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MAKING A PATH FOR THE CHILDREN

“Mama, ayaw ko nang pumasok.”

Melody Nicoleta, 31, has heard this a dozen times from her children. She is always disheartened to hear this as she wants nothing but to send all three children to school. However, she cannot blame them most of the time.

Melody and her family lives in Brgy. Sta. Teresita in Guinayangan, Quezon Province. Their house is located amidst coconut trees, their main source of income. Though they are thankful for the gift of their environment, the story becomes different when the rainy season comes.

“Kapag maulan, talagang maputik ang daanan. Minsan umaabot hanggang tuhod ang putik. Kaya ang mga tao ay nahihirapan talaga. Kaya ‘yung mga anak ko, tinatamad na ring pumasok,” shared Melody.

She added that whenever it rains, it is a hassle for the children to go to school. They have to bring with them their uniform and shoes in the morning so that they can change their clothes and start their classes with clean clothes. Other children would go to school barefooted.

“Yung mga anak ko, hinahatid ko talaga papuntang school para lang pumasok. ‘Yung isa, binababa ko sa likod para hindi s’ya madumihan at hindi na tamarin,” said Melody.

For Melody and her husband, Alfredo, sending their children to school is important as this is how they see them being able to have a better life in the future. After all, they are currently being provided for by the government. Their family is a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) where their children are being provided support for their education.

Excited to go to school

This school year, Carla Jane and Mark Bryan, Melody’s children, are both excited to go to school. The excitement is far from the story Melody has been hearing from her children in the previous school years. Thanks to the newly-completed pathway that runs from the entrance of their barangay in Brgy. Dungawan Central down to the cluster of houses in their sitio.

“Maganda na po ang daan, maalwan na pong maglakad,” shared Carla Jane, who is now in Grade 5.

Melody cannot help but be proud of this new story as she has been an active player in the completion of the pathway.

The pathway is constructed by the community residents of Brgy. Sta. Teresita through the funding of the DSWD’s Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program.

The said program uses the community-driven development approach where it involves the community residents in the development of their respective communities. The residents identify their most pressing needs, propose for the implementation of the project and work together in the construction and later on maintenance of the project.

“Ako po ang head ng procurement team, kami ‘yung nag-canvass ng mga materyales na gagamitin para sa pathway,” said Melody.

She added that the residents in the barangay worked together in the completion of the pathway. And what she appreciates most is that even those residents who will not be directly benefitting from the pathway did not think twice about helping them.

“Nagbotohan kami sa barangay, at kahit ‘yung mga nakatira sa hindi dadaanan ng pathway ay bumoto sa paggawa nito. Alam nila at nararamdaman nila na mas kailangan talaga namin ang proyekto,” gratefullyshared Melody, who added that the pathway also benefits residents of two other neighboring barangays.

For Melody, this is what she appreciates the most about what was taught to them by the process they underwent in the Kalahi-CIDSS implementation. All of their voices were heard and as a result, every resident in the barangay treated the project as their own.

Ensuring a good path for the children

The completion of the pathway has benefitted school children directly, but for Melody and the rest of the residents in the barangay, it is still the children who will benefit from this in the years to come.

“Maraming kabuhayan ang natutulungan dito. Katulad sa amin, mas nakakatipid kami sa pagba-biyahe ng kopra sa bayan ngayong nakakapasok na ang motorsiklo dito sa amin. Halos kalahati ang natitipid namin ngayon kumpara noon na inuupa namin sa kalabaw,” said Melody, who added that a sack of copra would cost them 50 pesos to transport before.

Other than farmers like them, storeowners also save on the cost of transportation of their goods to their barangay, which make the prices of commodities a little cheaper.

With these, families are able to bring home more income to support their needs, particularly the school needs of the children.

“Malaking bagay po ‘yung natitipid namin, naibibili na namin ng ibang pangangailangan o di kaya ay dagdag na pagkakakitaan katulad ng baboy. ‘Yung pangangailangan naman po nila sa school, nasasagot na ng 4Ps,” shared Melody.

The new pathway gave Melody more hope for her children.

