. Dili man gyud hangtud sa hangtud nga uban nako ako parents. Gusto sad ko nga maka skwela kay para sa pag abot sa panahon makabaton ko og ug kaugalingon nga trabaho. Then maka encourage pud ko sa mga uban nga sama nako.”
(I really want to go to school because I don’t want to be locked up at home. I will not have my parents with me forever. I also want to go to school so that when the time comes, I will get my own job. Then I can encourage those who are also having difficulties in life like me.)
Cyril’s father now has higher hopes for his daughter. From almost giving up on a future for Cyril completely, he has now put his full trust on God, and on his daughter.
“Kanang pag skwela ni Cyril, naningkamot nalang mi kay pursigido man gyud siya. Gi salig nalang namo sa Ginoo tanan. Basta nga kutob sa among mahimo, amo siyang panggaon, ug atimanon aron makabaton siya’g kadasig. Importante nga mabuhi tang malipayon, total dili man ta magdugay diri sa kalibutan. Mao ra man gyud na, mabuhi ta nga naa gyuy pagtoo sa Ginoo. Salig gyud ta pirme.”
(As for Cyril’s schooling, we’re doing our best because she’s really determined. We’ve entrusted everything to God. For us, we will do the most we can. We will take care ofr her and love her, so she does not lose enthusiasm. That’s all there is to it. We will not stay long in this earth. What’s important is for us to live happily, with faith in God. We should have faith always.)
Cyril dreams of becoming a teacher someday.
“Gusto nako ma teacher, especially sa mga pareha nako nga naay disability. Gusto nako makatabang ko nila.”
(I want to be a teacher, especially for those like me with disability. I want to be able to help them)
To those like her, who are living with disability, and those who are having difficulty with their studies, Cyril says:
“Padayon lang gihapon, ayaw sayangi ang opportunities. Naa gyuy purpose ang Ginoo. I-ampo lang gyud then paningkamutan. Dili magpadala unsay sulti sa mga tao.”
(Carry on, do not waste the opportunities. God has a purpose. Pray, and work for it. Don’t mind what other people say.)
That’s Cyril. She may be blind physically. But her hopes are bright, and her vision for the future even brighter.