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Entertainment

Bunny Paras’ daughter Moira credits mother’s love for enjoying life despite disability

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Bunny Parasâ daughter Moira credits motherâs love for enjoying life despite disability
Moira Greenway on staying positive despite her disability: ‘I think my perspective has something to do with the things I’ve been through and things Mom has been through.’
Bunny Paras

Actress Bunny Paras began our virtual conversation with a tour of the room of her eldest daughter, Moira Greenway.

It’s a very girly space in the Los Angeles home where Bunny lives with her Fil-American husband Tom Greenway and their four kids. It features Moira’s collection of stuffed toys and snow globes, and more importantly, as Bunny pointed out, everything in it is handicap-friendly.

Moira, the That’s Entertainment star’s 23-year-old child with radio host Mo Twister, is living with a rare condition called Friedreich’s Ataxia, “a disorder that affects some of the body’s nerves and is caused by a gene defect that is inherited from both parents,” according to the John Hopkins Medicine website. Bunny, in a recent Pep interview, disclosed that her daughter has been wheelchair-bound since she was 17.

Bunny is happily settled in the US with her Fil-Am husband Tom Greenway and their children Moira, Connor, Ariana and Cody.

Despite her condition, Moira is some 3,000 miles away from home and making good use of her bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from the California State Polytechnic University Pomona at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Four months ago, she got accepted to the Disney College Graduate Program, which offers job opportunities and housing for persons with disabilities (PWDs).

“I miss being home but it was about time, and I liked having the freedom to do the things that I want to do all the time here,” Moira told The STAR during her first joint media interview with her mom.

Bunny Paras feels proud of 23-year-old daughter Moira for enjoying life despite having Friedreich’s Ataxia, a condition that made her wheelchairbound

If there’s anything to glean from her experiences, it’s that “(my disability is) not a limitation necessarily. I think it’s important that, especially people who have some sort of disability, to feel that it’s not a limitation because things can be done. I mean, I’m doing it. There’s many documentaries and films that have been made where people lose limbs and they can still do things… (Or if you’re) in a situation where you become disabled, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything.”

When Moira decided to join the program, much to her parents’ worry initially, her mom’s main advice was to stay safe. “Safety is a big thing but also, like, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing, then it’s all worth it. And mom tells me that all the time, don’t you, Mom?”

Bunny responded, “Yeah, because I worry that you might slip when you move to your shower chair or when you’re dressing up by yourself or while you’re putting on your uniform. I always wonder how she’s dressing up.”

“I can do that. I can do it on my wheelchair. It takes me about a minute. I timed it. Hahaha! The first time was 20 minutes. But I have my methods,” Moira reassured her mom.

Moira was about three years old when Bunny relocated to the US as a single mom seeking “greener pastures.” It was her future husband who’d come to their aid in finding medical help for Moira. They met when Moira was seven and wed when she was 11. Tom legally adopted Moira shortly after.

“She was born with it. We didn’t know na ganun. It was developing in her body because of her genes and that lack of frataxin protein in her. There were some changes she was feeling na akala namin at akala din nila was a regular flu,” Bunny recalled.

“It was scary especially whenever she fainted. There was one time hinimatay siya, nasa isang apartment kami, takot na takot kami.”

Moira was also misdiagnosed for several years until Bunny’s husband found a specialist. “Yes, (my husband was instrumental) para malaman lang namin (why) kahit anong therapy itong batang ito, hindi bumabalik sa dati. She was still wobbly, unbalanced and when she walked, para siyang sumasayaw.”

Bunny further recalled that her daughter experienced bullying because she would use a walker in school. At that time, they were trying to prolong the period where she could utilize her legs and not be dependent on a wheelchair. But Bunny observed back then that Moira was strong and could handle those making fun of her.

In retrospect, Moira said she just found “the right people” whom she relied on for support. “I’ve been really, really lucky to have really, really good people in my life. I can probably count on my fingers how many people have not been helpful to me. But 95 percent of the people that I’ve met have been so amazing,” she said.