“Mas positibo kaming mag-asawa na matutupad ang pangarap namin para sa aming mga anak, lalo na ngayon at wala nang sagabal sa amin para kumita,” she shared with pride. It may still be a long way for Melody as her youngest is only four years old; however, she is positive that this path is a good one not only for his family but for the rest of the people benefitting from this pathway.#

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TULAY PARA SA LAHAT

A community’s united effort to change everyone’s life.

She grew up using a wooden footbridge over the river to go to and from school. She remembers her fears crossing the river as the bridge was unstable and the path was too narrow.

But the fear was short-lived. Just like the rest of the residents in their community, Maria Leny Datu got used to using the bridge. Despite all their fears, the inconveniences and the danger, every resident of Brgy. Tikay in Guinayangan, Quezon Province accepted their fate. After all, their life must go on. The children need to go to school and the farmers need to bring their crops to the market.

Now 35, Leny is glad that their community has taken action. Rather than simply accepting their fate, they all worked together to finally have a concrete footbridge that is safe and convenient for everyone.

Working together for a safer bridge

“Tatlong barangay ang dumadaan sa tulay namin para makapunta sa school, o sa bayan. Talagang delikado ang tulay lalo na sa mga bata at matatandang tumatawid,” shared Leny.

Even when the barangay converted the wooden bridge into a concrete one, the problem remained the same. The path was still narrow and still unsafe for all those who use it.

“Ang pinagkakakitaan po naming mag-asawa ay paggawa ng pawid. Pinapasan naming mag-asawa ang sako-sakong sasa papunta sa aming bahay. Mahirap at talagang nakakapagod,” she shared.

Other than Leny’s family, residents of Brgy. Tikay and their neighboring barangays suffer the same fate, especially farmers who need to transport rice, coconuts and other crops to the market. Not only was the process inconvenient and dangerous, but the quality of the crops suffered and so as their prices.

In 2018, all the residents in their community spoke their minds. United, they all wanted to end their fears, the dangers and the problems brought by their bridge.

“Nagbotohan kaming mga residente dito na gumawa ng mas maayos at mas magandang tulay na magagamit ng lahat, ‘yung tulay na mas ligtas ang mga bata at matatanda at hindi na mahihirapan kaming mga naghahanapbuhay,” shared Leny.

Their community-identified project was funded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development through the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS).

The Kalahi-CIDSS program follows the community-driven development (CDD) process in the implementation of projects that address the most pressing needs of poor communities. The CDD approach engages all community residents in all levels of the implementation of the project including the identification of the needs of the community, the preparation of the proposals, the procurement of materials, the actual construction of the project and later on, the operations and maintenance of the project.

Leny, for instance, was a member of the procurement team.

“Pumupunta kami sa bayan at sa Calauag (a neighboring town) para mag-canvass ng mga materyales na gagamitin sa tulay,” shared Leny, who added that she decided to help in the project because she wanted to help the barangay, especially in making it safe for the children and the elderly.

Her commitment in the project did not end with her tasks in the procurement team. She was also involved in the hauling of the materials to the site.

“Sa Aloneros (a neighboring barangay) ibinabagsak ang mga nadeliver na materyales dahil hanggang dun lang abot ang mga regular na sasakyan. Isinasakay namin sa skates para madala sa aming barangay. Mula sa babaan ng skates, hinahakot pa namin (around a kilometer distance) papunta sa mismong site ng proyekto,” related Leny.

Since her family owns a skates, she offered the use of these for the hauling of the materials. Besides operating the skates, she also helped in the loading and the unloading of these materials.

“Mahirap ‘yung buong proseso. Mapagod at mainit. Pero masaya kaming lahat na magkaka-barangay. Lahat kami natutuwa na magkakaroon na kami ng maayos na tulay para sa lahat,” she shared.

For Leny, the commitment of her co-residents became even more evident with their agreement to offer two days of free labor for the construction of the bridge.

“Sa anim na araw na trabaho namin dito, apat na araw lang ang hinihingi naming bayad. Lahat naman ng ginagawa namin ay kami rin ang makikinabang sa huli,” she added.

‘Sulit ang lahat ng pagod’

The residents of Brgy. Tikay has completed the construction of the footbridge in May 2018. The DSWD grant costs PhP 957,970.76 with counterparts from the municipal government (PhP5,254.00) and the community (PhP5,775.24).

