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Building Hope One Library at a Time

Paluan, Oriental Mindoro – Located in the northern part of the Mindoro region, this municipality is home to over 3,500 people of diverse ethnoliguistic tribes dominantly of Hanonoo Mangyan origin.

Despite its peaceful terrain, the municipality experienced gun violence in this once peaceful town due to political turmoil.

However, efforts poured in the recent years by the government and civic organizations contributed much to its gradual decline in the recent years.

With a violent past shadowing this fifth class municipality, people here are slowly turning their focus on education with high hopes on the younger generation to shed brighter light and eventually lift them from poverty.

“The children of Paluan have all the equal potentials of becoming great leaders and excellent professionals,” Rolando Blanes said. A native son of Paluan, he chose to serve his own people at his residence in barangay Toon as a teacher for over two decades before promoted to principal in adjacent barangay Harrison in 2011.

 

Library of hope

Having spent nearly half of his life in Paluan public schools, Blanes was a witness to the plight of children especially in the town’s outskirts.

Harrison Elementary School where he is head, is the second largest school in Paluan with close to 200 students. It caters to children not only from Harrison but from the neighboring barangays of Poblacion and sitio Tumawan as well.

Despite having more than half of its students as recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Harrision Elementary School has turned into one of Paluan’s top performing schools- even representing the province in many competitions.

It has, however, one problem – children in the said school never saw a library.

“We know what a library is but we never get to experience having one,” Grade 5 student Jeremiah Bulda said in vernacular.

The establishment of a two-unit building intended for a library and a clinic was almost close to realization last 2013.

Under the Kapit-bisig Laban sa  Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), Paluan was granted  a total of over P2 million to implement infrastructure projects from 2015 to this year.

 

However, the building proposal did not reach the priority cut-off point and was shelved.

The Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the poverty alleviation programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which anchors on community empowerment and grassroots approach in implementing its projects.

“We were a little saddened because the community was pushing for it,” Blanes said. In a series of consultation, the community even agreed on the site and vowed to help in its construction, he added.

However, Paluan was able to receive a blessing early this year as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will be funding proposals to build educational institutions.

Two projects in Paluan were given grants: one is the two-unit building in Harrision Elementary School and a Day Care Center in Brgy. Toon.

“With the library, we can truly open more doors of learning through books and equip our children the knowledge they can use in the future. After all, our hopes of a better Paluan lies in our children,” Grade 4 teacher Archie Pre stated.

Once fully furnished, the clinic and library will be open not only to Harrison Elementary School students but to nearby schools and the community as well, according to Blanes.

 

Basic necessity

In nearby Brgy.Toon, similar feelings of euphoria swept a small community on learning they will no longer use a dilapidated stage as a classroom soon. They, too, have proposed this project under the Millennium Challenge Coorporation funding of  Kalahi-CIDSS but did not also make the cut.

Day Care teacher Leonora Anting, 26, described it as a “very big blessing” to the community she has served for quite a few years.

Like Blanes, Anting opted to serve her own community despite a meagre salary of P3,000 a month. She sewed basic education in Toon as a kindergarten teacher for three years before becoming a day care teacher, now on her second year.

Typically, a Day Care classroom consists of a lot of visual materials posted across the four walls such as color charts, animated alphabets and animals, or attendance charts. But this is not the picture in this barangay.

Anting said classes were once held in a condemned building before it was moved in a narrow classroom shared with the kindergarten. This year, they transferred to the small stage of Toon Elementary School with only a roof and a wall on one side of the building separating the users from the elements, but it is the only space available.

Without the 2-by-3 foot plain chalk board, it looked like a scene from a children’s mini play tea party.

Carmencita de Lara, 64, knew very well the hardship of getting basic education here.

“Classes are cancelled even if it only drizzles a little because the wind sprays rain on the children,” de Lara lamented.

On school days, she checks on the weather before accompanying her granddaughter Kristel, 4, walking 500 meters to school as she has done for the past six years. Kristel is her sixth grandchild to escort going to the very same Day Care institution.

De Lara said she made it a commitment to see her grandchildren attend and finish school.

