My name is Mark Aljon Alvarez. I was born in Bicol, and I am deaf.
When I was a child, I enjoyed listening to beautiful melodies – I loved this so very much. So when I became deaf at 8 years old, I didn't want to accept it. It was difficult.
During elementary, I was the only deaf person in school. It was so difficult to study then because I couldn't hear what my teacher was saying during class. I often felt alone in class and didn't have many friends. My grades were so bad, and there was a lot of discrimination, with my classmates blaming me for things I wasn't even aware of. (READ: Inclusiveness, education major concerns for deaf community)
I felt a lot of depression and thought that I wanted to give up studying. Sometimes, though, my mind told me not to give up, motivating me to do everything despite my disability. So, I found ways and asked my classmates to help me understand the lessons.
As the years passed, I still motivated myself to study hard, even when I was left alone all the time. I felt happy because I completed my mission in elementary, and it was a good challenge facing those difficulties in life.
However, even though I graduated, I still often felt alone, left to my thoughts over and over again. I felt that my family didn’t love me because I saw that they were often happy with my sibling but not with me. Sometimes when I asked them what they were talking about, they just kept telling me to ask them later, again and again.
When I entered high school, that was the first time I was among other deaf persons. I started to realize that I was not alone, and there were a lot of deaf people around the world. I started to learn Sign Language as my second language. I felt more included, and my grades were really good unlike in elementary. (READ: A deaf-initely friendly university)
I still had bad experiences, like being left alone because I was not rich enough to fit in with my other classmates. But I did make one real good friend whose life was as simple as mine. My teacher also encouraged me to be a top student because the faculty recognized my good attitude. And when graduation came around, I achieved my mission to become salutatorian in 2007.
After graduation, I couldn't continue my studies because my family had financial problems. I graduated at the age of 16 and waited until I turned 18 to work for my family's needs. I worked for 5 years straight until my sister also graduated. I saved nothing from my job because I gave all my money to my family in order for us to survive poverty.
Fortunately in 2013, I started to study again after my other relatives found out that I had a lot of dreams and was working so hard. They saw the good in me and offered to support my college education. They taught me that studying hard would help me to reach my goals easily. (READ: Deaf pianist on hitting the right notes)
I managed to bag a scholarship from the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, which my classmate from high school had already graduated from. (My classmate was not the one who told me about this opportunity because my former classmates usually just left me alone, and I understand why they did this.)
I am still studying at Benilde. I volunteer a lot and have gained a lot of opportunities as a leader. I also became a Dean's Lister, and all of this helped me overcome my sadness. I now wish to help a lot of deaf people and inspire them with my story. I also want to become a deaf advocate and build my own organization to help deaf people overcome the hardest parts of life. (READ: Communicating change: A deaf young leader's promise)
I will be graduating in February 2020. I understand that my family and relatives rely on my success, so I am not wasting the support I've received. I also wish to study again if there is any scholarship available, though I also want to work after my graduation in order to support my family again. – Rappler.com
Mark Aljon Alvarez is a deaf scholar at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. He is on a journey overcoming difficult challenges, and turning his disability into ability.