As Leny checks out the new bridge every time she crosses it, she is happy with every process they went through.

“Sulit ang lahat ng pagod namin. Napapakinabangan namin ang tulay at ligtas na ito para sa lahat. Halimbawa na lamang sa amin, hindi na namin pinapasan ang mga sako ng sasa, nakakagamit na kami ng karil (cart) para mas madali at maginhawa ang paghahakot,” she shared.

The railings in the bridge also makes it safer for the kids and the senior citizens. This gives peace of mind to the parents and the rest of the residents. The wider path allows motorcycles to pass through as well, which makes access to their barangay more convenient for a lot of them.

Comparing the new bridge with the old one, which they did not demolish, Leny knows that she has been part of the change. She still uses the old bridge from time to time just so she can relive the old days and appreciate the development better.

Leny, together with the rest of the residents who built the bridge, is hopeful that as the residents, especially the children, see the two bridges, they will be reminded of how a united community can make things possible and how ‘working together’ can contribute to the development of their barangay.#

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Molding Hope

In the realm of arts and crafts, creativity is not just what an artist needs to excel. Resourcefulness, or learning to work with what you have is equally integral to give birth to a masterpiece. Aurelia Bernardo, a resident of Paete, Laguna, the carving capital of the Philippines, seems to know this by heart. From being a small papier mache vendor, Aurelia now leads a successful association producing and selling papier mache, the Magtataka sa Bayan ng Paete SLP Association.

Roots

Aurelia Lee Bernardo, a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), provides for her family through the arts and crafts. Widowed early, Aurelia did not succumb to grief and instead focused on giving her children a normal life on her own. Aurelia sells papier mache products and takes sidelines such as catering and food vending wherever and whenever she can to save up for her children’s future.

“Dati nakakaabot pa ako sa Lipa tsaka sa Parañaque sa pagtitinda ng mga taka. Aalis ako ng alas singko, uuwi ako ng alas nwebe na ubos ang paninda. Sulit ang pamumuhunan ko ng pamsahe sa aking tiyahin.”

Through her sidelines and the 4Ps, Aurelia met parents like her who are into the papier mache business. Soon enough, they came together and dreamt of having a business of their own while promoting the art of papier mache in Paete.

“Bata pa lang po kami, nakagisnan na namin ang mga takang kabayo at iba pang takang produkto. Kaya naman napili namin itong pagkakitaan upang buhayin muli ang aming kulturang nakagisnan dito sa Paete.” Aurelia shares.

Fortunately, an opportunity came for Aurelia and her friends from the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the DSWD. Through the SLP, Aurelia’s group were provisioned with a seed capital fund and were equipped with basic livelihood skills to maintain their livelihood. From a small group, Aurelia has now 20 members for the association. In 2017, they formed the Magtataka sa Bayan ng Paete (SMBP) SLP Association.

‘Resourceful’

Being the most vocal member, Aurelia was hailed as the president of their association. The association received 200,000 pesos seed capital fund. SMBP’s product prices range from 150 pesos to 3,500 pesos. Peak season for their products are during the holidays especially Christmas season. Through their earnings, they are now able to deposit more than 10,000 pesos on average to their bank account.

Investing in creativity, SMBP struggled at first in selling their products. Before, they are only able to sell products during the holidays. But through trainings from DSWD IV-A that enhanced their knowledge and experiences, SMBP innovated and produced new products to sell products all throughout the year. From horses, carabaos, religious figures, SMBP is now crafting home décor and cellphone accessories to cater to the “millennial” generation.

“Nag-aadjust na rin kami sa mga uso ngayon, ‘yung millennial. Bukod sa mga kabayo, gumagawa na rin kami ng mga case ng cellphone para sa mga millennial.”

For their materials, Aurelia encourages her members to collect waste materials especially paper. This is to lessen production costs and also help reduce waste in the environment.

‘Investments’

For Aurelia and her members, active participation in the program and the community is a very important investment for the growth of their livelihood. In every activity they take part on, they don’t mind if they get paid or not. For the association, harmonious relationship with the community help their business grow as people from Paete patronize their products.

