Climbing the 930 steps to the top of Tayak Hill, three mothers cannot hide their joy and pride. When they have reached the summit where a large cross stands, with the view of the rest of Laguna Province on one side and a view of Mt. San Cristobal on the other, they are a picture of fulfilled residents of the municipality of Rizal in Laguna Province.

At one point, all three of them have been a part of the making of Tanaw de Rizal, a tourist destination that is making their small town known little by little.

Babylinda Bueno, Rowena Montalban and Myla Montalban, all residents of Brgy. Antipolo in the said town, are among the more than 100 residents who had been involved in the Risk Resiliency Program initiated by the local government unit in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Kami po ay nagtrabaho, nagtatabas ng mga damo at nagwawalis sa daan hanggang sa taas. Mayroon din pong nagtatanim, naghihiwalay ng mga basura,” shared Babylinda, 37.

Through the program, residents are involved in cash-for-work and food-for-work schemes with the goal of rehabilitating the farm-to-market roads leading to the Tayak Hill. Alongside this goal is the local government’s plan to improve the site to attract more tourists and later on, spur economic activities in the municipality.

The local government unit of Rizal was the primary mover in the development of this area. When they came to our office to ask for our support, we saw in them a desire not only to develop a tourist destination, nor to provide income to the local residents only. But rather, we saw a desire to engage the community in spurring up local economy while protecting or conserving the environment,” Dir. Annie Mendoza of DSWD Field Office IV-A shared.

Immediate impact to families

Starting 2016, residents like Babylinda, Rowena and Myla from all 11 barangays in the municipality were involved in activities such as grass cutting, road clearing, tree planting, plastic bottle recycling and others, at least twice a year under cash-for-work or food-for-work schemes.

Rowena, 39, shares how grateful she is as a mother of 12 children for short-term jobs like this.

“Malaking bagay po sa amin na kumikita kami ng PhP284 kada araw sa loob ng sampung araw o kaya ay bigas at de lata. Minsan inaabot kami ng isang buwan na may trabaho. Malaking kaalwanan na ito sa pamilya namin,” she shared.

With 12 children, Rowena welcomes jobs like this to augment her income as an on-call house cleaner. Her husband’s seasonal income as a farmer is admittedly insufficient to cover their big family’s daily needs.

Thirty four-year-old Myla shares the same appreciation for having an extra income.

“Bilang isang solo parent, ang kinikita ko dito ay nakadadagdag sa pang-araw-araw na gastusin naming mag-iina,” shared Myla whose only source of income is planting fruits and vegetables in a neighbor’s lot.

Though Babylinda, Rowena and Myla are all beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilya program and all are receiving cash grants in support for the health and educational needs of three of their children, they need extra income to provide for their other needs.

“Kahit mahirap ang trabaho, hindi namin iniisip kasi para ito sa pamilya namin,” shared Myla.

Bigger impact to the municipality

At first, the three mothers admitted that their main goal in participating to activities like this for several years now is their family’s immediate needs.

“Habang tumatagal, nakikita namin ‘yung epekto ng mga ginagawa namin. Masaya kami na kahit papaano ay nagiging parte kami ng pagpapaunlad ng aming bayan habang kumikita kami para sa pamilya namin,” shared Rowena.

Jenny Pedrigal, 34, a resident of Brgy. Talaga, who went back to the park just recently is amazed of how the site has transformed.

“Noong bata pa kasi ako, noong pumupunta kami d’yan, mahirap ang daan. ‘Yung cross lang ang makikita mo. Pero ngayon, madami na ang nagbago, napakaganda na ng lugar namin,” said Jenny with pride.

Though she is not involved in the cash-for-work and food-for-work activities for the park, she is grateful as a resident as these activities help conserve the beauty and the benefits they are getting from their upland areas.

“Ngayon ay unti-unti nang nakikilala ang bayan namin,” said Jenny.

To date, the Tanaw de Rizal is a go to destination not only of pilgrims during the Holy Week season. It is a year-round tourist destination where people can enjoy a religious pilgrimage, a trek, a bike ride or serene landscape views.

As a result, the municipality of Rizal, Laguna earns income from tourists, and residents take advantage of the influx of people to earn for their respective families, too.#