This is a true story of a young woman who went through the most gruesome experience. When you read her story, you’ll realize that your trials are absolutely nothing compared to what this young girl went through.
It was September 25, 2000. Maricel Apatan was an 11-year old girl in Zamboanga. On that day, this little girl went with her uncle to draw water. Along the way, four men met them. They were carrying long knives. They told her uncle to face down on the ground, and they hacked him on the neck and killed him. She tried to escape, but the men ran after her.
With a long knife, a man slashed her on the neck too. Maricel fell to the ground and lost consciousness. When she woke up, she saw a lot of blood. She also saw the feet of the men around her, but she pretended to be dead. When they walked away, Maricel ran back home. But along the way, she saw that both her hands were falling off. Because the men hacked them too. She cried but she kept running.
When she was near her home, Maricel called her mother. Upon seeing her daughter, her mother screamed in terror. She wrapped her bloodied child in a blanket and carried her to the hospital. From her house to the highway, it was a 12-kilometer walk. It took them 4 hours just to reach the highway. When they arrived in the hospital, the doctors thought Maricel was going to die. But for 5 hours, they operated on her. It took 25 stitches to stitch together the long knife wound in her neck and back.
Maricel barely survived. And she lost both of her hands. Ironically, the next day was Maricel’s birthday. She was 12 years old.
But tragedy didn’t end there. When they went home, they saw their home was gone. It was ransacked and burned down by the goons.
Being very poor, Maricel’s family also didn’t have P50,000 for their hospital bills.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, a distant relative, paid for hospital bills and helped them bring the criminals to court. They were sentenced to prison.
Maricel struggled to cope with her disability. “I was totally dependent on my mother,” she recalls. She returned to school, but teasing by classmates often left her in tears. In 2004, Archbishop Ledesma arranged for Maricel to live in the House with No Steps, a Manila rehabilitation and training centre for people with disabilities.
She learned how to write and do chores and, more importantly, came to terms with her disability. “Trusting in God, I became more determined to strive to have a normal life. I believed I had an important mission in life because I survived the attack.” Maricel eventually graduated from high school and enrolled in a two-year Hotel and Restaurant Management course in Cagayan de Oro City.
“I have really enjoyed cooking since I was seven years old.” Thanks in large part to her parents’ unwavering support, Maricel flourished even though she was the only disabled student in the course. “I wasn’t shy or intimidated to sign up for class competitions like cake decorating.” After Maricel moved back to Manila to continue her studies, the media started reporting on this indomitable young woman.
She didn’t shy away from the attention. “I wanted others living with disabilities to believe it’s possible to live a normal life,” Maricel says. When managers at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel saw Maricel on television, they hired her as part of the hotel’s Care for People project. Fellow chef Aljamil Borja marvels at Maricel’s skills. “She asks for assistance only if she needs to move a hot kettle or large saucepan from the stove, or open slippery bottle caps,” says Aljamil. Maricel has also accomplished her goal of inspiring others.
One of them is Ronelyn Calumpiano, a 21-year-oldwith cerebral palsy. Confined to a wheelchair, she rarely left her Manila home and had never attended school. Then she saw Maricel on television. “I watched her demonstrate how to prepare vegetables for a salad with so much confidence,” she recalls. Ronelyn, who now lives at the House with No Steps and will soon start classes, is already planning a career in IT.
Maricel’s three younger siblings have moved to Manila. She pays for the rent of their small apartment, while their parents look after the family farm in Mindanao. “It is difficult to make ends meet but I don’t lose hope. I believe anything is possible if you dream, work hard and pray.”
But this is the incredible miracle. Instead of staying down, Maricel kept running. Instead of cursing God why she had no hands, she now uses her wrists in incredible ways that will boggle your mind. Maricel was cited as the most industrious, best in computer, and most courteous in the School for Crippled Children.
In 2008, she graduated from a course in Hotel and Restaurant Management. She even received a Gold medal for Arts and Crafts. In 2011, she finished her education to be a chef. Yes, a Chef without hands.
Nothing can stop this young lady from reaching her dreams.
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