Cement, hollow blocks, concrete, and blue collar jobs are commonly associated with male brawn. But in the construction industry, particularly in the field of masonry, women are proving equally capable.
In fact, four women were among the Top 20 finalists in the 2015 Galing Mason Awards, a recognition program for the country’s best masons by construction solutions company Holcim Philippines, Inc. Galing Mason is the flagship corporate social responsibility initiative of the company and the country’s first such program launched in 2005.
The lady masons were Rosana Bonglay and Elvira Hapulon of Cagayan Valley, and Rhena Almazan and Angelica Sorio of Bicol, who were chosen from a field of 181 male and female nominees. Along with the rest of the finalists, these women spent three days in Javier, Leyte building a perimeter wall for a community that Holcim Philippines is helping construct in partnership with the local government.
The contest was eventually won by 20-year veteran Rick Pasco of Davao, but the women showed they can keep up in a field traditionally dominated by men.
Hapulon, 31, a single mother, hopes that she and other female finalists were able to prove they can do what men can. A former farmer in a ginger plantation before she became one of the first female masons in the Cagayan Valley Region, Hapulon said she sees herself working in construction since it is a good source of livelihood for her and her children.
Bonglay, 26, who used to juggle being a farmer and housekeeper, said her husband, a ginger farmer, is proud of her new profession. She challenges women to take on decent jobs perceived to be for men only to contribute to their family’s livelihood.
“We learned a lot from the Galing Mason program, which I am able to share with my fellow female masons at work. Knowing there are companies like Holcim that support women who want to do well in a male dominated-field inspires me to do my job very well,” Bonglay said in the vernacular.
Hapulon and Bonglay said they want to join the Galing Mason program again.
Eva Tolentino, Galing Mason’s focal person of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-Nueva Vizcaya, said it was Region 2’s first time to have female masons join the Galing Mason Award. According to her, the successful participation of Bonglay and Hapulon started a whole new advocacy for female masons in the region.
“Masonry provides them with a good source of livelihood so they can help provide for their family, especially during off-harvest season when there is no opportunity for farm work, a dominant occupation in the province,” she said.
Holcim Philippines President and Country CEO Eduardo A. Sahagun said the company is proud to have a program that enables both men and women improve their lives.
“Being an inclusive program that does not discriminate, Galing Mason is able to attract female participants. We are happy that we are able to help female masons who are now working in their respective communities, some of whom have assisted in the construction of their own houses,” he said.
The Galing Mason Award is a nationwide biennial search for the most outstanding Filipino mason who shows great skills and pride in his or her work and is a model citizen in the community. It also aims to further enhance their knowledge and skills in masonry through trainings.
The Galing Mason has helped train over 5,000 masons and has produced five grand champions in partnership with TESDA, the Philippine Constructors Association, the Association of Construction and Informal Workers, and the National Housing Administration.