Defying Differences

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Written By Cervin P. Bariso, Writer, Operation Blessing Philippines

By embracing their imperfections, Premetivo Alfonso, 55, and Benjamin Navaro, 56, are able to defy the struggle of being different. They’ve accepted what God has given them and worked hand-in-hand to focus on the good things that lie in store for them each day. Premetivo, who is mentally challenged, and Benjamin, who has neurofibromatosis – a genetic disorder that causes cell growth disturbance, making tumors form on nerve tissues – treat each other as brothers.

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“Natutunan ko na kung ano ang ibinigay sa atin ng Panginoon, ‘wag natin ikahiya. Hindi ko Siya sinisisi sa kalagayan ko (I’ve learned that we should not be ashamed of what God has given us. I don’t blame Him for my condition),” the very grateful Benjamin said.

Seeing Benjamin for the first time, you can’t blame yourself if you’d be wary of approaching him. With the tumors that spread all over his body, people would always ask if he has a contagious disease. But you’d be surprised at how people treated him during the medical mission of Operation Blessing in partnership with Kabalikat Para sa Maunlad na Buhay, Inc. (KMBI) in Brgy. San Nicolas, Betis Guagua, Pampanga last August 1. The residents consider Benjamin normal, just like anyone else in the covered court.

When you come to know Benjamin, you’ll understand how he was able to refuse to accept the common fate the world would expect for people like him. During OB and KMBI’s mission, Benjamin patiently waited for his turn. However, at first, the dentists did not let him undergo tooth extraction because his blood pressure went up.

“Nag-ikot po kasi ako sa mga kapitbahay namin para sabihan sila na may medical mission ngayon kaya napagod ako. (I’m tired because I went door-to-door to inform my neighbors of the medical mission today),” Benjamin said.

While waiting, Benjamin watched over Premetivo being checked up by a volunteer dentist for tooth extraction. He was not tense for his friend; and, in fact, seemed very happy for him. “Alam ko kaya niya yan (I know he can handle it),” said Benjamin, expressing his confidence in Premetivo.

He did not treat Premetivo differently, maybe because he knows how it feels to be treated that way. This might be the reason why Premetivo also has the same confidence in the relationship he has with his Kuya Benjamin. “Hindi ko siya tinatawag na barkada kasi kapatid ko siya. Kuya ko siya. (I do not call him pal because he’s my brother. He’s my Kuya),” Premetivo boldly said.

“Kinakalong ko nga at hinahalikan ‘yun kahit ganun siya. Binigay ‘yun sakanya ng Panginoon eh, tanggapin natin. (I even carry and kiss him despite his condition. God created Him that way, we need to accept it),” Premetivo said when asked how he can accept Benjamin with his condition. He really cares for his Kuya, and he even got sad when Benjamin was blessed to be given an opportunity to work abroad as a construction worker 13 years ago despite his disease.

These two remind us that we should be grateful for what we have. Our imperfections shouldn’t limit our life. And in the same manner, other people’s challenges don’t give us reason to treat them differently. Benjamin and Premetivo watch out for each other as brothers. Benjamin’s wife already died when he was still abroad, and his children now have their own families. Premetivo, on the other hand, lives with his 80-year-old mother.

Fortunately, Benjamin’s blood pressure went down, and so he was also able to have his tooth extraction. Benjamin and Premetivo left the mission site still hopeful for tomorrow’s provision; just like what was provided for them that day through OB and KMBI.

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