Tag Archives: PWD Profiles

Marc Joseph Escora: the polio survivor

He had worked as a jeepney barker since he was 12 to support his studies.

He had lived in a public market in Libertad for seven long years.

He had been among the 223,615 scholars assisted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) through its Training-for-Work Program Scholarship Program.

He is Marc Joseph Escora, a 25-year-old polio victim trained at the Negros Occidental Language and Information Technology Center (NOLITC) in Bacolod City.

He was featured in a three-minute video that the institution entered in the 1st Tatak Tesda Video Making Contest last May. It won in the Best in Video-School category and Escora was offered a scholarship in return. He took the opportunity to study the Finishing Course for Call Center Agents.

Escora is now a supervisor at a business process outsourcing firm, the PanAsiatic Solutions, in the aforementioned city.

“I was bullied and discriminated because of my condition. Despite this, I never stopped dreaming.” ~Mark Joseph Escora

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Tatak Tesda

Arnel Navales Aba: the one-legged triathlete

I first saw him in a Filipino game show. He was trying for its grand prize of one million pesos.

But Arnel Navales Aba is worth more than the jackpot. He had already notched two Southeast Asian Para-Swim Records in the 400m freestyle and in the 200m individual medley. He had already done a triathlon and won third. He had already started training swimmers at the Akiko Thomson Swim School* and at the Philippine Institute of Sports Arena (PhilsSport Arena)**. He had already been qualified a national athlete—despite of his one leg.

He lost the other one when he was 20. He was examining the engine of his jeepney when an intoxicated driver drove straight to him, sandwiching him between the vehicle’s bumpers.

Over the next two months, Aba tried to take his own life. He had tried to slash his wrist but got hurt. He had tried to hang himself but the tree broke. He had tried to get hit by a bus but got scared.

He had also tried to put himself in front of a moving pickup truck. But its driver stopped and talked him out of it. The man convinced Aba to just swim his heart out and even offered his resort as a training ground.

But Aba didn’t know how to swim. He nearly drowned when he was eight years old. Still, he took on the challenge. And the instructor of the Iligan City Swimming Team, Cecil Meqiabas, guided him all the way. At first, Aba couldn’t swim more than 12.5 meters; he would end up hanging onto the lane line in the middle of the pool to rest. He also didn’t know how to breathe on the side so he could only swim with his head up.

So Aba ‘negotiated’ with the resort. He would use the pool in the mornings for free. He would try to swim with his head down, complete 25-meter laps without stopping, and do at least a semblance of a butterfly stroke.

To date, Aba can finish a 400m freestyle*** in 5 minutes and 16 seconds and a butterfly in 32 seconds. He swims four times a week—averaging six to seven kilometers—to make room for his day jobs as an assistant swim coach at the Colegio de San Agustin and a part-time sales consultant at the WetShop sports shop.  His current coaches are Tony Ong and Ral Rosario of the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (PHILSPADA).

“I am doing this to show to the abled ones who look at us, the disabled, as useless. I would like to show that we can do some of what they can do. I also want to encourage the other disabled to not to be shy and just show off whatever talents they have.” ~Arnel Navales Aba

*His programs are the Arnel Aba Learn to Swim Program and the Arnel Aba Advanced & Competitive Program.

**Formerly known as ULTRA [University of Life Training and Recreation Arena]

***His favorite event, the 200m freestyle, was dropped from the roster of events in the last few ASEAN Para-Games after he ruled that distance for over three years.

Video courtesy of Just Add Water

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