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Standing on Both Feet

She walked from the far end of the buffet table to the folding table nearest to me. I watched her as she placed her coffee mug and the plate of puto and moron on the table and slowly positioned herself comfortably on her seat. I noticed that she can stand straight only with one leg while the other was supported by a cane she held in her right hand. But her physical limitations never hindered her from participating in the day’s lecture as she always looked enthusiastic, open minded, and gave me that constant smile during the discussions.

Nilybeth Raquiza, 39 years old, is a resident of Brgy. Catadman, Basey, Samar and the federation president of Basey Municipal Association of Persons with Disability (BMA-PWD). She was born a normal baby but later on suffered typhoid fever at age three. This sickness triggered an unfortunate event that was to change her life forever. Due to an uninvited medicinal malpractice, an overdose of medicine for the fever was injected into her body causing permanent paralysis to her left leg. The effect of the overdose didn’t surface until she was in secondary school. (Nilybeth has shared that the matter has been dealt with in court.)

For someone who has the determination to be in service of others, no physical disability has hindered Nilybeth’s indomitable spirit.  She scopes the 51 barangays of Marabut to identify all the PWDs in the municipality and make sure they are provided with benefits from the government.  Recognizing the need for inclusivity of PWDs in disaster situations, she leads capacity building workshops and drills for both PWDs and senior citizens in disaster response.  She also serves as vice president and adviser for the Catadman Mat Weaver’s Association, a women’s organization that supports livelihood of banig weavers in her barangay.

Truly a hardworking and dedicated woman, she is also part of the Local Poverty Reduction Action Team of Basey (LPRAT) and a member of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan in Samar.

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Her involvement with PKKK gave her the chance to be part of our Solar Scholars training program. She actively participated during the three-day training.  During the simulation of evacuation from the Tinabanan basketball court to the natural cave shelter, she volunteered to do the headcount.  She eagerly counted the evacuees slowly gathering at the assembly area while a batch of scholars went ahead to the cave to set up the TekPaks.  Later on, as the evacuees started to head to the cave, she was at the tail end of the group making sure everyone has entered the shelter – every single evacuee, children and elderly.

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Nilybeth, in green shirt, was the last person to enter the cave

Nilybeth is an epitome of strength and perseverance.  Despite her own personal disability, she looks after the good of her fellow women and PWDs making sure that they are actively taking part in the community’s engagements, especially in livelihood and disaster response.  An indomitable spirit sure goes a long way.  Thanks to Nilybeth for teaching us that lesson.

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