As he graduates from senior high school, 18-year-old Rico Olarte is grateful for all the ‘gifts’ his family received all these years.

For Rico, a resident of Brgy. Alapan II-B in Imus City, these ‘gifts’ have become a great contributor not only to his education but also the living condition of their whole family. Contrary to his worries of just getting a new pad of paper or a pencil a few years back, he is confident now that he can take his senior high school diploma and continue reaching for his goals.

Making wise use of the ‘gifts’

Rico, the youngest of four children, knew even early on that they were not fortunate when it comes to finances.

His father, Ricardo, is a tricycle driver and is the sole provider of the family. His mother, on the other hand, stays at home and focuses on taking care of them and all the house chores.

“Dahil sa ganitong setup ay hindi naging madali na mapunan ang bawat pangangailangan sa loob ng aming bahay tulad ng aming pagkain, kuryente, upa sa bahay at panggastos sa school naming magkakapatid,” recalled Rico.

In 2007, the first ‘gift’ came. Their family was awarded a housing unit under the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation. 

This saved them from having to pay monthly rent, which enabled them to allot some of Ricardo’s income for their other needs. However, alongside their owning a home was another challenge.

“Napalayo kami sa eskwelahan ng dalawa kong kapatid. Kaya maaga silang gumigising araw-araw para lamang makapaghanda at makapasok,” shared Rico.

Despite this challenge, including the never ending problem with their finances, they all pursued their education. At a young age, Rico knows the importance of education to help their family get out of their situation.

In 2012, another ‘gift’ came. They became a beneficiary of the national government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

“Nakatatanggap kami ng financial support tuwing ikalawang buwan na nagagamit ko sa aking pag aaral mula ng ako ay tumuntong sa ikatlong taon sa elementarya hanggang ngayon kung saan malapit na akong magtapos ng senior high school,” shared Rico.

Rico added that his life, particularly his life as a student, became a lot easier. However, even with the support of the program, his father’s income is still not enough to support their needs, especially when his older brothers started finishing high school and considered pursuing a higher education.

“Halos araw-araw umiiyak ‘yung kapatid (Mark Christian) ko habang nagdadasal s’ya dahil hindi magawang pag-aralin siya sa kolehiyo,” recalled Rico.

His parents knew at that time that they cannot afford to send any of them to college. This reality became the reason for fights inside their home. 

“Namasukan muli sa paglalabandera si Mama, at nakapangutang din sa aming mga kamag-anak,” shared Rico.

Gratefully, as a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilya program, Mark Christian qualified to be a recipient of the Commission on Higher Education’s Expanded Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGPPA). This program provides subsidies to members of Pantawid Pamilya households enrolled in tertiary education covering tuition, allowance and other relevant fees.

Thankful for the ‘gifts’

These days, Rico is very grateful to the ‘gifts’ that came to their family at the most appropriate of times. And as the youngest in the family who have witnessed all these, he cannot be more proud of how their family made use of these resources to improve their quality of life.

“Sa kasalukuyan, ang tatlo kong kuya ay masasabi kong stable na,” shared Rico.

His two oldest brothers finished vocational courses and have stable jobs in private companies. They both have families of their own and are able to provide for their needs. Mark Christian, on the other hand, is a licensed professional teacher.

As Rico graduates from senior high school, their family will also be graduating as a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilya program. Despite this, Rico and the rest of the Olarte Family are glad to let go of this ‘gift.’

In a focused group discussion as part of the preparation of graduating households from the program, Rico’s mother commits their whole family to work together to send Rico to college and help him achieve his dreams.

Hearing this, Rico has confidence in the years ahead. Their journey from their struggles to a better life is enough for him to believe that everything is possible through hard work and wise use of opportunities.***