Parents whose children have special needs would say that one of their wishes is for their children to be cared for long after their parents are gone, as well as for their kids to develop skills that would enable them to be more independent as they grow older. For Hasna Cabral, 30, a single mom raising two children with autism, these were the reasons that motivated her decision to join the reality game show Pinoy Big Brother.
In an emotional clip that has gone viral since being uploaded on the show’s official YouTube channel, the mom of two shared the challenges she faced after finding out that her kids had disabilities, an experience that is all too familiar to parents who are going through the same journey.
Hasna’s firstborn, Bash, has an intellectual disability, and the mom admits in a conversation with one of her housemates that she was in denial of the situation at first. “Nung sinabi nung doktor, ‘May autism ang anak mo’ and kailangan niyang mag-special school, I said, ‘No.’ Hindi special ang anak ko. I-e-enroll ko siya sa regular school,” she shares.
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However, Hasna’s daughter could not keep up with the academic load. “Pinupukpok ko siya ng aral pero hindi talaga [kaya],” she says.
The mom soon faced reality when one of Bash’s classmates pointed out that her daughter was different from everybody else. “[She told me] ‘Ate, bakit ganyan ‘yung anak mo? Ang bobo.’”
Hasna was overwhelmed with her emotions, but her daughter, who was right beside her then, had no reaction. “Doon ko narealize na pareho sila ng edad pero magkaiba ng isip,” she says. Other people would have had an extreme reaction to what the classmate said, but Hasna’s daughter did not care — she did not understand the gravity of the situation.
In a conversation with “Big Brother,” Hasna says her daughter, who is now 9, has the mind of a five- or six-year-old child. Her son, Baste, is 6, yet he still can’t speak. “Hindi pa niya alam ‘yung pangalan niya, hindi pa po niya alam kung ilang taon siya, [at] nag-da-diaper pa rin siya,” Hasna explains.
A former banker, Hasna gave up her corporate job and chose to sell ukay-ukay or secondhand clothes online so she could stay at home and take care of her kids. She admits that her family is struggling, especially since sending her children to a special school and to therapy is expensive — plus the fact that it would probably be for life.
“Sa special school, Php80,000 ang tuition, ‘yung iba umaabot ng Php100,000. Maliban dun, may occupational therapy na halos tig-li-limang libo sa isang buwan,” she shares
She adds, “Hindi siya sakit na kapag binilhan mo ng gamot, okay na. Habambuhay siya na kondisyon, habang buhay namin siyang kasama. Habambuhay dapat akong masipag."
Though their situation is challenging, Hasna will do anything for her children, and their love for her is enough to fill her cup. “Kapag niyayakap nila ako at hinahalikan, ‘yun lang, masaya na ako,” she says.
Though Filipinos have grown to be more understanding of differently abled persons, Hasna’s story also highlights the need for parents to teach their children about being kinder and more compassionate to people who have special needs.
Tearfully, she recalls an incident where she witnessed a group of children taking turns slapping Baste while her son had no idea that he was being hurt.
“Naglalaba ako ng mga ukay-ukay ko. Hindi ko namalayan, si Baste, ‘yung bunso ko, nakalabas pala ng bahay,” she shares. The mom then rushed out of the house to search for her son. About two blocks from their house, she heard the sound of her son’s laughter and followed it. That’s when she saw him getting bullied.
“May nakita akong grupo ng bata, nakabilog sila. May naririnig akong tunog, tapos tumatawa ‘yung anak ko,” she shares, before slapping her hand to demonstrate the sound she heard.
“Kuya ‘yung mga bata, salitan sila, sinasampal nila ‘yung anak ko,” Hasna says. “Paisa-isa. Tapos nagtatawanan sila kasi kapag sinampal mo si Baste, hindi niya po-protektahan ‘yung sarili niya. Tatawa siya, akala niya laro ‘yun.”
Hasna says she was so shocked with what she saw that she was unable to move and speak. Finally, she mustered the strength to call the attention of the kids, who immediately ran away at the sound of her voice. Baste, on the other hand, walked toward her, still with a big smile on his face.
Hasna says, “Masyadong mabigat. Sabi ko nung time na ‘yun, ‘Ano ba’ng pinaglalaban ko sa buhay ko? ‘Yung mga anak ko, kahit anong gawin ko, mananatili silang isip bata. Tapos ito ‘yung mundong iiwan ko sa kanila. Mga tao na hindi naiintindihan ‘yung kalagayan niya. Mga tao na sasalamantahin ‘yung kahinaan niya.”
Hasna’s story is heartbreaking and it shows that though we’ve made leaps and bounds in breaking the stigma surrounding special needs in the country, many people still don’t fully understand what it’s like to have children with disabilities. If anything, it’s a call for parents to continue teaching their children about empathy, understanding, and kindness, and to be a good role model for their kids. More than talking to your kids and preaching about what they should or shouldn’t do, you must first start with yourselves.
Children with special needs may seem different, but they are just like other kids — just with a particular set of struggles. We can all learn to refrain from passing judgment and to be more sensitive to their struggles. As they say, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”