A new life for the PWD in Cainta
LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo (The Philippine Star) - September 25, 2013 - 12:00am

When we were still a resident of San Juan, frequenting Gilmore and Magnolia Ice Cream, we would often see groups of disabled on wheelchairs going around for their daily exercise, waving at us as they zoomed by. Their home was called Tahanang Walang Hagdanan. 

Today, Gilmore is cramped by Internet shops, Magnolia now a humongous residential mall Robinsons Magnolia, and Tahanan nowhere in sight. We have often wondered what happened to the PWDs (Persons with Disability), our friends on wheelchairs; how they were coping in the big city today; where they went for their daily exercise.

Imagine our surprise when our disabled friend Jose Cabaltera tells us he was out to have his wheelchair repaired at Tahanan Walang Hagdanan in Cainta. Wheelchair repaired? Cainta? Tahanan? We repeat his words like a six-year-old in a dream. Yes, he answers, they not only repair but also make wheelchairs. They have clients all over the world. And their product can compete with the best in Germany, from where Jose used to order his wheelchair parts.

The following day, we pick up Jose, head for Cainta early to beat the morning traffic, and upon arrival are introduced to Maricel Candole, PR and marketing manager of Tahanan. She briefs us on the history of Tahanan, how it was started 40 years ago in 1973 by the Diocese of Antipolo, with Gilmore as the very first home. In February, this year, President Noynoy Aquino attended the 40th anniversary of Tahanan, built through the efforts of Sister Valeriana Baerts, a Belgian missionary assigned as a volunteer nurse in the Philippines then.

In the National language, the President vowed continuous support of government to the needs of half a million disabled Filipinos throughout the nation. Together with Social Welfare Sec. Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, the President also attended the awarding of Adeline Dumapong as the only Filipino Paralympic Games medalist at the Tahanan grounds. Among the government support programs is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Programaddressed to more than 193,800 households with a disabled member. There are vocational rehabilitation centers training PWDs in different parts of the country, he reported.

We roam through the area where greenery welcomed us everywhere. We follow the sounds of laughter and song and find a cafeteria where workers were having their mid-day snack. Jose introduces us to his painter friend Fred Ibañez, busy with his latest painting as well as the miniature jeepneys and crosses that would be distributed for Christmas by Kultura Filipino handicrafts at SM malls. He walks with a limp from polio as a child and needs a leg brace for him to be more mobile. It’s time to check on Jose’s repair work on his wheelchair. We enter a cavernous building with PWDs at work on their designated specializations. We take the elevator going up to the second level, built after the great flood of Ondoy which made work on the ground impossible. We take the ramp back to the ground thinking how many buildings in Metro Manila still need to be equipped with ramps for the PWDs.

Stopping by Maricel’s office to say our goodbyes, we know that Tahanan is in good hands. With its main offices in Cainta, it has 22 affiliated homes all over the country and has friends all over the world aiding its growth. Among them are the House with No Steps of Australia, Japan Embassy, We Help Germany, CBM Christian Blind Mission, Unilab PCSO, etc., etc.

Maricel reminds us that Dec. 3 has been designated International Disability Day with major activities involving 10 companies throughout the month. These include Access 20/20 Race to Success, the Fun Run and the Miss Philippines on Wheels. This year being Tahanan’s 40th anniversary, events are scheduled throughout the year.   

The world of the disabled may have truly expanded. But we are still a long way off from that of the PWDs in the western world. Jose asks that we drop him off at the MRT station at the Shangri-La. He still needs to report to FEU downtown and his job as bookstore manager. We have seen how Jose grapples with the traffic and the lack of facilities for PWDs. Truly, much remains to be done.

(E-mail for comments to bibsyfotos@yahoo.com.)

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