Iba ‘Yan: Angel Locsin makes a brighter future possible for visually impaired modern heroes

Visually impaired Filipinos have also been affected greatly by the chaos brought by this global COVID-19 pandemic. A number of them work as massage therapists since it’s a profession they can be best at doing, and are eager to nurture even more. However, as most massage clinics closed in the four-month community quarantine, they could not get back to work. Despite this, they still strive to be of service to others as modern-day heroes, extending their blessings to other people and bringing a sense of fulfillment to other people’s lives.

In its July 19 episode, Iba ‘Yan and host Angel Locsin reached out to these impressive visually challenged heroes and gave them a clearer path towards a promising future.

Romeo and Jessel Sayson, who are visually impaired, suffer from congenital cataracts. Through their non-profit online platform, Blind Massage Events Manila, people who suffer from visual impediments are given the chance to work as therapists, and they directly earn from it. Moreover, Romeo and Jessel were also the first to launch the “Blessed to Bless” project, which has helped unemployed blind massage therapists. And as of writing, there are already hundred beneficiaries of the campaign. Angel and the Iba ‘Yan team taught Romeo and Jessel how to repack the goods that will be distributed to their beneficiaries. The relief bags consisted of sacks of rice, canned goods, noodles, and toiletries. In total, they were able to repack 100 bags of relief goods. The show’s team also gave additional toiletries and emergency kits, and gave Jessel a talking clock.

Two of Romeo’s beneficiaries are Philip and Maricel Sorita, who are also married. Both have long been experiencing total blindness. Maricel got it from German measles while Philip has been blind since birth. They both experienced struggles since they were children—from not having access to education to encountering bullying. Maricel said working as a massage therapist has both its benefits and pitfalls. An advantage for them is that the job relies heavily on the gift of touch, not on the sense of sight. However, travelling to the workplace has always been difficult for them given their physical limitations. Despite the challenges that come their way, they continue to strive hard for their children. Philip is a member of a band while Maricel works as an audio transcriptionist. Philip shared that he dreams of writing his own songs and Maricel told the team that she still has high hopes of going to school and studying a vocational course. One of their daughters lives with them while their eldest is staying in Bicol with her grandparents.

“Opportunity is what we need, not sympathy,” Maricel stressed as she added that she considers her visual impairment as a blessing because that’s what led her to meet the people who believed and trusted her. Later on, Philip added that his favorite artist has always been Rey Valera. With this, Angel made his dream of jamming with idol come true. As Philip strummed his guitar playing his favorite Rey Valera classic “Maging Sino Ka Man,” Angel made it possible for Rey to actually sing his hit song with him virtually through a video call. And when Angel told Philip it was Rey singing, he was very elated and thankful for the opportunity.

Then, to help and to give due appreciation to the couple for their undying and admirable love and hard work for their family, the Iba ‘Yan team, in cooperation with their local government of Taguig City, gave two talking clocks for the couple, and a brand new laptop for Maricel. She was also given the chance to take a vocational medical transcription course from TESDA, NCR. Meanwhile, Philip was offered to attend a songwriting workshop from the Vehnee Saturno Music Corporation. Jahzmin was also given a four-year college scholarship from STI College. The couple’s eldest daughter, meanwhile, received financial help and a scholarship assistance from Bantay Bata 163 for the incoming school year.

Another couple who benefits from Romeo and Jessel’s project are Michael and Angela Alonzo, who are both partially blind. Michael started having problems with his eyesight when he had measles, while his wife Angela had poor eyesight since she was born. They met each other in a school for the blind that they both attended. That’s also when they started to fall in love and eventually got married. They have four children and their eldest, Ralph, has also been experiencing problems with his eyesight. Since they have also lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the couple decided to sell fruits so they can still have a source of income. Being massage therapists for 14 years already, Michael and Angela never got tired of working selflessly to provide for their children. They stressed that they will always do everything to the best of their abilities in order to assure a bright future for their kids.

The team once again coordinated with the city government of Taguig to provide them the aid they needed. They were also given three talking clocks. The local government gave them job opportunities in the City Social Welfare Development. They were also handed additional financial aid with a direct supply of fruits they could sell. It didn't end there because they were allotted their own space in the mobile market of Taguig, with their old selling cart now replaced with a new one. Ralph was also given a tablet for his online schooling. But what proved to be the most helpful for Michael, Angela and Ralph was their checkup with specialists at the Asian Eye Institute. The doctors found out that Angela has displaced lenses and has retinal detachment as well. Meanwhile, Michael has a corneal scar that needs a transplant. And Ralph has the same diagnosis with his mother and also needs to undergo surgery.

With the monstrous costs needed for the procedures, the family couldn’t possibly afford it. Because of this, officials from Frontrow International stepped in and announced that the wellness company will shoulder all the expenses needed for the check-ups and surgeries. They would also provide gadgets for their children’s studies. The blessings really overflowed as the Asian Eye Institute waived all the expenses for the family’s regular checkups after the surgery, as well as the eye drop medications they would need.

These would certainly offer a better tomorrow for these visually challenged families, so they could lead productive, dignified lives.

Watch Iba Yan, hosted by Angel Locsin, Sundays at 6:15pm on the Kapamilya Channel.