A dream that shone in the darkness; a teacher in the town of Brooke’s Point shared his journey in reaching his goal behind the absence of light in his sight.
Jeric Gabinete, 27, became a registered teacher by passing the 2018 licensure examination for teachers. But unlike other aspirant educators, he did it without the sense of sight.
Jeric narrated in an interview with Palawan News inside his classroom at Brooke’s Point National High School (BPNHS) that he was born blind.
He said when he was being conceived, his mother was taking pills because she did not have any idea that she was pregnant. When he was born, the doctor explained that the intake of pills resulted in his condition.
“Noong ipinanganak ako, ilang buwan bago magmulat ang mata ng bata, napansin nila na sumakto naman sa takdang oras ang sa akin, pero hindi pa nila ako nakikita na nagmumulat. Ipinatingin nila ako na magpatingin sa espesyalista sa bayan, ang pagkasabi ay may problema sa mata ko dahil sa contraceptive na ininom pero di naman sinasadya,” he said.
Jeric is the fourth out of five siblings and the only one who has special needs. Most of his siblings took and finished degrees in education. His father is a farmer while his mother stays at home.
As he grew up, Jeric was confused as to why other kids his age were running straight without bumping or falling while he noticed that he got wounds when he ran. He then dreamed to run and play games such as ‘patintero’. He also once tried to climb trees as they lived on a farm during his childhood years.
Jeric did not escape the teasing he got from his classmates during his studies at the elementary level. Due to his condition, it also reached to physical abuse by some bullies he encountered. Even if these shook his self-esteem, Jeric stood up and reminded his self that he does not have to be swayed by these challenges and block his way in achieving his dream.
“Noong bata ako, di maiiwasan ‘yong panunukso na ‘Bulag! Bulag!’ Matatawa ka na lang, noong estudyante ako, may nagsasabi rin na ‘Duling! Duling!’ pinapabayaan ko lang, bandang huli, nainis ako, sinabihan ko na magkaiba kaya ang duling at bulag, sana mas gusto ko maging duling kasi nakakakita pa kahit double, okay lang,” he said.
He expressed his gratitude to his parents who extended their full support since he was in elementary as they witnessed his perseverance. Jeric finished his high school level at the school where he is now teaching and the teachers who guided and considerate his condition are now his colleagues in the profession.
As he reached the tertiary level, he said that he initially chose to take a mass communications course in aspiring to enter the field of media. Jeric said that he chose mass communication as his first choice following his passion for reporting.
“Kaso pina-realize sa akin na mahihirapan ka, ng mga magulang ko, kapatid at ibang teachers na alam naming na kaya mo ang pagma-mass comm kaso ang hirap kapag pumunta ka sa field, hahanap ka ng report at delikado which na-realize ko naman. Buti na lang pinangarap ko na kung sakaling ‘di sa akin ipagkaloob ‘yong mass communication, educ ang kukunin ko,” he said.
Jeric got his scholarship through Palawan Eye Center for his four years. He inquired in Palawan State University’s (PSU) main campus in Puerto Princesa but after he learned that, there is a Filipino major offered in College of Community Resources Development (CCRD) Brooke’s Point, he transferred immediately as he is familiar with the area.
Throughout his elementary schooling, Jeric went to school without any companion aside from his cane.
“Kapag nandito ‘to, matapang ako maglakad pero kapag wala ito, nakakatakot. Maraming tawiran dyan, nong high school ako sumasakay din ako mag-isa, tapos college ganon din,” he said.
Jeric was thankful that his teachers in college also adjusted to his condition, his instructors dictate the examination. He admitted that he struggled also in adopting to a noisy environment. His classmates also helped him through reading the notes he failed to take down.
He is adept at braille, a system of touch reading, and writing for blind persons.
“Kasi ang teachers di ba mahilig mag-test dictation kapag quiz, kapag periodical naman o midterm, minsan one on one kayo ng teacher o sabay kayo ng kaklase mo na nag-i-exam at sasabihin mo lang sa kanila kung anong sagot. Kung tutuusin nga, pwede mo dayain yong sagot kaso syempre konsensya pa rin ang kalaban, siguro kung dinaya ko ‘yon, di siguro ako naka-graduate,” he said.
Jeric admitted there were times he was close to giving up. At one point, he tried to stop going to school as he could choose to work in Manila.
