You might be saying, who is “Roselle Ambubuyog”? I’ve never heard of her. Or probably, you might heard about her in the past but forgotten about it.

I remembered I watched the talk show program of Dina Bonnevie before when her guest was no other than the inspiring “Roselle Ambubuyog”. She was very inspiring that my spirits were uplifted when I heard her talk.

If you don’t know her, she is very famous in our school before because she was the very first blind student of Ateneo de Manila University who graduated Summa Cum Laude with the same course as mine, the dreaded BS Mathematics. I cannot imagine how she did it but she was a perfect example of what it takes to be a determined and goal-oriented person. An inspiring story of how will power works.

Can you imagine a person with BOTH eyes blind graduating the highest honors of Summa Cum Laude with BS Mathematics as her course?! That’s really amazing! I know how hard BS Mathematics is with all those out of this world theorems and proofs! I remembered one time our teachers told us that Roselle used to memorized the proofs of theorems and recite them completely in front of the class. But how can she did it if she was visually impaired?

Since she was a scholar of Ateneo, the school bought her a Braille Translation Software program that converts encoded or scanned text to computer Braille as well as a Braille printer that produces hardcopy Braille to make the exam questionnaires, lecture notes, and other classroom materials. I’ve also heard before that Ateneo bought her a talking calculator so he can hear the numbers while she computes. Her father used to accompany her during transfer of class rooms. She was very determined and with her determination she also achieved the Valedictorian of The Year Award for the whole graduating batch of 2001 which was chosen among all Summa Cum Laudes. Aside from these, she also received various awards of excellence. What a helluvian achievement!

I would like to leave the readers with her graduation speech which was truly inspiring:

Seeing In The Dark By The Light Of The Stars
by Roselle R. Ambubuyog, Valedictorian of Batch 2001

Valedictory address delivered by Roselle R. Ambubuyog on the occasion of the Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo Manila University – Loyola Schools on Saturday, March 24 2001, 3:30pm, at the Ateneo High School Covered Courts.

Honorable Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Fr. Provincial Romeo Intengan, S.J., Mr. Octavio Espiritu, Chairman of the Board, Fr. President Bienvenido Nebres, S.J., honored guests, Vice Presidents, Deans, administrators, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, fellow graduates, and friends:

Some of you may wonder why I was guided up this stage, and why I wear dark glasses. You see, I am totally blind. I have been blind for fifteen years now. Yet God did not leave me groping in the dark; but has actually given me stars to light my way.

Four years ago, I took the Entrance Test, after the Office of Admission and Aid, then headed by Dr. Manny Dy, hired a special education teacher from the Philippine National School for the Blind to Braille the test. When I passed, Fr. Ben Nebres encouraged me to major in mathematics, since he had met blind students in Stanford University who were able to do so. I hesitated, thinking that although I loved numbers, math seemed a course too “visual” for me to handle. To my delight, the Ateneo offered to purchase special equipment: Translator software to convert text from print to Braille, and a printer to produce exams and reading materials in Braille format.

Thus I enrolled here, half dreading the problems and changes which teachers and I would inevitably confront. From the start, however, all the teachers were willing to adjust their teaching methods to meet my needs. Dr. Queena Lee-Chua and Dr. Flor Francisco surfed the Net for appropriate technology and approaches. Soon we were able to solve inconveniences, like making Braille versions of long and complicated tables such as those of statistical data and probability values, even the Periodic Table of chemical elements.

Moreover, we had to improvise laboratory apparatus to enable me to perform experiments. Dr. Toby Dayrit, Dr. Noreen Gonzales, and my father placed Braille labels on the triple beam balance to mark its calibrations so that I could measure masses. Also, for measuring liquid volumes, they made indentations along the side of a syringe plunger, where the distance between consecutive slits corresponded to a milliliter of liquid. It was the combined creative imagination of my family and teachers that allowed me to visualize the things I needed to see. Since I had lost my sight only at the age of six, I was capable of sketching a mental picture of something being described to me in exquisite detail. For instance, Dr. Cathy Vistro-Yu used her little daughter’s toys of various shapes to explain to me what hyperbolic paraboloids, ellipsoids, and other quadric surfaces looked like.

I was not exempt from regular requirements. Just like any ordinary student, I had to take physical education courses. My instructor in ballroom dancing, Ms. Weena Lorenzo, painstakingly directed me through the steps of cha-cha, boogie, and swing. She paid meticulous attention to how my hands and feet should move, to every twist of the body, and to the shifting of my weight from one foot to the other. We thank our mentors for being good teachers from whom we learn a lot. But I am certain that each of us has encountered teachers who helped us best by becoming students themselves: open to learning new things, developing better methods, nurturing our true potentials.

