Cultural caregiving  for the disabled

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - July 19, 2008 - 12:00am

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, there are approximately 70 million disabled people worldwide. For such a long time, persons with disabilities (PWDs) have been subjected to different types of disregard and mistreatment. Often considered non-productive members of society, disabled persons are frequently excluded from the mainstream of society, especially here in the Philippines. In an effort to promote the welfare and integration of disabled persons into society’s mainstream that will eventually lead to their empowerment, the commemoration of National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week was launched July 17-23. It was declared that its celebration will be observed every third week of July, culminating on the birthdate of one of our country’s most distinguished heroes, Apolinario Mabini, the Sublime Paralytic.

In observance of its 30th year, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has directed all government bureaus, agencies and institutions to promote and conduct relevant activities during the observance and celebration of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week. She opened the week with a Mass in Malacañang where the National Council for Disability Affairs has been moved under the Office of the President to fast track the full operation of the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability. This year’s theme: “Kapag May Access, May Success”, recognizes the importance of giving PWDs equal opportunities in all aspects of human endeavors for them to lead a productive and dignified life.

For its part, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), led by its chairman, DepEd Undersecretary Dr. Vilma L. Labrador, with the Philippine Center of UNESCO International Theatre Institute (ITI) headed by Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Cecile Guidote Alvarez, who is also the NCCA’s executive director, has started a full week KALAHI Cultural Caregiving Service on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The KALAHI Program, using the methodology of capacity and confidence building by the Earthsavers DREAMS Ensemble, hailed by UNESCO as Artists for Peace, gathers the differently-abled, joined by marginalized groups with the vision of empowering, synergizing and harmonizing them as “handicapables” through a series of interdisciplinary workshops in performance and media arts. Modules include recycling arts with paper maché and mask making, beadwork, arnis, interpretative dancing, choral singing, rondalla music, and ethnic instrument playing, literary, theatre arts, video and radio. The workshops are being held at the NCCA Building in Intramuros from July 5 to 22, 2008. It is a heartwarming amazing portrait of compassion and triumph of the spirit over adversity.

The participants come from various agencies like the DepEd Special Centers and the persons with disabilities sector of NAPC, church supported groups like Hospicio de San Jose and Caritas; and different havens of DSWD. This will culminate in a conference where messages will be given by government officials including Rosie Lovely Romulo of OP-NCDA, DSWD Sec. Esperanza Cabral and NAPC Secretary Domingo Panganiban, as well as prominent and successful persons who had overcome disabilities like Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, former Senator Ernesto Herrera, Marites Macapagal, Executive Director Cupertino Center for Special Children and one of the latest ten (10) outstanding young students, a cerebral palsy, magna cum laude, Richardson Navor and a blind, Go Negosyo Awardee for Entrepreneurship, Marx Melencio. The United Nations resident coordinator Nileema Noble has also been invited  to focus the discussions on the concerns of the disabled as part of the UN MDGs of fighting poverty. In fact, the UN had declared a Decade for Persons with Disabilities.

There will also be a presentation by the panel of the creative arts team teachers led by Frank Rivera with a demonstration from participants of their creative initiatives. Some of the paintings and jewelry created by deaf, crippled, and participants with down syndrome will be on sale as part of their livelihood effort. Teachers, parents, social workers and sponsors will participate in a panel discussion to democratize the right to culture of the differently-abled. It is laudable that NCCA and its partners are establishing an Art Borjal Memorial Award to honor not only an outstanding journalist advocate but those who have shared and helped advance the welfare of those with disabilities. We are glad that Dr. Don Emilio Yap is recognized for his philanthropy on this much needed affirmative action. To him and business corporations like SM, RFM and all the teachers and staff in the cultural caregiving team, we express the country’s appreciation.

Serving as one of the highlights is a media interpretation of the Earthsavers Ten (10) Commandments for Disability Prevention designed as part of the eco-desk service of then Senator Heherson Alvarez. This is transposed into poetry by Professor Tomas Ongoco and a rap rhythm version by blind musician Rico del Rosario. The special conference will be held on July 22, 2008, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the NCCA Auditorium  in General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila. Due to limited seating, registration is on first-come, first-served basis. For details, you may contact the NCCA Office of the Executive Director of the Office of the Public Affairs and Information Office at 5275529/5272192 loc. 612-615 or log on to www.ncca.gov.ph.

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