RIZAL PROVINCE – For the first ten years of her life, Adeza San Jose was a victim of disdain, abuse and discrimination because of her inability to hear and talk since she was born. I was unwanted, she writes, with her mother taking abortion pills while she was pregnant with her. She was always angry, she explains, recalling instances where her mother would strike her with a wooden block. I felt persecuted, she laments, by the community that isolated her because of her disabilities.
She couldn’t exactly remember how she was separated from their house – thoughts of always being outside and her mother giving her away were parcels of an old, unreliable memory – but she couldn’t forget however, finding a home with a family that she would eventually called her own.
“Aimee Ada Coryell,” Adeza fondly writes, was the name of the missionary who adopted her for almost twenty years. This happened after Adeza was referred by her relatives who knew Coryell. Adeza then became part of the school that Coryell founded in Laguna (108km southeast of Manila), where she learned sign language, writing in English and other subjects. But ultimately, Adeza explains, that the virtues of discipline and diligence were the most valuable lessons she learned under the soft-spoken guidance of Aimee. It was also there where she also came to know the man who she now calls her partner. Cesar Buela, like Adeza, was also born with the same disabilities.
Adeza, now loved, wanted, and appreciated by people around her – eventually knew that she had to come to terms with her traumatic past. At age 30, she decided to see her mother again, who was surprised by their unexpected encounter. But eventually, Adeza opted to stay with the Coryells.
Adeza and Cesar’s life together took a turn when they embarked on a journey to Baras, Rizal. She recalls that they moved because of a job offer from her cousin to serve as caretakers to their house. But despite being family, some relatives treated them otherwise. They were always angry, according to her, reaching a point where they were constantly asking them to leave the house.
Even though they weren’t able to hear what their relatives were saying, Adeza says, that she and Cesar knew were being made fun of. Even worse, they were always tired and weren’t being paid well.
But fortunately, it was during that time that Handicap International’s REBUILD Project, through the Baras Disabled Peoples’ Organization (DPO), endorsed the couple to live in the barangay (small village) hall in Sitio Tamalan, Brgy. Rizal. Adeza and Cesar were previously identified through a registration of persons with disabilities facilitated by the DPO.
From then on, Handicap International’s REBUILD Project also assisted them in finding new work in the municipality, helping them in their requirements and orienting them in the process of inclusive employment. Now, they are the first street sweepers employed by the municipality despite their disabilities.
They were initially shy of interacting with their new community when they started working last December. But it wasn’t a problem, Adeza says, as they were so kind to them. “I feel happy when I do my work,” she writes down with a fulfilled smile. Apart from the work, Adeza appreciates the friends she acquired along the way. She talks to them constantly, ranging from her problems to light-hearted conversations. Empowered herself, she wants to help other friends with hearing impairment by teaching them sign language.
Enjoying almost every day of their working life, Adeza tells us that she wants to save up so she can visit the Coryells. “Later, I’ll see them,” she writes with a determined look. But apart from the inevitable visit, she claims to have one aspect missing: a child of her own. It can get lonely when Cesar and I see a family together, she sighs. But someday, she says, she’ll adopt and like Aimee, they’ll shower their child with all the love they can give.