Raissa Above the Storm
Bomb survivor and double amputee, Councilor Raissa Laurel-Subijano, is living a life with no limits and inspiring impactful leadership as councilor of San Juan
BY ANNA CHATO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENJIE TOLENTINO
STYLING BY FLOE TAPAYAN OF KANEBO
Seated at her desk, Raissa paints the picture of a typical young, hardworking woman in government, with papers piled high on top of the table. Bright eyed and idealistic, Raissa speaks without cynicism and brims with positivity. It seems unlikely that this young lady— with all her optimism—was the victim of a bomb blast that took both her legs seven years earlier.
In 2010, while waiting on Taft Avenue for her friends to finish the bar exams in the law school tradition of salubong, an explosion shook the crowd. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the street with her legs mangled.
At the young age of 23, with only a 20% chance of surviving, she had to undergo the amputation of both legs below the knee. She was a second year law student at San Sebastian College at the time. After her operation, she had told her friends who came to visit her, “Why are you sad? Be happy! I’m alive.” Her
radiant smile welcomed them and instead of their encouraging her, she encouraged them. “I’m blessed with a second chance at life,” she says simply, and adds that she’s transforming the weight of that unfortunate, senseless, and violent incident into something inspiring and worthy of a second chance.
THE WISDOM OF THE GOOD COUNCILOR
Despite the spiritual weight of her physical downfall, Raissa Laurel-Subijano was elected councilor of San Juan City in May 2016. As councilor, her main duty is to participate in the making of laws in the form of ordinances for the city. She holds advocacies and is currently the chairperson of three committees: Committee on Social Services, Women, Children, and Persons with Disabilities’ Welfare; Committee
on Laws and Ethics; and Committee on Public Order, Safety, and Illegal Drugs.
As a PWD herself, Raissa is pushing forward the rights of the disabled, and in 2017, the council approved an ordinance providing registered indigent Persons with Disability (PWD) in San Juan City with
benefits and allotting funds for that purpose. Ordinances creating new schools, such as the San Juan Science High School in Barangay St. Joseph, the San Juan Technical-Vocational and Livelihood Senior High School also in Barangay St. Joseph, and the Emilio Jacinto Elementary School and High School in
Barangay Batis, were also passed.
“Being a leader doesn’t mean na paimportante ka,” she says and one wonders where her enthusiasm comes from. She explains that she saw herself as a simple person, that her running for office was not planned, though she has always had a heart for public service. “It’s really my dream because I have a heart for service, but it seemed impossible,” she shares.