The loudest weeper

MY BROTHER and I were introduced to an uncle recently. From the very first day, it seemed nitpicking on my brother’s mannerism became his new hobby. From songs my brother sang to the way he walked, this man always had some insensitive comment, as if my brother had done him wrong.

“Tan-awa iyang nilakwan oh. In-ana jod na siya?”

“Weird kaayo siya, no?”

“Ngano in-ana iyang tinan-awan?”

At one point, he called my brother “buang” after he refused to eat something. Even his wife butted in and said my brother has no chance of living a normal life.

To be honest, I don’t know which is more offensive: the obvious discrimination toward my brother who is a special child, or the fact these people are family.

This is not uncommon when someone in the family has special needs. The very people who should be supporting and positively reinforcing the child and his family are often the same people who label them as “bugok,” “buang,” or even “mentally retarded.” Parents and siblings of special children could do nothing but take these insensitive comments with a grain of salt. They are family, after all.

Despite various awareness campaigns for various mental disorders, many Filipinos still ridicule people with special needs. Some still prefer to believe that special children are gullible oddballs who talk idiotically (ever hear of ABS-CBN’s Budoy?).

Media, too, has not been very helpful in ending the stigma. Special children are often portrayed as either highly intelligent or gravely dependent on other people.

Undoubtedly, many do sympathize and offer comfort to special children and their families. But soothing words can only go so far. So this has led me to wonder: are we truly accepting these special children, or are we simply indifferent? And watching by the sidelines is just as bad as the discrimination itself.

I’m not saying that special children are the only minority suffering discrimination. There are numerous minorities who experience similar treatment. I would also like to clarify that I’m not discrediting the suffering of other minorities; this is no competition on who weeps the loudest.

Rather, I would like everyone to realize that minorities, like special children, have more difficulties performing basic tasks such as applying for college. Understanding requires extra amount of patience and empathy.

Lastly, I am asking you to see that special children and other minorities are face numerous injustices. You have the power to fix that by not allowing differences to set them apart. Follow the struggles of these people with interest and desire to make the world better for everyone. If this is still too much to ask, then I ask you to open your hearts and love.

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(Tatiana Maligro is a senior high school student of Xavier University and hails from Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. She plans to take up college at the Ateneo de Manila University this June.)