Ruthell Moreno’s inspiring storyDuring graduation season, inspirational stories of triumph over adversity are in abundance. Which is very good.
Iloilo writers Hazel Villa and John Kevin Arevalo submitted to VERA Files and Yahoo the story of Ruthell Moreno, who is graduating summa cum laude, Bachelor of Special Education,major in Teaching Children with Mental Retardation from the West Visayas State University.
Ruthell, who is from Antique, is only the fourth summa cum laude of the College of Education (COE) after its founding as a Normal College more than a hundred years ago. The COE is a Center of Teaching Excellence and consistent placer in the Licensure Exam for Teachers.
In last Tuesday’s WVSU recognition day Ruthell, with a Grade Point Average of 1.23, received more receive university level awards: Most outstanding student teacher, Student of the year, Proficiency in SPED Award, Academic excellence award, an award from the Philippine Association for Teacher Education, Journalism Award, Rotary Award, Abelardo Alegre Ledesma award for excellence in culture and arts, Sen. Manuel Villar Jr Academic Excellence Award and two awards from Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
She also delivered the valedictory address in behalf of the graduates of 2012.
Hazel and John Kevin said, the story of Ruthell, 24, known to friends as “Che” could have been any regular story of an intelligent young woman making the most of her resources and abilities, except for the fact that she has Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or lupus, an autoimmune disease characterized by acute and chronic inflammation of various tissues of the body.
It’s the same disease that afflicted former president Ferdinand Marcos.
There is another person who is very proud of Che: Marilyn Robles, president of the Lupus Foundation of the Philippines.
Marilyn sent Che a message in Facebook: “Three cheers for Che! You deserve to be congratulated and commended, Che. Thank you for trusting me with your inner most fears during the early days of your diagnosis. The Lupus Foundation of the Philippines congratulates you and all other lupies who will graduate this year. The arduous task of working for a degree has paid off. Celebrate!”
Marilyn reminded Che and other lupies “not to celebrate under the sun.”
Lupus patients are ultra sensitive to sunlight. A Health website says exposure to sunlight can cause a skin rash or trigger a flare-up of internal lupus resulting in joint pain and fatigue.
Marilyn said she first met Che when she spoke before nursing students in Iloilo. At that time Che was agonizing about shifting to a less physically demanding course. Their communication continued, more so when Che became the president of the Lupus group in Iloilo.
Marilyn said a support group is very important and Che is lucky to have a very supportive family.
According to Hazel and John Kevin, “It was in October 2006 when Che first experienced the symptoms of Lupus. A rash shaped like a butterfly appeared on her face. Che was 19 and a third year nursing student at WVSU. She tried to conceal the rash from her peers and teachers using a face mask.
“Che even asked me to buy a ‘tayubong’ for her. She said she will use it to hide the rash on her neck. When I did buy her one, she immediately applied it. Che went to such measures just not to miss our class that day,” Rommel, her best friend, said.
“Then, she started having joint pains on her arms and on her feet. She tried to ward off the joint pains with different ointments. But the ointments’ effects only worked for a couple of minutes.
“When she was diagnosed of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus on June 2007 and was advised not to attend school anymore, Che thought that her life would never be the same as before.
“She was compelled not to pursue her nursing course and shift to education, which was less physically demanding.
“Pondering her illness, Che said,’I asked God why He gave this disease to me. I asked Him if He could take this back for the meantime and return it after several years.’
“Che never lost hope.She motivated herself to continue life. She attended a Christmas Party for Lupus patients on December 2007 and realized that there are more important things in life than certificates, medals, awards and career. And that is her health.
“After attending the Party, Che with her doctor, Dr. Caroline Arroyo, decided to build the Lupus Support Group of Panay, Incorporated for Lupus patients here in Panay who neither have the money or the resources to join the national support group which is based on Manila.”
Che sees what she is now as “God’s gift.” She is giving it back. “What I will be is my own gift to God,” she said.