Arts & Culture

From street to stage: Musicians with visual impairment promote their talent


RAY Charles, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli: world-renowned artists with visual impairments yet with exceptional musical talents. They’ve had countless performances before admiring fans.

Unfortunately in the Philippines, visually impaired talents are often relegated to street sidewalks or found performing under a bridge, a donation box close by. Stationed in crowded areas, they are largely ignored by passersby.

But Tuesday last week, musical talents with visual impairments took center stage, literally, at the first Himig Tanglaw at the Sky Dome of SM North Edsa.

Coming from around Luzon – Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Cavite and Metro Manila, they performed to a crowd of not less than a thousand.

Himig Tanglaw is the culminating activity of the observance of the White Cane Safety Day, created under Republic Act 6759 or the White Cane Act.

The law is meant “to instill public awareness of the plight of blind people”, and to promote their well-being.

Eleven performers for the solo category, and four groups for the battle of the band competed for the first Himig Tanglaw title.

Himig Tanglaw lead organizer and president of the Philippine Chamber of Massage Industry of Visually Impaired Inc. (PCMIVI) Ronnel Del Rio said the response from the blind community was overwhelming.

Kasi matagal na nilang gusto na may bagong platform. Nawawala kasi ang bulag sa music industry. Although may mga natitira pang iilan but we want to restore them to the music industry (They’ve been wanting to perform. There are no more blind musicians. There are some left and we want to get them back.),” added Del Rio.

Since Willy Garte, no one from the blind community has penetrated the mainstream music industry again. The singer-composer died in an accident more than a decade ago.

Bernadette Navarro, vocalist of the Call Foundation of the Blind band, said that events like Himig Tanglaw could boost the morale of visually impaired people who are musically gifted.

Na-inspire nga ako nito kasi kaya naman talaga ng visually impaired na makipagsabayan (I’m inspired because musicians who are visually impaired are really capable of doing this),” she said.

Prodex Tipano, leader and drummer of the Sharp Troopers band, said that providing a venue for people with visual impairment to showcase their musical prowess breaks the stereotype.

Binigyan kami ng pagkakataon na maipakita o maipamalas yung talent namin bukod sa massage (We are given a chance to showcase our talents apart from doing massage).”

Tipano’s bandmate, Charina Limpiado, however, said that not seeing the crowd’s reaction is one of the greatest challenges of a blind performer.

Hindi kami nakakakita. Hindi namin alam kung nasisiyahan po ba sila or hindi po (We cannot see them so we don’t know if they like our performance or not),” said Limpiado.

To deal with this challenge, she gives her best in every performance.

Charmaine Tonic, who has been singing since she was seven, and joining competition since she was 14, said music made her comfortable about herself.

Now 21, Tonic said that the crowd’s reaction amazed her. “Nagulat ako na na-appreciate nila first note pa lang hanggang matapos ko yung kanta (I was surprised that they liked my performance),” she added.

Del Rio said he’s planning to do the activity in several provinces next year.

Winners of the Himig Tanglaw will be part of a road show that will include an open forum that aims to educate the public on visual impairment.