“Yung EDSA ’86 ba, kailan naganap?”
“Hindi ko po talaga alam, sir.”
The PCIJ asks young people what they know about the 1986 People Power revolution.
DESPITE the many laws that recognize the rights of children with special needs, there is still no comprehensive law that mandates special education in the Philippines. As educator Dr. Edilberto Dizon points out, nurturing children with special needs is simply not a priority in the Philippine educational system. The thrust of education in this country, he says, has always been in the provision of more facilities for the growing school population – and even that has been a chronic problem for the government.
“Will the education of special children be more important than mass education?” Dizon asks. “The needs of the majority have yet to be fulfilled. How much more for those in the minority?”
“If (education) priorities are met,” he says, “there should have been more SPED programs and inclusionality programs. More teachers (should have been) trained and retained and not encouraged to leave the country.”
MARAGONDON, Cavite – In theory, Jaime ‘Jay’ Divina Jr. should have been able to go to school, despite the poverty of his family and his own physical shortcomings. After all, education up to the secondary level is supposed to be free in this country, and there are laws to ensure that even children with special needs like him are not deprived of learning opportunities.
Yet at 16, Jay, the eldest in a brood of four, has yet to step inside a classroom. In fact, in 2009 his 13-year-old sister Jaciel was the only one among his siblings who remained in school. The other two – Jonathan, 15, and Carlinnette, 10 – had to stop because their mother Diana could no longer afford expenses such as the children’s day-to-day baon, school supplies, and other requirements that do not go free in public schools. In 2010, Jonathan and Carlinnette have resumed schooling, but are at least two grade levels behind their age groups.
THE MOMENT they stepped into the campus of the Philippine High School for the Arts or PHSA in 1988, Roselle Pineda says that she and the other freshmen were made aware they were being trained to be the country’s future cultural leaders.
“Medyo mayabang pakinggan (It may sound like I’m bragging),” says Pineda, now 34 and teaching at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, “but this makes you realize at the start that you are scholars of the people, the cream of the crop, and therefore you have the duty to give back something to the people.”
Then again, PHSA is no ordinary school. As its name implies, it specializes in the arts, and it takes as students only those who are deemed gifted in writing or in either performing or visual arts. It is, in fact, the creative counterpart of the older Philippine Science High School or Pisay, which caters to youths with “high aptitude for sciences and math.”
THEIR OTHER children were only eight, five, and six years old at the time, but Linda and Sabido de Leon knew it was important for everyone in the family to understand that things were about to change with the baby’s arrival. The doctors themselves had made sure Linda and Sabido realized that soon after Sammy’s birth.
“When I woke up after the anesthesia’s effects wore off, Sammy’s pediatrician approached me and my husband and started talking to us in a very soft voice,” recalls Linda. “She looked worried, and we could tell there was a problem. She was genuinely concerned, and she told us that Sammy can progress with a lot of help.”
NORMAL – THAT can be such a loaded term because the opposite seems to be “abnormal.” But let’s be semantically neutral and look at normal as a statistical label, referring to the majority. Related words are “norms” and “normative,” which are used to refer to values that the majority of society subscribes to. We know, though, that the norms can sometimes end up being unjust or oppressive, sometimes by labeling the ones who are different, the ones who are non-conformist, as “abnormal.”
That’s why “special” comes in handy, in the way it challenges social stigma and, going further, has a privileging function. In the Philippine context, “special” was a term that was quickly accepted because even in our traditionally conformist society, many Filipinos did see “special children” as blessings, as suwerte (good luck).
IT WILL be his first official trip overseas as the country’s chief executive, but President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has little reason to look forward to his upcoming visit to the United States.
On September 20, Aquino will be at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to present just how far the Philippines has achieved progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, in large measure because of the shortcomings of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino is bound to acknowledge before other world leaders that the country is falling short of several of these targets.
In September 2000, the Philippines and 188 other countries signed the Millennium Declaration, and committed themselves to achieving a set of eight goals by 2015. These goals – the MDGs – have since been commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress for both rich and poor countries.
For a certain generation, re-elected Senator Juan Ponce Enrile will always be known as the former martial law administrator and the inveterate coup plotter. But for the 2010 elections, Enrile won on a campaign pitch that he is a man committed to the text generation.
“Gusto ko, happy ka!” Enrile declared in campaign advertisements.
© 1989–2014 All rights reserved. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.