THEY can do things others can, including serving the public. This demonstration of skill and competence has become part of what many persons with disabilities (PWDs) go through, in addition to their daily jobs.
With the support of government officials in Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City, several PWDS have landed jobs in City Hall or in private establishments through the endorsement of the local governments.
They include an office head, a barangay official, a spokesperson, an office staff and a traffic enforcer.
Umapad Barangay Councilor Greg Allan Pielago and his brother, Michael Allan Pielago, who is the focal person of the PWDs and senior citizens’ program in Mandaue City, have become sources of inspiration for Mandauehanons despite having orthopedic disabilities, more commonly known as polio.
Greg, 45, and Michael, 42, were born healthy. They could walk around and enjoy life in the way most people like to think of as “normal.”
When Greg turned seven years old and Michael turned five, they suffered from a fever that sapped their strength. They couldn’t even stand.
Three of their siblings didn’t have to face their physical challenges. “Gi-bully mi. Part gyud ni sya (We were bullied. That was part of growing up a PWD),” Greg said.
But their parents, he said, did not treat them like PWDs. They were sent to school and given household tasks. Greg had to cook; Michael washed the dishes. That was important.
Greg, 45, is now a first-term councilman in Umapad, Mandaue. He used to work as an employee of the City Social Welfare and Services (CSWS) Office, where he served as an encoder.
Working at City Hall gave Greg the opportunity to help his neighbors and friends who were in need, especially on health matters. He did things like accompany them to the public hospital.
His passion for helping others paved the way to becoming a barangay official after his neighbors encouraged him to run in the 2013 barangay elections.
“Kaning pagka-PWD di na ni mawa. (I will always be a PWD. This condition isn’t going away.) But instead of losing hope, you can choose to develop the skills you have,” Greg said.
For his part, Michael started as a job-order employee in City Hall in 2007 until he became a regular employee under the CSWS. He was then assigned as the focal person for senior citizens and PWD programs after their former supervisor retired.
Since he worked in CSWS, Michael said the first step the office took was to organize PWDs in the 27 barangays, assess their needs, and look into the laws relative to the PWDs.
Currently, PWDs in the city have discount IDs and purchase booklets as part of their privileges. PWDs have also been sent to Area Vocational Rehabilitation Center (AVRC) in Cebu City to undergo training in massage, electronics, carpentry, cooking, dress-making, and others. Michael’s office also supports PWD athletes and distributes “assistive devices” like crutches and wheelchairs.
Michael finished his degree, Bachelor of Science in Social Work, in Southwestern University while Greg graduated with a BS in Computer Science from the University of San Jose-Recoletos.
Michael also studied law and finished his master’s degree in social work. He is in the process of completing his doctorate in philosophy on administration and good governance. He is also a part-time teacher in the Mandaue City College (MCC).
“It’s not the end of your life. Make things where you are useful,” said Michael.
A total of 3,830 PWDs are registered with the Office of the Differently-Abled Persons Affairs (Odapa).
Odapa President Joseph Jumantoc said there are 40 PWDs who are job-order employees in Mandaue, while five regular workers who are PWDs are assigned to different offices.
Jumantoc, who also suffered from polio, also showed that he can be an inspiration to others by pursuing his dream of a college degree. Jumantoc, a regular employee in City Hall, is now a fourth-year student taking up BS in Social Work in the MCC.
Odapa organized the disaster risk reduction and management orientation and self-rescue training last Friday in Dohera Hotel, as part of the 39th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.
There was a drill during the training that 30 PWD chapter leaders from the different barangays and special education teachers in Mandaue joined. A PWD Laws Forum was also held last Thursday in the same venue.
In Lapu-Lapu City Hall, around 50 PWDs also work for the City.
Nilo Aying, 25, who works with the General Services Office, has been a job-order employee in City Hall since 2014. He was born without a left lower leg.
Before he became a government employee, he worked as a Globe agent. He decided to quit the job to study a vocational course on electronics in AVRC. That, along with the help of a sister who worked abroad, enabled him to start a cell phone shop. But he chose to close it when he landed a job at City Hall.
“Pasalamat pud ko nga wa mi pasagdai sa mayor, nga nahatagan gyud mig trabaho (I’m thankful to the city mayor that she has given PWDs a chance to work here),” said Aying.
Of 12 siblings, Aying is the only one who is a PWD. He, too, remembers being bullied by some former classmates, co-workers, and even friends. It hurt, but he learned to deal with it.
“Ako lang pud ipalapos sa pikas dunggan ug ikatawa (I have chosen to ignore what some people have said or to laugh it off),” he said.
Aying plans to reopen his cell phone shop to earn additional income, but he also hopes to become a regular City Hall employee. “Akong giisip nga normal ko (I consider myself just like anyone else),” he added.