Visually-impaired Lumad searches for love, future with his songs

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 February) – It’s easy for aspiring singer Larry Garame to gather a crowd. He sits in a corner, pulls a chair, and sings his favorite song accompanied by the guitar.


That’s what this visually impaired person, who belongs to the province’s Bukidnon tribe, did on the eve of Valentine’s Day at radio station DXDB.


As he started to strum the guitar for “Kahit hindi kita nakikita (Even If I can’t see you),” one of his original compositions, a group of reporters and bystanders gathered outside the studio to listen.


Larry dedicated the song to an acquaintance way back. He was teaching the girl how to play the guitar. But he hesitated to hold her hand to demonstrate the chords. He was ashamed of his condition, but he liked her. He apologized for his courtship despite the situation.


Larry had a hard time accepting his condition.


“It was not easy, it was a hard realization that I cannot be like the others,” he added.


But he said he is thankful that despite his disability, he was given the talent that he can share to others. When he was seven years old, he started joining singing contests in Bukidnon and in Agusan del Sur, where his family migrated once.


He said that through the years, he developed interest in singing and cited that he sings better if he does not eat anything.


“I really wanted to be a singer to make both ends meet,” he added.


Larry, a villager from Busdi in Malaybalay City’s Upper Pulangi district, has a promising talent.


He said singing is easy for him as it is God-given and his gusto for singing doesn’t go down even if he performs before a crowd of strangers.


What’s difficult for the 25-year-old Lumad singer is finding means to sustain his aspired career for his future.


He said he is from a family of small farmers. As the eldest of four children, Larry felt the responsibility to take care of his family and himself.


“I am not sure what lies ahead of me because we are very poor,” he added in the vernacular.


He said because of his denial about his condition, he also was not able to go to school.


“I did not believe before that I can do what others can do because I am blind,” he told MindaNews in an interview.


He said for now he has given up on going to school because it’s still difficult. Besides, he said, they cannot afford it.


When asked about the other persons with disabilities (PWDs) who went to the Department of Education’s Special Education (SpEd), he said they got used to studying because they got used to it since they were younger.


But Larry said he does not see himself begging, too.


“I want to eat food from my earnings. I don’t want to depend,” he stressed.


When Larry heard of ABS-CBN’s Pilipinas Got Talent (PGT), he auditioned in Malaybalay in April 2011. He said he went through the long queues to be able to show his talent.


But Larry said after his sacrifices, luck was not on his side. Those who auditioned with him told him later he was among those who qualified but he did not show up.


Organizers could not contact him to announce his inclusion, his friends said. By that time, he was in Busdi where there was no cellular phone signal.


The news struck him. He cried hard. He thought it was his shot, and lost it.


“It’s really hard when no one can help,” he added. He said it was not his worst experience so far.


About three years ago, he also joined an amateur singing contest in a village in the municipality of Impasug-ong.


He said he was rated 99 percent by one of the three judges. But he lost the contest. The two other judges gave him zero. He later found out that the person who invited him to the contest was a previous political opponent of the incumbent village chief.


“I felt sad but I did not feel bitter. I’m just glad that I know why I lost,” he added. He said he did not mind the politics. In fact, he added, he has not even experienced voting, which he said is still difficult for a blind man in their village.


He also composed many songs. But he said he already forgot the melodies and the lyrics he arranged for about 23 original compositions. He added that aside from having no recorder, it was also difficult to write down and memorize the lines.


The Bukidnon Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs, Inc. invited Larry as its guest in their weekly radio program at DXDB Monday when he sang on-air. The group is convincing him to study, at least Braille, an aid to literacy for the visually impaired using their sense of touch.


Larry believes that as long as one does good, God will never leave him.


He cited one experience with his family, which taught him to trust in God and do well.


Larry recalled they barely ate that day. They survived on a meal of boiled cassava. Then a neighbor arrived and asked if he want to join a contest. He immediately dressed up, borrowed a pair of shoes, and went to a “video cinco” player (P5 coin music video player) to practice Martin Nievera’s “Say that you love me” once. He said his father discouraged him because the contest was barely two hours away. But he was determined.


That afternoon he went home a winner with a P500 prize beating 18 other contestants.


“We were also able to buy rice and other food that day,” he added.


Larry said he hopes the government and other generous people will continue to help people with disabilities like him to survive, too. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)