(Metro Manila, Philippines) Joanna Marie T. Dela Cruz greets everyone with a big cheery smile as she gracefully enters the room and jokes around with the staff of the Marcelo Green Barangay Hall, Parañaque City.

That is the usual welcome of the 26-year-old Office Administration graduate who has been working for at least 6 months in the above-said barangay hall under the Department of Labor and Employment’s Government Internship Program (DOLE-GIP) through the City Government of Parañaque’s Public Employment Service Office (PESO).

A rather quiet girl, but is working seriously on administrative tasks, is what you can describe when you see her. To boost her up in accomplishing things, she just plays metal songs in the room.

Some of her roles as an intern include encoding and filing paperwork in the office of the Barangay Secretary Hon. Allan Honorato Colico.

When she is working, Hon. Colico and his staff sometimes engage in playful banter with her to de-stress and lighten up the mood from all the work they’ve been doing all day.

But her initially shy demeanor isn’t the thing here as a GIP beneficiary. Because what’s interesting about her story is that she’s bravely facing her Cerebral Palsy condition— one of the most common motor disabilities in children that may affect each person differently according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2023).

In Joanna Marie’s case, she can walk and do computer work but has some difficulty with her speech.

But despite the given state, this never hindered her to show her capability and be loved by all the staff of the barangay. In fact, she’s considered the ‘darling of the office’ as she knows how to build rapport with everyone while being a very efficient worker.

“She is very professional… ‘Yung mga trabaho na pwede niya kunin, kinukuha niya. Given yung nature ng trabaho ng barangay, despite her disabilities, ‘di niya ito ginagawang hadlang,” Hon. Colico remarked.

Her condition does not also stop her from making sure that she can live a normal life and provide for her family. She always does her best in making sure that she fulfills her tasks as much as she can.

Because of the friendly environment she has, Joanna Marie shares that she’s happy where she is currently assigned with no ifs and buts.

“I just wanna say thank you for accepting me as GIP even [if] I have a disability. Maraming salamat po, bukod po sa experience na natutunan ko, malaking tulong po ito sa akin kasi po ako po ay pangalawa sa sampung magkakapatid, at masaya po ako kasi nakakatulong po ako sa mga magulang ko,” she said.

Joanna Marie is just one of the GIP beneficiaries who were wholly accepted by the DOLE regardless of their physical health conditions.

This just proved beyond doubt that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the country should have always been given an adequate, equal, and embracive work environment in order to achieve an inclusive community.

END / Ericka Escalada with photo by Roma Jane Bacelonia