Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan: Meet the Persons With Disabilities who find strength and hope in each other

Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) might face more challenges in life because of their condition, but what’s inspiring about them is that they choose to fight every day. They can certainly show resilience as much as they can but such strength is always tested by a society that denies them the respect and acceptance they deserve and opportunities to prosper in life.

In the March 20 episode of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, we meet PWDs who overcame incredible ordeals, supporting and bringing hope to each other in their respective journeys in life.

Hope Coquilla Cabase lost her father too soon due to kidney failure. Because of that she, her siblings, and her mother were forced to live separately. Hope stayed with her aunt, while her siblings stayed with their grandmother, while her mom lived in a different place. From then on, Hope and her siblings dreamt of having their own house. Her eldest sibling supported her education, and there was even a time when her youngest sibling stopped his studies just to give way for her.

When Hope was in college, she found the love of her life who would eventually become her husband. After Hope finished college and landed a job, she got married. However, life became more challenging when she suffered from a mild stroke at the age of 27. She felt bad for always needing help and assistance from her family especially since the left side of her body was really affected.

Her outlook in life changed during those times. She would easily get furious because of her condition, but then she realized that she had big dreams for her family. That’s why she became more optimistic and hopeful. Now, she does therapy twice a week and exercises regularly. She also chose to improve her overall lifestyle. She eventually found another job in a private school near their place where she worked as an office staff. However, her income wasn’t really enough for the expenses of her family and not enough for them to own a house. This was when her close college friend, Mariecell Esguerra, a coordinating consultant in a Hongkong based company helped her.

Because of Mariecell’s help, Hope was able to work in China. And her savings were enough to buy their own house and lot. Hope said that if it wasn’t for Mariecell, she probably wouldn’t be achieve that longtime dream. Hope gave her friend a pair of slippers, which she said could remind her of the moments they spent together.

When Mariecell was still young, she had in her mind what she wanted in a dream guy. She has always wanted her love story to be fairytale-like. She had her first boyfriend when she was in first year college at 17. According to her, the guy was very consistent in courting her. He would even go to their house often just to show to her parents that he had only good intentions. But all of it vanished after Mariecell and her family had a car accident almost two decades ago. According to the doctor, she had a 70 percent chance of not surviving. After undergoing seven operations, Mariecell was very blessed and fortunate to have been given a second chance in life. However, because of her disfigured face and blindness as a result of the accident, she got worried about her future. Moreover, her suitor gradually stopped showing efforts to woo her.

Mariecell decided to focus on her career and on herself instead. Later on, she went to a computer school for the blind and got to work as a transcriptionist. And it was also there when Mariecell finally found her soulmate. He was working as part of the IT Support team during that time and he would often call Mariecell just to be able to talk to her. They were able to know each other more, and eventually had a relationship. Mariecell was very happy because she felt like she found her ‘forever’ just like how she dreamt her love life would be. And the person they are both thankful for is Vicky Suarez, their Human Resources Manager who hired them both and served as the bridge for them to cross paths. To thank her for all the help and for the friendship, Mariecell gave Vicky a hairbrush and lip tint.

Vicky’s own definition of success is being independent. Her late mother taught them to always do things on their own. When Vicky was in third year high school, her mother was rushed to the hospital for an illness as she didn’t disclose enduring the sickness ever since Vicky was a child and passed away. Vicky did not get used to the absence of her mother, but she chose to stay strong just like what her mom has always told her. After finishing her degree in pharmacy, Vicky was able to work abroad immediately.

She did not feel homesick because she loved the environment and she loved her work. However, one accident will change Vicky’s situation and outlook in life. In September 23, the same day of the death anniversary of her mother, Vicky was in a car mishap. She suffered from a permanent spinal cord injury and as a result, couldn’t walk. She spent more than a year in a hospital abroad. When she went back home, she felt the loneliness that she didn’t immediately feel when she was in the hospital. She felt like her dreams vanished in just a snap. But instead of drowning herself in self-pity, she looked for opportunities so she could find a job again. Fortunately, she landed a job at Genashtim, a “socially responsible organization, committed in promoting world-class high quality online learning.”

Vicky finally did not feel alone when she worked in the company. She felt like she found her purpose in life and proved to herself that her situation doesn’t have anything to do with her hard work in pursuing her goals. It was also in this company where she met her good friend Leigh McIntyre who made her realize that there’s so much that she could do despite her condition. Leigh made Vicky realize that she’s not any less of the person she wants herself to become. And for the friendship Vicky is very grateful and thankful. She gave Leigh coffee, which symbolizes how strong their friendship is.

Leigh is a polio survivor. She was 11 months old when she was diagnosed with the said disease. Since then, she was not able to walk. But Leigh always had a positive outlook in life. She didn’t see herself as different because she grew up believing that she was as normal as her family members. She could also do house chores like washing the dishes and cleaning the house, given her condition. But as she grew older, she started hearing insults from other people. One time, when her father saw her crying, he told her that she shouldn’t let other people control her feelings and look down on herself. Her father also told her that she should actually be grateful because she can see, talk and laugh with her friends, and many others. And Leigh has always kept that in mind.

However, her self- confidence and positive outlook were lost when her mother doubted her capabilities. Leigh felt like she really couldn’t reach her dreams because of her situation and because her family didn’t even believe in her. But she realized she needed to stay strong for herself. After graduating from college, she got a job as a prompter in a SpEd (Special Education) school. But the adjustment period for her was challenging. That’s when she realized that there were real hardships brought by her condition. But a person came into her life which made her realize her worth more. He was a German with whom she shared a beautiful romance. However, he passed away very early because of a heart complication. Leigh felt like she lost everything, especially the only pillar that gave her strength and meaning in life.

But little did she know that there would be another chance for love again in her life. One day, a Canadian messaged her on a social media app. He showed interest in her but Leigh chose not to talk to him at first. But because he was persistent, Leigh finally gave in and was able to get to know him more. When he assured her that her condition wasn’t something that could be considered as a problem, Leigh knew that he got good intentions. And that was the time that she gave herself a chance to love again.

Leigh’s happy ending to her love story despite her condition led her to encourage Vicky to believe she can achieve anything she wants even with her disability. Vicky passed on this hope to an uncertain Mariecell, who felt she didn’t have a future after losing her sight, with a career opportunity and a second chance at love. Mariecell’s newfound happiness gave her the motivation to further help Hope in reaching her dreams of having a high paying job in China and a house and lot of her own.

Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, hosted by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, airs Saturdays on the Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, and A2Z Channel 11.