BUENAVISTA, GUIMARAS, Philippines – In this village of intergenerational artisans, men of the household do the carving of “Duldol” (Kapok tree) wood while women stitch the canvass fabric for the miniature galleons exclusively made in the island since 1948 after World War II.
It was in this post-war era that people of Rizal village in Buenavista town started crafting miniature boats for either sale or barter with foreigners – among them, American, Greek, Chinese, and Japanase traders – passing through the port in Guimaras Island.
The carved boats started with the simplest of designs now among the variety of miniature boats sold today. Forefathers of present craftsmen began with a model of what locals call “paraw”, a boat with two projecting sails originating in the Visayas region.
Today, the village artisans could make multi-decked model vessels of much more complicated and detailed structures from the classic cruise boats or wooden yachts with multiple sails, galleons or the cargo ships of the 16th to 18th centuries, to old wooden frigates or warships complete with details of canons and barrels.
A 60-inch galleon takes as long as a month to make but can be sold in international trade fairs for as high as P14,000.
Men and women in this village across generations know the craft by heart that their talent and skill no longer shocks them. But a close inspection of each model galleon only further drives the point that these can only be done by an expert craftsman. (END)
BALAOAN, LA UNION, Philippines – There are no more bills to pay, no more children to send to school, no more house to build, but Manong (Older Brother) Dominador ‘Domeng’ C. Clemente and his wife don’t even need an alarm clock to jolt them up from sleep at 5 in the morning to head to their 3-hectare tobacco farm.
The couple of 33 years no longer remembers a year in their life when their family and the generations of families before them did not harvest tobacco.
Tobacco is life, money, family, and community to them.
But it is also a fatal peril for many others.
Almost 48% of male adults and 9% of female adults in the Philippines are smokers as of 2009. That is some 17.3 million smokers who are susceptible to preventable causes of disease, disability, and premature deaths.
Smoking is a habit that dies hard.
In the town of Balaoan, the labor-intensive farming for this crop is also a means of living that is hard to shake off.
Mang Domeng’s eldest daughter is already a nurse in Taiwan. His two other children finished criminology and education courses respectively from their parents’ hard-earned tobacco money.
They tell their aging father who only understand them in the vernacular to stop growing tobacco. We no longer need it, they say. He doesn’t have to.
But Mang Domeng keeps renting a plot of land from an arendo (a local landowner) so he can be with his workers from morning till noon.
At the farm, they cut the tobacco leaves that prior to harvest serve as their canopy at noon when they eat together.
The leaf is both product and protection from sunlight for them.
The taller the plant, the better the yield. Class double A to A, as the big-time tobacco company classifiers would say. The types that can be sold at P80 per kilo.
The taller the plant, the higher also is their canopy.
At lunch, the women in their lives bring food for the tobacco farmers. Meat is served. They whisper to each other that it is cat meat, but eat and laugh like tomorrow’s never coming. Bottled soft drinks are passed on from a pail of crushed ice.
Finding refuge from the sun, the farmers squat on the narrow strip of soil in their field dividing the tobacco plants into rows. Their hands all greasy from the resin of the plants during harvest.
Mang Domeng leads about a dozen workers, tells them to gather the leaves early this time, assures everyone there will be no work in the field when the sun shines its brightest that day.
The farmer smiles with the smile of a man at his prime who sees only the good in life. All is well in his tobacco paradise.
Paradise it is for many of these tobacco farmers who prefer the simplicity of cultivating their land for their families, for others’ consumption, and for what they call the tatak (signature) of Balaoan.
In this side of the country, the mere mention of a smoking ban brings residents into reflection.
“A tobacco ban would make our hearts heavy. We paid for our children’s education through farming tobacco,” 49-year-old farmer Hilario O. Olidan said in Filipino.
“We hope they won’t ban tobacco because many will lose their jobs,” he added.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, including inside public transport vehicles and other cars.
One of the premises of Executive Order No. 26 is the belief that “public health takes precedence over any commercial or business interest.”
Duterte recognized that cigarette smoking puts a strain not only on the financial resources of individual households but on public healthcare.