It isn’t hard to notice how Moira has a mature and positive attitude towards her disability. When she was first informed about having Friedreich’s Ataxia, she said, “I feel like I have a lot of realistic-ness when it comes to things like this because people always tell me that I could have been depressed a long time ago, I could be on depression medication and all of these different things.

“But the thing is, that never happened to me because in my head, it’s like, no matter how sad, upset or angry I am about it, it doesn’t fix it, it doesn’t change it. I might as well do what I can do in the meantime, and hope and pray it changes itself. Until then, I’m alive! I don’t wake up every day in a hospital bed, you know? And things can be so much worse, and they’re not. It’s just a matter of being grateful for that,” she shared.

Moira credited her family and the environment she grew up in for instilling this mindset. “I know this is cliche, but I think my perspective has something to do with the things I’ve been through and things Mom has been through,” she said.

“I grew up with just my mom for a lot of the time, probably at least 10 years, and not everybody goes through the things I’ve seen or been through myself or watched her go through. It really stems from those things because it just makes who you are…

“I guess, for me, I won’t change a thing even though sometimes, it’s terrible. And sometimes, you still feel bad, and it’s not all sunshines and rainbows every single day…for anybody. So, you just gotta do what you gotta do, and hope it all works out in the end. So far, I’m doing pretty good for 23 years now.”

The proud mom in Bunny reacted, “I think very humble din kasi ito because we started from humble beginnings and the love that she got from the people around her, importante din. And seeing yung struggle namin to be where we are and the people who helped us along the way. And siguro sa kapalaran namin after, you know her having a dad, a family and a home — a bigger home from just a small studio apartment where we used to live at saka nakikitira lang kami before… We’ve been through a lot.”

And just like any mom, Bunny couldn’t help but wish Moira could have chased her dreams without health issues to think of. “Maybe, I would like to not see the remaining 10 years when it gets harder for her health. I want to change na that it doesn’t get worse. I don’t want to see the worst part of it. That’s what I’m scared of. Bilib ako kay Moira. We try not to read more into it and we just hope she remains okay.”

Moira herself admitted that if she could make herself okay in the future, “I would do that in a heartbeat.” But then again, she stressed, “I really, really like who I am. I think I am this way because of the things I’ve been through. And I’ve seen it in both perspectives. I’ve seen what it’s like not to have a disability or to feel like you don’t have a disability. I’ve also seen what it is like to have a disability and be in a wheelchair. So, I can’t take those things for granted.”

Moira believes she is where she’s supposed to be so her main goal at the moment is to build on her career in the hospitality industry.

As for Bunny, what she learned from raising Moira is “to give your child the benefit na kaya nila because I’ve always been like takot. And when you see them strong, parang nahahawa ka sa pagka-strong nila kasi sila talaga yung nahihirapan eh. They’re the ones with the disability. Parang if you pull them down more, kawawa naman. You can shelter them a little bit, but sabi ko nga kay Moira, ‘Try it out babe, if it doesn’t work out, uwi ka.’”

She further encouraged moms and children to be strong and hold on to each other. “For other moms going through hard times with kids nila na may sakit, I think they just have to have that support system and love from their family and people who can help them. And definitely, pray. God listens to your prayers. I know it’s hard but ‘wag lang sila mawalan ng pag-asa because sabi nga nila, minsan the trials you go through end up to be a gift eventually for your family and the people who show you love.”

Since it’s Mother’s Day, Moira took the opportunity to thank Bunny. “My mom really is my bestfriend. I don’t go to her as much as I should with some things but it’s mostly because I’m busy and have a lot going on. So, if I don’t reach out enough, I’m sorry. But I think about you all the time while I’m here.

“Everytime I pick something up, I look at the price tag first. Hahaha! I learned that from her. That (to save and save) I learned 100 percent from Mom. But thank you (for) everything you’ve done since I was little. If it wasn’t easy for me, I can only imagine how hard it was for you. So, at the end of the day, a really, really big thank you. I love you mom.”

BUNNY PARAS

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