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Frontliners and light-bearers

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Engineer Lalaine de la Cruz works in parallel with men.

In the male-dominated industry of electrical engineering, the 39-year-old Kapampangan carves her name in history – one that spoke not only of her own achievements, but those of the people she works with to attain the singular goal of bringing light into every Filipino household.

A decade and a half before wearing the hard hat of a prominent chief engineer, Engr. De la Cruz started in 2003 as a contractual at the National Transmission Corporation.

In 2004, she was hired as a trainor in a lineman training academy, where she grew as a professional by embodying the same lessons she was teaching. This became her foundation.

She was then transferred as principal engineer before being reassigned again to her hometown in Mexico, Pampanga, and promoted as principal engineer B in the maintenance and testing division.

She started at the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) as a senior engineer for the maintenance planning and control section in 2009. She was then promoted as section head.

In 2013, NGCP opened the door for a newly-created position as chief engineer for high-voltage testing and substation maintenance and repair. De la Cruz was the first to walk through it, becoming the first chief engineer for maintenance and testing B of North Luzon. The work involves managing high-voltage equipment in districts 5, 6 and 7, or from Masinloc, Zambales to Rizal.

She leads a group of 30 strong men whom she is proud of for being open-minded and supportive – a team of light-bearers fueled by electric dedication and team work.
“Our primary responsibility is to ensure that the transmission grid is functioning by having a reliable operation of high-voltage power equipment. This includes testing, repair and troubleshooting and commissioning new projects, activities that ensure that the substation high-voltage equipment will provide and deliver to the transmission facilities,” she said.

According to her, every year at work is a different story. But what really stood out as one of the demanding challenges was the establishment of NGCP’s Line Rangers’ Academy in 2014. They were given only one month to establish the power training center.

Resources were dire, she said, and they had to operate with already decommissioned equipment. But she and her team were able to pull it off and successfully trained one of NGCP’s current front-lining linemen, Alvin Dulay.

“NGCP is doing this. We are giving opportunity to our barangay people (through the) Line Rangers’ Academy – people from the community who are qualified although they aren’t college graduates, as long as they’re passionate to become linemen and guard our transmission line.”

Aside from learning from their experiences, she had to be a model for her students, she said, and that meant learning how to climb transmission towers to perform even the most dangerous tasks, such as hotline maintenance of high-voltage electrical equipment.

Engr. De la Cruz has experienced conducting hotline maintenance, or the maintenance of high-voltage electrical equipment (at 230,000 volts) while it is still energized. At present, this is not an accepted methodology as NGCP pursues personnel safety in all its operations.

“In doing our daily maintenance, we work within the scope of safety. It is number one,” she said.

Still, De la Cruz is a bright woman in both stance and disposition, and she couldn’t help but smile at the memory of having to do the challenging task below men whom she has also inspired to follow her footsteps.

Whether it be lighting households in thriving cities or in far-flung areas, the job of a lineman – or a linewoman – is one that does not only pay well monetarily. Their resilience and capability to rise in the face of the danger of the profession is in itself the power that characterizes NGCP’s integrity.

“When I was still in college, I was already asked why I did electrical engineering. From the very start, I already knew that I wanted to give light to the world. I said my mission is to give light to the world by influencing the expanse of my territory in the service of God, men and my family. My vision is to be the person I am destined to be and be shaped into the purpose of my calling,” she said.

In an evolving age where electricity has become one of the basic needs of a modern household, De la Cruz said the NGCP has given her the opportunity to attain her vision to serve Filipinos through electricity.

Asked about her upcoming plans, she said that she doesn’t see herself going abroad and leaving NGCP.

“One good thing about NGCP is that I experienced gender equality – the opportunity given to men were also given to women. This job is male-dominated, but I was given the opportunity to prove what I can and show my ability and talent. One thing I’m sure of is I grow here and I know I will continue to grow here.”

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