Moving stories of differently-abled children

Gabe Querobin

Eleven-year-old Gabe Querubin was born prematurely with a deformed right lower leg, fused fingers on his left hand, and a missing finger on his right hand. But he doesn’t let any of these stop him from doing his daily activities. In fact, he learned to walk and dance on his own.

Gabe loves to play basketball and ride his bicycle. He excels in Science and English in school and likes building with his LEGO bricks. Gabe’s ability and creativity doesn’t stop at toys and games — he also helps his mother in baking and wants to become a pastry chef.

The differently-abled kid was among the 10 inspiring children featured in a photo exhibit mounted by SM Malls in cooperation with UNICEF in commemoration of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week.

Other talented children featured were Alexandra Tallod, Arianne David, Elai Tovera, FrancisGuangco, Iana Cadhit, James Malabiga, Marina Villa, Miguel Gabriel Sagle, and Ryan Manahan.

The cast of ëSandosenang Sapatosí with Vice President Leni Robredo (second row, fifth from right) joined by UNICEF, SM Malls, and PWD partners officials. Photo by Sonny Espiritu

Entitled See What I Can Do, it was developed in collaboration with the Camera Club of the Philippines and was formally launched at SM Mall of Asia on July 18 and was on display at select SM malls including SM City Cebu from Aug. 13 to 19 and will be at SM City Davao from Aug. 22 to 29.

Complementing Gabe’s story was a heartwarming musical about a father’s incomparable love for his disabled child, which served as the highlight of the launch of the photo exhibit.

The musical was staged at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall under the auspices of Tangahalang Pilipino Artistic Director Nanding Josef and writer Luis Gatmaitan.

Entitled Sandosenang Sapatos, the musical was an original Filipino children’s story centered on a rather sensitive topic where the central character is a young girl born without legs.

The girl’s name is Susie. In the story, the audience is taken inside her dream, where she begs the Shoe Fairy to grant her feet outside the real world. It is Susie’s father’s (who is a shoemaker) dream to have a ballerina daughter and the young girl feels pressed for time as he is dying.

Differently-abled Gabe Querubin (11) with VP Robredo during the exhibitís ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by Sonny Espiritu

When the dreaded day comes, Susie continues to dwell on her dream but this time, she refuses to receive the yearly gift of shoes that is given to her by the Shoe Fairy on her 12th birthday. The Shoe Fairy then admits that the shoes are not from her but from her late father. They are then reunited as father and daughter dancing the waltz for the first time.

The story ends in the real world where the 12 shoes in Susie’s dream are translated into reality as her sister and mother find them stacked in their late father’s shoe shop.

The program was attended by Vice President Leni Robredo, SM Supermalls President Annie Garcia, and UNICEF Deputy Representative Julia Rees.

“If I go back in time, I want to know how these giants of humanities overcame their difficulties, and how they were empowered enough to let their talents shine,” Robredo said referring to successful personalities with known disabilities.

“Imagine what would have happened if somebody failed to notice their brilliance as a child or they were excluded in their communities, can we even imagine the loss we’ll have,” she added.

Various PWD partner groups such as the Autism Society Philippines, Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, AKAP Pinoy, and National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) also attended the event.

Meanwhile, UNICEF, as part of its work to reach the most vulnerable children, is working with the Department of Health and Philhealth on improving access to assistive devices and rehabilitation services for the benefit of children with disabilities, especially those who are poor or live in disaster-affected areas.

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