The order dated May 16 points to “scientific evidence [that] has unequivocally established that tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke cause death, disease and disability, lead to devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences.”
“… an increasing number of Filipinos become afflicted with and die each year of tobacco-related diseases such as stroke, heart disease, emphysema, various cancers and nicotine addiction, and both the public and workers in facilities where smoking is allowed are most at risk from these and other tobacco-related diseases,” the order explains.
While tobacco farmers in Balaoan fear such policy directives, experts assure the public that these measures will not cripple the tobacco farming industry.
“There is no evidence that tobacco control measures will unduly affect our tobacco farmers, to the contrary, reports from the Department of Finance demonstrate that our tobacco exportation has increased,” explained Dr. Lee P. Yarcia, health law and policy consultant.
Philippine tobacco exportation ensures a market for existing tobacco farmers.
There are 55,533 tobacco farmers in the Philippines, according to data in the years 2010 to 2011. This is 0.16% of the country’s total employment.
But tobacco growing is extremely labor-intensive. It yields relatively low income compared to input costs as well as foreseen negative externalities – i.e., costs to health and public interest that are hard to put a price on.
Houses in Balaoan have burned down because of nearby unattended multistoried fireplaces meant for cooking tobacco leaves. These structures need round-the-clock monitoring for a week after harvest.
“Both under the Sin Tax Law and the WHO (World Health Organization) Framework Convention on Tobacco, we recognize that tobacco farming is an unsustainable and unhealthy practice for our farmers, for our environment, and for the people,” the tobacco control expert added.
Tobacco cultivation is often related to cyclical poverty due to unfair loan conditions as well as diseases due to the poor handling of strong pesticides.
Still, farmers in Balaoan are wary of leaving tobacco farming.
One of the major obstacles for tobacco farmers to diversify their crops is the lack of technical knowledge when it comes to growing other crops, having been used to tobacco growing and trading in their farms.
“The Philippines has both domestic and international commitment to support tobacco farmers shift to alternative livelihood such as engaging in food crop production,” explained Yarcia.
He explained that the sin tax law “guarantees that tobacco-producing regions have earmarked funds from revenues collected from sin taxes.”
A percentage of sin taxes collected from cigarettes is meant to fund programs that would help tobacco farmers to diversify their crops.
The challenge, said Yarcia, is “to ensure implementation of the law so that our farmers will fully benefit from tobacco control measures.”
But it will take more than lip service to elevate the discussion on tobacco control among farmers on the ground.
Education and awareness on the need for effective regulation is scarce in areas like Balaoan.
In Balaoan, current alternative crops such as corn and watermelon provide lower income compared to tobacco due to the lack of a captured market the farmers can directly sell to.
Mutlinational tobacco companies enter into deals with tobacco farmers to gain exclusive purchase of their crops, providing a sure income for land lease holders like Mang Domeng and a guaranteed return for the months-long labor of his workers. These giant cigarette firms also extend pre-harvest loans meant for fertilizers and pesticides.
Statutory law also grants incentives for local governments in the form of tobacco excise taxes.
Other crops are simply not given the same attention as tobacco in both public policy and private investments.
Not only that. In a town reliant on tobacco farming, tobacco has an impact on the most important elements of human life.
Tobacco farming provides liquidity, has strong emotional resonance among families who survive and thrive through selling smoked and dried tobacco leaves to cigarette companies, and has become part of people’s daily routines.
The dignity in the work that they do is something Balaoan’s tobacco farmers take pride in.
“What else will we do? What else will we plant?” asked Mang Domeng’s wife, convinced that there is no other alternative.
But this is far from the truth, if only shifting perceptions on the ground is prioritized as part of the transition process and if only food crops are subsidized in national laws the way tobacco is.
Tobacco farming is indeed systematically entrenched.
Local governments earn from tobacco cultivation through their shares from national taxes. Most farmers also simply rent lands from landowners who are part of associations that have tobacco as their crop of choice.