“Right now, it is a basic necessity. If they will do well in school, they have better chances of staying out of poverty like where we are,” she said.

Anting said the construction of the Day Care Centre would not only provide a conducive environment for learning but will entice more children to enroll. As of this writing, Toon Day Care Centre has 23 enrollees.

The two projects in Paluan were selected based on the local government unit’s willingness to provide a financial counterpart. These will be implemented using the process of the Kalahi-CIDSS Project whereas the local government unit and the community members will provide their counterpart through finance or labor. The community members will also lead in its implementation including the preparation of program of works, procurement of materials, disbursement of funds, monitoring and evaluation, among others.

The DFAT has allotted P1.088 million for the two-unit clinic and library building in Harrision and over P586,000 for Toon.

Like Anting, Blanes banks his hopes on the younger generation to get the most of education as he says could be people’s key to unshackle themselves from ignorance and poverty.

“As they say knowledge is power and one thing is for sure, knowledge from education can never be stolen,” Blanes said with a smile.

 

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To the Top: A Journey Towards Volunteerism and Leadership

ACTIVE VOLUNTEERISM- Giovannie Fabro, 32 represents their community’s Operation and Maintenance Group on the Organizational Development and Management Training of Kalahi  CIDSS.

Traversing the coconut plantation in the morning and organizing youth groups in the afternoon has been the routine of Giovannie, a dark, well-built man in his early thirties with a face chiseled by hard work and a heart molded by volunteerism.

Giovannie Fabro, more well-known in his community as Giovan is the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) Chairperson of Barangay Toctoc in Banton Romblon. From a by-stander to a volunteer, Giovan said that he has found more meaning in life when he was immersed in volunteerism and in Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi CIDSS).

New Chapter

Like many of the youths in Banton, Giovan worked in Manila. Numerous factories hired him until he has worked himself to exhaustion. Realizing that his income was not enough to support his family in the province, Giovan decided to go back home to take care of his parents.

He worked on their copras business to earn a living. Even with lesser income, he admitted that going back home was one of the best decisions he has ever done.

His caring and gregarious personality earned him a lot of buddies in Brgy. Toctoc. They usually hang-out and play basketball on the community court where the Kalahi CIDSS Barangay Assemblies (BA) were frequently conducted. This hobby of his had introduced him to the program and to volunteerism.

The raising hands of the people in the half court intrigued Giovan as they rest after a basketball game and he listened to what they discussed. He learned that the people were voting for a sub-project that they wanted to have in their community. Amazed on how the people are given the freedom to have a project of their choice, Giovan decided to join the next meetings.

In the beginning, he admitted that attending the assemblies of Kalahi CIDSS was like learning a foreign language. “Napakadaming acronyms yung nababanggit nila at hindi ko talaga maintindihan kaya tinatanong ko yung katabi ko.” (I do not understand the numerous acronyms that they mention thus I ask the person next to me about the meaning of those acronyms.)

He chuckled as he added, “umabot na sa pagkakataon sa assembly na nainis na yung katabi ko sa katatanong ko kaya linayasan nya na ko.” (One time, during the assembly, my seatmate got tired of my asking thus he walked away.)

The Heart of a Volunteer

On the second cycle of Kalahi CIDSS, he actively participated and was elected as a member of the Project Implementation Team (PIT).

A sudden change in Giovan’s routine had happened when he became a volunteer. His usual lazy afternoons were changed to attending meetings of the BSPMC and studying the community procurement manual.

Eventually, he discovered his passion to volunteerism when he attended the community volunteers’ training. This has also been his inspiration to organize a youth group called Uswag Banton. The group aims to re-plant trees in the area.  In addition, he encouraged the members of the group to take part in Kalahi CIDSS and they help the community empowerment facilitator to gather people during barangay assemblies.

The community members witnessed his industry as a community volunteer. Thus, they decided to elect him as the BSPMC chairperson of Barangay Toctoc on the third cycle of the program. Mrs. Yolly Felita, one of the elders in Brgy Toctoc said that she is convinced that Giovan will be a good BSPMC chairperson.

Despite this, Giovan admitted that he had second thoughts on accepting the new post.

