Tag Archives: Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled

Godfrey Esperanzate Taberna: the club-footed cyclist

Like any other kid in Nueva Vizcaya in the 80s, Godfrey Taberna has wished to be a part of the province’s rich history in cycling.

“Natuto ako sa sarili kong sikap kasi nahihiya na rin ako magpahawak kasi malaki na ako noon. Sa umpisa, balancing muna. Saka naman sa pagpepedal,” shared Godfrey in an interview via Facebook.

But unlike any other kid in the town, Godfrey is club-footed. His father said it was because Godfrey’s mother used to crave for ginger when the latter was pregnant. The doctor believed, however, that it could be because of a medicine her mother should not have taken. Godfrey did not blame them, though. He believes—till now—that God has a plan for him.

Clubfoot, medically labeled as congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), is a general term used to describe a range of unusual positions of the foot. The foot could be pointing downwards; the foot could be pointing upwards. The foot’s heel could be smaller than normal or, in Godfrey’s case; the foot’s toe could be rotated toward the other.

“Hindi ako sumuko kahit lagi ako sumesemplang hanggang sa natututo na at maayos na ang pagba-bike. Hinihiram ko ang bike ng aking mga pinsan—yun maliit, parang semi-mountain bike lang para kapag hindi ko ma-balance, matutukod ko ang paa ko kapag tumumba.”

Early on

Godfrey was born around the time there was an ongoing war in Mindanao. His father, a soldier, had been assigned in Jolo, Sulu so his mother, a housewife, joined in the barracks.

After sometime, his father was reassigned in Luzon and Godfrey had four siblings more. Godfrey was also able to continue his studies even after his father retired. He could recount, however, how he was treated by the other children then.

“Maraming kumukutya sa akin lalo na kaparehong bata sa edad ko noon. Tiniis ko lahat ‘pag naririnig ko pangungutya. Nilalabas ko na lang sa kabilang tenga.”

That was only when Godfrey got to ask God why was he born club-footed.

When Godfrey turned high school, they moved back to Mindanao. His parents have to live within the farm given them, which was farther from where Godfrey and his three sisters live. They either have to walk around a mountain for 10 kilometres or swim in a brook for four kilometres when getting their allowances. So Godfrey strove to learn how to use a bicycle. His father eventually bought him one upon seeing him able to do so.

“Tuwang-tuwa ako kasi may sarili na akong bike. Kahit saan ako mapunta na gusto ko, mapupuntahan ko na. Hindi na rin ako mahihirapan sa pagpunta sa bukid. Malaking bagay rin ang makatipid sa pamasahe.”

Godfrey learned how to bike when he was already in college. He has also come to overcome his self-doubt amidst the rebuke he would often hear. He gained friends and learned his rights as a person, a citizen of his country, and a person with disability. He started to join in various sports such as basketball and volleyball.

Unfortunately, though, when it would be time for the important competitions, Godfrey would be excluded because of his condition.

“May konting galit sa puso ko at pagsisi sa kalagayan ko. Lahat yun ay kinimkim ko na lang at di ko na lang inilalabas. Inaamin ko, naiinggit ako sa kanila. Kung wala akong kapansanan, sana naglalaro ako ngayon. Naipapakita ko ang aking husay, napapanood ako ng maraming tao at napapalakpakan.”

But Godfrey persevered. He continued building his dream to be a cyclist that those watching in TV or reading the newspapers would know about.

“Sa una kong kompetisyon sa bayan namin, nanalo ako. Nagulat sila sa pinakita ko hanggang marami na akong naging kaibigan. Pagkatapos ko ng pag aaral ay nag-bisikleta muna ako kasi dito ako naging masaya. Nag-training kami sa Baguio, Aurora, Manila, Ilocos at at iba pa. Maraming humanga sa akin hanggang sa nagugol lahat sa pag-bibisekleta ang buhay ko.”

Godfrey Taberna (1)

He also met his wife around this time. She supported Godfrey but eventually got fed up when they have nothing anymore to sustain themselves. The situation compelled Godfrey to stop biking. He became an insurance agent, waiter, executive secretary, project manager, and encoder.

After four years, though, Godfrey stumbled across an ad from the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PHILSPADA) looking for cyclists like him.

“Parang nabuhay ulit yun dugo ko sa sports. Nagpunta ako sa Manila, nag-present ako ng mga requirements sa PHILSPADA at naghintay ng approval ng Philippine Sports Commission. Magandang balita at natupad din ang pangarap ko na mapabilang sa mga national athletes!”

Godfrey’s first competition was in the 1st Asian Para Games held in Guangzhou, China last October 2014. He won fourth place then. It was followed by competitions in Malaysia, India, and Korea where he won silver and bronze medals. He had struggled against able-bodied athletes in the Ironman 70.3.

“Mahirap lang maging athlete lalo na sa amin na may kapansanan. Hindi pantay ang benefits sa mga able-bodied. Naghihintay rin lang ng laro para magka-allowance.”

He was also greatly challenged when his father died—not from the vehicular accident the latter was caught in but from blood loss.

“Mahirap maka-move on lalo sa isang katulad ng aking ama na siyang nagpadama ng suporta sa aking gusto. Proud na proud siya sa akin at proud na proud din ako sa kanya.”

At present, Godfrey is lobbying for a bike lane to be regulated. He believes ‘bawat nagbibisekleta ay may karapatan na hindi matakot sa daan’. He is also working in a private company in Greenhills when there are no competitions to support his wife and three children.

“Hindi ako sumuko.” ~ Godfrey Taberna

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the GMA News and Public Affairs

Photo provided by Mr. Taberna

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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