“It is high time that we implement our policy commitment to pursue genuine and effective tobacco control measures, which includes supply side reduction measures,” said Yarcia. (END)
“This story was produced under the ‘Mga Nagbababang Kuwento: Reporting on Tobacco and Sin Tax Media Training and Fellowship Program’ by Probe Media Foundation with the support of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The grant-giving bodies have no editorial control over content and information-gathering.”
SOFRONIO ESPAÑOLA, PALAWAN, Philippines – Tatang (Old father) Suede walks as if carrying a heavy weight on his back, a perfect slouch for an aging man with a rare lively smile.
He tells you his story somber at first then all at once releasing a laugh with his teeth protruding. A tribesman of his stature has known life at its fullest – not wanting, finding abundance in the land gifted by a divine creator he calls Ama (Father).
“Ama,” he begins his prayer. “I thank you for the food before us, for our guests and the love shared among us,” he adds in the vernacular before a meal.
It is hard not to marvel at the beauty of the rough, beaten paths one crosses en route to Tatang Suede’s community, the daunting trees born of nature, scenes that beguile, amuse, provoke thoughts that occasionally drive action, anger, and, the universe forbid, cause desensitization out of intensity.
But when he calls on Ama to thank for their land, one understands the compulsion for gratitude.
Unlike many of the younger generation members of the Palaw’an Tribe in the village of Iraray in Southern Palawan, Tatang Suede knows what it means to not give in to the seemingly manufactured needs of this progressively consumerist society.
“There was a time one peso can last a family for a month,” Tatang Suede, tribal chief and folk healer, shares.
But nowadays, when a member of the tribe sees a dayo (non-native) with a purchased good that was not always a household staple, one feels a want to have. The need for possession comes only after comparing life to the other.
Suddenly, they could no longer prepare their own coffee and needed 3-in-1 pre-mixed coffee powders in sachets. Suddenly, the collective chanting was not enough for entertainment and they needed transistor radios to keep their minds off of their continuing struggle as indigenous peoples to overcome barriers to marginalization and social neglect in part due to their geographically isolated communities.
The daily burdens faced by indigenous peoples, who are among the most marginalized sectors in their localities, are no secret.
Some of the areas in Iraray village have yet to be distinguished as ancestral domains by law. Despite being the de facto sanctuary of indigenous peoples and their ancestors, the tribal families do no hold the title to these lands.
The titles are crucial, as projects both of government and non-profit groups identify IP beneficiaries based on lands that are ancestral domains under law. Their community, for example, have yet to be powered by electricity. At night, they rely on battery-operated light. It’s not always a problem for them. The elders know the terrain like the back of their hand. But for younger generations who wish to review their school lessons or do homework at night, it can be quite a challenge.
In the evening, the elders form a circle and exchange stories in open space. One story stands out. It was their first and thus far only time in the city. They had no idea what escalators were for and had to march hand in hand crossing a street, what with all the jeepneys (mini-buses) and cars. Here in the forest, they say, they can never get lost. They’re not terrified at the sight of a wild animal, even a snake. But vehicles in the streets? That’s a different story.
Tatang Suede’s slouch is an apt metaphor for the burden he carries as leader of a tribe seeking to fight what they call the unjust land-grabbing for political gains of a long-dead governor back in the 1970s.
Tatang Suede shares that the titles to the land where they and their ancestors’ have lived were named after members of a powerful local religious sect known for currying political favors.
Elders of the tribe swear by their ancestors that the individuals whose names appear on the land titles have never set foot on the land they proudly call their children’s inheritance.
“All my children have tried their luck in the city, living with their families there. My favorite son is the one who chose to stay here in our land to help me till it,” explains one elder in the vernacular.
To the tribesmen, their land is sacred and so are the blessings that emanate from this gift of nature.
Beyond issues of land-grabbing, the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples – a state agency with a comprehensive archive on tribes in the Philippines – is also beset with manpower and funding problems.
Items for the instruments needed for the prerequisite perimeter survey prior to the titling of these lands are often taken out of the proposed state budget that is enacted each fiscal year. With limited funding, this means the processing of pending applications for certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) would usually be unduly delayed.