Other students also supported me in my determined quest to excel. One dearest to me who shares part of my success is Ria Beth Cuevas, a fellow math major. During class hours, when my father would not be with me, Ria would be my guide, accompanying me as I moved from one building to another. Sitting beside me in every class, she would read to me the writing on the blackboard, or printed materials. She would trace graphs on my palm with her finger so that I could feel and imagine them. Whenever I had to do research, get something photocopied, have lunch at the cafeteria, listen to films and plays, Ria was always there to help me SEE. Other friends have been similarly kind, and I am equally grateful to them. I believe everyone’s life is blessed to have a Ria Beth, a person whose genuine kindness is a human miracle that eases the pain of suffering.

My experiences were not limited to the campus. In February of last year, I attended the National Ayala Young Leaders Congress in Tagaytay as one of 70 student delegates from all over the country. Part of our leadership-training activities were challenges to physical strength and courage. In one event, teams of three delegates wearing safety harnesses climbed a 50-foot wall. The one in the middle was blindfolded, and the other two were responsible for indicating hand- and foot-holds. Two students volunteered to be my teammates, and though it was not necessary, I was blindfolded. We slowly progressed in our climb, my feet slipping sometimes off footholds and my hands groping for protruding stones on the wall. But we reached the top! Exhausted, we completed the activity by rappelling. I realized then how much more we could do if we dared go beyond what appear to be our limits. Even if fears persist to hinder us from achieving something, what really matters is the shift from “I can’t do it,” to “I can try”. I went beyond my impairment by doing not only what sighted people can do, but also what they sometimes are too frightened to try.

Yet, the real highlights of my college life were the moments when I explored the worlds of other people whose needs were far greater than mine. We Ateneans were not kept in shells of comfort and bliss, but were often drawn out to experience a life of suffering with and for others. I had close encounters with disabled students, particularly blind children who had lost their sight due to the radiation in chemotherapy. I wanted to let them see in me the hope that lies for them and for all those whose fate seems to have taken a bad turn.

A grade school boy, Martin Afable, is particularly dear to me. Aside from helping him and his family accept his blindness, I shared with them the ways by which a visually impaired person not born with disability, could cope. Martin and I would go to the movies together to watch Titanic or Godzilla. I would watch the film first with my family, and remember how my brother described the scenes I could not visualize by just listening to the conversations between characters. Then, I showed the Afables, how Martin could watch a movie through them, demonstrating as I described the events for him the way my brother did. Spending time with them, I have witnessed how graciously Martin’s family loved him. More clearly, because of these experiences, I see how much my own family love and inspire me.

Much of my life is a result of the great sacrifices my family has made and continues to make. My father left the job he held for 23 years just to concentrate on me when I lost my sight in 1986. He drives me to school, picks me up at the end of the day, accompanies me to competitions, and always gives me moral support in the various activities in which I participate, although most of the time, all this prevents him from going to PHIVOLCS, where he is now a consultant. At home, my mother and brothers read to me textbooks and references, since they are not always available in Braille. Therefore, whenever I have to stay up late to study, the whole family is kept awake all night. In fact, I am not alone in graduating with honors; my family, especially my father, deserves even more the recognition I will receive, because my achievements are theirs as well. I can say that although God took away my sight, He has definitely given me many pairs of eyes and now I see better. Somehow, God has done the same for all of us. Everyone experiences disabilities one way or another; mine is just more obvious than yours. We are all fortunate to have loved ones, who help us bear the burdens brought about by our weaknesses. We may find ourselves in the dark, but we should not be afraid to move forward, because we have the light of our stars to count on, and to be thankful for.

We thank our teachers for seeing in us our God-given gifts, trusting that we can use them to develop ourselves and nurture others. I want to express my deep gratitude to my special education teachers back in grade school and high school, for opening the eyes of my heart to see, despite my physical blindness.

We thank our fellow Ateneans for journeying with us as we went through the process of learning how to soar above the storm, or to bear the painful glare of the sun in our eyes, fearing no blindness, as we confront all challenges.

In behalf of all the scholars, I thank our benefactors for showing us the joy in giving out of what we need ourselves, so that the welfare of those with greater need may be promoted. As a scholar of the Ateneo Schools Parents’ Council, I am indebted to the whole Ateneo community, especially to all parents, for giving me the opportunity to receive the best education.

Likewise, we commend the organizations we worked for and with, in order to extend our services to others. I particularly praise the efforts of the Resources for the Blind Inc., a nonprofit organization that has met the special needs of the visually impaired in different ways: from providing the equipment that we need, to distributing books and magazines in Braille, large print, or audio format, and to spreading the Word of God by giving the blind free Bibles. May our Lord bless you even more.

Finally, words of much love and thanks will never suffice to let our loved ones – immediate family members and relatives – know fully our sincere appreciation for their being here with us. We praise God for choosing them to be the greatest stars shining in our lives.

No matter what our weaknesses are, we can most gladly boast about them, for God’s grace is sufficient for us, and His divine power is made manifest through the loving acts of these special people.

Congratulations to all of us, and may blessings pour on us in the years to come.

Thank you and happy graduation!

And as a final quote, Roselle says: QUOTE
“All of us have our own disabilities. Mine is more obvious. I can represent what it means to go beyond one’s limitations with determination, perseverance, the help of others, and the grace of God.”

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