LORENA ACULA

Living Blind and Bold

A teacher embraces her own disability, transforming the lives of her visually impaired students.

JERALD UY //  5 MIN READ
Published October 4, 2017

 

Imagine starting college, anticipating the rest of your life ahead of you — but also finding yourself engulfed in pitch-black darkness.

That was Lorena Acula’s world. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she gradually lost her sight until she could no longer see.

“I was born with low vision and had limited eye sight when I was very young,” she shared. “I used to manage walking around by myself during the day, but in the evening I’d stay at home because it was hard for me to see. As I grew older, my eye sight deteriorated.”

Acula became completely blind after graduating from high school. However, being home-ridden did not sit well with her.

“[Being blind] did not stop me. I told myself, ‘It’s fine.’ I’ve accepted not being able to see anymore,” she recalled.

“What I wouldn’t accept is to stay at home my entire life doing nothing.”

College was the next step. She qualified for admission and earned her degree, but it was not without its challenges. “If I was reporting in class using my Braille, my classmates wouldn’t listen to me. Instead, they were busy watching my hands as I used my Braille. I eventually stopped using it, but I still had my typewriter. I also memorized my reports. I had visual aids, but they were for my classmates,” she said.

Now that she is a teacher at Eusebio C. Santos Elementary School, she helps visually impaired students reach their dreams.

“She’s always ready to help even if she doesn’t have much herself,” said Melvin Abon, a college sophomore Acula helped get admitted to Taguig City University.

“He was given the chance to take the entrance examination. Unfortunately he failed, but his score was not far off. If he was able to answer the abstract portion (an aptitude test that requires one to identify patterns among shapes, objects, and images), for sure he would have more than passed the examination,” shared Acula.

Acula believed that the only person who could help Melvin’s situation was Mayor Lani Cayetano. Soon, an opportunity presented itself when Acula found herself at the same event as Mayor Cayetano.“There was a time when I said, ‘Ma’am, I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s too difficult,’ ” recalled Abon. “At first, she agreed with me. But the next day, after thinking about it, she changed her mind. She encouraged and pushed me to persevere.”

“I approached her and she acknowledged me. I took the chance to ask her if she could help get Melvin enrolled at Taguig City University. She said, ‘No problem. I would love for him to be one of our students,’ ” she said.

The school’s principal, Leonardo Eboña, Jr., admires her work ethic. “You’d see that she is always there before the school opens,” he said. “In spite of her disability, she puts in a better performance compared to other ‘abled’ teachers because you see her willingness to help and her commitment to her students.”

As part of her advocacy, Acula founded Future Vision Sighted-Blind, Inc., an organization that provides a home and supportive environment for visually impaired children, to help them learn and live independently in order to fulfill their dreams.

Acula wants her students to understand that they are not a burden to society. “We are contributors. So instead of staying at home, we have to study and make something of ourselves,” she said.

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