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Two college diplomas on the way, three more to go

When the Del Pilar couple asked Vivian to change her college major, her eyes were filled with tears.

As a mother, Maria Del Pilar cannot forget this scene. It breaks her heart going back to this again and again; however, she is now glad that her daughter was persistent at that time and she and her husband, Florentino, decided to support her despite their doubts.

Today, Vivian is a graduating student of Industrial Engineering in Batangas State University.

“Walang pagsidlan ang aking kaligayahan sapagkat halos abot kamay na ang magandang bukas na inaasam namin para sa aming mga anak. Noon, kahit minsan ay hindi sumagi sa isip namin na makatuntong sa kolehiyo ang mga anak namin,” shared Maria, 40, a resident of Brgy. Calantas in Calaca, Batangas Province.

Opportunities, hard work and persistence

When asked how hard life was for the family, Maria describes their house, which was made of bamboo and cardboards. Their main source of income was Florentino’s minimal income as an on-call laborer. Hence, they experienced sending children to school without any allowance and without proper uniforms. She also added that their five children usually got sick.

“Hindi na rin kami nakakabayad sa mga gastusin sa paaralan sapagkat ang tanging prayoridad naming mag-asawa ay ang pagkain sa araw-araw,” Maria shared.

In 2009, the family became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program where their family was provided with conditional cash grants to support the health and education of their children.

“Pagdating ng programa, nabuo ulit ang pangarap namin na mapagtapos ang mga bata sa pag-aaral at mabigyan sila ng magandang bukas kahit na mahirap ang aming buhay,” she said.

For Maria, the cash grants from the program had been a great help for their daily needs; however, she is more grateful for how they became determined to give their children a better life.

“Halos sa gabi na lang kami nagkikitang mag-asawa dahil sa aming paghahanapbuhay. Ako ay nagtitinda ng mais at mga gulayin habang s’ya ay nag-aalaga ng baboy at baka,” said Maria.

With this, they were able to save some of their money and allot this for the college education of their children. However, they never thought that college education would be a big struggle.

“Noong mag-third year college si Vivian, kinailangan n’yang lumipat sa campus na mas malayo sa amin dahil doon lamang ino-offer ‘yung course n’ya. Alam naming mas malaking gastos iyon kaya pinipilit namin s’yang mag-iba na lang ng kurso, ‘yung mas mura,” she recalled.

At that time, their second eldest daughter, Evelyn, will be going to college as well. Though they know this would be hard, they had to make a way (even asking their children to choose courses that won’t be too expensive for them) because Maria and Florentino vowed to support all their children up until they finish college.

College diplomas

From that time when they have to face the start of a school year with two children in college and three in elementary, the Del Pilar Family is expecting two college graduates at the end of this school year.

Aside from Vivian, who is in fifth year, Evelyn is also a graduating student of Industrial Education.

“Napiling maging grantee ng ESGPPA si Evelyn matapos n’yang pumasa sa interview at exam,” Maria recalled this happy situation.

The ESGPPA (or the Expanded Student Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation) is a program of the Commission on Higher Education that provides support to the college education of members of Pantawid Pamilya households. This grant includes tuition, book allowance, board and lodging, uniform and other school-related expenses.

“Malaking tulong sa amin na hindi na namin problema ang pag-aaral ni Evelyn. Di naglaon, naging qualified din si Vivian sa ESGPPA kaya naging mas madali para sa amin,” Maria added.

Despite these opportunities, Maria and Florentino did not stop doubling their efforts.

“Dahil marunong akong magwelding, napahiram kami ng puhunan sa SLP (Sustainable Livelihood Program of the DSWD that provides capital assistance to Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries for their chosen micro-enterprise) at bumili kami ng welding machine. Ngayon, dumarami na ang nakokontrata ko sa paggawa ng gate at grills,” shared Florentino, whose income is now better and is able to support the other needs of the children.

Today, Maria and Florentino do not worry about their capacity to support all their children anymore. They are ready to face even harder challenges just to see the rest of their children having a college diploma and having a better chance at life.

With all these, Maria is proud of her family’s accomplishment and for her, everything that the government invested on their family will never be a waste.#

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