In the municipality, SMBP takes part in the Anilag Festival in Paete. To promote tourism and economic activities in the municipality, the local government often invites the association to showcase their products on such events. On September 24, 2018, they were featured on GMA’s live coverage of the festival for Unang Hirit.

Apart from this, SMBP was also invited by other businesses to display their products and demonstrate how their papier maches are made. SMBP did these for free.

“Wala man pong bayad ‘yung demonstration namin, natutulungan naman po kaming magbenta ng aming produkto sa kanilang mga customer.” Aurelia shares.

SMBP also helps in continuing the creative culture in Paete. Last 2018, Luis C. Obial Senior High School and SMBP signed a memorandum of agreement to teach the youth of Paete on making papier mache products. This is also for free.

“Wala rin pong bayad ‘yung turo. Maganda po kasi ito para mapagpatuloy ang pagtataka dito sa Paete at para malayo ang kabataan sa pakikipagbarkada, paglalakwatsa, bisyo.” Aurelia explains.

To secure their finances in case of emergencies, SMBP joined the Cash for Work Program by the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Program. Apart from cleaning the upland areas, the association collected waste materials in the area for their products.

‘Milestones’

In just one year upon their establishment, SMBP was accredited by the local government of Paete as a non-government organization. They have been partnering with the local government unit in serving the community especially on social welfare and development aspects. Last 2018, SMBP partnered with the MSWD in donating used clothes and books to the fire victims of Brgy. Ibaba del Sur in Paete.

In 2019, SMBP became a finalist for the Sulong Kabuhayan, a national competition spearheaded by the Sustainable Livelihood Program National Program Management Office. Aurelia, along with SMBP treasurer Elena Navarro actively participated in the event and became inspired in making their business more competitive among other SLP associations all over the country. Aurelia reflects on her experience:

“Nakakakaba pero masaya naman. Dahil nga siguro kami’y baguhan pa, kelangan pa lalo naming magsumikap. Pero hindi po kami nalulungkot kahit kami ay hindi nag-uwi at least, nakita po namin na kahit kami ay baguhan ay nakaganap sa dapat kong gampanan. Ngayon sa nakita ko po, naging hamon ito para mapalawakan namin ‘yung aming hanapbuhay na maging negosyo at magsikap pa kami lalo. At kami, sabi nga, hindi dapat susuko kasi ang sumusuko ay hindi nagwawagi.”

Currently, SMBP changes their focus to the management of their finances. At the moment, they are settling documents at the Department of Trade and Industry to formalize their business transactions. Their co-participant in Sulong Kabuhayan, the Maragondon Dragon Grass SLP Association offered to help them in managing resources and finances. SMBP is also seeking partnership with the private sector to improve their income.

Despite their current struggles, the MSWDO of Paete, Geronimo Palmero believes that Aurelia can help SMBP flourish as a SLP association because of her hands-on and positive attitude. Maximizing every opportunity, Aurelia exhibited resourcefulness in leading her association. They were once small papier mache vendors, but through their remarkable participation in the program and the community, SMBP is now brimming with potential to become a champion of Paete’s papier mache industry.

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Responsibility at a young age

A young boy’s new commitment to help his family

He is always decided to go school, but he would oftentimes find himself not being able to.

Eric Ramirez, 16, a resident of Brgy. Tuhian in Catanauan, Quezon Province, admits to his frequent absences in school.

His reason is not because he is lazy. It is because he does a lot of things.


“Umaalis po kami dito sa bahay ng alas siyete ng gabi. Papalaot po kami. Tapos babalik kami mga alas tres na ng madaling araw,”
shared Eric.

Upon arriving home, he would immediately get some sleep. At six, he has to get up and be ready for school. However, most of the time, he would be too tired to start his day. When he’s lucky to be able to pull himself out of bed and come to school, he would still be too tired to catch up with the day’s lessons.

“Siguro sa loob ng isang linggo, mga dalawa o tatlong beses lang ako nakakapasok,” he shared.

Eric started this routine when he was seven. Most of the time, he goes with his father. But there are times, especially when he became a little older, that he goes with other fishermen as well.

“Minsan pag hindi na ako nakakapasok, sasama na lang ulit ako sa dagat. Aalis kami ng mga alas siyete ng umaga, tapos babalik ng alas dose. Tumutulong din ako sa pag-uuling,” shared Eric.

