A spark in the dark: Rising above one’s limits

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Marc Cosep May 06,2018 - 10:07 PM

*A three-part series tracing the contributions of three persons with disabilities, who serve the community with joy and dedication despite their handicaps.

Even before sunlight pierces through the dark sky at dawn, Magdaleno Borces is already up and ready to go.

“Gusto kaayo ko mo-trabaho. (I’m excited to work),” he said.

Equipped with a reflectorized vest and a whistle, Borces hops on his hands from one spot to another toward a pedicab parked outside his small shanty in Barangay Kasambagan, Cebu City.

Unlike most traffic enforcers, Borces was born without lower legs and with deformed arms — a rare congenital disorder known as Amelia.

He has but one finger on his left hand, and three other little fingers on the right.

But the disability didn’t stop Borces from living a full life.

From his humble abode, the 60-year-old man drives his three-wheel handbike, which was modified to enable his right hand to do the pedaling, painstakingly as he maneuvers it amid steep and rocky paths to his work area all by himself.

Borces does not mind the daily struggle.

By 6 a.m., he is already at his post along F. Cabahug Street where he is assigned to man the traffic.

“Dili ko gusto nga magpuyo lang sa balay. Buot ko motrabaho og makapangalagad sa katawhan. (I just don’t want to stay idle at home. I want to work and be able to serve the people),” he said in his soft voice.


For six years now, Borces endures the smoke and dust-filled highway.

He braves the heat and searing temperatures, and works even during heavy rains from  Monday to Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two breaks in between.

As honorarium, Borces receives P2,000 from the village, and another P4,000 from the Cebu City government every month.

The amount, he said, is enough to buy food, water, and other basic commodities.

Although he has learned to live with his disability and has not experienced much discrimination, Borces said there had been times when he wondered why he did not have the limbs that most people had.

While he had every reason to feel sorry for himself, he simply refused to give in to despair.

“Nagpasalamat ko sa Ginoo bisan pa man sa akong kahimtang. Nagtuo ko nga dunay rason ang Ginoo. Tungod kay iya man kining gitugot nga mahitabo kanako, ako kining gidawat. Og kon unsa man ang iyang gihatag, ako kining gamiton (Despite my condition, I’m grateful to God. I believe He has a reason. And since he allowed this to happen, I accept it. And whatever he gives, I make good use of).

Getting on board his specially designed pedicab, Magdaleno Borces works from day to night conducting traffic at F. Cabahug Street


Ever since he was young, Borces encountered so many miseries and setbacks in life.

At a tender age of five, he lost his mother to leukemia. Ten years later, his father died due to a liver illness, while three of his siblings also perished because of different ailments.

Except for a niece who takes care of him, Borces has no wife, children, and family.

Borces said he wanted to become a lawyer or engineer, but extreme poverty kept his dreams at bay.

After he graduated from elementary, he decided to skip school and work in a rattan furniture factory to earn a living.

There, he polished thin pliable stems of palm used to make furniture.

He subsequently moved to another furniture company in downtown Cebu City where he spent some time working before he was hired by a private school in Barangay Kasambagan to help manage traffic in the area and assist kids and their parents in crossing the street.

After five years, Borces finally caught the attention of Kasambagan Barangay Captain Franklyn Ong who personally requested him to man the traffic along one of the barangay’s major streets.


Ong recounts that Borces used to just stay on the pavements and from there, help man the traffic by himself.

“He loves to be on the streets to help maintain an orderly traffic flow. It exposed him to so much risks and so I got him,” Ong  said in an  interview.

Ong said Borces’ dedication was exemplary.

“He’s determined, very passionate, and very hardworking. Though he doesn’t have legs, he wants to contribute something to the community. He simply wants to serve,” he said.

Perched on an outpost specially made for him, Borces does his work with pride and determination, passionately maintaining an orderly traffic flow.

No matter what the job entails, he is determined to lead a life of purpose.

“Mientras buhi pa, molihok ko. Gusto nako pahimuslan ang unsa man ang gihatag sa Ginoo kanako. Kontento na ko og malipayon sa akong gibuhat. (While I’m alive, I will work. I want to use whatever the Lord gave me. I am contented and happy with what I’ve been doing),” he said.

“Mabuhi lang ta sa ibabaw sa kalibutan, makatrabaho lang ta og makakaon katulo sa usa ka adlaw, ok na. (As long as we live, work, and eat three times daily, that’s ok with me),” he added.

Standing tall

Though hard-pressed on every side, Borces said begging money from people was never an option for him.

“Dili ko anang magpakilimos. Gusto ko nga ang akong kuwarta, hinaguan gyud. (I will not beg. I want to work for the money I have),” said Borces who refused to receive money from people.

He reminded mendicants that poverty and disability are not obstacles to earn a decent living and serve the community.

Though he’s just about a meter in height, Borces stands tall in his unwavering determination and service.

He said he has learned to never give up and to entrust himself to God.

“Bisan unsa man ang mahitabo sa atong kinabuhi, ang Ginoo ang akong saligan. Kinsa pa man diay ang lain? (No matter what happens in life, I will trust God. Who else should I trust?),” he told Cebu Daily News.

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TAGS: above, Dark, one’s limits, rising, spark

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