Saturday, June 27, 2009

Team Mila to Run in M.O.V.E. Manila

Therese was born 12 years ago, to a couple full of hope and dreams to raise a “family that would be like a small church, a community of love where, by loving our children, we can teach our children the love of God and bring them closer to the Father”. Wawel and Mila Mercado were 10 months into their blissful marriage when Therese came into their world. “Ang sarap ng may baby” (It feels good to have a baby), Mila said, clutching their precious daughter for the first time. Little did they know that those were going to be her last words and the last time she was going to be able to embrace Therese… for after a few minutes, Mila slipped into coma.

Wawel was in a daze, witnessing his beautiful and affectionate wife reduced to someone helpless and unresponsive. Mila suffered a brain injury after childbirth due to amniotic fluid embolism. After 44 grueling days in the hospital, he was able to take home Mila. Although by some miracle, Mila was able to wake up from her comatose state, the brain damage caused her to lose motor control and consequently made her unable to speak, eat, move and care for herself. It was very painful for Wawel to see her in this state. No one deserves to go through such sorrow. Expectedly, he grieved for the loss of the Mila he knew. He felt angry, disillusioned and desperate.

His whole life transformed as he immersed himself in taking care of Mila. He became her main and ultimate care-giver, knowing just about everything there is to know regarding the medical and rehabilitation aspects of caring for her. He struggled with feelings of humiliation and rejection as people viewed them as “being not normal”. It was very difficult and he continuously begged God to grant him the miracle of Mila’s physical healing. Although it was not in God’s master plan to grant him this, God’s blessing came in another form. God gave Wawel the grace of acceptance, and the grace to love Mila as a father would love a child, unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. God gave him the gift of appreciating the simple joys in life - seeing Mila laugh or smile, reading inspirational books to her, and being comforted by praying the holy rosary together. God led them to a community where they felt they belonged, where “God used their presence to touch people, that despite the absence of physical healing, their love allowed others to experience the healing love of marriage.”

When it rains, it pours. God continuously showered them with blessing upon blessing. Therese, who is now 12 years old, has grown to be a very loving and caring child. Even at a young age, she has been Wawel’s partner in helping care for Mila. In more ways than one, Therese is blessed just witnessing Wawel’s unwavering faith and love for Mila.

It was about 6 years ago when Team Mila was formed. Wawel was inspired to join fun races with Mila on a stroller when he learned of a 60 year old man who joins regular races pushing his wheelchair-bound son with cerebral palsy. He ran races with Mila to be able to raise community awareness regarding disability and acceptance for persons with disabilities. They have joined several fun runs as a couple, including the Milo Marathon and Pinay in Action event. He organized a unique race where able-bodied runners paced with wheelchair-bound participants. His special advocacy inspired him to build ramps in churches to make them accessible to persons with disabilities.

Unfortunately, because of Wawel’s foot injury, he stopped running for a while. This summer, upon the prodding of Therese, he started to train again. The invitation to run in the “M.O.V.E Manila Run 09” this July 19, 2009, 5am, at UP Diliman feels like “an answered prayer” for Wawel. He has started running again this summer with an end goal to join a race soon. He believes that “this is a tailor-made event for us. It may be God’s way of telling us to run again.” At the “M.O.V.E Manila Run 09”, Team Mila will be composed of three members – Wawel, Mila and Therese. They will run with wheelchair athletes, persons with various disabilities as well as with able-bodied runners. The benefit run caps the celebration of the 31st National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week. It supports the Philippine Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine (PARM) Fund for the Needy Disabled.

Team Mila continues to dream and hope… to live and believe… that God runs the race with them.

(Registration details for “M.O.V.E. Manila Run 09” are available at Those interested to sponsor wheelchair athletes may call the PARM Secretariat 4159048, 09194138852)