Clarity Amid Disability

Visually impaired child from La Paz translates his imagination into striking artworks

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

SIXTEEN-year-old Gabriel Jalea is not letting his condition stop him from creating magnificent and striking art pieces.

Gabriel, who is from La Paz, Iloilo City, has been translating his out of this world imagination into art pieces despite his being visually impaired.

His mom, Helen, said that Gabriel was diagnosed by his ophthalmologist with low vision at 2M or 2 inches, which means that he can read font 9 to 10 letters two inches away from his eyes.

Gabriel describes this painting as his “other self” saying that the character is his bad side, with nightmare as his power.

In an interview with Daily Guardian, Gabriel said he started drawing when he was fourteen years old.

According to Gabriel, most of his drawings were inspired by the story that he and his classmates made up.

Ang classmate ko kita ko siya pirme ga-drawing, gusto ko itry. Amo na nagdrawing ko and nagacome up kami with our own stories,” he said.

Using mixed art materials such as charcoal, colored pencils, pastels, and crayons among others, Gabriel translated his imagination into striking and meaningful art pieces.

Since he has problems with his vision, most of Gabriel’s artworks used dark colors like black and blue.

“Mixed media akon ginagamit and sa sketch pad ko ga-drawing. Usually, dark colors ang akon ginagamit para dasig ko makita,” he shared.

Each of the art pieces has also its own story to tell about Gabriel.

Some of his artworks involved a series of technologies he called, “G-TECH’ short for Gabriel’s technologies which he imagined as innovative technologies that he invented.

There are also artworks about his “other self” and his future family.

Ginabutang ko ang sarili ko sa story. Tanan sila may meaning and interconnected,” he said.

By drawing, Gabriel said he was able to express his imagination and own self.

“Through painting, ma-express ko ang akon imagination and ka-satisfying lang mag-drawing kay ma-express mo imo passion,” he said.

Gabriel juggles his passion with his schooling at La Paz Adventist School like a pro.

According to his mom, he has also been a consistent dean’s lister since Grade 7.

Ga-lecture sila, siya sige drawing but still maka-recite man siya gihapon. Consistent siya nga dean’s lister and ang iya drawing wala man siya ga-undergo training or supervision, siya lang mismo,” Helen said.

But despite his talent, Helen shared it was not an easy life for Gabriel especially with his condition.

She recalled the times when she almost lost hope with Gabriel’s condition.

“Before baby pa siya, he was born with cone head and doll eye and indi pa siya mayo kalakat. Sang baby pa siya ga-wonder ko kun mabuhi pa siya, every night gahibi ko,” she shared.

The most painful part for Helen is hearing the negative comments of other people about his son’s condition.

Kun hambalan siya, uy bulag ka, ginadown, ako gasakitan, daw wala ko pakadtuan pero hambal ko sa iya biskan ano matabo biskan tanan ma echa puwera sa imo, ari di si mama,” she said.

Through the rough times, it was also Gabriel who lifted and inspired Helen to never give up and so she vowed her full support to his son, especially with his passion in drawing.

Kun kaisa down ako pero siya positive. Ang iya motto, importante buhi ka so gintaguyod ko siya and with the help of my brothers and sisters, nakaraos man,” she said.

Now, Gabriel has become a budding artist in his own field with his art pieces being sold to Singapore through the help of his relatives and Helen couldn’t be more grateful and prouder of his son.

“Happy ko para sa iya so what I do is support lang gid all the way. Mangin humble lang gid siya and indi magdako iya nga ulo,” she said.

Gabriel Jalea and mother Helen.

She encouraged other parents with children who have special needs to do the same.

Sa mga parents, indi gid pag ikahuya ang mga bata nga may kapansanan, indi pagbukuta sa balay, gusto man nila ma expose, but some of us ginatago nila,” she lamented.

Helen emphasized that children, especially those with special needs deserve to be appreciated and accepted by the community.

Sa mga kabataan nga may disability, they need to be appreciated and heard of. Dapat sa ila nga mga may kapansanan, they should be given a chance, a space para sa ila to be accepted by the community,” she stressed.

Instead of being ashamed, parents should give their all-out support to their children, Helen added.

Damo sa ila nahuya pero ang mga kabataan nga na dapat iexpose niyo man kag isupport kay kamo na lang mismo masurprise nga may ginatago sila na talent,” she noted.