For Mark Joseph ‘Aga’ Casidsid, 31, being visually impaired was not a hindrance to living and doing what he enjoys most, which is to run races.This disability, while it may have ended the will of many people to live and enjoy life, has allowed him to see just how beautiful and worth living life can truly be.
His calvary began in 2003 when he lost his eyesight to Retinopathy of Prematurity or Retrolental Fibroplasia, a condition caused by premature birth, which results to gradual blindness.
In fact, his running partner Edgardo Pelingo Jr., fondly called as Coach Gado, a former Architect/Design and Construction Head from Primer Group of Companies, says that Aga even contemplated taking his own life.
“Gusto na nga niyang mag-suicide eh(he wanted to commit suicide),” says 33-year-old Gado who has been running since 2007. “But his father was concerned about him. Sabi niya, baka raw pwede kong tulungan si Aga na tumakbo (He asked if I can help train Aga to run).”
Though the request seemed challenging, Gado took up the task of training him. He started running with Aga who, despite his vulnerability, braved the steep terrains and, more importantly, the darkness that surrounded him.
“It took me about two weeks bago ko naturuan si Aga (it took me about two weeks before I was able to fully train Aga),” Gado adds. “Hindi koin-expect na madali siyang turuan. Nag-worry lang ako nung una kasi baka hindi kami magkarinigan pagnandun nasa race, namawala yung communication namin.Sinasabi ko pa kung kakanan o kakaliwa para ma-guide ko siya(I didn’t expect that training him was easy. At first, I was worried that we might not be able to communicate properly during the race. I had to coach him whether to turn left or right).”
Both Gado and Aga use1-2-3 and a-b-c-d as their running codes to guide them through the marathons they participate in. The codes one, two and three refer to the speed while a,b,c and d refer to their position (left, right, front, back). Aside from these codes, Gado ensures that they are mentally and physically ready before the gunstart.
Gado says, “Before, sabay pa kaming tumatakbo gamit yung codes. Para mas maalalayan ko siya, nakatali siya sakin. Pero nung nagtagal, pakiramdaman nalang kami. Siya yung tumatakbo sa harap ko. (Before, Aga and I would use the codes everytime we join a race. To further guide him through the tracks, I would tie a rope to his waist to keep him close to me.After some time, we just anticipated each other’s next move).”
With this, the Center for Outdoor Recreation and Expedition (CORE)—the advocacy arm of Primer Group—acknowledged the collaborative effort exerted by coach Gado in training Aga to run. Now, they are officially recognized as Team Posible, bearing truth that even the most unfortunate circumstances like blindness may give birth to moments of triumph.
In fact, Gado and Aga recently joined the Salomon City Trail Manila 2015, a loop run that provides unconventional challenges like running up the stairs, bridges and ramps, in the historic Intramuros in Manila. This run aims to elevate the running experience by bringing the trail to an urban landscape.
The Salomon race is just one of the running events that Team Posible joined in. To support their running adventures in and outside the country, CORE has been partnering with The North Face and the Recreational Outdoor Exchange (ROX)—the largest outdoor sports and recreation superstore in Southeast Asia—for their needed apparel, footwear and other supporting equipment as well as their race registrations.
According to Tin Villaflor, program manager of C.O.R.E., Team Posible opens possibilities for individuals who want to beat the odds, for people who want to go beyond the limits as they participate in various kinds of sporting activities in and outside the Philippines.
“Team Posible originally refers to the relationship that coach Gado and Aga have. With this campaign, we hope to also enjoin the most vulnerable Filipinos to find their own adventure for themselves and have a renewed zest for life and personal adventure,” Villaflor says.
Gado adds, “Gusto naming itong ituloy. Goal namin is dumami yung mga tulad niya (Aga), na maipakita sa lahat na ang mga disabled kaya nang makipagsabayan sa mga abled. Dito papasok yung inspiration, yun bang makita ng iba na kayang tumakbo ng mga tulad niya. (Our goal is to invite more people who are as special as Aga to show that even disabled individuals can compete with the abled. This is where inspiration comes in—we’d like everyone to see that people like Aga can also run like they do).”
For his part, Aga asserts that running has become his outlet to feel alive again, proving that regardless of his condition he will be able to make his every run an adventure in life.
“Para samgakatuladko, sanalumabassilasabox, yung malaman nila ang purpose nila kung bakit nagpatuloy pa rin yung buhay nila. Sana ma-enjoy din nila yung buhay nila dahil nakakapag-inspire sila ng ibang tao (For individuals who are like me, I hope they go outside their boxes and realize their purpose for living. I hope they make the most out of their lives because other people are inspired by their determination to live),” Aga says.
Aga concludes, “Ang race naman talaga is challenging eh, pero ang adventure manggagaling sa start hanggang sa finish line. Sana mahanap rin ng iba yung adventure na hinahanap nila kasi ako, nakita ko na(a race is always challenging, but the adventure comes from the start to the finish line. Hopefully, other people will be able to find their own adventure because I finally found mine).”