BAGUIO CITY -- “Kailangan po natin magtulungan ngayon kasi po para sa 'tin din po naman ito.” (We need to help each other out nowadays. It's for our own benefit.)
Working until the latest hour just like his fellow drivers, 28-year-old father and delivery driver Neil Delgado Garcia maximizes the permitted time given to deliver goods and packages around Baguio, such as free food to hospital front liners, amid the season of COVID-19.
What makes Neil’s case particularly different is that he pushes to work through the quarantine, even without his left leg.
“Kailangan ko din po kasi, eto lang po trabaho ko (I need to, it's my only way to earn a living),” he explains, sharing that this is the reason he continues delivering. “May isang anak na rin po, kaya mas kailangan po kumayod (I have a kid, that's why I need to work).”
Nowadays, Neil finds that his small service also serves as an encouragement in his pursuit. “Nakita ko rin po kasi na nakakatulong ako, lalo na ‘nung nakikita ko po na nakangiti at nagpapasalamat 'yung mga taong nahahatiran ko ng pagkain,” he adds.
“Kahit po na ganitong stressed na halos lahat ng tao, nagagawa pa po nila ngumiti. Lalo na po 'yung mga nasa hospital po.” (I see how my help matters, especially when I receive smiles and greetings of gratitude from the people I deliver food to. Even when people are stressed, they can still smile and give thanks, even the ones who work in hospitals.)
The compassion in his heart for health workers at work drives his purpose in delivering food to local hospitals, lifting their spirits up as much as he can.
“Kaya nga po ‘nung nag-deliver ako dun sa naka-assign po sa may mga case ng COVID-19. Nakikipagbiruan pa po ako kasi kita mo rin po sa kanila 'yung pagka-stress nila at mga wala pang pahinga.” (When I delivered to those handling COVID-19 cases, I exchange jokes with them because you can see how tired and stressed out they are.)
He sees the exhaustion in his recipients, understanding them as he experiences the difficulty and challenge of his work as well. “Minsan nahihirapan po, pero nadidiskartehan naman po. Sanayan lang at diskarte (Sometimes, I have a difficult time but I find ways around them. It's a matter of getting used to it and to try different approaches),” he adds.
“Kapag marami po dala ko, dinidiskartehan ko na lang po. Sa pagdra-drive naman po, eh 10 years na rin po ako nagmo-motor. (If I have a lot of deliveries, I find ways to manage. I've been driving a motorbike for 10 years already.)”
In 2009, Neil found himself in a motorcycle accident that dislocated his left leg. The operation was unfortunately unsuccessful, leading him to an infection that caused the loss of his leg. “Dinisisiyonan po ng mga doktor na putulin, kaysa mamatay po ako (The doctors were faced with the choice of saving my leg or my life).”
Coming from just another recent motorcycle accident early this year, Neil stood up again, fought his way through, and is still delivering at his line of work.
Keeping his bright energy and outlook in life, he takes these challenges lightly in the most positive way he can. “Sanay naman po ako. Kung minsan nga po, nakikipag-biruan pa po ako (It just takes adjusting to the situation. Sometimes, I even joke about it),” he says.
“Wala naman po kasi mangyayari kung dadamdamin mo po ito. Mas malulugmok lang po ako (I will accomplish nothing if I sulk about it. It will only make me more depressed.)”
“At saka para sa akin po, hindi po ito kapansanan eh (Also, I don't consider this a handicap),” he adds, “parang privilege po siya. Kasi sa pila hindi ko na kailangan pumila, sa pagkain 'pag bibili may discount, kaya parang okay lang siya (I consider it as privilege. Now, I don't have to line up. I have discounts when I buy food so it's definitely a boon for me,)” he jokes, shining his loss in a different light.
For others who experienced disability, he hopes to serve as an inspiration to work through life for a hopeful future.
“Sana maging inspirasyon din po ng mga katulad ko 'yung istorya ko. Halos lahat po kasi sa kanila porke't may kapansanan na, wala ng pagasa (I hope to be an inspiration for those with a similar story. Most of them who are disabled feel hopeless),” he says.
“Lahat naman kaya. Hindi naman sa 'yo ipagkakaloob ng Panginoon kung alam Niyang hindi mo kaya. (Everything is possible. God wouldn't put us in this situation if He knew that we couldn't handle it.)”
Neil encourages Filipinos to help each other out during troubled times, to be as selfless as we can in helping the nation as a whole, as Pinoys are known to do.
“Pare-parehas naman po tayong magkakasama at magkakalahi. Ngayon pa ba tayo madadamutan? Eh kilala ang Pilipino na nagtutulungan sa tuwing may mga sakuna po na ganito. (We are all in this together as one country and one people. Why start being selfish now? Filipinos are known to for their generosity of spirit in times of calamity.)”
He sends a message to front liners as well in appreciation and thanks.
“Maraming-maraming salamat po. Alam namin na pagod na sila at masakit na ulo (Thank you so much. We know how tired you must be doing your jobs and how much you heads probably hurt),” he says.
“Alam naman natin na trabaho nila 'yun pero salamat pa rin, kasi nagsasakripisyo pa rin po sila para sa ating lahat. (We know that you are only doing your job but we thank you because of the sacrifices you have made for the sake of everyone.)”
Just like the selfless health workers he acknowledges, Neil displays the characteristics of strength and selflessness in these times of need. Against all odds, facing tomorrow for a better tomorrow for those around him.
This article was originally published in Choose Philippines.