MANILA - Filipinos are among the happiest people in the world and a living testament to this is 28-year-old Richardson Navor, recently hailed as the 2015 Happiest Pinoy.
Navor, fondly called "Kuya Chard" by those closest to him, was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder affecting muscle tones and motor skills.
Speaking to radio DZMM, he recalled the rough times he had to endure growing up with this illness.
"Just like any other PWD [Person With Disability], siyempre 'yung tutuksuhin ka sa eskwelahan, gagayahin ka pa'no ka maglakad, tatawanan ka ng ibang mga bata, minsan kahit mga matatanda na at dapat medyo nakakaintindi, hindi pa rin," Navor said.
His family became Navor's source of strength. They never treated him as "different," which is why he grew up believing he's just like any other person.
"They never treated me as special. Hindi nila ipinaramdam sa 'kin na kakaiba ako. For them, I'm a normal person," he added.
Though his family has always been supportive, the teasings haven't stopped. Navor said he's used to these and he's never let these affect him. What's worse for him is seeing other people pity him.
"Minsan, kahit na 'yung simpleng sabihin, 'ay nakakaawa naman siya', medyo masakit po 'yun," he said.
"Hindi naman dapat kaawan 'yung mga gaya namin. Probably mas okay na bigyan kami ng chance or bigyan kami ng trust na kaya naming gawin 'yung mga bagay-bagay. Mas masakit po 'yung nakakarinig ka ng mga ganun."
Winning 'Happiest Pinoy'
Besting nine finalists from all over the country, Navor became the third Filipino to win Cebuana Lhuiller's Search for the Happiest Pinoy.
He said he had no idea that his schoolmate was planning to nominate him for the competition.
"Noong una, parang hesitant ako. Honestly, ayoko po ng atensyon, ayoko ng special treatment," he said.
According to Navor, there were three main criteria in the competition: positive outlook in life, ability to rise above challenges, and positive impact on the life of others.
Of these three, he said the last one was the toughest but at the same time, the one he is most inspired about.
"To be able to touch other people's lives, 'yun talaga para sa 'kin 'yung gustong-gusto kong gawin at hindi ako mapipigilan," he said.
Aside from being a full-time financial analyst, Navor also works as a part-time college instructor at the University of the East in Caloocan City. He also manages his own non-governmental organization "People Uplifting the Students and the Handicaps" (PUSH).
Navor said a portion of his P1 million prize will finance the projects of his group.
Kuya Chard's advice
Navor admitted that at some point in his life, he also suffered from depression.
"Nag-doubt din po na kaya ko pa ba talagang i-pursue 'yung mga pangarap ko sa buhay, meron pa ba talaga kong mararating," he said.
But Kuya Chard said he was able to overcome this feeling. He said he always reminds himself that it doesn't matter what he has lost; what matters is what he can do with what's left of him.
"Kahit ano po 'yung mawala sa 'yo, ano 'yung kakulangan mo, ano 'yung pinagdadaanan mo, hindi dapat 'yun 'yung tinitingnan mo. Dapat ang tinitingnan mo kung ano 'yung kaya mong gawin, kung ano 'yung meron ka pa," he said.