Gladly, these are all things in the past for Eric.

For two consecutive school years now, he is able to focus on his studies. Now in Grade 9, he is on his way to becoming a Mechanical Engineer.

Big responsibility at a young age

Eric’s family relies on fishing and charcoal making to make ends meet.

With six children, Eric’s parents, Erwin and Maricel, struggle to ensure food on the table, especially when the sea is rough.

Eric sees this problem firsthand, and being the responsible son that he is, he started helping out.

“Minsan po dumarating na lang ‘yan (referring to Eric) dito sa bahay na may dalang bigas at ‘yung sobrang pera mula sa pagpapaupa n’ya sa dagat ay binibigay din sa amin. Malaking tulong po s’ya sa amin,” shared Maricel, 36.

Erwin agrees how big of a help Eric is in the family.

“Kapag nagpapalaot kami, dalawang parte ‘yung naiuuwi namin dahil dalawa kaming nagtatrabaho. Mas malaki ‘yung kinikita namin,” shared Erwin.

Despite Eric’s help, the family remains struggling.

“Naglalambat po ako, naninisid sa dagat lalo na kapag hindi nakakasama si Mama. Minsan naiisip ko sana kami na lang ‘yung taong maluwag para hindi na namin nararanasan ‘yung ganitong hirap,” shared Eric, who added that he would rather work at a young age than see them having no food on the table or letting his siblings (all are girls) do these hard tasks.

Further, Maricel shares that her husband is also engaged in gambling.

“Kahit konting pera meron kami, isusugal pa rin n’ya. Kaya mahirap talaga ang buhay,” she said.

Turning tides for the family

In 2011, the family became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. The family has been receiving conditional cash grants in support to the education of Eric and two other siblings, Erica and Mary Grace.

“Malaki ‘yung naitulong sa amin ng programa lalo na sa mga gastusin sa school at sa pagkain na rin po,” shared Maricel.

Also, little by little, Maricel learn about improving their family particularly through her attendance to the monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS).

The FDS is a component of the Pantawid Pamilya that teaches parent-grantees on various family enhancement topics including budget management, strengthening marital relations, rights of children and disaster preparedness among others.

“Madami po akong natutunan, tulad ng tamang paggamit ng pera. Mas maayos ko nang naba-budget ang aming kita at natigil na rin sa pagsusugal ng aking asawa,” she shared.

For Maricel, however, what she is more grateful about is her and Erwin’s revived commitment to support their children.

“Ngayon, hindi lang doble kayod ang ginagawa naming mag-asawa para masuportahan sila. Minsan pag uwi ko galing sa pangingisda, tinutulungan ko pa sya sa paglalabada. Nagcoconstruction din ako kapag malakas ang dagat,” said Erwin.

Maricel added that they started telling Eric to go to school every day. However, he remains insistent on his desire to help the family.

Another shot for Eric’s dreams

In 2017, Eric was included in the list of child laborers in the municipality during the pilot testing of the DSWD’s Strategic Helpdesks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Development Interventions (SHIELD) program against child labor. The program aims to strengthen the capacity of the local government units and establish partnerships with other organizations and sectors in addressing child labor.

The municipality of Catanauan is one of the pilot areas of this program across the country.

A total of 97 child laborers in three barangays (Brgys. 7, San Antonio Pala and Tuhian) of the municipality engaged in fishing, vending, fish drying, coconut and coconut wine harvesting, charcoal making, scavenging and domestic work are being provided with interventions through the program.

“Dito po ay natutunan ko na mas maging maasikaso pa sa mga anak ko, na dapat sila ay binibigyan ng laya na makapaglaro at mas lalong dapat ay nasa eskwelahan sila,” shared Maricel.

Through the local government unit, Eric was provided with additional educational assistance including school supplies and uniforms so he can go back to school. The family was also provided livelihood assistance that they used to buy new fishnets and a couple of hogs.

“Mas lumalaki po ang kita namin dahil may sarili na kaming lambat, bukod pa sa kinikita naming mag-asawa sa iba pa naming hanapbuhay,” shared Erwin.