Tatang Suede lives with no regret, as he looks to his wife Nanay (mother) Etha for inspiration.
“No matter what the papers say, those [areas of land] are yours,” Tatang tells his fellow tribesmen, who have yet to see titles bearing their names. (END)
MANILA, Philippines – Erlyn Umpal was the fiance of slain UNTV cameraman McGilbert Arriola, among those slaughtered in the Maguindanao massacre of November 23, 2009.
That day, dozens of armed men fired upon 58 civilians including 34 journalists who they brought near a mass grave in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, where the victims’ lifeless bodies were buried by a state-purchased backhoe like mere gravel.
It is one of the country’s bloodiest election-related incidents since the restoration of democracy and the single deadliest for members of the press, whose lives are put in peril day in and out for the work they do.
Erlyn and McGilbert were supposed to be married December that same year, a month after the unspeakable mass murder.
It was just fourteen days after Erlyn had given birth to their first baby when her fiance McGilbert was gunned down by men who somehow believed they could get away with a mass killing so gruesome that the on-site documentarists of its aftermath shed tears as their camera rolls.
Erlyn and McGilbert’s son would grow up not knowing his biological father.
In 2010, then Justice Secretary Alberto Agra cleared two members of the notorious Ampatuan clan of any wrongdoing in the treacherous slays – the first of many legal blows in the long, arduous battle for justice by victims and family members left behind like Erlyn.
Seven years after the massacre, the struggle continues.
(Below is an official update as of Nov. 23, 2016 from the Philippines’ Supreme Court on the cases in relation to the mass murder)
CARMONA, CAVITE, Philippines – To understand another takes some imagining.
Imagine what it would be like to be him and not you. Internalize another person’s lived experience. Consider that there is a reality different from yours.
Jomarie A. Espinosa‘s weekly routine is that of a typical government worker.
He arrives everyday at the Carmona Municipal Hall at 7:41 am, with or without a flag ceremony.
On Mondays when the flag is raised and they each fall in line at the town plaza, he counts – often accurately – who is and isn’t in line.
“Wala sa flag ceremony. Late ka (Not in the flag ceremony. You’re late),” he would later tell the tardy state worker matter-of-factly.
Jomarie, 24, serves as an administrative aide at the town’s treasury office.
He arranges in neatly stacked piles stickers for registered vehicles, bundles them together using a rubber band, and places them inside a wooden box he opens and closes in a repetitive motion.
As he opens the box, his head slightly tilts towards it and he extends his neck to the box’s opening seemingly smelling the government stickers as if they are releasing a sweet aroma.
He does this for a time before he proceeds to explaining the rest of his work with the excitement of a man on the first day of his dream job.
In a rushed tone, he enumerates his tasks while pointing to the varied paraphernalia on his table.
“LTFRB,” he points to the car stickers. “Nagfa-filing kasi ako (I file documents),” he says, as he turns each page of the receipt bundle organized based on their series numbers. “Cedula (Community Tax Certificate),” he shows the paper that citizens need to fill out. “Gugupitin ko (I will cut this),” he adds. “Pag naubos, nagbibigay Kuya Ruel. Sasama ka sa bodega (When the paper runs out, Kuya Ruel gives me a new batch. Are you going with me to the warehouse)?” he says all these, almost without once breathing.
Jomarie actually enjoys these tasks and is proud of the work he does.
“Treasury Office. Administrative aide,” he says slowly as he traces with his fingers the letters to these words written below his name on a paper with his photo plastered to the wall above his table.
“Ang boss ko si ‘Tres’ (My boss is ‘Tres’),” he says, referring to the municipal treasurer.
He shows a sample tax certificate he helps seal, and says he brings this first to Ate Norma and then to his boss “Tres” (shortened form of the word treasurer). “Papirma po (Please sign),” he tells the boss.
During mornings when the cashiers are not yet around but there are already clients arriving, he tells the applicant-clients with a toddler’s grin: “Ma’am, Sir, upo po kayo (Ma’am, Sir, please sit down)!”
He enters the treasury office noticing who is gone.
