Rushing cars, loud engines, noisy honking of horns, dusty streets and scorching heat, these are how one passenger or pedestrian would usually describe McArthur Highway along Barangay Malinta in Valenzuela City.
During the day, one would rather ride a jeepney to get to places even if it’s just a few minutes away because of the draining heat, but regardless of all these discomforts, 45-year-old Elena and 54-year-old Remy cannot be stopped from doing their business.
The vibrant colors of the clothes they’re wearing as well as the rags that they’re selling draws the attention of the people. But what makes some more curious and interested? It’s the wheels under one’s seat and the aluminum crutches beside the other.
54-year-old Remedios Siervo or simply Remy is a single mother to an eighteen-year-old son. She was originally from the province of Samar found in the Visayan region. But in 1978, the fresh elementary graduate Remy who was selling ice drops at a ship was accidentally carried via passenger ship from Samar to Manila North Harbor. To her luck, the mother of her playmate who was boarding on the ship took care of her and allowed her to live with them in Sampalok, Manila.
Remy’s journey in the metro didn’t come easy. She had to work as a house helper and then as a shoemaker at the age of 11 but she didn’t like what she was doing so she went away until her feet brought her at Balintawak. There, she got hired as a saleswoman that sells vegetables until eventually, she learned how the trade goes and decided to put up her own vegetable cart. As she tries to look for a living, she found another thing, an opportunity to pursue her education in high school.
She was able to graduate from high school through the help of a teacher who was then working at Osmena high school. But a diploma from high school wasn’t even enough to get her a better job for a living. Remy worked as a traffic enforcer, a janitress, a bus conductor and in 1986, she ended up selling newspapers.
Selling newspapers doesn’t seem a difficult job to do, but she never thought that this simple livelihood could be the cause of the greatest tragedy of her life. One morning before the dawn breaks, as she does her routine of getting the newspapers that she will sell for the day, a jeepney coming from behind accidentally hit her hanging right leg while boarding a jeepney.
Since that accident, opportunities to find a decent job became even harder for Remy that led to sold rags on the streets.
A Management degree holder Elena Macandog is a 45-year-old single woman from Lopez, Quezon province. After graduating in 2007, she worked as a call center agent at a local company in the nearby town despite the disability that she got at the age of two from receiving wrong treatment due to high fever.
Despite having a college diploma, job opportunities for a physically challenged person like her was scarce back in the province which made her decide to run away from home and seek opportunities elsewhere. Another reason for her decision to leave was the discouragement that she felt from the strong discrimination from some company employees when she tries to apply for a position at work.
In 2009, she tried her luck and fortunately found one in Canumay West, Valenzuela. She worked there as an assistant secretary until 2013. And in 2010, the roads of these two physically challenged people met at a PWD federation assembly.
Elena was still working as an assistant secretary at that time but because she wanted to gain extra income, she joined Remy in selling rags on the street after her regular work schedule. Since 2010, from 9 am to 11 pm, the two had shared in an apartment and had been in this dangerous job just so they can pay the rent, pay the bill as and bring food at the table.
It’s Not Just Us
Their story is the also the story of many Filipinos affected by disabilities across the country. According to the 2010 Census conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, “Of the 92.1 Million household population in the country, 1,443 thousand persons or 1.57 percent had disability.” In addition, “Among the 17 regions here in the Philippines, region IV- CALABARZON had the highest number of PWDs at 193 thousand and, the region with the lowest number of PWDs was in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) at 26 thousand.”
According to Mr. Moses Chiong, Executive Director of GOD IS ABLE International Foundation Inc, Persons Affected by Disability (PAD)—as they call them— are generally neglected and looked down upon in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. Though the national and local government has done a lot already for our physically challenged kababayans like providing a law that allows them to have discounts in public transports and in purchasing their basic necessities, the PWDs doesn’t seem to feel the power of the laws that was made for them.
“Our communities should open their doors and hearts to these individuals and families. Most of the time, these families feel ostracized but I think the better question to ask is What are you doing in your own little way to help these individuals and families affected by disability? We should not always rely on the government to help the disabled and poor but we, as citizens of this country or citizens of this world, what can we offer them? We can always offer our friendship to them”, Mr. Chiong added.
According to Remy and Elena, local government officials and local institutions for persons with disability would tell them that there is a specific budget dedicated for them but not a cent was given to them. Despite having a law that indicates their rights and privileges, the greater population doesn’t even know about them. Hence, disregard and deny them their rights by simply not letting them get a ride on public utility vehicles, even if they are able to pay, just so drivers or railway staff could avoid the hassle and delay of extending them a helping hand.
We Are Able
Inspirasyon sa amin yung mga bumibili sa amin ng basahan. Nalilibang kami sa encouragement nila sa amin na kahit buwis-buhay kami dito, nag pupursigi kami para makaraos sa araw-araw. Yun yung dahilan kung bakit nag titinda kami ng basahan at yun yung nagiging challenge sa amin para mag patuloy sa buhay.
Nakikita namin yung mga taong grasa rito, nawalan na sila ng pag asa sa buhay. Pinagsasawaan silang tulungan ng mga tao, kami naman po ayaw naming mamalimos. Nagsisikap talaga kami kasi kaya naman namin kaya nasanay kaming kayanin lahat ng hirap sa buhay kahit ganito po kami. – Elena
Despite the physical challenge Elena and Remy had been facing, that didn’t stop them from extending their help to those who are also living with disability. Through their own efforts, they help other PWDs to have their own wheelchair and crutches by soliciting sponsorship from government officials and agencies. As of today, Elena and Remy had extended their hands to help 20 PWDs by providing them with wheelchairs.
With Remy and Elena’s lives, we saw that disability should never be a hindrance to use and maximize ones own abilities. They might not have complete sets of limbs, but their physical differences shall never dictate the difference that they can bring to our society.
About the Author
France S. Alviz
She’s an introvert petite girl, who’s passionate for arts and design and fell in love with writing and making poems. A natural leader that never settles for second best and pursues excellence in everything she does. An ultimate foodie that takes photographing dishes seriously and makes arts and crafts to express her creativity and to relieve stress. She once lost a chance in life but was greatly blessed with new chances each day to put herself and her life back on track. Above all, she’s a daughter, sister, friend, lover and a sinner saved by grace and highly favored by the One True God she’s committed her life to.