I returned to Dumaguete in mid-October to discover the plight of our blind masseurs has gone from bad to worse.
Around two years ago, their facility along Rizal Boulevard right next to DSWD building was partially demolished to make way for a wider roadway and parking lot to the continuing illegal reclamation of the sea, that is referred to as Pantawan.
I’ve decried, in a number of MetroPost articles since 2022, the abuse that Dumaguete’s past City Council had foisted on these hapless individuals. ‘Abuse’ is a harsh word but I can find no other word to best describe what has been going on.
Prior to the demolition of most of the facility of the Centre for the Blind, they were promised by Ipe Remollo and his past City Council that they would be given a new facility, not in the same location but elsewhere.
These blind masseurs been moved around, made to provide massages in open air venues, breathing construction dust, day-in day-out. They’ve been made to work in very cramped quarters, practically sitting on top of each other when they have their monthly meetings. Cramped massage rooms such that the masseurs have to push beds from one wall to another so they can get to another side of a client lying on the bed.
The blind refer to this facility along the boulevard as the “clinic”.
To this day, the blind are still waiting for the Mayor’s promise of a new facility to be met.
And the current City Council and the Department of Social Work & Development seem to show no inclination to do anything either. If anything, Ms. Lilibeth Filipinas, DSWD head, scolded them earlier this year for daring to answer my questions, and making her look bad. One visit — to scold. And that’s it.
In the six months I was away from Dumaguete, the Robinsons Mall administration decided, without consultation, to redo the setup that the blind masseurs are renting on the second floor of the mall.
Not only was the opinion of the blind not entertained, but their approval of the change was not solicited. The rationale behind the change was for the physical setup to look “better”.
So what was previously an open space where the massage benches were placed with a small office setup to hold the workers’ belongings, and where bookings were handled by sighted coordinators, has now been replaced by a corral. A long and narrow corral.
Another change was the removal of the circular seating next to the blind masseurs’ station. It was here where clients sat, waiting their turn for a massage session.
Some architect or engineer, in his/her wisdom, must have decided that within the corral is where waiting clients would sit. On paper this must have looked good.
The reality is that there likely was no “time and motion study” made regarding the size of the corral that was needed by the masseurs and their benches, the coordinators, and the waiting clients.
So with the present setup at the mall, no clients can sit within the corral — as their legs and knees would be in the way of the masseur as he/she works on the head, shoulders, back, limbs and feet of a client. The masseur would have to stand within the spread-open legs of a waiting client whilst doing the massage.
In addition, unless a waiting client is willing to have a masseur sit on his/her lap whilst the latter is working on the feet and legs of a client, then the waiting client has to move elsewhere. But where to move as all spaces in the corral are in an identical situation?
The solution: waiting clients mill around or borrow a chair from a masseur, and sit outside the corral. Typically, this chair is where clients rest their feet whilst sitting in a semi-prone position during a massage session. This is also the same chair a masseur would sit on whilst massaging the feet of a client. Client’s foot on his/her lap.
So what’s the issue that’s causing such annoyance and aggravation?
Unfortunately, because of the limited space and tightness of the setup, a client such as myself, when done with the massage, has to disturb clients or masseurs to be able to leave the corral. They are in the way of easy passage to get in or out of the corral. A rather large client would be hard-pressed not to touch clients and masseurs as the physics is irrefutable. No two humans, part or whole, can occupy the exact same spot.
Sounds complicated? It is complicated for everyone!
Moreover, this has cost the blind P248,000 for the corral, and P68,000 for the signage. Signage that is not needed but mandated to make things look pretty. And the signage that was paid for is incomplete.
To add insult to injury, the blind have been told additional changes will still need to be made; they understand this to be the addition of lights at the floor level, much like what a kiosk close by has.
How do ground lights enhance the lives of the blind and the coordinators?
As massage clients, we’re not there to look at fancy lights either. We’re there to get much-needed massages. Additional costs which the blind and their coordinators can ill-afford but have no say over.
When I commented, “If you refuse, I guess they’ll no longer let you rent space, and tell you to vacate,” I received stone-face reactions.
I surmise they don’t want to get into trouble with Robinsons’ management.
I will say it again: Why do we like to tout to the world how Christian we are yet, have no compassion or care for the vulnerable?
These are people who have risen above their disabilities, are independent, and are self-sufficient with some assistance from coordinators. Individuals who provide a valuable and affordable service to our community.
As such, why do we not care?
Diana BANOGON-Bugeya (She/Her)