Eric, on the other hand, is glad that he can now focus on his studies. He no longer takes responsibility in the family’s finances since his parents are working very hard for all of them. Also, his parents become insistent that he needs to be in school.

“Masaya po ako na nakaka-focus na ako sa pag-aaral ko. Mas mapapadali ang pagtupad ng pangarap ko at mas matutulungan ko ang pamilya ko,” said Eric happily as he looks far into the sea seeing his father and mother working really hard holding their fishnet and spears not minding the cold early morning breeze.#

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Back to school, back on track

A young boy’s journey from the sea to his classroom

His day starts at four in the morning. He grabs a few sips of hot coffee, and then Jhon Andrie Advincula is ready to face the day ahead.

Unlike other ten-year-olds, Andrie does not prepare for school. Instead, he prepares to work with his father at sea. As a father-and-son tandem, they will be out in the sea until they have enough catch for their family, which usually takes at least three hours.

Though Andrie’s focus is helping his father, it always occurs to him that he needs to be somewhere else.

“Gusto ko pong bumalik sa pag-aaral. Gusto ko pong maging pulis,” he shared.

He was in Grade 4 when he decided to leave school.

His mother, Santa Advincula, 44, still recalls the moment Andrie told them he’ll no longer go to school.

“Sabi po n’ya titigil na muna s’ya. Tutulong na daw muna s’ya sa ama n’ya,” she said.

Andrie shares that at first, his parents did not agree with his decision. But, he insisted.

“Gusto ko po talagang makatulong dito sa bahay kasi po mahirap ang buhay. Tapos, nabubully din po ako ng mga kaklase ko,” he shared.

At 10 years old, Andrie accepted his new life—which means waking up early in the morning, battling the cold or the heat while at sea, exerting effort to pull their fish nets and going back home to catch a short rest. Most of the time, they’ll be out again after an hour of rest for a new catch. There was even a time when he had to catch fish by himself when his father was sick.

Other than working in the sea, Andrie also takes tasks at home such as fetching water from a deep well, cooking and even taking care of his younger siblings.

Helping the family

Andrie’s family lives near the town’s fish port in Brgy. 7, Catanauan, Quezon Province in a small house that can barely fit all of them. The family has eight children.

Growing up, Andrie has witnessed how hard their life is.

“Minsan, wala talaga kaming pangtanghalian. Minsan nga, tinapay lang na paghahati-hatian naming lahat,” shared Santa, who cannot hide her tears.

In 2011, the family qualified to be a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Andrie and his sister, Angelica, are monitored under the program. The family is provided cash grants in exchange for their compliance to the program conditions on education, which is attending their classes with a minimum of 85 percent attendance rate every month.

Santa shared that the grants from the program have been a great help, especially that they can provide for the school needs of their children. However, the grants from the program have not been enough to convince Andrie to stay in school.

“Nung hindi siya pumapasok, hindi na rin po namin natatanggap ang cash grants para sa pag-aaral n’ya. Kay Angelica na lang po ang natatanggap namin,” said Santa.

Though it is hard to accept Andrie’s decision to stop schooling, especially that they are being supported by the government, Santa and her husband, soon welcomed Andrie’s contributions to their finances. Aside from being a big help to his father to lighten the work at sea, they get a bigger share in the day’s catch since they take two shares home.

Still, Santa did not lose hope on their dreams for Andrie. She still convinces him to go back to school. After all, it is with their younger children that they dream big. They want to send them to college for them to get better jobs and better lives. Three of their older children have either finished high school or started working early and started a family of their own.

Another chance for Andrie

Three years after his decision to stop schooling, Andrie is back in school.

In 2017, Andrie was documented as a child laborer in the municipality with the introduction of the DSWD’s Strategic Helpdesks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Development Interventions (SHIELD) program against child labor.

The program aims to strengthen the capacity of the local government units and establish partnerships with other organizations and sectors in addressing child labor.

The municipality of Catanauan is one of the pilot areas of this program across the country.

A total of 97 child laborers in three barangays (Brgys. 7, San Antonio Pala and Tuhian) of the municipality engaged in fishing, vending, fish drying, coconut and coconut wine harvesting, charcoal making, scavenging and engaging in domestic work are being provided with interventions through the program.

