Yolanda Manalo has been a bus conductress for more than 20 years. Before she found her niche in the bus transport industry, she had tried her luck at being an overseas Filipino worker (she worked as household domestic helper for two years), but home and family beckoned so she went back to board a bus again until she met her husband Alex, also a bus conductor.

Sometime in February 2008, Yolanda met a minor accident when she fell while helping an elderly woman alight from her bus in an area in Muñoz, Quezon City. Her bosses at Pascual Liner, Inc., allowed her to rest for three days. Thereafter, she reported back to work. She didn’t undergo any medical or laboratory examination.

In September 2010, another road incident would define Yolanda’s fate. A car suddenly overtook her bus along the Trinoma area in Quezon City. A dangerous collision would have happened had the bus driver not immediately stepped on the brakes.

Due to the bus’s abrupt stp, Yolanda strongly hit a metal frame. Her right hip was torn. If not for that providential pocket rip, she would have been thrown to the windshield. She felt a searing pain. She got a three days’ off, but went back to work as if nothing happened.

However, on 28 August 2011, unbearable pain shooting from her lumbar area sent her to hospital confinement. Her X-ray revealed spondylosis. She was prescribed a long rest and medication.

Luckily, Pascual Liner, Inc. gave Yolanda three month’s rest, despite prolonged leave from work, in view of her good record, Further, she was able to claim eight months’  sickness benefit from the Social Security System and an eight months’ permanent partial disability (PPD) employees’ compensation benefit from the Employees’ COmpensation Commission (ECC), an attached agency of the DOLE.

However, she could no longer continue to work as bus conductress due to the bodily traumas she experienced. She eventually resigned. She also enrolled under the Employees’ Compensation Commission’s KaGabay Program.

The KaGabay Program aims to facilitate the provision of free physical restoration services, such as physical/occupational therapy and rehabilitation equipment (prosthesis), as well as of free skills and entrepreneurial training for persons with work-related disabilities.

Under the program, Yolanda–who lives with her husband and three children, aged 24, 14, and 10, in Novaliches, Quezon City–had to take first 16 physical therapy sessions at the PGH, ECC’s partner hospital. The therapy session was free.

She subsequently attended a training on meat processing, and completed the ECC- funded, four-month long training on “How to Start Your Own Business Enterprise” (SYOBE) conducted by one of ECC”s partners, the Center for Small Entrepreneurs.

For Yolanda who had no such training because her work limited her to the confines of the bus, it was an eye opener. She fully appreciated the SYOBE seminar, particularly in the areas of costing, record keeping, fiscal management, and discipline.

She was, after all, in her own right an entrepreneur. Off work, since 1998, she would sell burger, rice, meat viands, and snacks at the Pascual Liner bus terminal to augment her meager salary. After she resigned, she also engaged in direct sales, selling shoes, makeup/cosmetic products, RTWs, and school and company uniforms, even fresh tilapia.

With no regular job, Yolanda used her training under the program to continue her enterprise.

Last year, she joined the Occupationally-Disabled Workers’ Cooperative set up by her fellow KaGabay Program beneficiaries with the assistance of the ECC. She is currently an officer of the cooperative. Together with other members, she busies herself in manning a promising siomai stall at the MMDA bus terminal at the Coastal Mall in Pasay City. The cooperative got the stall upon its strong representation as a marginalized sector.

“Myself and the other officers of the cooperative promise to make the venture a successful enterprise,” Yolanda vowed, saying the cooperative has already set its vision of putting up a similar stall in other areas.

Her self-confidence restored, Yolanda expressed gratitude to the ECC for its KaGabay Program, saying those with work-connected disabilities should enrol in the program as a good, measured step towards improving family incomes.

END

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