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Last man standing: A breadwinner’s story

It is difficult to work in an unfamiliar place, away from home but for Ramon Herrera, 43, no distance can hamper his desire to be a good provider for his family. As the eldest son and breadwinner of the family, he wanted to ensure a secured future for his parents and his siblings.

Ramon of Brgy. Panungyan II spent most of his life in Mendez, Cavite. In order earn and help his family, he farms various types vegetables and does extra construction jobs within their barangay.

“Noon po ay pa extra extra lang po ako sa labor (construction), taga-halo ng semento tapos sumasama lang po ako pag may nagpapagawa sa malapit. Madalas po ay nasa bukid po ako nagtatrabaho, nagtatanim ng sari-saring gulay”, he shared.

From these income-generating activities, he earns around PhP 3,000.00 monthly which is not enough to sustain the daily subsistence of his family. When he heard about Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), he was determined to join and have a more stable job.

“Nalaman ko po na may ganitong programa para sa mga 4Ps, sinubukan ko po dahil sayang po ang oportunidad na iyon para po makapag-aral ng libre at mas makatulong sa amin”, he shared.

Having a little background on construction work, Ramon with 29 other participants courageously participated in the skills training on masonry (NC II) through the employment facilitation (EF) track of SLP. Under this track, participants are empowered and equipped with technical know-hows to be able to acquire compatible jobs.

They were trained and provided with starter kits by St. Peregrine Institute (SPI), a partner technical institution of SLP. Right after the training, out of 30 participants, 11 including Ramon were hired by D.M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), a construction company through the help of SPI.

“Talagang sipag at disiplina ang kailangan, hindi pwedeng malalate kase masususpinde. Kailangan po talaga na maging maayos sa pagtatrabaho”, he added.

Since 2017, Ramon works in DMCI projects in Manila. From roughly PhP 3,000 per month from farming and being a seasonal construction laborer, he is now earning around PhP 15,000.00 monthly.

Hardworking as an ant, he works for about 12 to 15 hours a day to earn more.

Alone but not giving up

At first, Ramon was hesitant to work far from home. Manila is quite far from Cavite so he needed to rent a small place near the construction site.

“Noong una, syempre po may kaunting alinlangan dahil iba’t iba po ang mga makakasama, ibang-iba ang buhay dun sa Maynila pero naging maganda naman po ang pakitungo sa akin ng aking mga kasamahan ko kaya naging madali lang po sa akin ang pag-aadjust”, he shared.

According to Philippines Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), one of the emerging problems in SLP particularly on EF participants is the distance between job opportunities and their residence. However, Ramon did not allow distance to obstruct him from achieving his goals.
“Umuuwi na lang po ako pag day-off ko. Kailangan po talagang magtiis kahit mahirap para mas malaki po ang naiiuuwi ko at mas maging maayos po ang buhay namin”, he proudly shared.

In less than a year, some of his co-participants left their jobs at DMCI. Out of eleven, he was the only one who continued working in the company.

“Yung iba ko pong kasamahan wala na po akong balita, hindi ko na po alam kung pinagpatuloy po nila ang pagcoconstruction. Para po sa akin, naging magandang pagkakataon po ito sa akin kaya kahit wala na po silang lahat, nilakasan ko po ang loob ko na magtrabaho”, he shared.

Construction work has a lot of workplace hazards. According to Ramon, one of his tasks is to cement and polish the outside of high-rise buildings which requires him to work 10 to 20 feet above the ground.

“Isa po kasi sa ginagawa ko ay ang magpalitada sa labas ng building. Mataas po ang mga ginagawa naming pero nakasanayan ko na lang po na nasa mataas na lugar kaya hindi na po ako natatakot”, he shared.

Because of the nature of his work, Ramon expressed how grateful he is to have PhilHealth. Aside from this, he also receives SSS and PAG-IBIG benefits from his employer.

“Dati wala akong hawak na pera pero sa ngayon nakakatulong ako kahit pakonti-konti, hindi ako tumatambay, may income na ako at kahit konti ngayon may ipon na naman din ako”, he gratefully shared.

Rebuilding their own abode

When he is finally earning enough, he started renovating their old house. Now, with his practical skills and construction tools; and with the help of some of their relatives, he was able to repair some parts of their house which was devastated by tropical storm Glenda in 2014.

“Paunti-unti po naming napaparenovate ang aming lumang bahay. Kahit paano sana hindi na po ito masisira ng bagyo. Magiging matibay po ito”, he gladly shared.

For Ramon, age is just a number. He expressed that he still sees himself working in the construction for five to ten years.

“Nakikita ko na mas tatagal pa ako sa trabaho kong ito at mas marami pa akong magiging experience na kung papalarin ay magagamit ko po sa pag-aabroad”, he hopefully shared.

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