“Si Kuya Dondi absent. Absent si Kuya Dondi (Kuya Dondi is absent. He is absent),” he makes the announcement to the office staff.
In truth, Dondi is not absent but is out on a state-sponsored training for government workers. Jomarie has been told this. He just hasn’t remembered.
“Leave?” he asks his supervisor, after he was lovingly corrected. “Ah,” he adds, like an attendance compliance officer.
People with autism like Jomarie are routinely employed in the town of Carmona.
This is Jomarie’s second try at the treasury office. He was first deployed to the revenue collection unit, but he experienced a bout after feeling too much pressure with too little workload. He prefers to be working 8 am to 5 pm nonstop except during scheduled breaks. He likes it when there are jokes passed around and smiles exchanged.
Jomarie walks to a nearby table. “Kuya RJ. Working!” he exclaims to the man in front of a desktop computer, as he gives RJ a high five.
He now works for the licensing unit, which releases business permits for investors in Carmona. He says he is looking forward to the month of January, when the one-stop shop is set up in town for business permit applications. He knows his work is important. He says he will make sure he will be in the January fair.
Under a government circular, these applications need to be processed within 30 minutes. Jomarie is up for the challenge.
On days the applications are scarce, his direct supervisor Teresa P. Laurora assigns him to assist in other units.
“Gusto niya laging may trabaho, laging may ginagawa (He wants to be constantly working, constantly on the move),” says Teresa.
A few seconds later, Teresa sheds tears. “Masaya lang po (I’m just happy),” the 20-year government service worker says.
Jomarie remains oblivious of the scene, as if a crying supervisor is a normal occurrence in the workplace.
He walks around, passes documents to other staff members.
“Ballpens, rubber band, stapler,” he notes verbally the supplies he is tasked to get from the warehouse.
On the days he goes to the warehouse, Jomarie is sweat-soaked. But he doesn’t mind. All tasks are equal to him, the way his co-workers are all likeable in his eyes.
“… Kuya RJ, Kuya Aries, Kuya Raffy, Kuya Tutuy,” he makes a list of his favorite co-workers, actually mentioning everyone in the team.
Jomarie’s reality and way of perceiving the world differs from how the world is perceived by many.
What is noisy chatter that needs to be tuned out for many to continue with their tasks may be intolerable ringing to some people with intellectual disabilities. What is simple human touch that to many may signal connection may be an incomprehensible violation of personal space.
Speech pathologist Kenneth R. Dizon says disability exists in all shapes and sizes.
“Some of these ‘hidden’ disabilities include individuals on the Autism spectrum. Individuals on the spectrum experience the world with heightened sensitivity,” Dizon explains in an interview.
“This means that their sense of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling is amplified. High frequency sounds, flickering lights, pungent odors will be painful and hard for them to manage, which will therefore result to uncontrollable tantrums, spacing out or whining,” he explains further.
In workplaces with people with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs), there has to be a level of accommodation for the special needs of PWIDs. The employer first extends accommodation by hiring PWIDs, but co-workers definitely need to accommodate and attend to these needs to ensure continuity of such a pro-PWID program.
And it is a worthy accommodation.
After Jomarie’s first attempt as an aide at the treasury office, he underwent rehabilitation. There was too much noise, too much jokes, too little tasks at the revenue collection unit. There were also co-workers who took offense from Jomarie’s straightforward comments on attendance and tardiness.
Today, most of them understand him better.
Dizon says there are PWIDs who perceive their environment literally, a trait that PWIDs’ co-workers need to empathize with.
“While individuals with social difficulties may seem conversant at face value, these kids will have difficulties understanding ‘abstractions’ or words that doesn’t have a physical association. These includes understanding jokes, knowing what honesty mean and social rules such as personal space. Crocodile tears may be interpreted as a reptile crying in vain than describing someone who is insincere,” he explains.
There is no denying that people with intellectual disabilities who are willing to sweat for a living should be given a shot in the labor force.
Such a space was also given to PWIDs by Quezon City-based Puzzle Gourmet Store and Café, an establishment that hires people with autism and down syndrome who will work alongside trained kitchen staff.
