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minerva zamora arceo
minerva zamora arceo IN TIMES of quandary and despair, most people find inspiration from extraordinary persons with remarkable stories. In my case, I need not have to look far.

I have an elder sister with disability. Her name is Mary Ann and she is 36. She is a hunchback. At a young age, we were told that she was born healthy and without any physical disability. When she was one year old, she had a minor accident while playing with our eldest sister. They bumped against each other and Mary Ann was flipped over. She was brought to the hospital after complaining of stomach aches. But since she was only a baby, no one really knew what was wrong with her.

My parents could not afford to bring her to specialists. They were very poor. And the '70s were not really good times in the Philippines. My mother blamed the doctors at the public hospitals for not treating her appropriately. The wrong diagnoses resulted to her lifetime deformity. By the time some doctors found out what was wrong with her spinal column, it was too risky and too expensive for her to undergo an operation. She was 11 then.

I grew up seeing Mary Ann's disability as something ordinary. I seldom heard her complain or make excuses for her condition. She was just like me, a normal child. She would go out with friends, help with the household chores, talk animatedly about her activities in school, and even wash her own clothes. So I did not really see her differently.

When my mother passed away in April of 1990, Mary Ann was 18. She had her 18th birthday two days after my mother died of hepatitis and heart failure. We all grieved then. But Mary Ann was the most devastated because she was very close to my mother. Unlike our eldest sister Alona, Mary Ann was more dependable, responsible, and mature.

After my mother's burial, Mary Ann began her role as our guardian. We are six siblings, all girls. Since our father was a full-time driver, he was always out and had no time to look after us. So Mary Ann took over. By the time that I was in college and my other sisters in elementary and high school, she cared for us like she was our mother.

Those were really hard times. My father would only provide P2,000 ($48) a month for all of us. And Mary Ann would take the burden of budgeting this meager subsidy to cover our food for 30 days, our school expenses, and church offerings. It was not an easy task, but at which she was successful. She would quit college for a time. But despite her on-and-off stint at college, she was able to complete her degree in Accountancy.

Today, she works as a government employee at the provincial social welfare office. She earns a measly P6,000 ($143) per month. On my birthday last May 18, she bought me a nice bag. I was really touched. She could barely spend for her own needs but she gave thought and took time to buy me a gift.

Just recently, she spent two days at the hospital nursing me after I gave birth to my third child. I had a caesarian delivery. On the second night, as she was watching over me, I suddenly realized how blessed I was to have a sister like Mary Ann. I might have taken her for granted one time or another because I didn't really feel her burdens or frustrations. She always looked strong and determined. This can be attributed to the responsibilities she accepted early in life.

But at that moment in my room at the hospital, I clearly saw her face. Still like my mother. She was very anxious about me. She barely slept at night. I asked myself, Mary Ann has done so much for me and my other sisters, but what have I done for her so far? Then I felt her pains and sufferings that I never realized before.

For the first time, I thought of the many things she could have had in her life that she missed. She has no family of her own. No lover, no husband. Just herself. She has no children to give her joy and warmth. She might have wanted to do things that I have done, like mountain climbing or playing table tennis. I don't know. Maybe she wanted to do bunjee jumping or ice skating, but of course she can't.

I look back on the old days. Her childhood was both fun and sad. Children usually called her names because of her deformity. She was happy at home though, playing games with us. She spent her 18th birthday crying at my mother's wake and then she spent the following years looking after us. She was not born a hunchback. She could have had a normal life if only that accident had not happened. Not only did fate make her early years gloomy, it also deprived her of the many pleasures in life.

And yet she still has something to give today. She still finds time to check on us and nurse for me. Despite any misgiving she might have, life is still sweet for her. I envy her at times for her courage and her spirit. As I write this story, I feel depressed. Maybe part of the postpartum symptoms taking over me. But as I think of her, I know I am more blessed. And I have no right to complain.

[About the author. Minerva "Mini" Zamora Arceo is a 31 year-old mother of three. She earned degrees in Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications-Major in Journalism and in Bachelor of Arts in Film and Audio-Visual at UP Baguio and at UP Diliman. She was a full-time journalist from 1998 to 2004, writing for the daily Sun.Star Pampanga. Before her current stint as Executive Director of the Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon (ADCL), a non-stock, non-profit regional organization, she served as Provincial Information Officer (PIO) during the term of Pampanga Governor Mark T. Lapid. At present, she manages to engage in advocacy work to promote culture and the arts, even while writing a column every Monday and Tuesday for the Punto! Gitnang Luzon newspaper and hosting a daily radio program, "Kuwentong Buhay, Kuwentong Bahay" (11AM to 12NN on DWGV-AM, 792 khz).]

-Posted: 11:09 AM 2/11/09 | More of this author on eK!

Papa Osmubal (of Macau) writes...

Such a beautiful person, your sister is! Indeed, every family has its own hero. This is what writing is all about-- rather, this is what life is all about. This article has a heart, pulsating heart. It has an eye, staring us in the face. It has a hand, reaching us, touching us, nudging us. This writing can dig and flaunt the pure human in every person.

-Posted/Via Email: 2009-02-11 02:04:57 PST

Aida Aguas (of USA) writes...

Komusta ka Minerva? Ali mu ku mekad kakilala, oneng abasa ke ining tawli mung sanese ek, metagkil ku pusu king kwentu mu't kabilyan.

Makanyan man, makuswelu kung menikwa king payabut ning kwentu mu. Tatalangan ku ing pamangilala mu king mangayap nang depat Atsi mu kekayu.

Masampat yang tanggap galal at pamangilala i Mary Anne! Dineigan nala pa ding aliwang pengari king depat na kekayu. Tune yang malugud a kapatad.

Saludu ku keka at lakwas na kaya.

Galamanu at masayang sagana kekayu ning Bayu mung bayit a supling!

-Posted/Via Email: Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 8:40 PM

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