Colorful outdoor arches and streamers greeted everyone entering the small town of Baras (Rizal Province) last July 19-23 as Handicap International, through the REBUILD Project, celebrated the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week. The festivities were co-organized by the Municipality of Baras and the Baras Federation of Persons with Disabilities Associations, Inc. (BFPWDAI).
According to REBUILD Project Manager Joana Paula Villaflor, the days-long celebration engaged hundreds of stakeholders, including local government, businesses, people with disabilities, and other residents of Baras. She said the activities boosted the advocacy and awareness campaign of the Project, which focuses on livelihoods and inclusive local development and is funded by the European Union and Swiss Solidarity. This year’s NDPR Week carried the theme, “Taong May Kapansanan: Pasaporte sa Kaunlaran (Persons with Disabilities: Passport to Progress).”
The celebration kicked off on July 19 with a parade around town. Originally slated for July 17, the parade had been postponed because of typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) which hit Luzon island on July 16. Seventy-five people – many of them people with disabilities – took part in the parade which went through the town proper. Participants carried printed slogans and handed out stickers advocating the rights and welfare of people with disabilities.
The parade ended at the Municipal Hall grounds where organizers held the opening program. BFPWDAI President Angelito Donaldo “Boy” Reyes welcomed participants and guests to the celebration.
The first day also saw the judging of the outdoor arches (arko) built by Baras’ 10 barangays. Artfully decorated with recycled materials, the arches were designed to express the areas of concern indicated in the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities. Examples include the right to quality education, decent employment, and health services among people with disabilities. Barangay San Jose was declared champion of the competition.
On July 21, some beneficiaries of the REBUILD Project set up shop at the Baras Municipal Gymnasium for the “Market Day.” They sold clothes, crops, and other products, which are fruit of their partnership with the Project. Through the REBUILD Project, they were able to loan from REBUILD Project partners SEED Center Philippines Inc. and Entrepreneurs du Monde to set up their businesses.
Handicap International’s Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) Project Manager Richard Erick Caballero afterwards led a forum on CVD and other non-communicable diseases. The forum was held in line with the disability prevention theme, noting that a large percentage of disabilities in Baras is physical impairment due to stroke and other CVD. Barangay health workers, officials, BFPWDAI members, and municipal social workers attended the session.
Meanwhile, more than 30 elementary and high school students competed in a poster-making contest. Their works were exhibited the next day, July 22, alongside displays regarding inclusive disaster preparedness. Albert Panoga and Mary Joy Tapis won the competition in the elementary and high school categories, respectively.
Film and fanfare
July 22 was also marked by the annual general assembly of the BFPWDAI. Federation President Roxas and Secretary Ruben Moral presented the organization’s accomplishments since the past year, as well as their current challenges. Roxas particularly expressed satisfaction in the recent government resolution to include the barangay-based organizations of people with disabilities in the town’s Barangay Development Councils.
Later that day, close to 200 high school students attended the screening of Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth), an Indian film which tells the story of a boy with dyslexia. After the show, the REBUILD Project staff facilitated a short quiz and a forum regarding the film.
July 23, the last day of the celebration, was dubbed “Inclusive LGU (Local Government Unit) Day.” Officers from Municipal Hall set up booths at the Gymnasium to facilitate the registration of people with disabilities to various social services. Scores of local people with disabilities signed up to get their ID cards, which would entitle them to privileges such as price discounts in certain commodities and services.
Finally the NDPR Week ended with lights and music as eight local bands sang their hearts out in the culminating concert. A group of hearing-impaired dancers from the University of Rizal System in Morong (Rizal) also performed an interpretative dance as doxology.