CAN a child born with just one foot slug it out with the rest?

For eight-year-old Madel Romano, a second grader at F. Bustamante Elementary School, that is a reality she continues to prove. Full of spunk and determination, she doesn't let her being born with only one foot put her down as she walks with firm strides, using a crutch. But it doesn't mean that others are just as forgiving about her being different.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

And like any child who has to live through the cruelty of other children and all those who do not appreciate her spunk, she has had her share of letdowns.

Elmer, her father, a laborer at nearby Tefasco wharf, believes Madel got her disability because his wife, Melba, took fancy at a differently-abled neighbor when she was still pregnant with Madel.

"Mura gani ug naglihi akong asawa sa among pungkol nga silingan (My wife developed this certain attachment to our neighbor who only had one leg)," he said.

He said that while Melba was pregnant, the neighbor came to visit and upon seeing the neighbor, his wife laughed out loud.

Lihi, pangala, that stage in the pregnancy when a woman has indescribable cravings is often blamed for the outcome of a baby. An unusually hairy child in common folk knowledge was born after his mother craved for balut, a very fair baby is because of singkamas, and a dark one is because of balut or duhat. It's folk belief that prevails until now.

Melba admitted having difficulty accepting her baby upon learning her disability followed by feelings of shame for having such a child. She was even hesitant to send Madel to school because she's different.

Madel, however, was not to be set aside just like that and attended classes at a day care center once she was old enough.

She may just be in her second grade, but that by itself is already one big achievement.

"As a student, buotan si Madel. Average ang skills pero participative siya sa klase. (Madel is a good student. She has average skills but she is very participative in the class)," says Evelyn Cogollodo, Madel's teacher.

"Makita jud nako ang interest sa bata nga muapil sa mga school activities. Mao nga ako siyang gipaapil sa among Girl Scout kay niingon jud siya sa ako nga muapil daw siya. Ang problema kay kadtung nakit-an siya sa scout master, gipahawa siya (I can really see Madel's interest to join our school activities, in fact she was determined to become a girl Scout and so I allowed her to join. But when the scout master saw her, she was turned down)," she adds.

Madel's older sister said there were instances when Madel got into some fight because of constant teasing from other children who call her "pilay".

She's not giving up though and dreams of becoming a doctor.

"Para tabangan nako ang mga bata na pareha nako (So I can help other differently-abled children)," she says.

Today, she goes around on a pair of crutches given her by the City Mayor's Office. It's not much, but it has helped her a lot.

Over at the Department of Education, it is fine-tuning its Special Education Program in a bid to integrate or mainstream learners with special needs into the regular school system and eventually in the society where they actively participate. In this way, Sped centers and institutes are multiplied.

At present, there are only two recognized public school Sped centers and two private school Sped centers in Davao City.

In the meantime, Madel will just have to slug it out on her own amid the unforgiving world children live in.