Celebrating the #WomenOfLRT1

Every year around the world, March 8 is celebrated as the International Women’s Day serving as a tribute, a platform, and a call for concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions towards gender equality. At the height of the global pandemic, many women frontliners bravely took on the challenge of playing important roles in helping the country navigate through the new normal. Displaying resilience amidst unsettling conditions and determination to continue providing quality service despite tougher struggles, women have continuously shown power to lead and thrive even in a difficult situation.

Within the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), many female team members have proven their strength to overcome personal challenges and continue to excel in a rather male-dominated industry. In support of Philippine Commission on Women (PCW)’s #WomenMakeChange theme for 2021 National Women’s Month Celebration, here are some stories about the #WomenOfLRT1 to inspire and empower more women to be agents of change.

Having spent nearly 15 years in the rail industry and working for LRT-1, Lou has the task of properly leading the team that directly interacts with customers, including station supervisors, tellers, and other personnel directly performing their functions within the station. With the goal of delivering a reliable and quality customer service to the riding public, the weight on her shoulders is pretty daunting.

As a front-liner, the pandemic has been challenging for Lou. “Isolation, contact restrictions, and economic shutdown completely changed us. For me, the first challenge I had was ensuring the safety of my family back home (in the province), the basic needs of my family, the thought of not seeing them due to travel restrictions, and the probability of getting and being sick due to the lack of responsiveness and carelessness of others. Second, the fear of losing my job due to the economic crisis. Lastly, the challenge to implement protocol and measures in the performance of my job and the thought of how to go about the situation confronted and tested my personality. This pandemic is a totally different experience and routine for me,” she says.

But like a true leader honed by years of experience, she managed to allay her worries and fears. “Being the kind of person who always looked on the brighter side of every situation, facing these times with self-care and care for others, and keeping my strong faith in God are some of my best weapons in overcoming these adversities.”

Christine Cunanan

Train Operator

It’s not every day we get to see a woman train operator, but Christine has bravely stepped up to the challenge amidst the risks and responsibilities entailed by the job. Working in a male-dominated industry, the pressure of being a woman train operator will always be there. But with the ongoing pandemic, the anxiety just doubles with the added risk of contracting the virus due to potential exposure.

But Christine is lucky to be working with her LRMC family. “I am very thankful to the company for providing and ensuring the health and safety of employees in our workplace,” she says. Christine also adds the extra measures she takes to make sure that she is able to accomplish her job well and ensure her safety. “Drivers must be cautious and must know the basic health safety protocol in this pandemic like proper wearing of face mask, face shield, proper disinfection, and keeping a safe distance,” Christine says.

Florence Bautista

Head of Human Resource and Admin

As the primary caretaker of LRMC’s employees, Florence has to look after the well-being and concerns of team members. “Although stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns have always been there, this pandemic brought the employee’s mental health to the forefront,” Florence says. As a general solution, she ensured that communication lines between management and employees—from top to bottom—remain open at all costs. “As a leader, I can never overemphasize the need to consistently reach out and communicate to our employees,” she says, marking the importance of communication, albeit virtual, at a time of physical distancing.

As the concurrent head of human resources and administration, there is obviously much on Florence’s plate as it is. But when the pandemic happened, the challenge became even tougher. “None of us had imagined that something like this would come, the sudden shift in work culture has brought a lot of challenges for HR,” says Florence. This includes their abrupt transition to working remotely/out of office work, which has somehow slowed down their operations as a company. But teamwork, as one of LRMC’s core values, grew stronger and allowed LRMC to continue performing the work that had to be done despite the challenging times. In some ways the pandemic made the team stronger with team leaders increasing the check-in with their team. The human element in any crisis cannot be ignored, and LRMC’s HR team made sure to support team leaders in addressing concerns.

Melca Samson

Head of Buildings and Facilities Section & Infrastructure Division Manager

As the concurrent head of LRMC’s Buildings and Facilities Section, and manager of the Infrastructure Division, Melca plays a massive role handling the overall management of tracks, buildings, and facilities and ensures all project and construction works are done on time. Like Lou, Melca’s main struggle during the pandemic was balancing responsibilities between work and home. “This pandemic has not been easy for everyone, indeed painful and worrying for me at times. There’s a lot of changes in my plans, I cry sometimes when overwhelmed with a difficult situation. But I need to be strong and adapt to the new changes and face the responsibilities,” she said.

Despite her predicament, Melca has managed to keep herself on track. “I stop, set and list down my priorities, slow down and focus on the important things first. I’ve also learned to love myself and find a simple source of joy through gardening and planting.” Thanks to a new hobby, she was able to keep these worries off her mind and focus on her tasks at hand. “Seeing my plants growing can put a smile on my face and can be a happy conversation topic with my away husband and children. Watching funny videos on YouTube and Netflix movies with my youngest son is also another reason for me to laugh and have quality time with him.” Through it all, she has also kept her faith and determination to become even better both at home and at work.

Working with a more optimized team of engineers and the unavoidable work-from-home scheme during the pandemic, Jireh found it challenging to juggle work and family responsibilities. “As a working mom, I have also been worried about my health and also for my family,” Jireh adds.

Despite the new challenges, Jireh has managed to harness strength from all her past experiences. “I overcome all my struggles with my faith in God,” she says. Jireh also focused on having a more positive outlook in dealing with her problems both at work and at home. “Second, I found my passion. I really enjoy the current job I have now despite all the challenges I faced during the pandemic.”

These few remarkable stories of women from within the LRMC prove that when women are given the right opportunities, they can thrive and excel in so many ways. Along with a good combination of their faith and resourcefulness, these inspiring women prove that even in a man’s world, there is nothing that a strong, resilient, and reliable woman cannot do.

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