In the implementation of the SHIELD against Child Labor, learning sessions are provided to the parents and the children. The local government also provides educational assistance to the children.

“Itinuro sa amin na ang mga bata pala, hindi dapat pinagtatrabaho. Ito ay labag sa batas at maaari kaming mga magulang na makasuhan,” shared Santa, who realized their responsibilities as a parent and understood more the rights of their children, especially Andrie.

In June 2017, Andrie enrolled back in Grade 4 in Catanauan Central School at age 14. Though older than his classmates and her younger sister a grade higher than him, Andrie remains committed to stay in school.

“Natutunan ko po na ang mga bata ay dapat nag-aaral at hindi nagtatrabaho lalo na kung wala pa sa edad. Sinabi din po nina Mama na dapat mag-aral ako para makakuha ng mas magandang trabaho,” shared Andrie.

For him, he makes the most of his time when he is in school. He is even awarded the best in class and best in Mathematics. He is also recognized for being courteous and helpful.

“Masaya po ako na nakapag-aaral na ako ulit. Masaya po sa school dahil marami akong natutunan at marami din po akong kaibigan. Nakakapaglaro din po kami,” shared Andrie happily.

Better chances for the family

Early this year, the family received a livelihood assistance from the program.

“Ginamit po namin itong puhunan para sa pagtutuyo. Ngayon po ay may regular na kaming kita pangsuporta sa lahat ng aming mga anak. Nakakaipon na rin po kami, katunayan ay nakabili na kami ng sariling lambat,” shared Santa, who added that they are now saving up to buy their own boat.

Now that Santa is able to help her husband with the finances, the family becomes more positive of a better life.

“Kinakaya po naming mag-asawa na mapagtapos ang mga bata. Unti-unti ay nagtatabi kami para tuloy-tuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral,” she shared.

Andrie, now 15, is all smiles hearing this.

“Yung dating buhay ko po ay mahirap, malungkot, mapagod. Pero ngayon po, masaya, masayang nakakapaglaro, nakakapag-aral,” he shared.

As he looks into the sea where he used to spend most of his time working, Andrie now sees it as an inspiration.

“Mag-aaral po akong mabuti para maging isang pulis at para maiahon ko ang pamilya ko mula sa kahirapan,” said Andrie, promising never to go back to his old life.

These coming days, he’ll wake up early again. Vacation is over, and he is now in Grade 6.#

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BRINGING SERVICES CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE

A public nurse’s advocacy towards holistic development

“Ate Am, anong ginagawa mo dito,” happily shouts Maritess Ornalea upon seeing Nurse Amalia De Villa in a neighbor’s house.

The next scenario is an exchange of laughter, consultations on health and usual chats about life—a scenario typical of friends who have not seen each other for a while.

Ornalea, a resident of Brgy. Banyaga in the town of Agoncillo, Batangas Province, has known Nurse De Villa (who she fondly calls Ate Am) through their regular checkups as a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

De Villa is the designated focal person of the Rural Health Unit of the municipality for the Pantawid Pamilya program since 2016.

As a program partner of the Pantawid Pamilya, her role includes ensuring the availability of health services for the beneficiaries and monitoring the compliance of beneficiaries to the condition on health of the program.

However, De Villa is not contented on simply doing what’s written on paper. She makes efforts to improve their services, such as establishing new systems in the office, for the beneficiaries of the program.

What she treasures more, however, is the relationship she has established among beneficiaries like Ornalea. For De Villa, it is important that the beneficiaries trust her and their office so they can help them better.

Bringing health services to the barangays

In the implementation of the Pantawid Pamilya program, household-beneficiaries with zero to five years old children and pregnant women are required to avail monthly preventive health checkups, weight monitoring and immunization from partner-health facilities prior to receiving a subsidy on health amounting to PhP500 per household per month.

This conditionality on health ensures that children are healthy and that parents invest on the health and nutrition of their children.

Since the start of the program in the town in 2012, all household-beneficiaries from the 21 barangays have been availing this service at the rural health unit, which is located in the town proper.

“Noon, talagang kailangan naming pumunta sa bayan para makapagpa-checkup. Mahirap dahil kailangan pang mamasahe, kaya ‘yung iba, ang hirap na ring piliting pumunta,” related Laureana Catibog, a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary and a former parent leader in Brgy. Banyaga, one of the farthest barangays in the municipality.

