Man born with no hands finds his 'hidden ability' in miniatures
DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines – Things move slowly in a sleepy town in Dumaguete City. But for one man, slow, deliberate gestures are necessary to create the works of art he makes.
Andy Villaruel, 25, intricately crafts tricycle miniatures and sells them for P2,000 each. They are a souvenir favorite among local and foreign tourists in the City of Gentle People
Villaruel and three other miniature makers take great pains to capture every detail. But while it takes only a day for his fellow makers to make one tricycle, it takes Villaruel 4 days because he was born without hands and forearms.
Villaruel is from La Castellana, Negros Occidental – a six hour ride from Dumaguete City.
More than a year ago, Julius Lusaya, who owns the shop that sells the miniatures, met Villaruel in La Castellana.
Lusaya asked Villaruel to work for him.
"Because at the start, I really wanted to be able to impart the things I discovered. When I thought about the people I wanted to impart it to, I thought, why not teach persons with disability (PWD)? I really want them to have jobs as well,” Lusaya said.
Lusaya only asked Villaruel two questions: whether he knows how to hammer and use scissors – before deciding to offer Villaruel the job on the fly. Lusaya also promised him free accommodation and food once he accepts the job.
Despite reservations by his parents, Villaruel accepted the offer and travelled to Dumaguete.
Discrimination against PWDs
For Villaruel, the opportunity to work was his chance to prove that he can do more than the limitations other people have set for him.
"Gusto ko magtrabaho kasi gusto ko makatulong sa pamilya para mabuild up ang confidence at talent. Medyo nabuhayan ako ng pagasa na makatrabaho ule at makatulong sa pamilya,” Villaruel said.
(I want to work because I want to help my family and build my confidence and talents. I was encouraged when I learned I will be able to work and help my family)
Like many others like him, Villaruel could not find work because of his disability. He recalled how many potential employers would hesitate to hire him solely because of his disability.
In the Philippines, 16 out of a thousand people have a disability, based on the 2010 national census.
According to the 2013 study conducted by Philippine Institute for Development Studies, a majority of PWDs in both rural and urban areas are considered to be engaged in "vulnerable employment" without formal or stable jobs. Most of the working PWDs are either self-employed or unpaid family workers.
"Some PWDs who are in paid employment are considered to be informally employed because they are working as temporary workers without formal contract, seasonal workers, and hired on a daily basis," the study added.
Making a living
This prevalent employent discrimination among PWDs did not stop Villaruel from proving that he can perform just as well as any abled worker.
But learning the trade of making miniature tricycles did not come easy for him. It took him four months before he perfected making one tricycle.
"Yung sa apat na buwan niya, mga reject trabaho niya. Okay lang kasi training lang naman yun eh. Hanggang unti-unti na siyang marunong na kaya gumagawa na siya ng kanya. Hindi ko na siya tinuturuan,” Lusaya said.
(In his first four months, his works were rejected. It was okay since he was still undergoing training. Eventually, he learned to create a product by himself without any assistance.)
"Sa umpisa, medyo nahirapan ako paano padaliin ang trabaho mahirap pero sa pagtagal, naka-adjust na rin ako paano gawin at paano mapadali," Villaruel said.
(At first, I had a hard time working on a product. Eventually, I was able to adjust and I learned how to make things easier for me.)
To be able to finish a product, Villaruel uses both his upper arms and feet to hold on to his tools and materials.
"Gagamitin ng soldering iron tapos ipag-dikit dikit at iporma siyang motor. I-bend gamit ang kamay sa paghawak ng tools, gamit din ang paa," said Villaruel as he described how he creates the small souvenir items.
(I use the soldering iron to attach and form the motor. I also bend the materials using my arms and feet using the tools.)
'Don't lose hope'
Villaruel is proof that disabilities don't make PWDs less reliable at work.
"Please support people like us with disabilities. [We should] help each other and help people with disabilities," Villaruel said.
He has this to say to other people with disabilities: "Let us not lost hope. We have hidden abilities that we just have to hone. But at the same time, to do this, we need other people’s support." – with reports from Therene Quijano, Nash Denver and Raymond Vincent Cutillar/Rappler.com
Support Andy Villaruel and his co-makers by visiting their Facebook page.