As soon as I was blindfolded, I immediately felt a little unsure, like I had to either keep very close to myself or promptly attach myself to someone. But I was among strangers, so it didn’t seem right to just grab the nearest warm body, lest I grab something I’m not supposed to.
“Veggie! Yan ba si Veggie? Dito na lang si Veggie,” I heard the organizers call out, referring to me and my special diet.
For a moment, as they fit me in with one group then another, I was ready to give up the green life. Since I had already been deprived of a major sense, I couldn’t help but feel like any other restriction automatically becomes a huge handicap. “Blind na nga, vegetarian pa,” I thought. I was eventually seated with Tin and Art, a couple who was celebrating their anniversary with a new experience and a good cause.
“Dinner in the Dark,” hosted by the Zoomanity Group, was held for the benefit of the Philippine National School for the Blind and the James Mackay Foundation. Visually impaired students from the school performed as guests were helped to our tables. And while none of us could see them, we could clearly hear their lovely voices and impeccable piano playing. Some guests even sang along. “Lahat magaling ‘pag madilim,” Art joked as he joined in.
As we got ready to dig into our Misono dinner, we were told where everything was: napkins at 12 o’clock; bottled water at 1 o’clock; chopsticks at 6 o’clock, and utensils on either side of the bento box.
Still, dining proved harder than it should be. I put my hand out, palms down, to get a feel of where my food was—what my food was. I immediately retracted my hand upon touching something cold and wet. Later, I’d discover it was dressing on my salad.
No one at our table bothered with the chopsticks; Art ditched his utensils entirely. I was tempted to do the same when I spent too long unsuccessfully poking my food only to finally realize I was using a spoon. Tin confessed to missing her mouth twice.
I learned what dinner was by taking tiny bites from different sections of my bento: I tasted soba, vegetable tempura, sautéed vegetables and salad. I had to spit out paper a few times. (Why was there paper?)
One good thing about dining in the dark was that you didn’t have to mind your manners. Then again, it’s not like you had a choice: I ate with my back hunched over and my neck extended forward to keep food bits from falling onto my clothes or the floor.
As the evening wound down, Tin kept wondering whether she was done eating. Despite not being able to see what we were gobbling up, it seemed we had inhaled our dinner. Or maybe it was because we couldn’t see anything that made us focus more on putting food in our mouths. (It turned out I actually still had some food left in my bento box. I just couldn’t find them for some reason.)
At the end of the program, some guests shared their thoughts on their temporary blindness: Some spoke out about how lucky they felt to have all five senses. One guy succinctly called the experience overwhelming and eye-opening.
One of the performers explained to us that while blind people have it a bit harder than those who can see, they should not be pitied. They should, however, be given opportunities to learn, grow and prosper.
As for me, I learned that when you’ve lost the use of your eyes, it’s easy to feel insecure and get frustrated. But keeping a positive attitude helps in dealing with a huge disability like blindness. When you don’t take things too seriously or personally and learn to laugh at yourself and your situation, it’s easy to forget the darkness.