(Delivered as response by Wennie P. Balawis during a necrological mass held on Oct. 23, 2007 before Chester’s burial at the Pyramid in La Trinidad.)
The life of Chester is a history and a memory that everyone can treasure. Chester – the “blind poet” known as a teacher, a friend, musician and a great mathematician, to his friends, students and colleagues. He lived for only 21 years.
He is the fourth among five children and was born considered perfectly normal by his doctors. He grew up normally with no suspicion of any inborn disease, until the age of six when he was diagnosed to have juvenile diabetes mellitus like his two other sisters. Medicating became part of his daily living since then.
He was born with normal eyesight and then his perspective in life became different when he was told at the age of 10 that a worse disease is affecting his eyes. He was diagnosed to have optic nerve atrophy affecting his both eyes and it is a progressive disease that will eventually result in blindness with no available treatment at present. Hope still surrounds the family for a treatment from other countries but not even the most developed medical centers abroad have found a cure.
His condition, like his other two sisters, known as WOLFRAM syndrome, is only found in journals and little is discussed in books and not well researched. He would always ask for alternatives. His parents tried every means of improvement but to no avail
He came to accept his condition. Despite the disability it did not stop him from excelling in his academic and extra-curricular performance. He graduated from grade six a salutatorian at the Pinsao Elementary School. After graduation, he traveled with his mother to Europe, particularly Switzerland and Italy to give him a chance to see more developed countries before losing his sight. His travel was an eye opener for him since he saw old people in crutches and wheelchairs still going around the world. It was at this time that he developed his imagination at writing poems.
He was among those lucky to be admitted at the Pines City National High School Special Science Class where he enrolled for his secondary education. It was during this time when his eyesight started to deteriorate. He started writing poems and attended literary contests and science fair competitions bringing honor to their school. Along with other classmates, he was awarded scientist of the year during his graduation.
After high school, he enrolled at Easter College and finished Bachelor of Science in Education major in Mathematics topping the graduation class as “CUM LAUDE” in March 2006 at the age of 19. He took and passed the licensure examination for teachers in the same year (August 2006). During his college days he continued to write poems that were published under the pen name “the blind poet”. His poems were an inspiration to his friends, classmates and students and these (poems) were published on this regional newspaper, Northern Dispatch or Nordis Weekly (through Mr. Arthur L. Allad-iw), the regional paper of the DILG-CAR, and, SPEAK publication of Easter College students. Some of his poems earlier published by Nordis can be located on Bulatlat.com, a Filipino magazine on the internet, and the website of The Florida Division of Blind Services Ezine (Volume 5, Number 5, May 2006).
Like in high school, he brought honor to Easter College with his accomplishments. He was the overall champion in the Northern Luzon Earth Science Quiz Bee held at the University of the Philippines in 2003. He also won in the poetry contest by in the regional press conference for tertiary schools in the Cordillera in 2006. And when asked how he is able to do all these things, he would say that he acquired those knowledge during his high school days. Thanks to the Pines City National High School science class. He gives credence to his teachers. He was also chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Cordillera Administrative Region (OSCAR) in 2006 based on academic, community involvement, awards and other accomplishments.
While in college, he organized remedial classes in math for college and high school students where he taught them with patience. Some neighbors go to the house for tutorials in math and did some tutorials to special students on specified schedule. These he continued until the last few weeks of his life.
His dreams of professional advancement did not stop him. He enrolled at the University of the Cordilleras’ graduate school taking up Masters in Mathematics. However, one week before his final exams his system showed some signs of deterioration which brought him to the hospital where he stayed for three weeks. He was discharged and was brought to St. Luke’s hospital for further diagnostic studies. He was brought back to Baguio. But he was readmitted and stayed at the Intensive Care Unit, comatose for three days until he died.
The passing of Chester left a legacy among his friends, students and colleagues with a parting advice: “maximize everything that you have and do things while you have the chance to do them.”
Chester, we will miss you a lot; you have accomplished great things. #
The NORDIS staff extends its condolences to the family of our contributor Chester Stone P. Batnag who passed away on October 16.