PWD stands for person with disability — and how apt that the word “person” comes before “disability”. Just because these people have to live with physically and mentally challenging conditions doesn’t mean that their world ends there. Like each and every one of us, our actions are our fate.
In honor of the strength of our PWD brothers and sisters who have maximized their potential, Kalibrr has put together a list of inspiring Filipino PWDs who are making their own small changes in the country.
Ronnel del Rio
Ronnel del Rio is a broadcast journalist. He is also blind.
A radio journalist for almost a decade now, Ronnel first became known in 1996 because of his radio program, “Good Morning Southern Luzon.” A voice of reason and awareness, he discussed national issues as well as issues that the community of PWDs in the Philippines faced. Striving to be a voice for the unheard PWDs in the Philippines, Ronnel pushed for accessible services not only in his area but in the rest of the country.
His resume is equally impressive. Ronnel is the president of the Philippine Chamber of Massage Industry for Visually Impaired, is part of the Philippine Coalition on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a board member of the Philippine Mental Health Association, president of the Federation of Disabled Persons in Lipa, and is the chief executive officer of Punlaka — a PWD advocacy group based in Region IV.
A man with much vision for everyone, not just his fellow PWDs, he also works as a Housing and Homesite Regulatory Affairs Officer for the government of Batangas. There, he pushed for the Viable Socialized Resettlement Program wherein idle land is taken under consideration to become housing projects for the underprivileged in Batangas.
Del Rio is also the first blind person to earn a Master’s degree in the Philippines, having studied Management Technology in De La Salle University in 2003.
Ana Kristina Arce
Search for Ana Kristina Arce on YouTube and you’ll find video upon video of commencement speeches. Without a sound, she is able to communicate passion and hope in her speeches.
Deaf since she was born, Ana’s hearing disability didn’t stop her from unstoppable yearning to learn. She was awarded class valedictorian at the Philippine School for the Deaf and her success in the academe went on from there.
In 2009, she graduated magna cum laude from the De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde (CSB) with a degree in Applied Deaf studies. Her focus was on the multimedia arts and she went on to become a graphic artist at her alma mater, CSB.
Blazing the trail, she continued on to study abroad to pursue a Master’s Degree. She earned her MA in Deaf Studies from the Gallaudet University, Washington D.C., one of the world’s most prominent universities in the field of deaf studies. She is the first Filipino to be sent to Gallaudet University with a World Deaf Leadership Scholarship.
Why all the studying? Ana says she wants to give back. On the New Internationalist Blog she said:
“I hope to not only help them (the deaf) go through college, but also make them good researchers, and active advocates in their respective communities. In my advocacy, I’m looking at opportunities to bring the needs of the Deaf into the consciousness of society, especially the hearing people. I aim to help integrate the Deaf and the hearing together in unity, bridge the communication gap, increase awareness of the Deaf culture, and raise the respect for the natural sign language of the Filipino Deaf – the Filipino Sign Language.”
Hear her words in the video below:
To run her business and talk to people, Gilda uses her hands — either through pen and paper or Filipino Sign Language. The definition of a successful Deaf Entrepreneur, she runs a travel and tour business called Nakahara Lodging and Travel Agency. Catering to those like her, it’s primarily a travel service for deaf people around the world, though they also provide services for hearing people.
Drawing inspiration from foreign deaf friends, she and her fellow deaf Pinoys met in tourist spots, and she decided to set up her own business starting in 2004. A travel agency like any other, she’s known for her reliable arrangements and service which she describes has “age-old” Filipino hospitality.
Pushing through discrimination and barriers, she managed to learn the ins and outs of booking flights, accommodations, and tour management.
In 2007, she was recognized at the Go Negosyo Caravan for People with Disabilities in De Salle –College of St. Benilde. But, as she said in her interview with Manila Bulletin, representing the fellow deaf is its own reward.
“As a deaf person in this kind of business, I am proud to say that I have crossed the border of so-called limited access. I honestly worked hard to achieve my goals. I wanted to show the world that we are not cut off from mainstream society and we are capable of regularly doing and keeping our jobs like the rest of hearing and speaking people.”
Aside from all of this, Gilda has helped establish a deaf organization in her province of Eastern Samar.
It’s not huge acts that make someone inspirational. It’s the daily effort to better yourself in whatever situation you find yourself in. These three Filipinos are an inspiration not just to PWDs, but to the rest of us as well.