A pregnant massage therapist, a teenager helping her cancer-stricken mother seeking treatment, a group bonded by their love for singing. These are only some of the contestants who took part and won in the first singing contest for the visually impaired held at the SM North Edsa recently.
Charmaine Tonic, a 21-year old native of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro could not believe that she would be the first winner in the first Himig Tanglaw, a musical talent search organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Philippine Chamber of Massage Industry for the Visually Impaired (PCMIVI) in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, Inc.
Tonic, a masseuse for the past two years who sang The Prayer during the contest, said she did not expect to win because her fellow contestants were all good and that she was five months pregnant with her first child. “This is totally unexpected because I heard all of them sing but I guess the Lord heard my prayers,” she said.
PCMIVI President Ronnel del Rio said the singing contest was conceptualized in order to give talented visually impaired individuals a chance to prove their self-worth to the community and society. “Blind people are relegated to mostly just being masseuse and that is unfortunate because many of us are talented and that is what we want to showcase today. That we can do other things rather than do massage,” he said.
He also lamented that even blind masseuse are being given a hard time finding work because of the issuance of an administrative order from the Department of Health (AO 2010-0034) which requires everyone, including all visually impaired, to undergo and pass licensing examinations before they are allowed to work as massage therapists.
“People with disabilities (PWDs) should be given all the support so we can be productive members of society and not just rely on dole-outs or the support of our families and friends. But they are making things hard for us that is why we have to look for ways to show to the world that we can do other things and be good at it,” he said.
He said they as many as 300 visually impaired individuals and groups from many parts of the country auditioned to be part of the contest but only 15 of them were chosen – eleven (11) for the solo competition and four (4) for the band category.
Del Rio added that for the next competition, which will be held in 2017, they plan to expand the search to cover more provinces to give everyone a chance to show their talent.
Fourteen-year old Jamie Ann Ladonga, who won third place in the contest said her winning would be a great help to her mother who is battling cancer. She said she has been singing in birthday parties and weddings to help in her mother’s medications.
Charina Limpiado, the lead vocalist of Sharp Troopers, the winner in the band category said they have been singing together as a group for the last four years. Working together in a massage clinic, they decided to form the group because of their love for singing. “We are really so happy for this opportunity because this is our first recognition as a group that we are doing something good,” Limpiado said.
Asked on what advice she could give visually-impaired individuals like her, Limpiado said to always strive and never to be afraid to reach their dreams. “We always work hard despite the challenges. This is what we love doing and we are prepared to go the extra mile to make our dreams happen,” she said.
Bien Mateo, Director of SM Cares’ Program for Disability Affairs, said their decision to host the Himig Tanglaw is a testament to SM’s commitment to provide all possible opportunities for PWDs to reach their full potentials.
“We all share the dream of inclusive opportunities to everyone, including our PWD brothers and sisters. We at SM Cares have been working hard to make that happen in every opportunity we can. This is one of our ways to show our support for communities.” Mateo said.
Del Rio, for his part, thanked SM Cares for being always part of their advocacy of promoting the rights of PWDs. “SM Cares has always been there for us and this is another demonstration of their valuable support to our cause,” Del Rio said.