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77-Year-Old Former OFW in Hong Kong Seeks Employment at Baguio City’s Independence Day Job Fair

Evelyn Cotaran, 77, is assisted by a Department of Labor and Employment-Cordillera personnel in registering as a job applicant

BAGUIO CITY – At 77 years old, Evelyn Cotaran, affectionately known as “Lola Evelyn,” defied age-related stereotypes on Wednesday as she eagerly sought employment at the Kalayaan (Independence) Day Job Fair in Baguio City. Organized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) – Cordillera, the event aimed to connect job seekers with potential employers, featuring 1,559 vacancies from over 40 private companies and government agencies.

Lola Evelyn, a former domestic helper who worked in Hong Kong for 31 years, returned to the Philippines in 2017. “I worked from 1985 to 2017. I came home in 2017 because I wanted to go home. I have been looking for local employment ever since but they said I am already old and I am not capable of working anymore,” she stated in Filipino during a media interview.

Despite her age and health challenges, including high blood pressure, Lola Evelyn remains determined to find work and stave off boredom. Her resilience and enthusiasm led her to apply for a housekeeping position at Valley Bread, a local bakeshop and pastry company.

Kennerly Bejar Minas, Human Resource Coordinator for Valley Bread, acknowledged the rarity of seeing a senior citizen applying for a job but emphasized that the company’s hiring policies do not exclude elderly applicants. “We have a 70-year-old cook in our café. The possibility for her joining the company is being assigned as part of the production crew or sanitation crew,” Minas said.

The job fair also highlighted the Anti-Age Discrimination Act (Republic Act 10911), which prohibits age-based discrimination in employment. This law ensures that senior citizens like Lola Evelyn have fair access to job opportunities based on their qualifications.

DOLE-Cordillera Director Nathaniel Lacambra opened the job fair with a message of hope, emphasizing the event’s role in combating poverty. “This is one way of liberating us, giving independence to our people from hardships that they are particularly experiencing now,” he said. Lacambra also noted that DOLE-Cordillera provides livelihood starter kits to help those who struggle to find employment.

The job fair saw active participation from prominent employers, including SM City Malls, which offered around 800 vacancies in its Baguio branch and additional positions in upcoming branches in Laoag City, La Union, Tuguegarao, and Cabanatuan. Irene Peralta, North Luzon Regional Human Resource Officer for SM City Malls, highlighted that their employees receive salaries based on Metro Manila rates.

One of the job fair’s success stories was Adrian Bonifacio, 25, from Pampanga, who was hired on the spot as a sales office assistant at Pines Seamless Mobile, Inc. “We thank the government for this opportunity because this is a good chance for job seekers like me to find employment,” Bonifacio said, expressing gratitude for the presence of government agencies that facilitated the application process.

As Lola Evelyn awaits the outcome of her application, her story stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who refuse to be limited by age, seeking not just employment, but a sense of purpose and independence in their later years.