Blind singer tops talent competition for PWDs
John Unson ( - February 11, 2016 - 11:40pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The long-time wish of blind singer El-John Aliman to own an organ keyboard with speakers happened Wednesday when he topped in a singing contest for persons with disabilities (PWDs).

“I wish to thank Allah for this answered prayer,” Aliman told reporters after receiving P50,000 cash for having ranked first in the “Kategelan Challenge” at Maguindanao’s provincial capital, Buluan.

Aliman is a scion of a marginalized Moro peasant family.

The term “Kategelan” means talent in the ethnic Maguindanaon dialect.

The talent contest for PWDs was one of the highlights of this year’s week-long Sagayan Festival, which will culminate on Sunday.

The yearly Sagayan Festival, pioneered in 2011 by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, is meant to showcase the ethnicity and cultural practices of the local Muslim, Christian and Lumad folks, also called “tri-people” of the province.

The 35-year-old Aliman said he decided to join the contest after having heard a lot about the provincial government’s psycho-social interventions for PWDs, regardless of religions and tribes.

“I support these activities and I want to show to all people in the province that like normal people, we can also become good, popular and as enthusiastic like them. We can also help build peace in our own ways,” he said in the Maguindanaon vernacular.

He said one of the stories that inspired him to participate in the pro-PWD activities of the provincial government was about Mangudadatu’s having helped facilitate free reconstructive surgery for some 70 harelip children with poor parents about two years ago.

Aliman, born blind, sang in the contest a Maguindanaon love song about an undying love of a blind man for a woman despite certainty of not even having the chance to see how she looks like. 

Two other blind ethnic Maguindanaon artists, Esmail Ahmad and Bryan Kendayo, also won the second and third places in the contest, respectively.

Ahmad awed audience and judges with his expertise in playing a prototype of the centuries-old Moro guitar with only four strings.

He received a P30,000 cash prize and a trophy for having won second place in the talent showdown.

Kendayo, who ranked third in the event, received P15,000 and a trophy for having nicely sang a Maguindanaon song about love for humans, despite diversity in religions and tribal identities.

Kendayo hails from Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

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