Edna Cabangis have birth anomalies in both her hands and feet but she is eager to inspire others, proving that her disability does not hold her back in any way.

The 25-year old Navoteña resides near the waterways in Barangay Tanza 1 with her parents and six siblings. Her father, Edward, is a fisherman while her mother, Rina, sells her husband’s catch of the day to earn a living.

Edna completed her basic education, thanks to her mother who taught her how to read and write in her early days. Time flew and through her hard work, Edna finished Grade 10 under the Alternative Learning System (ALS), a substitute educational system for those who have no access to formal education.

It was in June 2015 when Edna, who was 18 years old at that time, got hospitalized. Aside from her congenital disorder, she was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which greatly affected her mental health. Even with her condition, Edna made sure that she kept her life active and productive by helping her mother sell “Yema” (sweet custard) through a food cart they borrowed from a neighbor provided by the NavotaAs Hanapbuhay Center of the City Government of Navotas City.

Edna knew that she needed a job to help her family boost their household income and meet their daily needs.

Fortunately, social media paved way for Edna to learn about the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged / Displaced workers (TUPAD) program hiring post she found from the NavotaAs Hanapbuhay Center. She signed up to avail of DOLE’s TUPAD in August 2022 with the help of her neighbor.

Edna eventually got hired and started her work as a sanitation worker.

She was assigned at the Navotas cemetery for a community work along with other 23 TUPAD beneficiaries. While under the program, Edna was able to establish good rapport with fellow TUPAD workers who often requests her to sing for them.

“Nakakatuwa ‘yang si Edna, ang galing niya kumanta,” said one of her groupmates.

“Kinakantahan niya kami habang nagta-trabaho. Ayun, may buhay tuloy ang pagta-trabaho namin. Nai-inspire niya kaming lahat.”

Edna’s hard work paid off when she accomplished all of her work. She did not consider her condition as a hindrance to perform her tasks while in the program. Instead, she persevered like most TUPAD beneficiaries would do.

“Mag-focus po kayo sa mga kaya niyong gawin, at i-pursue niyo lang po ‘yun,” Edna said when asked for an advice to fellow persons with disabilities who are still looking for job opportunities.

“In case po na mawalan po kayo ng trabaho, marami naman pong opportunity ang Navotas sa tulong ng DOLE. Alamin lang natin ang mga programang ino-offer nila.”

In the end, Edna thanked to DOLE for providing accessibility and giving her the opportunity under the TUPAD program.

“Hindi lang po ako nabigyan ng trabaho, kundi nalibang din ako at nawala po ang stress ko sa pagkakakulong sa bahay. Dahil din dito [sa TUPAD program], nakakakilala ako ng mga bagong kaibigan,” she said.

The TUPAD or the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced workers is a community-based package of assistance of the DOLE that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed. The payment of salaries of each TUPAD beneficiary is equivalent to the highest prevailing minimum wage in the region.

END / Jenerito Bautista and Jalen Lewis Boco