By Homer Teodoro, VERA Files
TARLAC CITY— For two persons with disabilities (PWDs) here in Tarlac province, dreaming big simply means being able to play their favorite sports like professional athletes.
One dreams of being a basketball player despite having only one leg and no hands, while another dreams of being a boxer despite having just one hand, underdeveloped fingers and no feet.
Standing at just four feet, Maximo Bonilla runs the fast break on one leg, grabs the ball even if he has no hands, rebounds, and then does a lay-up.
The 37-year-old Bonilla once dreamed of counting himself among the PWD athletes who would represent the country in international PWD athletic events such as the recently concluded 2012 Paralympic Games in London. But he acknowledges that it is already too late for him to be a paralympian and so contents himself with being a star in his own right in Tarlac City.
Bonilla's games are highly anticipated. During the 34th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week last July, he played to the cheers and praises of the crowd, leading his team to victory by scoring the seven last consecutive points in the orthopaedic and deaf category- with one three-point shot.
"It was a dream come true," Bonilla said.
A father of three, Bonilla said he started playing basketball, his favorite game, as a kid. His inborn disability never stopped him from joining street basketball games and he never considered himself different from non-PWDs. His love for the game made him set aside his disability.
"In fact, it is only now that I joined the group of PWDs that I am playing with guys like me (who also have disabilities)," he said.
Bonilla's wife Vilma has only praise for him. "I am very happy to see him play especially when he scores," she said.
Vilma added her husband has never been a liability. He earns his income selling balut (duck eggs) at night and being a masseur by day, and is working hard so that his children could finish college.
Like Bonilla, 10-year-old Gil Capiral also aspires to be a world-renown athlete. Capiral, who was born without a left hand, underdeveloped fingers on the right hand and without feet, wants to be like Manny Pacquiao.Gil Capiral wants to be like Pacquiao
"Ay naku basta kapag si Pacquiao na ang palabas sa TV hindi na iyan kukurap, hindi na iyan makausap (Every time Pacquiao is on TV, Gil won't blink and no one can talk to him anymore)," Gil's father Augusto said.
Whenever Pacquiao has a fight or a show, the boy's eyes are fixed on the television. After watching his idol, Capiral shadowboxes. With his heart set on boxing, he wants to train well and his parents are more than glad that their son is dreaming big.
When visitors come to their hut in San Jose town, his parents proudly relate their son's dream. Capiral is the ninth in a brood of 12.
A Grade IV pupil, Capiral can read and uses his right hand to write, even though his thumb and index finger are not fully developed.
He does not get teased anymore because when he was in Grade I and II, his father said, Gil punched a classmate who bullied him. No one dared to tease him since. His mother constantly reminding him not to get into fights, so as not to hurt anyone since his punches are painful.
He is not their only PWD child—one of Capiral's siblings is deaf while another has Down Syndrome.
The provincial government of Tarlac has a program for PWDs but neither Bonilla nor Gil are recipients apparently because of the bureaucratic paperwork required for recipients to avail of the programs.
Johnrey Martin, in charge of the PWD welfare programs of Tarlac, said the program has two levels. The first level is Educational Financial Assistance grant that gives elementary pupil recipients P1,500 a month, high school students P2,000 and college students P3,000. There are 242 recipients of this program for this year that has an annual budget of P469,000.
The second level of the PWD program is giving assistive devises such as quad cane, wheelchair, walker and crutches, Martin said. He said a proposal for a livelihood program has already been submitted to the Regional Council for Disability Affairs.
For PWD children like Gil to avail of the first level program, the requirements include the report card, social case study report, certificate of enrolment, and whole body picture. The Department of Social Welfare and Development is the approving agency of the program.
Tarlac City where Bonilla lives also has programs for PWDs. Dr. Dhang Dizon who is in charge of the city's PWD Welfare Programs they had the Early Intervention Rehabilitation Learning and the Mainstreaming Program where they recommend PWD children to special education schools of the Department of Education.
Dizon said the city also has a sports program for PWDs. Since 2006, the city has been conducting livelihood trainings the with most recent batch training in cosmetology, food processing, reflexology and massage therapy.
Bonilla is one of the more than 2,000 PWDs that Dizon says resides in the city.
(This story is part of Reporting on Persons With Disability, a project of VERA Files in partnership with The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")