Nevertheless, his dream of giving his community a safe and sustainable drinking water has surfaced than his fear of greater responsibility. “Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ngayon pa ba ako titigil kung kelan malapit na naming makamit ang pangangailangan ng aming komunidad?” (I said to myself, would I stop now, now that the need of our community is almost within our reach?)

Community Empowerment Facilitator of Brgy. Toctoc Shirley Vallez recounted a story on how Giovan has shown his dedication to the project. According to her, “Si Giovan ang nanguna noong kailangang i-konekta pababa sa bundok yung tubig kahit medyo masama yung pakiramdam nya. Na-amaze ako sa batang yan kasi kita mo sakanya yung passion na tumulong kahit may sinat sya.” (Giovan lead the community to connect the water from its source in the mountain down to their community and he was not feeling well when he did it. I was amazed on that kid because you can see his passion to help even he is sick.)

Beyond service

Giovan saw how the community driven development process has transformed his flat and passive community into an active one. From his account, he was amazed on how his community was able to work together in spite of political ramifications because of their common goal of having access to clean and potable water.

Consequently, Giovannie discovered his leadership talents in becoming a Kalahi CIDSS volunteer. From the timid man, he was now able to speak in front of his community and other crowds. He recounted the moment where he shared his reflection during the BSPMC training in Makati and he said he never felt so proud before.

“Kung may sasabihin ako at alam kong tama at makakabuti, sasabihin ko yun” (If I have something to say that I know is right and will contribute to the greater good, then I will say it) said Giovannie. He added “Sana ganun din ang gawin ng mga ka-barangay ko“(I wish that the people in my community would also do the same.)

Giovannie has been a volunteer of Kalahi for 2 years now and as a volunteer he had a lot of realizations in life, in his community and in the municipality of Banton. “Sana ay tigilan na ng kababayan ko ang panlilibak sa iba dahil lang sa pulitika. Panira sa pag kakaisa ng Bantoanon yang ganang gawain.” (I wish that people would stop destroying others for the sake of their political endeavors. This kind of action destroys our hope of uniting the Bantoanons for the common good).

All of Giovannie’s BSPMC colleagues have previously held posts in public service. With this, he was teased by his ‘kuyas’ that he must try his luck in politics and run as a barangay councilor. He said that he feels awkward whenever such topics are being discussed.

All Giovan know is his true calling is to serve his community beyond Kalahi CIDSS.

Kalahi CIDSS is a poverty alleviating program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that employs the process of community driven development to empower the community which would empower the people, promote good governance, and alleviate poverty in the community. ###

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Be a Volunteer

Be a VolunteerThe Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) MiMaRoPa is looking for volunteers to help with its relief operations for the victims of Typhoon Nona in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon provinces

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Urduja of Seaweeds Production in Taytay Palawan

Seaweeds

Gaudiosa M. Alto, president of Bagong Pag-asa Association, is known as Urduja of Seaweeds Production.

Urduja is a legendary Filipino heroine recognized for her strong leadership and passion for serving the people. Deviating from stereotype about woman being weak and passive, Urduja showed that she is a ruler who can mobilize and defend her people. She is a true legendary warrior.

In the midst of sea paradise in Taytay Palawan, there is also a strong, independent and dedicated woman recognized as Urduja of Seaweeds Farming.

Gaudiosa M. Alto, 63, is the president of Bagong Pag-Asa Association (BPA), an organization guided by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) IV- MiMaRoPa Sustainable Livelihood Program.

During the field visit, as the cold breeze touched her skin and splash of water lingered in her feet, Gaudiosa started to tell her story. Her stories pierced the heart and soul of the listeners. She looked straight into our eyes and sincerely told every chapter of the book of her life: every journey she had encountered, every failure she had tasted and every triumph she had reached.

As she gazed in the sky painted with mixture of  gray and tangerine triggering a feeling of longing, she reminisced her experiences before the SLP Seaweeds Production.

Life dark as a coal

 

Life before the SLP seaweeds production was full of hardship and uncertainty.

