TAGBILARAN CITY, April 14 (PIA) –It could have been a farming life for the Aranetas who have settled in the fat fertile fields of Casate in Ubay, Bohol.
But when she was younger, Sarah Mae Araneta thinks she could ease out life and earn better when she is schooled right.
So, she, the sixth in a family of 12, tried to hurdle everything in school; wrestle out of bed too tired from the strains of house work, walk to the school sometimes on empty stomach and survive the day in school.
Life worked for her until in high school, she noticed something was wrong.
“I used to see clearly everything written on the board, but the sense of sight slowly diminished until everything is blurry and faint,” she shared in Cebuano.
Sarah Mae, along with seven of her siblings unluckily picked a dominant gene from her father, who has retinitis pigmentosa, a case of retinal degeneration that could slowly lead to total blindness.
“My father, Cipriano Araneta had retinitis, a condition of visual impairment that slowly progresses into blindness. In the family, we have five siblings who have perfect eye sight, seven of us were not as lucky,” she said as she unconsciously thumbed her forefingers during an interview.
In high school, when her vision degenerated, Sarah Mae started missing school and dropped out.
“Then, I stayed home, retreating people especially my classmates, staying mostly at home, along with my father and my Other siblings who have developed a similar impairment like mine,” she shared during recent visit to the Area Vocational Rehabilitation Training Center II (AVRC) in Labangon Cebu.
At home, she is forced to be with reality.
She has to work to help her parents feed her siblings who are equally gradually losing their sight: Stella, Sarah Jane, Bernard, Joseph, Fatima and Dexter who are in different states of visual impairment.
Her elder sister Rosemarie, brother Jeffrey, and Evony are sending in financial support but she knows they too have to start their own families.
She still has hope though: Cipriano Jr. (now 18) and brother Miguel (10 years old), like sister Evony have no sight issues.
But, these two must get to school to improve their chances of a better life.
Wanting, to fight back at life’s rotten deal, Sarah Mae mustered the courage to regain control of her life.
“I went to the town hall and asked people to help me get trainings for work, that was when local social welfare and development officer told me about the Department of Social Welfare and Development operated AVRC,” she narrated.
After an assistance from the local government, Sarah Mae arrived at the AVRC, along with a cousin who also has similar disability.
For her who has to leave the comfort of home for the first time, battling with inserting into a new culture, troubled by home sickness and being in a rehabilitation center for PWDs, it must be hard.
“The AVRC runs a variety of skills trainings for persons with disabilities (PWDs) to allow them to regain confidence and get a good bat at life and make a livelihood to be independent,” Maricor Caballero, AVRC resident psychologist explained.
Those who are visually impaired tend to be pushed to massage training, senior manpower development officer Flor Dabon volunteered the information of Sarah.
Other skills at the center include Cosmetology, Computer Technician and Programming, Carpentry and Furniture, baking and pastries.
Sarah, a small girl of her age 19 has to go through a week of trainings in sthrengthening her fingers to be able to be efficient in her massage training.
“It was painful” she stressed, showing off her limbs, which have not hidden an inner strength to ease out other people’s pain.
She trained the hard way, starting in September 2015. Six months later, she earned a spot at the massage centers run by PWDs like her, and the money started coming in for her.
“We are paid a minimum of P100 for the first 30 minutes of massage service working from 10AM to 10PM, plus some tips, the income is sizable,” she bared.
Sarah Mae is not the only one in the family who has had the AVRC training.
Her Sister Sarah jane has completed the AVRC training for masseurs and has lately joined a masseur group in Tagbilaran City, while Stella, another sister is Now at the AVRC training to be another masseur.
Now, at 20, Sarah Mae is still that small girl.
But with her thumbs strengthened by hardwork, correct training and right motivation, her clients would never believe her frail arms could deliver that cure for a sore muscle or hitting that pressure joint so accurately.
With about 20% of her income getting to the organization she belongs, Sarah Jane who now works in a PWD massage center at a major mall in Cebu earns almost a thousand a day, and she does know how to spend it.
“I am sending a brother to college, he is taking up Marine Engineering at a school in Bohol,” she proudly tells.
She said that is the only way they can be assured the their family can get a better chance in Life.
And beyond that she also sends money at home.
“My younger brothers like it whn I go home, and you know what they would ask other than food? cellphones,” she said.
Well for her, asking for a cellphone might be big, but knowing they would not be able to use it when the lose their sight, it may not be that big at all.
And for Sarah Mae, losing sight may be had her, but losing hope is worst.
Not it seems, she may have lost sight but hope, she sees better now. (rac/PIA7/Bohol)