Mark Brazil, PWD and LGBTQIA+ grad from VSU Alangalang.

Pursuing life goals does not only mean walking or running toward them, but a #ProudViscan also proves that you can reach them even while riding a customized wheelchair.

Meet the 25-year-old Mark Ramirez Brazil from Barangay Cayare in San Miguel, Leyte. He is a living testament that even with a physical disability, this cannot stop anyone from achieving his or her dreams in life.

This #ProudViscan is equally a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community who also revealed his fair share of discrimination not only because of his mobility impairment but also because of his gender identity.

But all these challenges did not stop him from getting what he wants in life. In fact, it even pushed him to work harder and find productive ways to contribute to the fulfillment of the needs of his very own family.

He completed his bachelor's degree in environmental science with pride and honor at VSU Alangalang during its 49th Commencement Exercises on July 27, 2023.

#ProudViscan Mark was born with orthopedic impairment, an umbrella term used to describe a condition or defect relating to the bone, joint, and muscle of a child. In Mark's case, it made him unable to walk properly and do normal activities.

His very source of mobility support was only a stool chair until he was able to buy a customized wheelchair in his freshman year at VSU Alangalang. He maneuvers this customized wheelchair by pushing and pulling the steering wheel to make it move from one place to another.

"My disability has been with me since birth. I cannot walk during my elementary to high school [years]. And I'm using only a wheelchair and a chair for my day-to-day activities in school. Nakalakad na ako noong 3rd-year high school ako. Nag-try lang ako to walk [on] my own then 'yun pinraktis ko na until maka-graduate ako ng high school [so] nakalakad na ako, until my college, but not totally nakakalakad ako. Still, gumagamit pa rin ako ng device at upuan ko for my support na lang," Mark revealed.

[My disability has been with me since birth. I cannot walk during my elementary to high school years. And I'm using only a wheelchair and a chair for my day-to-day activities in school. I was able to start walking during my junior year in high school. I just practiced walking on my own until I was able to walk using available tools. While I cannot walk as normally as my other classmates, I use a stool chair and my customized bicycle to allow me to move around from one place to another.]


Before going to college, he had to stop for 2 years after graduating from high school because of his parents' difficulty in sending him and his 5 sisters to school simultaneously.

He then made use of this time to earn money that he can later use to support his pursuit of a college degree. He then found a way to get a temporary job which turned out to be a beautiful plot twist in his life.

"I applied as JO sa aming municipality, then 'yun nakilala ako ng isang NGO [non-government organization] at pina-training nila ako sa iba't-ibang klaseng topics patungkol sa mga taong may kapansanan. Sila ang nagdagdag ng motivation sa akin para di ako mahiya sa aking kapansanan at makihalubilo sa nakakarami. After ng maraming trainings, ginawa na nila akong facilitator to different municipalities here in Leyte to discuss topics to my fellow PWDs. And nadala din ako sa Cateel, Davao Oriental para sa isang capacity building project. Isa ako dun sa mga nag-facilitate din. Yung most recent travel ko sa Samar was about livelihood program naman 'yun," he proudly shared.

[I applied as a JO in our municipality and there I discovered a non-government organization that offered me so much training related to people with disabilities. They motivated me to embrace my disability and never be ashamed of it. They taught me to socialize with other people in every training that I attended. They even trained me as a facilitator and brought me around the province to discuss topics about my fellow PWDs. They also brought me to a capacity-building project in Cateel, Davao Oriental. And my last trip was to Samar where I facilitated a livelihood program].

Since that experience, #ProudViscan Mark became an advocate for accessibility and inclusion to persons with disabilities (PWDs).


His main goal of getting a diploma eventually went real when he applied and got in at VSU Alangalang. Aside from his determination, he also obtained several scholarship grants that helped him sustain his educational needs.

He was a scholar of the Life-Giving Forest, which is a German-funded non-government organization that mainly focuses on the needs of people with disabilities (PWDs) by actively engaging them in forest conservation and rehabilitation. This, in turn, provides them with sustainable livelihood opportunities from organic gardening and using locally available renewable energy resources.

From this program, Mark received Php 40,000 every semester, which already covers thesis support and other academic expenses. He also received other scholarship grants from the Foundation for Disabled Persons Incorporated and the VSU Merit Scholarship intended for Viscans who have disabilities. All the financial support he got from various sources allowed him to complete his studies while also helping the needs of his family.

His mother Belen, 55, who attended his graduation was very proud of his son's achievement despite the many challenges they encountered in sending him to school.

#ProudViscan Mark extended his heartfelt thanks to all people who became instrumental in his success.

"Unang-una sa Panginoon, siya talaga 'yung kinapitan ko. Umiiyak ako pag pumupunta ng simbahan. Humihingi ng gabay kasi nawalan din ako ng pag-asa during my thesis days dahil hirap na hirap ako. Ayun, kapit lang sa Panginoon, trust lang sa kanya tapos always punta ng simbahan. And then pangalawa, s’yempre sa magulang ko. Maraming nakakatulong sa akin. Hindi rin sila nahirapan dahil kahit nag-aaral ako, nakakatulong din ako sa kanila. Kung hindi dahil sa kanila, hindi ako magsisipag dahil sila 'yung naging inspirasyon ko na makapagtapos. Nakita ko 'yung kahirapan namin so gusto ko maiangat ang buhay namin na kung anong meron kami ngayon, gusto ko pang maitaas base sa kung ano 'yung makakaya kong maabot. Tapos, pangatlo ay 'yung mga taong nagtiwala sa akin, nagbigay ng suporta, pinansyal. At sa lahat ng nasa likod ko na lubos na nagtitiwala sa akin, maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat," this #ProudViscan said.

[First of all, to God who has been my source of strength. I always cry whenever I go to church to pray. I always ask for His guidance, most especially during my thesis days when I struggled a lot. I just hold on to Him and trust Him in everything that I do. Second, to my ever-supportive family who became my ultimate source of inspiration to strive hard and finish my degree. My family also benefited because of the many scholarship grants that I received. I saw our difficult situation as an opportunity to work harder so that one day I can improve my own life and the status of my beloved family. Third, to all the people who believed in me and supported me financially, thank you to all of you.]

Mark's next plan is to find a job and help his family. His message to his fellow PWDs is to never stop believing that their condition is not a hindrance to their personal growth and success.


"Para sa mga PWD din na katulad ko, huwag matakot mag-aral. Huwag kayong matakot sa diskriminasyon dahil may mga batas na magtatangol sa atin. So huwag kayong matakot to try many things in life dahil ang society naman natin ay unti-unti ng nagiging accessible para mga kagaya natin. Hindi na tayo ngayon nagiging excluded kundi included at pinahahalagahan na tayo ngayon sa ating komunidad," he concluded.

[To my fellow PWDs out there, don't be afraid to go to school. Don't be afraid of discrimination because there are already many laws instituted to protect and ensure our rights as PWDs. Just don't be scared to try many things in life because our society is slowly becoming inclusive and accessible wherein our community now values the important role we play in this society.]

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