In Carmona, there is also 20-year-old Raichan Mark O. Dearoz, a shy and quiet young man in the Information Technology department.
Raichan speaks in a hushed tone with his mouth barely opening, like there is a secret to be told.
He was first deployed at the Carmona human resources department, until his supervisor discovered his love for computers.
He not only tinkers with softwares but can actually assemble the computer’s processing unit.
Unlike Jomarie, however, Raichan speaks fluently. Raichan simply lacks the social skills Jomarie is known for.
Early detection of intellectual disabilities helps in tailor-fitting special needs programs in schools.
SIDEBAR: NEWBORN SCREENINGS (NBS)
(Note: NBS cannot detect autism but other intellectual disabilities including down syndrome)
“The causes are varied,” says Dr. Melanie Santillan, head of PhilHealth’s Product Team for Special Benefits, for “limitations on intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior.”
But Dr. Melanie Alcausin, current director of the Newborn Screening Reference Center, explains that preventing intellectual disabilities is one of the main goals of newborn screenings.
“If timely screening is done and if diagnosis is confirmed and management is started early, babies with these metabolic conditions may lead normal and productive lives. Judicious long-term management and strict compliance to medication and treatment are important in achieving this goal,” says Dr. Alcausin.
“At present, there are two kinds of newborn screening being offered, the basic six-disorder screening and the expanded newborn screening, which screens for 28 disorders. The six disorders are Congenital Hypothyroidism (CH), Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Phenylketonuria (PKU), Maple syrup Urine disease (MSUD) Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, and Galactosemia. CH, PKU and MSUD may lead to intellectual disabilities if not detected and managed early,” she explains further.
Dr. Mary Antonette Y. Remonte, MDG Team Leader of PhilHealth, also explains that newborn screenings “can be availed of in rural areas… These facilities are located all over the country – rural or urban.”
Each PhilHealth-accredited birthing facility is required to have NBS services.
“As of December 2015 there are 2981 accredited birthing homes,” she says, based on PhilHealth statistics.
There are, however, some areas where birthing facilities are inaccessible to community members.
Not all local public schools have special education centers or programs, despite children from low-income families relying on government institutions for early learning and development.
People with intellectual disabilities battle social stigma, unemployment during working age, as well as exclusion resulting from misinformed biases.
But early detection and subsequent intervention as well as accessibility of special needs programs will hone their abilities and special talents at a much earlier age.
“One of the most important factors to determine success in therapy is early intervention. Once a kid is identified with difficulties in speech, parents need to take an active role in seeking necessary services for the child,” Dizon explains.
In geographically isolated areas, families can rarely afford therapy for their children with intellectual disabilities.
In the village of Gais-Guipe in Northern Philippines, the family of 7-year-old Rolando ‘Andoy’ Mercado who was born with down syndrome relies solely on the special education program of the local government for his transition needs. His mother Edna says there are even days Andoy is unable to attend school due to the travel cost and allowance needed. His father Joselito’s earnings as a farmer do not always suffice for him and his siblings.
Dr. Melanie Santillan, head of PhilHealth’s Product Team for Special Benefits, says the state health insurance firm “recently approved the benefits for children with disabilities that shall cover assistive devices and sessions of rehabilitation for development disabilities.”
“The details of operationalization are still being drafted and shall undergo series of stakeholder consultations prior to publication of the circular,” she explains.
In many instances, a simple mention of the name of a person with disability or observations in their behaviour elicits laughter and ridicule.
Among his peers, Andoy is called many derogatory names that shame him and relegate him as an anomaly. He is the first to laugh when he is called such things; no tinge of hurt seen in his eyes.
But a simple understanding of PWIDs’ needs can also change this.
Workplaces like that of Carmona and Puzzle have become perfect spaces to expand this understanding.