“Mahirap po ang buhay namin dati bago ‘yang SLP, para pong laging may pangamba,” recalled Gaudiosa.

Coal mining was her primary source of income.  As a coal miner, Gaudiosa’s life was full of darkness and fear.  It was always like a vacuum: sufocated with emptiness and no direction.

Her life was always at risk.

“Dati po kaming nag-uuling. Para kami ay maka-survive (pinasok na namin ang pag-uuling). Ay mahirap mag-uling! Buhay ang nakataya dyan,” said Gaudiosa while trying to control the crystal clear tears from falling in her eyes.

Aside from being illegal, coal mining posed risks in her health and her environment.

However difficult life has been, she didn’t lose hope.  Risks of her previous work pushed her to look for greater opportunities.  With the help of Edilberto Y. Felizarte, Pamantulon Taytay Palawan Barangay Chairman, Gaudiosa discovered the opportunities offered by SLP.

“Huminigi si kapitan ng tulong sa SLP kung pwede raw bigyan kami ng hanapbuhay. Ito nga ang binigay, ang pagse-seaweads,” Gaudiosa stated.

 

Seaweeds: treasure in the heart of sea paradise of Taytay, Palawan

 

Sustainable Livelihood Program introduced Seaweeds Production in 2013.  This project has been offered by DSWD-SLP to Gaudiosa since the municipality of Taytay provides a sustainable environment for seaweed production because it is strategically located in a relatively typhoon-free area having wide reef areas, extended marine coastlines and wide coastal shelves.

Aiming to improve their knowledge and skills in seaweeds farming, Gaudiosa, together with other partner-beneficiaries, undergone the six (6) day training of SLP provided by the Department of Agriculture Bureaus of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Fisheries Training Center Palawan and DSWD-SLP.

This six days of training changed their lives forever.

Asked about her life transformation, Gaudiosa answered genuinely. Her voice rattled and became more sincere.  Her eyes widened as if letting you glimpse into her soul.

“Napakasaya ko po. Malaking tulong talaga pag-seaweeds sa amin. Laking pagbabago po talaga,” said Gaudiosa while posing her sweetest and sincerest smile.

She was able to breakaway from dragging and hazardous livelihood. No more sleepless nights worrying what will happen to them during their work. No more despair on things they can’t give and promise to their family. No more emptiness, risk and darkness — only light and future full of hope and prosperity.

 

Godsend Wealth: Benefits of Seaweeds

Seaweeds2

Seaweeds farmers preparing the propagules for planting in the sea paradise of Taytay, Palawan.

Treasure in the heart of sea paradise of Taytay Palawan brought illuminating light in the dark life of Gaudiosa.

Every strand of seaweeds is like a rope made of gold, a discovered wealth.  Seaweeds served as the primary source of income, it strengthen the tie of relationship with her family and knitted her closely with the community.

Gaudiosa’s wealth is her family. As bread winner,  she spends all her income for her family, most specially for the education of her grandchildren.

“Dito kami kumukuha ng pagkain at mga gamit na pampaaral sa aming mga anak.”

Seaweeds also transformed the lives of members of her community.

With the help of DSWD-SLP, two major associations were organized: Bagong Pag-asa and Taytay Palawan Seaweed Farmers Federation.

Gaudiosa is the president of Bagong Pag-asa. It is noticeable that all her members are all men and yet, everyone of them has high regard and respect for Gaudiosa. She really shows great leadership in the members of her association. Indeed, she is Urduja of the seaweeds production.

During the  planting and harvesting season, everyone gathers together —  sharing unceasing stories, unwavering hopes and never-ending laughters.

 

Everlasting Treasure: Sustainability of Seaweeds Production

 

With the success she has tasted, Gaudiosa don’t want to remain dependent on what SLP and other agencies have given them. She wants a sustainable business. She is dreaming of being in full control of seaweeds production, free from the abuse and cruelty of middle men.

“ Malaki na po ang tulong ng SLP. Pero syempre po hinihiling ko po na kami na talaga mamahala sa seaweeds. Para po hindi na kami umaasa sa mga middle man. Madalas po kasi lugi kami,” emphasized by Gaudiosa.

