March 27, 2013
Australian International School Manila
Bettina A. del Rosario

When Ms. Ves called me and asked if I could give an Inspirational Speech to the graduates the first thing that entered my mind was, why me? What could I possibly impart to these kids? We have a roster of parents carrying educational degrees of some sort and professionals in their respective fields. What wealth of work experience can I draw from? I’m a single mother a few units shy of my Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising & PR. I have never worked in an office aside from on the job training back in college or get the feel of the corporate world. Sure, I have had small businesses here and there but I still feel that it isn’t much to actually say, that I “work” or have experience.  But for me, experience doesn’t necessarily mean having degrees or titles. Experience is what one goes through life. How one lives it on a daily basis. How we capture moments that make us who we are and what we are now.

For my senior years in high school, I remember submitting a paper comparing my grade school and my high school. Having experienced both non-traditional and traditional schools myself, I swore that I would never put my child in a traditional school. I felt that my enthusiasm and creativity were being stifled. I felt so constricted that I was so unhappy. I felt that my wings were being clipped. I would wake up in the morning wishing that I didn’t have to go to school. My only consolation was that my best friends from my previous school were there with me. I had no qualms with my batch mates or even my teachers. It was just how the whole system was run.  I simply just had to comply to their rules and regulation and say thing they wanted to hear.

When it was time for me to look for a pre school for my son Luis Xavier, I knew I wanted a combination of both my grade school and high school. A tinge of structure and discipline yet the freedom to express oneself where he could achieve his full potential as a well rounded, kind and caring individual.  Where he could be respectful of others no matter what rank and file they may be. Where he would care for his surroundings and environment. Where he would be allowed to explore and be curious. Now, that we are more connected with just one click of a mouse, it just right that our kids get a global education that goes beyond the conventional. This is how EIS/AIS has been for the past 11 years. It just gets better.

Change is inevitable. 13 years ago, I was 8 months pregnant and my head began throbbing painfully. I refused to take any medication, protective of the baby I was carrying. My mother, checking my blood pressure, saw it was a shocking 240/120. My parents rushed me to the hospital, where a C-section was immediately performed since fetal distress had set in. I heard my newborn baby cry. Knowing that he was okay, I just wanted to sleep and pass out and let the doctors do their job.  Little did I know that I had brain surgery the following morning. I lost one cup of brain mass.  Not knowing that my blood type was hard to come by, it was the first time my parents knew that I was an AB+ since I am adopted and have no medical history whatsoever.

In the middle of surgery, the doctors told my parents that too much damage had been done. I could die anytime post-surgery and that, if I do wake up from my coma, I would be severely paralyzed, a vegetable, or dead.  Through constant prayers and love of family and dear friends, I woke up from my coma after 10 days. I was like a newborn human being. I didn’t know basic numbers, letters, names of objects. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t walk because of the paralysis.  Food was passed through a tube in my nose and a whole in my throat to breathe.

My greatest inspiration came from my son, who I named Luis Xavier, which means, renowned fighter.  I was determined to be there for my son in all aspects as an active mom. This meant long hours of therapy – physical, speech, occupational, and even psychological for a time.  After a year or two, I went from paralysis of half my body or hemiplegic, to having complete feeling and movement except the more intricate extremities. I had to deal with memory losses and lapses.  I had to re-learn everything with my left hand like writing and doing things. I was determined to take care of my baby. I would change his diaper painstakingly with one hand, dress him up, prepare his formula, feed him, put him to sleep beside me. Later on take him to his soccer games, tennis lessons, swimming and whatever activities he enjoyed.

Because of intensive therapy, my garbled and inverted speech improved that I even ran of Kagawad or councilor in my Barangay. I was asked by my doctors and therapists, what it is that I love doing the most, what would make me happy.  I said horseback riding and cooking. I resumed accepting food orders all from the comforts of my kitchen. I taught basic cooking in a Summer Arts Program for two years. I joined a cooking contest where my recipe was selected for the Yummy Magazine and I share my recipes on my food blog to this day.

In 2002, I started riding again getting my balance, strength, and much needed self-confidence. I believe, because of riding, I started walking again. See, the gait of a horse, mimics the gait of a person. Since I couldn’t move my right side, on a horse, the horse’s stride was moving for me. In 2004, I went to Detroit, Michigan to join a Riding for the Disabled International Dressage Competition and in 2005, another competition this time in Hong Kong. Since then, my coach and I have been invited to Hong Kong every two years to attend conferences and competitions where we meet amazing Olympic Para-equestrian Medalists who have no legs, no arms, blind, have cerebral palsy or autistic, and wheelchair bound, yet champions in their own special way and categories. We learn what we can from all the speakers, riders, and physiotherapists of how we can further promote RDA in the Philippines. It puts an exclamation point on, if you want it badly enough, the universe conspires to make it happen.  Last year, I finally got my FEI ID, French for International Equestrian Federation, the highest international governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines, where I am now I am eligible to compete anywhere in the world.

I try to engage myself in a variety of activities. I believe this is both right and therapeutic.  I volunteer for projects in my Barangay, like, the once a month Recyclables Fair, where we have accredited recyclers and where you can turn your trash into cash. Making that conscious effort to use and promote environmentally safe local products to help livelihood programs.  KASAMA, a holistic livelihood and development program for household helpers who now have the confidence to pursue a better future for themselves.  I pushed for voting precincts, voters registration and voting booths to be accessible to PWDs or Persons With Disabilities. I head the PWD Chapter of Magallanes, working together with the help of the local government to provide assistance, special needs and services to other persons with disabilities where we enjoy the same privileges as Senior Citizens.

I think I am even busier now than I was as an abled body. I have been told that I have the courage to overcome even the hardest of life’s blows. How tragedy can pave the way for an amazing blessing. How I can remain steadfast in my faith in GOD despite the most trying of times. Where I truly believe that God will never give us anything that we cannot handle.  My slogan all these years has been, DISABILITY DOES NOT MEAN INABILITY.

Dear students, you have been given the necessary tools and training to help you become creative, skilled, and flexible individuals as you embark into a new stage in your life. You have the ability to adapt to the changes you will come across. Life is a journey where one does not stop learning. You must remember to live your life to the fullest, as nothing is certain in this life. Take baby steps to achieve what you want. If you are not certain, at this point in you life, of what you want to do or become, that is okay. Just do whatever it is it with all your heart and I promise, it will be something you won’t regret. Try and experience new things and see where you are happiest. Discover your passion. There is so much life out there eager to be discovered. Do not let anything or anyone tell you that cannot fulfill your dreams. Find your joy in the moment. Persevere. Be real.  Be authentic. Acknowledge your weaknesses and admit your faults. Once you have accepted these. Believe me, you will soar. You will REACH for the STARS.

Congratulations to the graduates of Australian International School. Hold your head up high. We are ever so proud. And to my son, Luis Xavier, you are the reason why I was born.


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