“Wow Xai, you are a big girl na! Happy eighteenth!”
That was my first reaction when I saw her again during her eighteen birthday celebration. The first time was when I photographed her parent’s wedding five years ago. It was even her who reminded me that it has been that long. I was in awe of her development. Back then, I didn’t hear her say a single word. She was just in one corner and very quiet. Often, I would hear, people say — Xai, behave! Okay?
But what I remember ever so vividly was how much she cried when she walked down the aisle. I cried, too, like I always do behind my big camera. Grateful that it could cover half of my face and I could just pretend to be unaffected. Her dad standing at the end of the alter couldn’t help but shed a bucket of tears! Because who wouldn’t when you see your daughter walk towards you and celebrate a big day with and for you.
Gentle moments like these usually hit me hard. Most especially when a special needs family member is involved. I’d always see myself going through the same struggles and challenges. My mind would move fast forward to that time where I’d be where that someone I photographed is. If that day will ever come! I hope it does because by then, I’d be the happiest mom to see my special child thrive in a society that isn’t so kind to individuals with needs. Who knows maybe many years from now, there’ll be a shift of this ignored sector of society. Maybe, one day, someone will come up with programs to help them grow as independent individuals. I have so many maybes! So many dreams for my Fin! I just want him to be happy and accepted. Not restricted nor ignored.
Happiest birthday, Xai! I am one of the happiest for you and for your family for the big progress you have accomplished. I wish one day my Fin would talk too. There is hope!
Coordination & styling: Khendi Ramirez
Hair & Make-up: Debbie Navares
Location: Hale Manna Coastal Gardens