Visually impaired students vie for Capitol’s scholarship

STUDENTS from as far as Bantayan Island went to Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale’s office to be interviewed for a slot in the Paglaum Scholarship Program last Friday.

Some 221 students crowded the lobby and formed a long line to Magpale’s office. Only 150 slots are available.

While waiting for their turn, four students talked to reporters. They are Gerard Lawan, 26; Shiela Marie Tiongzon, 21; twins Roland Christian and Roland Christoper Faelnar, 20.

They are visually-impaired members of the Blindfold GERROSHI Band, a name that combines the first letters of their names.

They shared their experiences in class and how they deal with bullying.

“If they get the scholarship, they would be very happy,” said Rodora Tiongzon, 56. Tiongzon was their guide and Shiela’s mother.

Asked about bullying, Gerard said it was prevalent in their high school days but not much in college. He said he just ignores it.

“Kung naay group activities sa klase maglibog sila (classmates) kung iapil ba mi nila o dili (Our classmates don’t know if they will include us in class activities or not),” Gerard said. Others think they are useless because of their handicap.

Shiela’s approach to bullying is also non-confrontational.

“I take it as a challenge. I-friend lang nako, mo-jam-jam lang ko nila,” Shiela, the group’s lead singer, said.

“We have friends who accepted us and soon even the bullies became our friends,” said Gerard.

Then it was their turn to be interviewed.

After the interview, they said the questions were mostly about their family background and their parents’ work.

The Cebu Provincial Board passed an ordinance last Aug. 11 creating the Paglaum Scholarship Program for tertiary students who are differently-abled, marginalized, and poor. They include children of drug surrenderees.

An initial P1 million, sourced from this year’s budget, is allocated for the program.
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