A World Of Heroes

Saturday Stories
September 9, 2017

There is such pure positive energy in the world. I have been seeing and feeling it all around me since I began to look through new eyes. I feel inspired and uplifted when I see my fellowmen emerge victorious against seemingly insurmountable odds. I think those who say that there are no more heroes and role models are looking at the wrong places.

I found an article last night about Filipinos who showed that, with faith and courage, nothing is impossible. I have known and admired some of them even before, like Grace Padaca, Roselle Ambubuyog, singer Fatima Soriano and actor Rome Mallari.

I was touched by the stories of those whom I am learning about for the first time, like the artist Jovy Sasutona who paints by holding the brush in his mouth because he is paralyzed from the neck down, the artist Fernando Cabigting who learned to paint using his left hand after a stroke blinded his left eye and paralyzed his right, the athlete Raymond Martin who won multiple gold medals and hailed as Sportsman of The Year at the 2012 Paralympics in London despite suffering from Freeman Sheldon Syndrome. 

And there are two individuals, both athletes, whose lives touched mine in a most profound way.

Jomar Maalam, 20, was born without legs. Yet he is a finisher at the grueling Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in Cebu, the first Ironman event outside of Australia, and at the Mt. Mayon Triathlon in Legaspi, both in 2016. When he was only 16, Jomar made a name for himself when, using only his arms, he won three gold medals for swimming at the 2013 Palarong Pambansa national games.

Arnold Balais, 41, lost his right leg when he was fifteen. Yet he won the gold medal for power-lifting in the Malaysian Paralympics in 2002 and still holds the record in the 60-kilogram category. He has also won silver and bronze for the 100-meter butterfly and freestyle relay swimming at the 2008 ASEAN Paralympic Games in Thailand. With an artificial leg, he has scaled the peak of Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines, and is featured in the inspiring Alaxan FR ad "Power Over Pain."

This is a world filled with wonderful human beings. "Many people strive for high ideals," as Max Ehrmann wrote in Desiderata, "and everywhere, life is full of heroism."

Jomar Maalam

Arnold Balais

Power Over Pain

Photo courtesy of SunStar.com