Melody Lingers On

By Fr Fintan Murtagh

The author is a Columban priest who has worked in the Diocese of Iba, Zambales, since coming to the Philippines in 1964. He is a parish priest and also works with persons with disabilities.

Melody skiing with friends in Japan during the Duskin Leadership Training

Her name was Melody. It must be more than twenty years ago now since I first met her on a Saturday afternoon at the chapel in her barrio. A friend had transported her on a tricycle. She was able to maneuver herself from there. Melody had been severely affected by polio since she was only three or four. The lower part of her body was severely deformed because of this but she moved herself about in a sitting position by propelling her feet with her hands.

After Mass I had a little chat with Melody and her companions. I found out she was attending the local elementary school whenever there was someone available to take her there. It occurred to me that it would be a great help if she could get to school under her own steam. I had seen a photo of a tricycle propelled by hand. I showed it to a local welder and he produced one. Melody was delighted with it. Now she could go to school on her own. I visited her often and had a nurse give advice on what exercises would benefit her. A neighbor made parallel bars so she could practice walking with supports attached to both legs. Melody gamely tried but the polio had done too much. But she never gave up. She finished her elementary education, went on to high school, and eventually studied computer at college level.

In the March-April 2004 issue of Misyon Melody wrote of her experience in Japan with the Duskin Ainowa Foundation that gave her a great measure of independence. When she came home she wasted no time in setting up a center for independent living in her own town.

Melody contracted lupus and died on 10 April 2005, aged only 28. But she accomplished much in her short life. She inspired the setting up of the Community Based Rehabilitation Program of the Diocese of Iba, which touches the lives of almost one thousand people. 

Melody has passed on. Her spirit and example will continue to inspire us for a long time. I thank God that our paths crossed. Rest in peace, Melody. We will try to continue in the fine way you have shown us. You are gone but your memory still inspires us, still lingers on.

You may contact Father Murtagh at or at Immaculate Conception Parish, Barretto, 2200OLONGAPO CITY.