Seaweeds is in demand in the market all year round thus making it more sustainbale with the technical support from partner agencies in the areas of organizational development and marketing.

 

 

Victory of Urduja of Seaweeds Production

 

Gaudiosa like Urduja has tasted countless battles in her life but she remained standing like a true warrior. In her journey, no matter how many gigantic waves will come and collosal combats she will encounter, she will alsways give a whirl in order to protect and serve her family and her people.

For all the victories she has achieved, she is grateful to her family and seaweeds farming: the true treasure of her life. ###

 

 

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I’m a 4Ps scholar

They call us the lower class, the twerps, a burden to the government. They dub us dependents, supposedly merely after government doles. They call us the poorest of the poor, the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

Let me tell you people, we are less fortunate but we are not stupid. Yes, we are receiving a certain amount from the government, to alleviate our current situation, which is the program’s primary objective. But, is it really a basis for social discrimination and bullying?

I am a 4Ps scholar, one of the beneficiaries of the Expanded Students’ Grant-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), to be particular about it. So, what do you think? I am giving you the freedom to say something about it. Are you one of those judgmental persons or among the rational ones?

When I first heard about the opportunity to avail myself of the ESGP-PA, I thought of my dreams becoming possible. It was as if chance had found a deserving student who desired to make a difference in her life, in her family, and in her society. Eventually, I became a lucky grantee. I consider that a significant gift that drew me closer to achieving my aspirations.

For me, tuition and other school fees, academic and extracurricular expenses, the purchase of textbooks, the lack of stipend and transportation fare ceased to be constant worries in the pursuit of a college degree. Each grantee is entitled to P30,000 per semester, and that has been making a difference.

But, the difference includes social discrimination and bullying. Some fellow students say something to this effect: “Those 4Ps scholars, they already have the scholarship, and they’re also given special treatment.” Those students who belong to well-off families look down on us when they learn that we are ESGP-PA grantees, as though we were unsightly.

The worst thing was when, in class, a professor presented his opinion on the program’s “dependency” on the government and how our expenses as grantees were being shouldered by taxpayers including himself, all because of irresponsible parenthood. His opinion just seemed so biased. It appeared that he did not realize: What could this mean, how could this affect, an ESGP-PA grantee in his class?

These have happened, not just to me, but also to my fellow 4Ps scholars. It’s like being a 4Ps scholar is a sin, that being less fortunate is a sin.

We are not the proponents of this program; we are merely the chosen recipients. I’ve come to think: What if everyone is a 4Ps beneficiary? Will their views still be the same? Will the treatment be just and fair? Why does social hierarchy matter a lot in building a community? Irrationality will never unite a country.

This is not all about irresponsible parenthood; this is reality. Poverty is present in the country. We are not building a poverty society. In fact, we strongly want to get out of that status. We strive to lift our families out of poverty and eventually give back to the economy.

I feel that I should just shut my mouth whenever they throw gibberish at us and degrade the ESGP-PA. Yet my open mind cannot fathom the fact that those words come from supposedly educated people who should know better than us. It is just a manifestation that someone can be educated but not learned.

Still, I extend my thanks to the government for providing a great opportunity for deserving students to complete tertiary-level education. I will focus on the positive goals. We’ll eradicate poverty; we don’t need irrationality. We are less fortunate, but we are not stupid.

Rose J. Bongon, 20, is a third-year IT student at Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges. She is associate editor of The Spark (the official CSPC school–community publication) and blogs at https://miraqrose.wordpress.com/.

Reposted from Young Blood, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Thursday, February 5, 2015.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/82291/im-a-4ps-scholar#ixzz3QpoJbh3D

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Crossing the sea, reaching a dream

Memories are photo albums that people flip through to reminisce. Every page reflects cherished moments that shape a person’s perspective. To Yolanda survivors, memories of ruthlessness and despair the Super Typhoon brought are vividly etched in pages they want to skip and forget: to move forward and start anew. This is what the people of Coron, Palawan did and put the destruction of TS Yolanda behind them.

It has been a year since TS Yolanda struck the beautiful island and it’s evident that the municipality got back on its feet with its tourism industry being active again.

