I lived in Labangon 6 years ago, 7 years ago, before we lost everything to a fire and had to move. I passed by this special needs school everyday on my commute to school.
I went back today.
Before anything else, I have to clarify something for the sake of new readers and friends. I do not know who my biological father is. He left before we were born. The person I’ll refer to as ‘papa’ from here on out is my uncle – my mother’s brother, because when we were teeny tots he decided he’ll not let his sister take care of her twins alone.
Papa is a designer. Master of all trades. He does couture, jewelry, interior design, landscaping, craftsmaking, name it. He is barely home because he gets invited everywhere all the time. Every month a new country, every week a new city.
He stumbled upon St. Martin de Porres school for special children and he fell in love with it. When he first came there the school had no ceiling. The walls had no paint. There were no floors. It was like an oven in mid-day. But what it had – it had students with Down Syndrome, autism, severe handicap, blindness, hearing impairment. It had teachers who dedicated their whole lives to the kids. When they laughed the sound reverberated everywhere.
He committed to it. He didn’t sleep on piles of money so he would do fashion shows to raise money for the school. Get his rich friends to donate. The school improved. And we went today to give gifts.
Cut to me. Last week I’ve been looking inward everyday and I didn’t like what I saw. I was… becoming the worst version of myself. You know that. I talked about it. I didn’t get better the next day. There’s this ocean inside of me and I didn’t come up for air, maybe I just let myself drown. Until Papa flew to Cebu and asked me to tag along for this mini christmas party.
Ohhh boy. Lord, your ways are always new.
When we arrived, everybody rushed to him. It’s like he runs the place. He knows the teachers, the kids, Stephen has grown, he said, all that. The kids came up to me too. I met Mico who had Down Syndrome and he loved hugging people and high fiving people. We probably hugged ten times in 3 minutes. Then there’s Archie, also with DS who loved taking selfies. I personally wanted to avoid taking pics with the kids but his face lit up so much and so I obliged.
There were lots of dancing, singing, clapping of hands. I sat uneasy because I wanted to ask questions. I wanted to know their stories. Ask their parents what it's like. Ask the teachers why they dedicate so much of their lives here.
I did all I could to not cry. I felt frustrated that these kids have to live with disability, most of them irreversible. Felt so helpless because I knew I had no power to help them.
My papa’s been helping this charity, among his other causes, for years and not a lot of people know that. I asked him why. He said people don’t have to know that he helps. But they should know that they can help. He asked me if I can come to the school every few months to check on the kids and the teachers and to give the donations of his friends. Of course I would love to.
It was life-giving for me to look outward. Those kids did so much more for me than I had, for them. The world is telling us to satisfy the self and care for no one but the self because the world is evil and cruel. But in following Jesus, we have to die. Take on a new life that, newsflash, doesn’t put us at the center. To kill passions and old sins so we can love God, and love others. I’ve been praying to God that I learn how to die to self. I’m grateful today’s lesson involved those kids and their teachers, and my papa, their collective laughter reverberating through the room, into my heart, waking up a soul in a daze.
The school needs so much more help. You can message me if you want to know more or make a donation.