Seeing this concern of the beneficiaries, De Villa pushed towards making the practice the other way around.

“Ngayon, kami na ang bumababa tuwing may schedule ng checkup para sa mga benepisyaryo ng Pantawid,” shared De Villa, who added that it is safer and more convenient for a few people from the center to go to the barangays than let all the beneficiaries travel to the town proper. After all, her goal is bringing the health services closer to the people.

Cornelio Nohay, Jr., the municipal link assigned in Agoncillo, Batangas, acknowledges this effort of the rural health unit.

“Sobrang laki ng itinaas ng compliance rate ng mga beneficiaries pagdating sa monthly health checkups. Noon, nasa 70 percent lang ang compliance rate pero ngayon, 97 to 100 percent na,” Nohay said.

For the DSWD, the increase in the compliance rate of beneficiaries means the achievement of the goals of the program in terms of improving the health of young children and mothers.

Changing the perception of the people on health, other things

When it comes to health services for Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries, De Villa is not simply concerned about the compliance of the beneficiaries to the conditions of the program.

“Mahalaga din ‘yung disiplina ng mga tao at ‘yung pagbabago ng kanilang pananaw tungkol sa kalusugan,” she shared.

Regina Enriquez, a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary and also a barangay health worker (BHW) from Brgy. Bilibinwang, said that De Villa and her team would often conduct health lectures during their scheduled checkups for beneficiaries. Topics she remembered being taught are about family planning and measles.

“Nagtatanong ako sa kanila kung anong topic ang gusto nilang pag-usapan namin sa mga susunod na buwan,” said De Villa.

Other than health lectures, De Villa tries to inject other topics in her discussions such as setting family goals, budgeting and caring for the environment among others.

To encourage the beneficiaries to listen and stay for her lectures, she oftentimes gives activities such as bead making and coloring for children, even if these activities mean shelling out personal money. She would also coordinate with the municipal agriculture office so she can bring seedlings to the barangays.

“Nacha-challenge din ako sa mga nagsasabi dito na ‘kahit anong health teaching ang gawin namin, walang mangyayari.’ Ang sa amin, hindi madali ang proseso pero paunti-unti, mayroon itong epekto sa mga tao,” she shared with conviction.

Enriquez agrees that little by little, she sees the change in attitude of the residents in their barangay when it comes to health.

“Sa 15 taon kong pagiging BHW, nakita ko na ang mga tao ay nagbibigay na ng halaga para sa kalusugan. Prayoridad na nila ang pagpapacheckup, pagpapabakuna at pagbili ng gamot at vitamins,” Enriquez said.

Gaining people’s confidence in their services

De Villa is not just a nurse for the beneficiaries as she makes sure that she establishes a good relationship with them.

“Mahalaga na ‘yung mga tao, nagtitiwala rin sa akin. Kung hindi sila nagtitiwala, hindi rin sila makikinig o maniniwala sa akin,” shared De Villa.

Whenever she visits the barangay, she allots time to talk to them about almost everything. According to her, this is her way of knowing them better and understanding their attitude so that she can think of the most appropriate ways to provide services to them.

“Isang text lang namin kay Ate Am, sumasagot agad. Nagtatanong kami ng tungkol sa sakit o kaya humihingi ng gamot sa center,” shared Ornalea.

Her building good relations is not only limited to the program-beneficiaries. She also establishes a good working relationship with other agencies within the municipality.

“Madali s’yang kausap at nakikita namin ang interes n’yang makatulong lalo na sa beneficiaries ng Pantawid. Kapag may mga activities sila tulad ng medical mission, s’ya pa ang pumupunta sa aming opisina para mainform kaagad at maka-avail ang mga beneficiaries,” shared Nohay.

De Villa has also established partnership with the secondary schools in the municipality where they teach teenage pregnancy and career guidance.

With her three years as a focal person for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, De Villa still thinks that she has not done much. However, the acknowledgements given by the partners and, most especially, by the beneficiaries on her initiatives to help improve the health conditions of the residents, are enough proof that she is off to a good start and definitely off to positive results.#

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