Tag Archives: Arnel Navales Aba

Filipino PWDs this February 2019

Had there been persons with disabilities who took advantage of the early registration?

The latest data that The PWD Forum could find was from a report in February 7. A total of 760,530 incoming kindergarten, and grades 1, 7 and 11 had preregistered in public schools across the country for School Year 2019 to 2020—11 days  after the Department of Education (DepEd) announced the Early Registration Module of the Learner Information System (LIS).

About 215,363 came from Region 4-A or Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), 127,285 from the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), 69,257 from Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), and 64,972 from Region 10 (Northern Mindanao).

In 2010, most of the persons with disabilities in the country are in Region IV-A.

In any case, the secretary of the Department of Health has agreed that students should be made to understand mental health conditions.

Dapat pinapakilala na itong pagtanggal sa stigma sa eskuwelahan pa lamang para yung mga bata maintindihan na may ganitong mental health conditions na kailangan maintindihan at tugunan ng tama at hindi ibig sabihin ay hopeless case na yung kondisyon,” he has said in the report.

Letting PWDs study alongside non-PWDs has been one of the things I aimed for when I started this blog. I have no doubts that this will help everyone just like what it has done to Palestinian artist Mohamed Dalo; Czech athletes Jiří Ježek, Martin Kovář, Běla Hlaváčková, and Petra Kurková; and Bahamians Townsely Roberts and Gary Russell.

If PWDs and non-PWDs study together, as I have argued when The PWD Forum turned four, there would be no need to build exclusive educational institutions. Even PWDs can finish degrees: Maricel Apatan, Marc Joseph EscoraSafiya Mundus, Arnel Navales Aba, and Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna. We just have to believe.

Apparently, not everyone is willing to give PWDs a chance. The JCSGO Christian Academy has been alleged in a report to have discriminated an incoming third grade student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Under education for all, wala tayo dapat tinatanggihan ang bata na mag-aral, anuman ang kanyang maging kalagayan. Kailangan nating mabigyan ng pantay na karapatan ang lahat ng bata para makapag-aral.” ~ DepEd National Capital Region Director Willie Cabral

Turning Four!

Not everyone is still willing to give persons with disabilities a chance four years after The PWD Forum came about.

In Indonesia for instance, disability is still regarded as a punishment from God. PWDs must be exorcised, tied up at the back of the house (dipasung), confined to a small hut in the backyard, or tied at the wrists and ankles to a tree or heavy log. Disability is also seen as a matter of fate so there is little empathy for PWDs for whom ‘nothing can be done’.

As such, PWDs are excluded from most governments’ planning and support. In Bhutan in particular, its educational policy lack inclusive policy guidelines resulting in unequal opportunities.  Taiwan, on the other hand, has only programs for PWDs with “mild” conditions and the curricula just followed what is being taught in preschool classes.

In South Africa, teachers lack skills and knowledge. In South Korea, teachers know no culturally relevant curricula. In Malaysia, teachers are unprepared in terms of emotional acceptance and technical skills.

It is no wonder then that PWDs are still berated when seeking employment or at work; employers would definitely incur costs from hiring PWDs. Educating them alongside non-PWDs  would not be an easy feat especially that the term ‘inclusion’ itself has no fixed definition even in the western countries from which this concept was realized.

There are also parents who do not understand the meaning of inclusive education till now. Thus, the parents are still anxious with their children attending mainstream schools. Even governments are not sure what the concept really means and how it could be relevant within the local context.

If PWDs and non-PWDs study together, though, there would be no need to build exclusive educational institutions. Adjustment may also come naturally. Maricel Apatan had not been a burden anyway when she was studying a two-year course in Hotel and Restaurant Management in Cagayan de Oro City. She was even hired as a pastry chef at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Manila.

A polio victim, Marc Joseph Escora, had managed his training at the Negros Occidental Language and Information Technology Center (NOLITC) in Bacolod City. Blind, Safiya Mundus had graduated from the Eusebio C. Santos Elementary School.

The PWD Forum could just imagine what else could have happened had Arnel Navales Aba, Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna, Emilia Malinowska, Jose Feliciano, and Mohamed Dalo finish school. Townsely Roberts had at The College of the Bahamas with an associate degree in Accounting and Computer Data Processing in 1995. Gary Russell had, too, at the same college with an associate degree in Law and Criminal Justice then at the University of Buckingham for his bachelor’s and master’s.

It was from his blind father that former interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo learned discipline. Protecting the integrity and honor of one’s family is of highest importance, his father had said, and children are expected to contribute their share in doing that. So Jesse launched the “Fully Abled Nation,” a program seeking to increase the participation of PWDs in the coming 2013 Philippine midterm elections, roughly three months before he died in a plane crash.

“Hopefully, one day, the notion behind “persons with disability” be somehow erased from the world’s vocabulary and usher-in a day when technology, private & public organizations, and the law work together to give each person equal rights and opportunities, regardless of the person’s impediment.” ~ Atty. Mike Gerald C. David

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Jozelle Tech

Arnel Navales Aba: the one-legged triathlete

I first saw him in a Filipino game show. He was trying for its grand prize of one million pesos.

But Arnel Navales Aba is worth more than the jackpot. He had already notched two Southeast Asian Para-Swim Records in the 400m freestyle and in the 200m individual medley. He had already done a triathlon and won third. He had already started training swimmers at the Akiko Thomson Swim School* and at the Philippine Institute of Sports Arena (PhilsSport Arena)**. He had already been qualified a national athlete—despite of his one leg.

He lost the other one when he was 20. He was examining the engine of his jeepney when an intoxicated driver drove straight to him, sandwiching him between the vehicle’s bumpers.

Over the next two months, Aba tried to take his own life. He had tried to slash his wrist but got hurt. He had tried to hang himself but the tree broke. He had tried to get hit by a bus but got scared.

He had also tried to put himself in front of a moving pickup truck. But its driver stopped and talked him out of it. The man convinced Aba to just swim his heart out and even offered his resort as a training ground.

But Aba didn’t know how to swim. He nearly drowned when he was eight years old. Still, he took on the challenge. And the instructor of the Iligan City Swimming Team, Cecil Meqiabas, guided him all the way. At first, Aba couldn’t swim more than 12.5 meters; he would end up hanging onto the lane line in the middle of the pool to rest. He also didn’t know how to breathe on the side so he could only swim with his head up.

So Aba ‘negotiated’ with the resort. He would use the pool in the mornings for free. He would try to swim with his head down, complete 25-meter laps without stopping, and do at least a semblance of a butterfly stroke.

To date, Aba can finish a 400m freestyle*** in 5 minutes and 16 seconds and a butterfly in 32 seconds. He swims four times a week—averaging six to seven kilometers—to make room for his day jobs as an assistant swim coach at the Colegio de San Agustin and a part-time sales consultant at the WetShop sports shop.  His current coaches are Tony Ong and Ral Rosario of the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PHILSPADA).

“I am doing this to show to the abled ones who look at us, the disabled, as useless. I would like to show that we can do some of what they can do. I also want to encourage the other disabled to not to be shy and just show off whatever talents they have.” ~Arnel Navales Aba

*His programs are the Arnel Aba Learn to Swim Program and the Arnel Aba Advanced & Competitive Program.

**Formerly known as ULTRA [University of Life Training and Recreation Arena]

***His favorite event, the 200m freestyle, was dropped from the roster of events in the last few ASEAN Para-Games after he ruled that distance for over three years.

Video courtesy of Just Add Water