SURIGAO CITY (MIndaNews/July 13)—Please bring your own “baon” (food).
This year’s celebration of the 34th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) week in this city will be different than the previous years, “now no longer be marked by a free lunch” but with more focus on school-based advocacies aimed at minimizing biases against persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Delfin M. Antallan, president of the Surigao City Organization of Persons with Disabilities (SCOPED), said that previous celebrations of the NDPR week involved just the gathering of the organization’s members where they are given free food and entertainment.
“Sauna man gud magpakaon ra tapos mag-entertain ra sa ila (Before we just let them eat and then entertain them),” he said.
But this year, the visually-impaired Antallan, the city’s sanitation chief, said that activities will be more focused on educating the public about the rights of PWDs
“Our highlight for this year’s activity is the school-based advocacy campaign that we will be launching with four major schools in the city,” he said.
The schools are the Surigao del Norte National High School (SNNHS), Surigao City National High School (SCHS) , Caraga Regional Science High School and Northeastern Mindanao Colleges (NEMCO).
SCOPED will conduct for them a forum on Republic Act 9442 or the Act Amending the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities (RA 7277).
SCOPED has partnered with the City Social Welfare and Development Office, the SPED of the Mariano Espina Memorial Central Elementary School, and the Loving Presence Foundation, Inc., (LPFI) for this year’s NDPR week celebration.
It will fall on July 17 to 23 with the theme “Mainstreaming Persons with Disabilities Program in Economic Development.”
Antallan said that with the “free lunch” concept of past years taken out of the usual schedule, expenses are also slashed to an “affordable” level.
“Hibayo naman kaw na sa kada isa na PWD an kwenta nimo jaon is duha so nag cost cut sab kita jaon igo ra ta magpakaon (You must know that for every single PWD, this is already equivalent to two persons. Now that we don’t give out food, we are able to cut on cost),” the official added.
With the school-based advocacy, the community will be taught misconceptions and biases against the sector.
“We chose the high schools because they can better understand than if we do this with elementary schools. Sajon sila tudloan na dili sila mo-ridicule sa mga PWDs (It is easy to teach them not to ridicule PWDs),” Antallan said.
Those that will participate are graduating high schools students.
The class schedules of high school students are also controlled and thus they’re easier to gather compared to college students, he added.
Josephine Belsondra, LPFI program coordinator for Surigao City, said that vilification and public ridicule against the sector is still pervasive and by starting the drive in schools, it is a step towards erasing such community biases.
The organization, which focuses on community based rehabilitation, teaches that part of the total rehabilitation of the PWD is raising and strengthening their inner awareness as well as participation from the community.
The drive to increase awareness on the rights and privileges due to PWDs will not mainly focus on the communities.
City and provincial officials of the social welfare department agreed that in this locality and Surigao del Norte, there is still a lack of social and political awareness even on the part of the PWDs.
Rosemarie O. Catelo, provincial social welfare division officer-in-charge, said that PWDs in the province are still not as aggressive in asserting their rights and privileges, although there are already several organized federations in Surigao del Norte.
“That is why we are now stepping up our campaign on mass registration so that we will know where they are and what exactly are their needs, she said.
As of this year, 15 of the 20 municipalities in the province have already an existing federated PWD organization.
“Each municipalities will hold their respective activities in line with the advocacy thrust,” Catelo said.
For his part, Antallan said his members are still “shy and are afraid to come out in the open.”
“Usually, moanhi ra ini sila sa ato kun mangajo tabang magpatambay or tabang pinansyal (they will just come here if they need medical help or financial assistance),” he said.
Antallan stressed that PWDs can only be truly meaningful once the sector is empowered.
“It is still a big challenge for the PWDs here to become fully assimilated with the community and the NDPR week is a venue to encourage them to come out and be heard,” he added.
On Monday, SCOPED and the SPED Class of MEMCES, along with local officials, will hoist the Philippine flag, during the morning flag raising ceremony at the city hall.
At 10 a.m., a mass registration and issuance of PWD identification cards will be held at the City Gym.
As of July this year, at least 700 PWDs are already identified by the city social welfare.
Organizers are encouraging PWDs who are still afraid to register to take part in the activity.
A thanksgiving mass will be held on July 17 at the Surigao Bilang-Bilang church, after which will follow the formal opening program for the NDPR week. A sports festival and a leaders’ forum will follow later at the city gym.
The school-based activities will start in the afternoon of July 18 at the SNNHS and SCHS.
On July 19, an educational tour promoting accessibility and mobility will be held at the Tavern and Gaisano Capital Surigao and will be participated by students of the SPED Class in NAMCES.
A regional assembly of the leaders and federated presidents will take place at the Holy Trinity College in Butuan City on July 20. The Department of Labor and Employment will also sponsor a livelihood training during this day in Butuan.
Between July 21 and 23, advocacy work will continue with radio guesting in local stations and forums at the Caraga Regional High School and NEMCO. (Vanessa L. Almeda/MindaNews)