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February 2, 2005

Firm hears call of the deaf for more jobs

From: INQ7 Interactive, Inc., Philippines - Feb 2, 2005

Lorenzo Manguiat
Inquirer News Service

AT FIRST glance, Diana Pria Banas and Cerdo Redentor seem like any other employee as they carefully rummage through stacks of letters and packages in the courier department of the Aboitiz group's 2GO.

Once other employees start chatting however, one notices that the two seem undisturbed as they silently continue on with their work.

It's because the two are deaf.

Banas, an honor graduate of the De La Salle University - College of St. Benilde's School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS), was born deaf after her mother had measles during her pregnancy.

Redentor, who had previous OJT experience in Aboitiz as a student of the Philippine School for the Deaf a few years back, was also born deaf.

Along with two others, Banas and Redentor became pioneer deaf trainees at 2GO in July 19 of last year.

The hiring of the deaf trainees was the product of 2GO's desire to give differently-abled Filipinos the same chance at getting a good job as "normal" people.

Initially, Aboitiz One merely thought of getting the deaf to join the company as part of an on-the-job training program.

During one strategic planning session last year, 2GO corporate planning manager Nelson Regalado brought up the idea of tapping the services of differently-abled institutions to get candidates to the OJT program.

Regalado remembered that an old friend, Eric Soriano, was connected with the SDEAS.

"We wanted to help integrate the deaf with the hearing in the work place," recalled Regalado.

One thing led to another and eventually in July 6 of last year, Aboitiz One Inc. and DLSU-CSB- SDEAS signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for a program that would provide undergraduate and graduate deaf students of CSB-SDEAS on-the-job training at Aboitiz One business units.

These days, it is not uncommon for large companies to send a number of differently-abled students to school or provide them with on-the-job training as part of their corporate social responsibility program.

But Aboitiz One, which now carries the brand 2GO, decided to take the OJT a step further because the trainees were doing so well in their jobs.

"We wanted to continue beyond the OJT program. At that time, two encoders left and since the unit leaders were impressed with their (Banas and Redentor's) efficiency, they were ideal for the job and the situation," explained Regalado.

Banas, 23, and Redentor, 28, receive no special treatment and get the same salary as their fellow encoders in their department.

"It's so amusing because the other employees used to chat a lot while working, but now the work place is relatively silent most of the time. Maybe the others were somehow influenced," shared Regalado.

Banas and Redentor's primary responsibilities in 2GO are encoding and documentation.

Redentor said through Soriano, who was with the two encoders during the interview, that his job is relatively manageable, although the workload recently piled up since it was the peak season.

He said the workload tended to peak after Christmas and before Holy Week.

But even then, he said he was happy with his job.

Regalado said there would be a second batch of deaf trainees this month, and the company is discussing the possibility of hiring more deaf employees.

With the contribution from the first four deaf employees, Aboitiz One is finding out that silence is golden, in more ways than one.

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