“Sinubukan ko huminto, sabi ko ayaw ko na ituloy total kaya rin namin magtrabaho sa Manila kasi meron kaming training sa Manila na about sa computer, makapagtrabaho ka online. Sabi ko kaya ko na rin man, third year college, kaya ko na rin naman magtrabaho,” he said.
Through the encouragement of his friends who go to their house whenever he skipped classes, Jeric was inspired to continue achieving his dream of becoming a teacher.
Buti pinalakas ng mga kaibigan ko yong loob ko, kapag hindi na ako pumapasok, pumupunta sila sa bahay, nagsusumbong kay nanay. Ultimo yong teacher ko nong high school, sinabihan ako na huwah huminto.
On his review before LET
Jeric did his review using a messenger application, where he had notes sent by his classmates read to him by a screen reader application on his phone. The review center also sent soft copies of materials for review.
“Masakit lang sa part namin kasi ilang beses kami nagpabalik-pabalik sa isang review center, ang sabi ay tawagan daw naming yong boss, tinawagan namin pero hindi sumasagot, tini-text pero walang reply. Bumalik kami pangatlong beses kaso ilang araw lang magsisimula na ang review. Sabi ko parang gusto nila iparating na ayaw nila ako doon, hindi lang nila dinidiretso,” he said.
One of his friends informed him about a certain review center that accepted enrollees who have disabilities, and he was encouraged to try. Jeric was grateful that the review center considered his condition and provided him notes and review materials.
Jeric was one of the 70 reviewers who enrolled in the center and passed the LET in 2018 after the results were released in the month of December. He checked on the website of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and his phone almost fell after he jumped out of his joy.
Becoming a regular teacher
Like all teachers who applied for a position in the Department of Education (DepEd), Jeric also went through screenings and processing implemented by the agency. He started as a high school teacher in June 2019.
At present, he is teaching under Special education (SPED) program and he has a Grade 8 student who is also blind.
Next year, Jeric will hold a regular class to practice his major.
“Siguro magiging challenge ‘yong ingay nila, kung paano ko sila maha-handle. Pero advantage ko naman nong nag-practice teaching ako, regular class din hinawakan ko, grade 10, naturuan din ako kung paano mag-handle kaya ngayon, 50 percent kaya ko sila i-handle,” he said.
As he became a teacher, Jeric looked back on his journey as a combination of pain and joy.
Jeric realized that it is true that there is hope while you are alive and it does not depend on the physical attributes of an individual.
“Basta ikaw ay nagsisikap, makukuha mo. Parehas naman tayong lahat, pantay-pantay, tao rin naman tayo, may kakulangan lang sa amin pero yong pag-iisip ay kaya naman makipagsabayan. Siguro hindi hundred percent, 70 ganyan. So ibig sabihin, may tendency na kayang umangat ng isang may kapansanan at kaya maging established sa trabaho,” he said.
He said that he is now focused on inspiring others who are going through the same challenges he went through. However, he laughed at some people who shared his story online and tagged him as ‘fake news’ and telling him that PRC pitied him that’s why he passed the LET.
“Sabi ko kung naawa sa amin nong board exam, sana lahat kami pumasa. Kaso ilan lang kami pumasa, sinabi ko na hayaan na lang kasi may mga tao na comment lang nang comment pero hindi talaga nila alam ang mga bagay-bagay,” he said.
Jeric now considers himself “60 percent independent” and able to cope with the environment by himself.
“Karamihan kasi yong pandinig at pakiramdam ko, nakabase lang ako sa hangin, halimbawa kapag maingay, nahirapan na ‘yan ako maglakad kasi hindi ko na marinig yong tunog. Pero iba-iba rin kasi yong ibang blind,” he said.
He encouraged his fellow aspirant who is with disability to accept positive feedback and let the negative go out of their ears. He urged them to be open-minded and do not let those words ruin them.
“Panghawakan niyo lang talaga na habang may buhay may pag-asa, ginagawa sa atin yang mga pagsubok na ‘yan para mahasa tayo at kung may marating tayo na ganitong sitwasyon na makaka-encounter natin, magiging buhay na patototoo tayo sa kanila, pwede ka pa nila maging inspirasyon. Kung magkakaroon ka ng pagtitiwala sa Panginoon, magkaroon ka rin ng tiwala sa sarili,” he said.