CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Just under the Cagayan de Oro amphitheater, beside a small ping-pong shop in the heart of Divisoria, is a station for the famous blind masseurs of the city.
The afternoon is hot and humid, but the comings and goings of people bring life to the area. In the middle of this, a man dressed in blue scrubs sits, waiting, listening with his head hung low.
As you approach him, he would quickly say, “Massage, ma’am/sir?”
His name is Delfin Angapan, a 46-year-old resident of Barangay 8. He has been a masseur for 6 years.
He was not born blind though. “Ga-hinay na lang og kawala akong panan-aw, tapos nawala nalang dayon siya (usa ka adlaw),” Angapan shared. (I lost my sense of sight slowly until it completely vanished one day.)
Angapan didn’t elaborate what really caused his blindness. For what he lost, he makes up with his healing touch which has been his bread and butter for the past years.
On the upcoming elections, Angapan could not help but laugh as he is still undecided.
“Malisod ta’g mangita’g maayo ani,” he said. “Maghuna-huna pa ko.” (It’s hard to choose who is the best. I still have to think about it.)
When asked how he will be able to vote in his condition, Angapan says that he has a guide.
While walking along the Tiano Brothers Street, a man carefully walks along while waving his stick. Upon reaching a drop-off point, he folds his stick, tucks it in his hands and waits idly.
The man is Ronnie Geronimo, 52, from Macalajar Quarry. Blind since birth, he manages his disability well.
When asked about the upcoming elections, he replied “Duterte.”
“Kay taga-Mindanao siya ug ma-disiplina niya ang mga tao, parehas sa nabuhat niya sa Davao.” (Because he is from Mindanao and he can discipline the people just like what he did in Davao.)
Asked again of how will he be able to vote in his condition, Geronimo readily replied: “Kaming mga PWD (persons with disabilities), naa mi mga guide. Akoa kay ang akong asawa, duha mi muadto para mubotar.”
(We, PWDs, have guides. Mine is my wife. The two of us will go together to vote.)
Plight of the PWD
Delfin Angapan and Donnie Geronimo are just two of the PWDs who make up for more than 1.4% of the total population of Cagayan de Oro. (READ: How accessible are the 2016 elections to PWDs?)
Since the passing of the Batas Pambansa 344 or the Accessibility Law, privileges were given to them, recognizing them as citizens with special needs.
Despite the issues being raised about their sector from the local to the national level, however, very little was said about them and their issues during the 2016 campaign trail. (READ: Cagayan de Oro debate crowd: Where are our issues?)
In past reports, the sector also expressed their disappointment for not being given priority by the Comelec in terms of special registration. The poll body, however, has taken steps to care of PWD voters. (READ: PhVote 101: How to vote on May 9)
On May 9, will PWD votes matter? Will the country’s next leaders take steps to solve their plight?
For the two Kagay-anon PWDs, they can only hope for the best. – Rappler.com
Alyssa Michelle Viado is a Rappler intern based in Cagayan de Oro City, studying Development Communication at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.
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