Christopher “Topher” Adelantar, the hard-working peanut vendor with special needs and the breadwinner in his family, graduated Friday from the Palawan National School Special Education (PNS SPED) Adult Transition Program (ATP).
Adelantar, 21, and the youngest of six siblings, said his dream is to be a teacher in Mathematics.
“Para makatulong sa magulang, kasi mahirap ‘yong walang hanapbuhay,” he said to Palawan News.
Adelantar is a familiar face at the City Hall, where he sells peanuts, sometimes fish crackers, and other snacks.
He said he has been selling peanuts around the city for many years to provide for his widowed mother and family, and also to support his studies.
Netizen Raphy Escalante was among the many residents of Puerto Princesa City who had bought peanuts and fish crackers from Adelantar.
In a post on March 29, Escalante said he was proud of Adelantar because despite being a special needs student of the PNS SPED, he is still able to work to earn for his family.
“Maliban sa magulang, ako ay isa sa mga proud sa estudyanteng ito (Adelantar’s photo with his mother), kilala siguro s’ya ng karamihan sa mga nakatira rito sa Puerto Princesa. Una ko s’yang nakita sa NCCC Mall na nagbebenta ng fish crackers at mani, magugulat ka dahil hahawakan ka n’ya bigla at sasabihing ‘Bili ka na’ honestly, madalas talaga akong bumili sa kanya, without knowing his story. Bilib na bilib ako sa kanya kasi marunong s’yang maghanapbuhay sa kabila ng kanyang KAKULANGAN o kapansanan, hanggang isang araw nakita ko s’ya sa school kung saan nag-aaral ang pamangkin ko at mas lalo akong nabilib sa kanya na pinagsasabay n’ya ang paghahanapbuhay at pag-aaral at kanina lang Recognition and Graduation na ng SPED (SPECIAL EDUCATION) at natuwa ako no’ng makita ko s’ya roon, gagraduate na pala s’ya at maliban doon may mga nakuha rin s’yang parangal na talagang ikinatuwa ng puso ko [sic],” Escalante described Adelantar.
Escalante added that Adelantar’s mother told them that his son’s income from selling snacks also helps send a nephew to school.
Adelantar was also able to buy his own mobile phone from his hard work on the road every day.
“Habang pauwi, nakita ko sila ng mama n’ya, humingi kami ng permiso kung pwede silang picturan at pumayag naman tapos nagkwento ang nanay n’ya at may sinabi s’ya na ikinabilib namin ng ate ko ng sobra-sobra ‘yon ay nang malaman namin na may pinapaaral s’yang pamangkin n’ya at nakabili ng cellphone biruin mo ‘yong taong may kapansanan na nagbebenta ng mani at fish crackers ngayon graduate na at may pinapaaral pa. I salute you kuya, for your perseverance, kindness and sacrifices, you really are an inspiration. Knowing your stories made me realize that nothing is impossible, your future will never be determined by your physical features and life status as long as you are persevere you will be successful [sic],” Escalante whom Adelantar inspired wrote on his Facebook post.
To date, Escalante’s post has already been liked more than 9,000 times and has been shared by 3,800 netizens.
Karen Pronto-Siriban, PNS SPED coordinator, said their program aims to help individuals with developmental disabilities like Adelantar 18 years old and above so they can be productive in the society.
“Ang vision po talaga kasi ng SPED, ng transition [program], is sila ay maging part na talaga ng society through skills training. Si Kuya Topher naman has been doing that for quite some time. So bago pa siya pumasok dito sa PNS, nagbe-benta na rin po siya,” Siriban said.
She said the ATP was launched by the PNS in September last year and produced three graduates this March, including Adelantar.
The program provides training in cookery, baking, selling, electronics, and wellness massage. The goal is to give them skills that can equip them enough to live independent lives and as productive members of the workforce, she said.
Siriban also said their ATP classes are held daily and morning to afternoon sessions.
However, she said Adelantar sometimes could not attend their afternoon classes as he still needs to sell peanuts to provide for his family.
“Minsan po umaga lang siya pumapasok hindi na siya bumabalik which is na-understand naman namin kasi nga gusto niyang mag-tinda nang mag-tinda. So ‘pag hapon magtitinda pa ‘yan siya, kasi marami nga siyang binubuhay… talagang breadwinner siya. Iyong ginagawa niya dito sa school at nagbebenta siya around dito, pinapatinda namin sila ng mga products din namin. Ang ginagawa nila dito binebenta nila sa mga classrooms [ang products nila], so kumbaga nasa-satisfy rin ‘yong feeling niya na nagtitinda siya. Kasi ‘yon talaga ‘yong ability niya, ‘yong kayang-kaya niyang pasukan,” Siriban said.
She said she wants to help Adelantar find a more stable source of income.
Siriban also encouraged the families of individuals with special needs not to hesitate to enroll their family members in the ATP.
She added they are currently planning to tap local businesses to hire employees with developmental disabilities.
“We are actually looking forward doon sa may mga establishments na kung saan pupuwede silang mag-offer na mag-employ ng mga special students na sana they will have the heart to open it for our students,” Siriban said.