A Filipino chef without hands by Bo Sanchez

This is a true story of a young woman who went through a most gruesome fire. It was September 25, 2000. Maricel Apatan was an 11-year old girl in Zamboanga. On that day, this little girl went with her uncle to fetch water from the river. Along the way, four men met them. They were carrying long knives. They grabbed her uncle face down on the ground. They hacked him and killed him. Maricel was in total shock because the men were their neighbors. She tried to escape, but the men ran after her. “Please don’t kill me! Have mercy on me!” But they weren’t listening. With a long knife, a man slashed her neck. Maricel fell to the ground and lost consciousness. When she woke up, she saw a lot of blood. She also saw the feet of the men around her, but she pretended to be dead. When they walked away, Maricel ran back home. The conflict and violence stemmed from a property dispute between her grandmother and their neighbours.

Both her hands were also hacked

Along the way, she saw that both her hands were falling off. She cried but she kept running. Sometimes, she’d faint and fall to the ground. But she’d regain consciousness and run again. When she was near her home, Maricel called her mother. Upon seeing her daughter, her mother screamed in horror. She wrapped her bloodied child in a blanket and carried her to the hospital. It was a 12-km walk from her house to the highway, It took them 4 hours just to reach the highway. When they arrived at the hospital, the doctors thought Maricel was going to die. For 5 hours, they operated on her. It took 25 stitches to put together the knife wound in her neck and back. Maricel barely survived. She lost both of her hands. Ironically, the next day was Maricel’s birthday. She was 12 years old.

Angels To The Rescue

When they arrived home, they saw their home was gone. It was ransacked and burned down by the goons. Being very poor, Maricel’s family also didn’t have P50,000 for their hospital bills. But God sent many angels along the way to help them. Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, a distant relative, paid for hospital bills and helped them bring the criminals to court. They were sentenced to prison. Tahanan Ng Walang Hagdan helped her finish her studies. Today, she’s staying with the nuns at Regina Rosario with Sr. Eppie Brasil, O.P. But this, I believe, is the incredible miracle. Instead of staying down, Maricel kept running. Instead of cursing God why she had no hands, she now uses her wrists in incredible ways that will boggle your mind. Maricel was cited as the most industrious, best in computer, and most courteous in the School for Crippled Children. In 2008, she graduated from a course in Hotel and Restaurant Management. She even received a Gold medal for Arts and Crafts. Today, at 21 years old, Maricel is studying to be a Chef. Yes, a Chef without hands. Nothing can stop this young lady from reaching her dream.

Real Winners Don’t Give Up!

Oh, it was a real gift. Because last Sunday, I invited Maricel to a Feast. We saw Maricel in front of us. And her joy, her smile, her radiance was amazing!

In lovely white Chef’s attire, I asked her to stand in front of the crowd. We cheered wildly. And then I led her to a table with lots of vegetables on it.

I asked her to make a salad for me. Using only her wrists, she cut the vegetables and prepared a delicious salad. I couldn’t help but cry. I looked around me and saw many crying too because we were in front of an incredible winner. (Source: Manila Bulletin, April 24, 2010)

Updated: 2010-12-11 — 03:34:44


  1. p maruthi prasad

    she never lost her hope , a girl with that kind of commitment can’t be seen , she inspired me a lot

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