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  • Nepthalyn Joy Ong

A little change goes a long way


When Ryan started working out of his comfort zone, he did not only experience changes for the betterment of himself. He was also able to effect change to make his teammates better for the team and the workplace.

You’re in a store, its shelves full of perfectly arranged products. You pick up a bottle of shampoo. On your way to the cashier, you change your mind, and you left it on the shelf filled with body lotion. Nearby, you see a PWD employee, rearranging the products on the shelf you just left. Would you consider picking up the bottle of shampoo, and returning it to its original place?


Ryan Dee is 28 years old, and he has Down syndrome. He works as a pharmacy assistant and merchandiser a South Star Drug (SSD), branch in Pasig. Ryan’s primary job is to arrange and rearrange items on each shelf, making sure that there are no vacant spaces between the products.


Ryan started working at SSD on January 4, 2017. Since then, he’s become both a model and an inspiration for other employees to show their love and passion for their work.


According to Ryan, his schedule is 8 A.M. to 4 P.M from Monday to Friday, and he goes to work 15 minutes early.


Okay ‘yan si Ryan. Mag-i-in s’ya nang sakto sa oras, tapos lalabas na s’ya, magre-rearrange, lilipat sa ibang lugar, iikutin n’ya itong area. Minsan uupo at magpapahinga saglit,” said Patrick Villasana, pharmacy assistant and merchandiser. Ryan calls him “master trainer.” (Ryan is okay. He will log his time exactly, then he will start rearranging products on the entire area. Sometimes he will sit for a while to take a quick rest.)


Everybody at South Star Drug helps Ryan out, but Patrick is Ryan’s trainer. “Sir Patrick is my favorite, he reminds me of my dad,” said Ryan.


At this SSD branch, Ryan is known as the always-on-schedule-employee. He follows his time strictly, like no one else in the store. When the clock strikes 11, he knows it is time for lunch and he takes his break. Come 12 noon, he knows it’s time to go back to the store.


There are times that Ryan enjoys his work so much that he forgets that it’s time for his break. When this happens, his co-workers remind him to take his break.

Branch manager Gina Nullen shared that before Ryan was employed, other employees would go to the pantry even if it isn’t their break time yet. Now, whenever Ryan sees anyone in the pantry during working hours, he’ll ask them if it is time for their break. If they say no, Ryan tells them to go back to work.


Pharmacy assistant Bea Araojo shared that she sometimes arrives at work late. In the two months since Ryan started working, she hasn’t been late.


Gusto kasi naming ipakita kay Ryan ‘yung pagiging masipag, para ‘yun ang gayahin niya,” added Bea. (We want to show Ryan how to be diligent, so he will do the same.)


Ryan’s punctuality has influenced the other employees like Bea to be at work on time, and to follow break schedules. Ryan’s role in the store has also been a great help to his team in terms of merchandising.


’Yung teamwork, lagi namang nandito sa branch namin. Kasi kung walang teamwork, babagsak ang sales. ‘Nung dumating si Ryan, naging malaking tulong s’ya sa merchandising, at ‘yung pagiging strikto nya, nakakatulong sa iba,” said Gina. (Teamwork is always present here in our branch. Because if we do not have teamwork, our sales will go down. But when Ryan came, he became a big help in merchandising, and his being strict with the time helps the other employees, too.)

Everybody describes Ryan as a happy person. He’s diligent and strict with time. He is also a little forgetful. One of the first things people learn at a new workplace are the names of the people around him. Because he is forgetful, Ryan asks for the names of his coworkers every time he talks to them, providing other employees with an opportunity to reach out to him.


Gina shared that what they would do is frequently ask Ryan their name, as a little training for his memory.


Rossana Dee, Ryan’s mother, took a creative approach to Ryan’s forgetfulness. She asked for photos of each employee at South Star Drug, compiled them, and put names on each photo. Now and then, when Ryan comes home from work, she would point to a photo and ask Ryan who it is.


If you happen to visit the branch, and you see how Ryan works, you will notice that even while arranging the products on the shelves, he always has a smile on his face. But his contribution to the workplace does not end there. Ryan also brings happiness to the store every day.


Mas sumaya ‘yung team nung dumating s’ya kasi masayahin s’ya, jolly s’yang kasama. Naipapasa n’ya yung vibe,” said Gina. (The team became happier when he came because he himself is a happy person, he’s jolly. He spreads the vibe all over the store.) Inevitably, there were times that she had problems, and was in low spirits at work. But with Ryan around, she would forget her sorrow by day’s end.

Supervisor Julie Lanit also shared how Ryan’s presence influenced her to be better. With all her work load and stress as a supervisor, she often faced problems that challenged her temper and patience. “Personally, natulungan ako ni Ryan habaan pa ang pasensya ko. May time kasi na wala pa s’ya sa mood gumawa, sasabihan ko s’ya na ‘Ryan, tulungan mo na ako dito,’ ayun, babantayan ko muna s’ya hanggang nandun na yung sarili nya sa gawain nya,” said Julie. (Personally, Ryan has helped me extend my patience. There are times when he’s not yet in the mood to work, so I tell him, ‘Ryan, please help me here.’ Then I guide him until he is ready to work again.)


These changes affect not only the other employees but also Ryan himself.

Rossana shared that Ryan used to work in his auntie’s company. As the nephew of the owner, he felt proud. But when he started working outside his comfort zone, he achieved a different level of confidence. He’s happy about it, and he’s feeling satisfied.”


Ryan said that what he likes most about his job at South Star Drug is assisting people, asking them how he can help. This is a huge achievement for Ryan, who grew up with his parents teaching him not to talk to strangers.


Dati kasi, hello dito, hello doon, lahat friends. So we tried to tell him na [greet] ‘yun lang na mga pinakikilala namin, kaya medyo naging aloof s’ya,” said Rossana. (Before, he would say hello to everybody, he would consider everyone a friend. So we tried to tell him to [greet] only those we introduce to him. That’s when he became a bit aloof.)


According to Ryan, his work at South Star Drug is a great experience. He gets to know the owner of the store, he makes new friends, and it makes him happy.

“They are so nice. Everyone here is good to me, and my team [mates] are my friends,” Ryan stated.


Every person – with or without disability - has the capacity to change for the better; to contribute to the betterment of their team, their workplace, and even their community. And the change can be as simple as putting items back in their proper places on the shelves.

Nepthalyn Joy V. Ong is an intern at the Unilab Foundation. She is a fourth year BA Journalism student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines who loves photography, writing, and learning new things.

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