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Disability is not incapability

Persons with disabilities are often looked at with pity, and those who are physically well often feel guilt. Guilty of abusing their bodies, feeling as if they have taken their bodies for granted. But for Jayson Realiza, President of Dipolog City PWD Hilot Wellness Massage Association, he often reminds those around him to not pity those like him nor feel guilty about themselves, for their disabilities does not make them incapable of achieving their dreams and ambitions in life.

In Dipolog City, Zamboanga Del Norte, a group of Persons With Disability (PWDs) underwent a Skills Training on Massage NC II sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Sustainable Livelihood Program back in 2017. After which the participants received their starter kit and organized themselves as an association by July of the same year. With the support and engagement from their local government unit, they were granted to utilize a building free of charge. Calling it Hilot Wellness Massage located at the city’s boulevard.

It was not just their LGU that showed support to these individuals, the Dipolog City Cooperative provided additional materials to their center such as beddings, pillows, face towels, essential oils, and other necessary fixtures to kick start their livelihood. Furthermore, SLP monitoring Project Development Officers ensured that the association thrived, recommended them clientele, provided constant assistance before they were given their final assessment in 2019.

The Hilot Wellness Massage Association originally started with 25 members, but as years passed and other members found other hustles, they are now left with 16 active members. The group was also invited during the 65th Anniversary of DSWD to showcase their skills. Currently they work in shifts of two groups, each member earns 10% from the total income while the rest are reserved for the development and savings of the association such as maintenance and replenishment of supplies, and sometimes used during times of emergency.

After four years of operation, they have saved up over P 127,000.00 with an average daily income of P900.00. Jayson says that while some would think this is not much, it is enough to support him, his fellow association members, and their families. He also mentioned that their services are not limited to the four corners of their center, they are often hired by their sukis for home services. And like everyone else their association faced temporary closure due to the pandemic and its quarantine restrictions. With no income being generated they had to halt operations to lessen their expense for utility, tapped their savings to help sustain the lives of their members.

As quarantine restrictions are slowly lifted, their center has reopened, they started taking home services once again, but according to their president the income generated was cut in half. But it was better than not earning anything. Their LGU has been supportive of their operations since day one, oftentimes the mayor, a representative from the CSWDO, and the city’s cooperative would sit in during their monthly meetings to see what technical assistance they can provide for the association: skills and services  improvement, facility inspection, and stock inventory.

The LGU did not limit their assistance, they have recommended members to receive a Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG) to SLP. Of which one of them has received the amount of P15,000.00 and started her own sari-sari store. Nine more members were referred and deemed eligible to receive and are currently awaiting for their payout schedule.

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- who has written 12 posts on DSWD Field Office IX Official Website.


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