Maricel Apatan: the chef with no hands

She would need help when she has to move a hot kettle, transfer a large saucepan, or open a slippery bottle cap. But apart from those, Maricel Apatan can coat a cake with crushed nuts. She can grip a chef’s knife between her hip and elbow. She can slice fruits, arrange them on a cake, add fillings, and set chocolate curls. She can even pay for the rent of their apartment and inspire other persons with disabilities (PWDs) to “live a normal life” as well!

“When I first saw Maricel, I was worried she might hurt herself,” Sous Chef Ariel Reyes, manager of the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel was quoted saying. “[But] she works just as hard as the rest of the chefs.”

Maricel Apatan had lived without hands when she was 11. She was struck with a long knife and slashed in the neck by four men over a land dispute in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. She just went with her uncle to fetch water from the river then. But he was stabbed, too, and Maricel Apatan had to pretend she was dead till their slayers went away.

The doctors weren’t able to save her hands; it had taken four hours to traverse from her house to the highway. It was the most ironic gift a girl could have: Maricel Apatan turned 12 years old the next day.

The ‘celebration’ continued when they went home. Their house was ransacked and burned down by the goons. It was only through the kindness of a distant relative, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, that they were able to pay the hospital bills and put the criminals in prison. It was also only through the Tahanan Ng Walang Hagdanan that Maricel Apatan was able to finish her studies.

She eventually graduated from high school and enrolled in a two-year Hotel and Restaurant Management Course in Cagayan de Oro City. She was already in Manila to continue her studies when the managers in the hotel she’s working for now saw Maricel Apatan on television and hired her as part of its “Embrace: Care for People Project. “

As of January 19, 2011, Maricel Apatan’s three younger siblings are living with her in Manila and her parents were looking after their family farm in Mindanao.

“It is difficult to make ends meet but I don’t lose hope. I believe anything is possible if you dream, work hard and pray.” ~Maricel Apatan

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