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Sidney Rain and her road less travelled by many

Sidney-runner-cover

Sidney Rain and her road less travelled by many
By: Sarah Bucu

“If your daughter always leave the house and prefer to live outdoors for days, it may help her stay at home if you let her join marathons.”

This was told to me by an old man at the upper most floor at the MMDA’s office way back 2007 after I went to GMA 7 and asked help from the staff of Jessica Soho’s show “Reunions”. I could not recall what department I was at that time and completely forgotten the man’s name. I just knew that his men found my daughter, Sidney Rain who was then 8 years old at the overpass bridge in Buendia when she left our house and was gone for more than two months. At that time I was still separated and could hardly pay for the room that my kids and I were renting.

For those who will read this story in full with understanding and an open heart, I thank you in advance. For those who are quick to judge and come up with a lot of know it all questions, then with all due respect, I ask you to stop reading right now and browse or click your mouse elsewhere.

Her full name is Sidney Rain Bucu and was diagnosed with Autism in PGH when she was about four years old At that time I was just a stay at home Mom, unemployed and taking care of my 7 children where we lived at our old house in the province and their dad visited us every two weeks. Out of those seven kids, three have special needs. Two having autism and one having learning disabilities.

They all look normal, even good looking as what other kind people would comment until you look at them closely. Some noticed it instantly and understood where as for others silently judge them with their eyes. You can see them stare at my children for long minutes, whisper or talk about people they knew who act queerly, branding them “autistic” and sadly, some openly, annoyingly display their discomfort at my children. But my children including my Mom had gotten used to it. Autism or any disability is still questioned and misunderstood by many, until you or a member of your family gets hit with it.

Sidney and Red at Pasay City Sped 2010
Sidney and Red both have autism. Photo taken at Pasay City Sped Center 2010

Most of my kids are advanced for their age. I have known this even before they started school. Aside from the fact that they all learned to eat veggies with no qualms even the ones with special needs since they learned how to eat solid food, they are the kids who had learned to write their names by just looking at the letters and get a perfect score even if they have been absent for a week due to flu. There are some who fall asleep during classroom discussions and even exams yet still get to pass it. I also have a daughter who can create a swing with an old sack and a rope when she was only four years old and most of them know were the story is heading for most local tele novela whose story lines are quite often predictable. My youngest son, Red who had learned how to hum before he could even talk is very good with roads, just like Sidney.

With Sidney it is much different. She had learned to read and speak in English at the age of three. Her comprehension is way too fast and advanced even with kids beyond her age. She is very good with computers and online games. She also gets bored inside the classroom. She did study in Pasay City Sped, even learned how to bake carrot cakes and brownies but because her mind works so fast she lost interest with the regular classroom setting and does not want to go back.

At times I blame myself for those days that Sidney had left the house and spent her days outdoors, whether there is a typhoon or not and sadly even during holiday seasons. Not that I do not look for her. Despite the challenge of working in a call center and leaving my kids in the evenings so that all seven of them could go to school and all of them could eat three times a day, I found out that the more I look for her, the more she refuses to go home. At times owners of internet cafe and resorts send me messages even to my friends that they have found my daughter and these are places as far as Sta Rosa Laguna and Bulacan. Sometimes I get to find and take my daughter home after a lot of questioning like the third degree. At times she get to leave again even before I arrive to pick her up. There are also days when people from different DSWD units, police officers and even total strangers were kind enough to bring Sidney home. Lately because she literally grew up on the streets,she returns home on her own and when she is asked where she had been, she will just answer, ” Mom, I am already here.”

Some of you may ask if I had sought help from foundations and the big networks ?

I sure did. I wrote countless letters, called and personally looked for foundations who can help me with therapy sessions, even for my kids’ schooling. Unfortunately we were not that lucky. There was even one who told me that there were more people whose situations were worst than mine. That even though I have seven kids and three have special needs, I could still afford to send them all to school no matter what.

That was when I stopped asking for help and threw all caution to the wind. Perhaps one day all my prayers will be answered in God’s time.

Now where does running come into place?

A lot of people I have talked to while I was in search for my daughter had told me that she walks and runs too fast for a girl of her age. There was even a time that a security guard was called because Sidney just appeared out of nowhere and ran at a bowling alley in SM MOA. With the help of other security guards, they tried to catch her but failed. They were about four security guards and they could not help but laugh at themselves while trying to catch Sidney. I was not into running then because I was more focused on keeping myself awake in the evenings though I have to admit I could hardly catch up with my kids who were all brisk walkers. I also knew that my small salary is still not enough to engage in sports activities so I did my best to keep healthy no matter how hard it was.

