By Yas Ocampo
DAVAO CITY — A 23-year-old PWD has decided she would not take the issues in her community of Barangay 21-C in the city’s Boulevard area sitting down, so to speak, and has won a seat at their SK Federation at this year’s elections.
Fife Vanice Dayola has ranked #1 in the Sangguniang Kabataan elections despite a bone deformity that has left her wheelchair-bound since birth.
In an interview with Manila Bulletin, Fife said that she wants to reach out to her constituents in the densely populated Barangay 21-C, whose residents comprise mostly informal settlers who live along the shores of the city’s coastal area.
Fife has been a resident of the riverbed area of 21-C, along with her mother Rowena and two siblings.
Rowena said that the primary breadwinner of the family is their youngest Carl, 22, a manager at a fast food restaurant.
Jan Errol, the eldest, also suffers from a medical condition, which leaves him with bouts of seizures every now and then.
Ironically, Fife is not a holder of a PWD identification card, Nor is a member of the local disability support organization.
The conditions in which Fife lives reflect the issues she aims to face as part of the SK.
The path to her own home at the riverbed area, for example, is barely enough to fit a wheelchair, with her mother resorting to carry her around when they travel.
The house sits meters away from the shore.
During high tides, flood waters can reach knee deep.
While this may be relatively “harmless” for others, Fife’s bone condition has left her sitting at a height of barely two feet.
Garbage from the sea also regularly drifts into the shore and eventually into the limited space in the area.
Traveling around, Rowena and Fife have done away with taking the wheelchair around.
“It has become a hassle,” Rowena said, referring to the wheelchair and not her daughter who she willingly carries around like a baby when needed.
Accessibility has become an elephant in the room of sorts in the city, with government allowing the use of a portion of the sidewalk to accommodate vendors as a compromise.
The city’s Byaheng Do30 program, meanwhile, envisions sidewalks all over the downtown area that is accessible at all points through a wheelchair.
But so far, this program is yet to see the light of day.
Fife has only had six years of elementary education, finishing Grade 6 at Rizal Elementary School, and has attended only days’ worth of an alternative learning system program.
But she wishes to take up a course in information technology, should there be an opportunity.
Rowena said she and Fife approach the barangay for any medical needs, with the barangay helping out whenever Fife gets bouts of asthma.
For all of her life, Fife has not enjoyed most of the privileges of being a PWD accorded by law, such as the discounts provided by being a card-carrying person with her condition.
The requirements appear to intimidate them.
“We’re told we need doctors to certify her condition,” Rowena said.
Asked if they have approached the health center, Rowena asks, unsure: “Do they do that? Certify for PWD cards?”
During the interview, it would seem that healthcare was at the top of the things they could afford.
“What I have,” Fife said of her deformity, “Wala na ko kahinumdom. Taas man kaayo to (I don’t remember. It’s a very long name).”
In response to how she wants to help, Fife is so far simple in her response.
“I want to help, especially those like me,” said Fife, speaking with a tiny voice that would seem to be more massive than the largest of cities.