Naujan, Oriental Mindoro — “Tinitingnan ko lang po ‘yung picture, alam ko na kung paano gawin,” answered Ronjo Cayetano, the elected secretary of Creations SLP Association, when asked about his inspiration in handicraft making.
The association is a startup microenterprise established by 15 members based in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. Colorful bags and wallets made of plastic straw can be found in their production center. Mga Likha ni Inay, Inc., the marketing program of CARD-Business Development Service Foundation Inc., is one of their target markets for their products. They have already made initial communication with the foundation to assist in product selling.
“Si Ronjo ang isa sa mga pinakamasipag na trabahador dito sa SLPA. Kahit na mayroon siyang kapansanan, tuloy-tuloy lang ang paggawa niya. Hindi siya dumadaing,” said Gliceria Castillo, the association president who supervises him at work.
“It was an Accident”
Everything was fine for Ronjo, 23 years old, until the year 2010. At that time, he was a 1st year high school student in Naujan. “Nakaupo ako sa garden kasama ‘yung mga kaklase ko. Naghaharutan at nagtutulakan sila ‘nung aksidente akong nabagsakan sa likod ng isa kong kaklase,” he narrated. “Kinapos ako ng hininga sa simula kasi yung likuran ko ‘yung napwersa. Tapos after noon um-okay naman na kaya akala namin wala ng problema,” he added.
Few months after, Ronjo transferred school from Naujan to Batangas since his brother based in Batangas will support his studies. Since then, everyday felt different for him. “Isang beses nagpunta ako sa kapatid ko tapos pagbaba ko ng jeep napaihi na lang ako sa shorts,” said Ronjo as he narrates how he lost his bladder control which he relates to his previous accident. “Nakauwi na ako sa bahay tapos kinabukasan paggising ko tatayo sana ako para pumasok sa school pero bumagsak na lang ako. Hindi na nakatayo tapos tuluyan na ‘yun,” he said. He was diagnosed with scoliosis and later on Pott’s disease, a form of tuberculosis seen in the vertebrae. The doctor advised him to undergo spinal bracing which costs Php 100,000.00, but he and his family had no amount of money then. “Natakot po ang inay dahil malabo daw ang chance na gumaling at makalakad pa ako kaya inuwi na lang ako dito sa Mindoro,” he narrated.
Ronjo got depressed for what happened to him which resulted to sudden weight loss. “Yung aksidente never ako nanisi ng tao sa nangyari sa’kin. Hindi niya sinadya. Iniisip ko na kapalaran ko ito at binigay sa’kin. Kelangan ko ito paglabanan,” he said. Watching online inspirational videos helped him cope with his depression. He also reads bible and became an active member of the church.
Before the livelihood intervention of DSWD, Ronjo is already active in handicraft making, particularly origami. He learned this while browsing art magazines during his fourth grade. “Mahilig na talaga akong magkutingting kaya noong napilay ako, mas in-improve ko na lang ang mga nalalaman ko sa mga gawang-kamay,” he said. Some of his works include paper swan, pencil holder, minions, peacock, and flower vase. It was in 2015 when he totally pursued his craft. He messaged the page of Origami Pilipinas to ask for employment but instead the association provided him with a capital assistance worth Php 2000.00 for the materials needed in origami. He posts his creations in his Facebook page, Ronjo’s Paper Art.
Knowing his skills in handicraft making, his neighbor asked him if he is interested to join the Creations SLPA and he certainly enlisted for it. “Na-discover ko na marami na pala akong nagagawa kahit naka-wheelchair ako,” said Ronjo. Aside from handicraft making, he also enrolled in Alternative Learning System of Department of Education and attended trainings on basic accounting and bookkeeping. A few months ago, he also earned his Contact Center Services National Certificate (NC) II of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). “Malaki bagay para sa’kin na nai-involve ako sa mga ganitong bagay dahil alam ko na ‘yung gawa ko hindi pa best. May i-improve pa. Bilang may kapansanan, motivation ko ang family. Since then, pangarap ko na maiangat sila sa hirap pero nagkaganito nga ako. Sa kabila noon, nagkaroon din ako lakas ng loob na kahit ganito e kakayanin pa din,” said Ronjo.
As one of the agencies supporting the Republic Act 10524 or the act expanding the positions reserved for persons with disability, DSWD provides equal opportunity for employment to PWDs to assist them to become productive members of the society. The intervention of SLP in Ronjo’s passion in handicraft making also attests to the Solidarity and Innovations in Bridging Opportunities for Livelihoods (SIBOL), the brand awareness campaign of Sustainable Livelihood Program. ###
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