It was on December of 2010 when my whole family was devastated by a great tragedy. We lost my eldest brother due to a heart attack. He was only 48 years old. We were all affected especially my children because my brother was like a second father to all his nieces and nephews who all call him “Daddy Sonny.” It was a turning point in my life to find time for fitness and to always look at the brighter side of life if I want to live longer and see all my seven children grow up to become productive members of the society. That was also the reason why instead of wallowing in tears and worry, my kids and I continue with our lives despite of Sidney’s constant absence, choosing to be discreet with it and to the people who we share our stories, knowing that we were all be judged on how we handle it and relying more on faith that one day all this will come to an end.

Three years ago, I joined my first Fun Run. The company where I used to work was one of the sponsors and a Team Leader on the floor had announced that the first one hundred registrants get to register for free. I signed up for a 3K run and it was a decision I will never regret because it had paved the way for my fitness journey.That was when the old man’s voice from MMDA keep haunting me back, thinking that there might be a possibility that he may have been right all along. And after seven years, I have finally listened and followed what he told me.

It was February of 2014 when I finally asked Sidney if she wanted to join a fun run. Being her Mom I knew the answer before I even asked. The reason why it took so long for me to realize that that old man from MMDA who is now just a memory was right was because just like me, I knew once my daughter decided on something, there will be no turning back. Aside from that, words can break or make a person’s world who has autism. If I do not keep my promise, that would mean for sure she will leave the house again and will come back home when she wants to.

We all know that joining Fun Runs cost money. Now that the two of us will be joining races, that will be an additional expense to the family’s already tight budget.Though two of my kids already finished schooling, two are still in college. Good thing Sidney chooses the race that she joins. She usually visits pinoyfitness.com for updates to check if the in store registration already started for the specific race that she wants to run.

My 5K runner

When she ran her first race which was a 5K run at Run United 1 2014, I made sure she was well aware of what she was into. Since I was running for the 10K category, Sidney was all by herself. It was our first time to join a Run United race. Since 2012 I had only joined one race where I ran 5K and most of my runs were weekend ones, from our place to BGC where I also join the Zumba group exercise at the park.

We did not even know how to use the D tags. I did not put mine whereas Sidney was informed and assisted by a kind Marshall to put her D tag who may have noticed that my daughter looked “different” among the 5K runners on the first lane. It may have been risky letting my daughter run by herself but before we parted I told her the rules of the game. “To always stay on the right side, to watch out for the plastic cups, banana peels and throw her trash inside the trash bin, to walk if she is already too tired to run and most importantly, never, ever cheat on her run and finish what she had started.”

Sidney at RU 1 2015
Sidney effortlessly finished her first 5K run at 32 minutes and 40 seconds

After more than a year of running and joining races, Sidney had gotten comfortable with running 10K categories by herself while I now have advanced with joining half marathons. At times, when money was tight, I register her first while I wait for those runners who changed their minds the last minute and sell their kits online. At first I had second thoughts meeting a total stranger just to buy a race kit but I took the risk. That stranger now has become a running friend and who already met Sidney in person.

At times when money is really tight, it is only her who gets registered while I ran from the outer lanes, shouting words of encouragement, unmindful of the runners’ curious eyes and befriending the Marshalls who were kind enough to allow me after telling them about my daughter who has autism and that I just wanted to run with her. Sometimes, after the race when we can’t seem to find each other, I have her name announced so that she will know where to find me. It seems that the two of us are becoming popular without us trying too hard in every race that we join.

She has gotten comfortable in finishing her 10K races

I have never instilled the word “fear” on my children. They are aware that words like trauma and phobia exist but to them every fear can be conquered and that would mean we have to face each and every one of them. I also did not pressure them in school. Every parent I believe wants what is best for their children but at times we parents get surprised to know that our children are more adventurous and free spirited than we expect them to be.

Sidney's first clime at Pico de Loro
With the help of my friends, Sidney had enjoyed her first climb at Pico de Loro

Every one of us is capable of achieving our dreams no matter how impossible they are. My daughter Sidney still leaves the house but now comes home because she wants to join a race. She may get impatient when it comes to training but still participates even if that would mean a short run at the park or doing warm up exercises.

When she joins a race, she wakes up very early on the day of the event aware of the assembly time and the start time of her run. She also makes sure everything is okay from her shoes, race bib, D tag, her music from an MP player and her bottled water. The camera is the least of her worries but being her Mom, it would be great to have her pictures taken while she is on the road running with other runners, just like a normal person. And for that I am grateful for the photographers who take time to capture those priceless moments on the road.

Sidney's Photo by Running Photographers
Thank you Running Photographers

The last time she ran was when she accepted the Sub1 10K PinoyFitness Challenge where she was fully aware that if she did not finish her run in one hour or less, she will not get a medal but still gets a finisher shirt.

Tired and Hungry After The Race
Tired and hungry after finishing the race

For now she was glad and proud she got a finisher shirt. There is still next year to get that well deserved medal.

And I, being her Mom will be her pacer then. Autistic or not, nothing is impossible as long as you put your heart and soul to it. — END

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