Toastmaster shows 'Vision' in speech
Born blind, Cristina Mabalot learned to "see" the world through other means: smell, hearing, taste and, most importantly, she said, through her heart.
Despite the skepticism of those around her, Mabalot went to school, became a special education teacher and pastors the Faith Assembly International Filipino Ministries with her husband.
Her inspirational story touched the hearts at Toastmasters' Area 21 International Speech Contest, which she won last month. Mabalot will share her speech, "Leadership Beyond Vision," to compete against 50 people from 17 area clubs at the Division B International Speech Contest on Saturday.
"There's this quote that says, 'It is only with the heart that one can see rightly,' but in the beginning, everyone kept saying what I couldn't do: 'You can't play with other kids, you can't work, you can't get married.' Even with all the 'you cant's,' I've lived a full life and overcome the cultural misperceptions," Mabalot said.
Growing up, Mabalot was one of four blind children. A condition called aniridia prevented her iris from developing correctly. Later, she had a daughter who shared the same condition.
"My first child could see normally, but when I had my daughter, you could see right away that her pupil wasn't clear. It was smaller than usual," she said. "(Mabalot and her husband) were devastated. Our son could see, so we didn't think our daughter would be born with aniridia," Mabalot said.
Her speech explored those struggles and how her Christianity allows her to remain motivated and joyful.
Mabalot first joined the Toastmasters in the Philippines, where she was a motivational speaker. Now, with English as her second language, she's a member of the Greenwave Gabbers Toastmasters in Summerville.
"It's not just a speaking club, it's also a listening club. We have some members who are abused women who came to the Toastmasters club with a very low level of confidence. In two or three years of membership, they've blossomed. It also helps with people getting jobs, and for people who already have jobs, it helps them advance," said fellow Greenwave Gabbers member and Toastmasters International District 58 governor Subbi Mathur.
Mabalot said she hopes to develop a career as a motivational speaker in the United States. Toastmasters is taking her one step closer to reaching that goal.
To hear Mabalot's speech, attend the Division B International Speech Contest at 9 a.m. Saturday in Suite 300 of the SAIC building at 1141 Remount Road in North Charleston.
Mabalot also will serve as the keynote speaker of the Summerville Mayor's Luncheon on May 2.
The Greenwave Gabbers Toastmasters meet at 7 p.m. Mondays at the Trident United Way building, 117 S. Main St., Summerville. Visit www.toastmasters.org to find other area clubs.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.