“Napakalaki ang naitulong ng trabaho ko dito sa Puzzle. Dati nakikita ko lang sa publiko ‘yung mga taong may autism at may down syndrome pero hindi ko alam kung bakit at ano ang mga ugali nila (Working in Puzzle is such a big help for me. I only ever see people with intellectual disabilities in public before, but I did not know about their traits),” says 38-year-old kitchen worker Rhodora ‘Dhoray’ Bolina, who now knows better than to laugh at people with similar conditions.
Rhodora says she has learned to help pacify the fears of her PWID-co-workers.
“Iyong may ibang pagkakataon kasi… ‘pag nagkamali sila kinakabahan din sila (There are times when they have bouts, like that, not that they are making a scene, it’s just that when they commit a mistake, they start getting scared),” she said.
“Kailangan lang din na kausapin sila ng mahinahon na hindi mali ang ginagawa nila at okay lang magkamali (You just need to calmly talk to them that they are doing things right and that it is okay to make mistakes),” she added.
Another Puzzle worker, Edward Caesar C. Lagustan, says his PWID-co-workers are like younger siblings to him having worked at the store for two years.
“Parang napalapit na rin po ‘yung loob ko sa kanila kasi hindi po sila iba… at matuturi ko po silang pamilya (I have become closer to them because to me they are not different… I treat them as family),” says Edward.
“Kasi po dati, una, parang iba po sila. Pero ngayon noong nakasama ko sila sa mahabang panahon, mas lalo ko naintindian kung bakit sila ganoon (Before, I saw them as different. Now that I’ve interacted with them for a long period, I understand them better),” he explains.
Edward says there are times his PWID-co-workers suddenly stay silent or turn red and cry. He says some of them used to fear cooking oil but now can cook their own snacks, like potato fries and fried chicken.
Carmona revenue collection clerk Nael M. Doblada, Jomarie’s former supervisor, says her work with Jomarie has made her a better parent to her two teenagers whose needs now differ from when they were still pre-adolescents.
“Parang siya naging baby namin rito. Para kasing meron kang dapat intindihin… Unawain mo ‘yung sarili niyang diskarte (Jomarie has become like our son here. It’s like there is someone you need to understand better… Empathize with his own strategies),” she explains in tears.
Wilfredo F. Concho, senior administrative assistant and Raychan’s co-worker at the Carmona IT unit, says he learned about “iyong bang sistema ng diplomasya (a system of diplomacy)” that needs to be utilized when dealing with PWIDs.
Jomarie, for his part, adores his office which to him is a space where play and income generation intertwines.
He said of his first salary: “Chicheck ng pera. Bawal mawala. Nilagay ko lang sa bag. Bigay lola ko, tita ko, magulang. Thank you. (I checked the money. It can’t be lost. I placed it in my bag. Gave some to my grandmother, my aunt, my parents. Thank you.)”
“May ID yata dito (There is an identification card here)!” he exclaimed when asked why he loves the Carmona town hall’s treasury office.
“Luma na ID ko. Pero wala pang bonus (My ID is already old. I have no bonus yet),” he adds immediately, like a balancing act.
Jomarie’s reasons for loving his workplace or at least what he can communicate as his reasons may differ from what binds many to their jobs, certainly not merely their work identification cards.
But co-workers of people with intellectual disabilities like Jomarie say the presence of PWIDs makes a lot of difference.
“Iyong aura, panay laging masaya (The aura here is always joyful),” says revenue clerk Nael.
“Lagi siyang pinaalalahanan kami (He always reminds us of the rules),” says licensing officer Teresa.
People with disabilities who are employed are transforming workplaces. Beyond that, they’re transforming people.
Understanding people with intellectual disabilities can only happen when they are included in the spaces we navigate on a daily basis, including and especially the workplace.
What they take home as co-workers of people with intellectual disabilities is the acknowledgement that each person has his or her own separate reality which needs some level of understanding, providing them an impetus to imagine what the world is from another person’s lens.
The world of work is a wonderful opportunity to bring out the tenderness in people. (END)
“This story was produced under the ‘Media & PWID: Covering Stories on Capabilities and Contributions Media Training and Fellowship Program’ by Probe Media Foundation and Unilab Foundation. The grant-giving bodies have no editorial control over content and information-gathering.”