LONDON - With the start of the London Olympics fast approaching, final preparations are being put in place for the opening ceremony on July 27.
Around 10,000 people auditioned, but only 1,500 were selected. Among those chosen are two Filipinos, who have been overcoming their own set of obstacles to participate in the event.
Al Reburiano and Laura Dajao live in different parts of the UK and had never crossed paths before. But, despite not knowing each other they shared something in common - both wanted tickets for the opening ceremony, both were unsuccessful in their attempts, both figured, why not apply to be part of it instead.
The Pinoys passed two auditions that tested their commitment, attitude and movement, and have since been attending official rehearsals in London.
Reburiano, 33, was born in Bicol but raised in Parañaque in the Philippines. He is a student and part-time support worker currently based in the city of Leicester, around 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of London.
Like all volunteers of the Olympic opening ceremony, Reburiano is not getting paid or receiving financial aid for expenses such as travel.
In a conversation with ABS-CBN Europe, Reburiano spoke about the sacrifices he is making just to participate in the event.
"You have to consider my studies here, and my part-time work. I had to adjust with the schedules. I'm missing my extra time for work, I'm missing also my assignments," Reburiano explained.
"A part of it as well is I miss church. I do regularly go to church, but most of our rehearsals are on Sundays or over the weekend. I feel really guilty if I don't go to church."
Asked how he makes up for it, Reburiano replied, "I just pray in one corner and ask for forgiveness."
Despite all of those things, he feels it is a worthwhile commitment.
"It's the biggest show on Earth and I'm part of that. It's really fulfilling," he said.
"Hindi mo matatawaran yung experience na maging part ka ng malaking event, plus kasama mo siyempre yung iba ibang volunteers as well. Masaya, masaya yung feeling nandoon ka sa stadium and sa opening ceremony," Reburiano added.
Dajao challenging stereotypes
Whilst Reburiano is dealing with logistic, time and religious constraints, Dajao is challenging stereotypes that come with being a wheelchair user.
Dajao, 23, was born and raised in East London. A lover of the performing arts, she was an active dancer before being struck by a progressive illness in 2008.
After receiving the news she could no longer use her legs, Dajao reveals she went through a year of uncertainty.
She did not think it would be possible to dance again, then, a flier arrived through the post inviting her to a class. Dajao took up the opportunity, rediscovered her drive and found a new sense of direction.
"Dance is an amazing tool. It has changed my life in a lot of ways. The main one being that I feel more comfortable in my own skin," Dajao said.
"Prior to this I was falling in and out of jobs and qualifications and nothing really spoke to me. There's something within dance that clarified what I wanted to do with my life. Who knows what the future brings but it's definitely something I want to be doing right here, right now," she added.
Dajao is now eager to show people that her wheelchair does not hold her back.
"When people see others in wheelchairs there is this 'ahhh, they're in a wheelchair, there is nothing they can do about it'," she said.
"The only difference between me and you is that you do things standing up, and the fact is I'm sitting down and I need this wheelchair to get around.
"Everybody deserves an equal chance and I feel that when people don't do that there is intolerance in the world. Wheelchair users aren't just people who sit in corners and don't do anything," Dajao added.
As the opening ceremony nears, the number of rehearsals has increased, as has the intensity. Aside from the official rehearsals, Dajao and Reburiano have also been putting in their own private practice time.
"I rehearse at home and I do also rehearse at work, secretly," revealed Reburiano.
"Dapat hindi na alam ang ginagawa ko sa opening ceremony, so I just go to an empty room or a storage room. That's where I perform my routine," he added.
Both are looking forward to performing to the world.
"Rather than being nervous, I'm really excited about it," Reburiano said.
"I know they will provide us everything, rehearsing, making it perfect and complete," he added.
"I feel like I'm ready for it. I can't wait," Dajao said.
"There are so many different people as well, they're not all dancers or performers. I think that's the sense of unity that the opening ceremony is about. There are people who have travelled so far just for this ceremony. It's really nice to see that unity within the UK," she added.
Dajao does however feel a bit nervous for others.
"I'm nervous but not for me. As a performer, or someone who has been dancing for a while now, I think it has become easier to forget your nerves," she said.
"But being in a group where maybe not everybody has danced or performed as much as I have or other people have, it must be very daunting for them," Dajao added.
As a British-born Pinay from London, Dajao is very proud to be involved in the opening ceremony.
"Personally I haven't seen that many Filipinos who have been in the ceremonies, so I feel quite privileged to have been selected," Dajao said.
"And it's not because of the fact that I'm Filipina or the fact that I'm in a wheelchair, but it's because of skill and that's something to be really proud of. I hope that inspires people.
"To be in London at this time, to be part of the bigger thing, to be part of something that is worldwide - it's something that I'll take to my grave," she added.
Reburiano is also proud to play his part and be a representative of the Philippines.
"Being a Filipino, it makes you feel really proud kase, napapansin nila kahit small part mo lang doon, napapansin nila na you have a talent. Alam naman natin lahat ng Filipinos are very talented, so I'm really happy," Reburiano said.
The opening ceremony of the Olympics is shrouded in mystery. After the selection process had been completed, every participant was required to sign a contract, forbidding them from talking about the performance itself.
The Olympic flame is currently running its course through the southern sections of the UK. The torch relay will end its journey at the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27, marking the start of the 2012 Games.