One of the victims overlooked by most were the students. Coron, being an island municipality, has surrounding island barangays that were far from the mainland. Having to cross the open South China Sea every day to get to school is a path that brave young children face and no distance can stop them from reaching their dreams. The path became more challenging when the typhoon came and most of the boats, even their ‘balsas’ were either damaged or destroyed.

Hernando Magahom and his daughter wave their hand while aboard the 'school boat' named Bangka ni Teresa by the St. Therese’s College of Quezon City Alumnae Association.

Hernando Magahom and his daughter wave their hand while aboard the ‘school boat’ named Bangka ni Teresa given by the St. Therese’s College of Quezon City Alumnae Association.

It is difficult to continue with no means of reaching your destination. For these students, it was as if the odds were never on their favor. But the hands of heaven opened and like how rainbow appears in after a storm, hope and help were given to them.

A kind and compassionate group of people lend a hand – St. Therese’s College of Quezon City Alumnae Association (STCQCAA). The association provided eight ‘school boats’ named “Bangka ni Teresa” to 90 Pantawid Pamilya children-beneficiaries who resides in seven barangays: Malawig, Borac, Lajala, Cabugao, San Nicolas, Turda and Tara. Tara received two boats since it is the farthest from the mainland and has the most number of children-beneficiaries with 19 travelling while Malawig is the barangay where all of the houses were totally devastated by the typhoon.

The ‘school boats’ were the result of the field visit of the various national government agencies last April 2014. They assessed implementation of different government projects and programs in the areas visited especially the effects of TS Yolanda.

With the initiative of Executive Director Emmeline Versoza of Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) to tap the Yellow Boat Foundation, the ‘school boats’ were immediately started to provide children-beneficiaries easier means of transportation going to schools.

Hernando Magahom, a father and in-charge boatman of the ‘school boat’ given to Barangay Lajala said, “Malaking tulong po ito lalo na po sa anak ko na sa proper pa po ang eskwelahan, hindi na po siya gagastos ng pamasahe.” There is no fare riding the boats and will be maintained and funded by the barangay for its gasoline.

Mark Bering together with his family and other Pantawid Pamilya children-beneficiaries in their barangay pose while embarking not just on their school destination but also for their better future.

Mark Bering together with his family and other Pantawid Pamilya children-beneficiaries in their barangay pose while embarking not just on their school destination but also for their better future.

The ‘school boat’ is made of fiber and run by a motor making it easier for the students to travel than a paddle boat. Mark Bering of Barangay Turda said, “Masyadong nakakapagod sa mga bata ang de sagwan at minsan nababasa sila kasi nga maliit ang bangka at pag maalon ay mas delikado talaga.”

Hernando and Mark are only two of the many members of the communities in Coron who are grateful to the help provided by the various organizations, STCQCAA being one of them. The hand extended by the group for the children-beneficiaries is a hope that they can hold onto until they reach their dreams and achieve the change they want for themselves and family. ###

 

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A New Team Bulalacao

As told by John Vincent Gasmin, Municipal Link of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro

Walk the talk. In doing so, we can show them what we can do.

That is the plan. That is our plan, Team Bulalacao’s plan.

The Youth Development Session in Brgy. Campaasan allows out-of-school-youth and beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya to tackle various issues in deeper level.

The Youth Development Session in Brgy. Campaasan allows out-of-school youth and beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya to tackle various issues in deeper level.

The Pantawid Pamilya staff of the municipality of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro aims to start anew and fresh. Be more organized, more innovative and the best team or group of servant leaders happily doing their jobs. Staying true to the plan, the team piloted two activities for its beneficiaries, the Youth Development Sessions (YDS) and Radio Development Sessions (RDS).

 Educating young minds

The YDS aims to empower the young people both in and out of school youth. It also aims to increase the compliance of beneficiaries to the program and inculcate the extensive awareness of the services and programs implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to both members and non-members of the Pantawid Pamilya. The initiated activity of Team Bulalacao also serves as a support to the Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines, a program for the young Filipinos focusing on the out-of-school youth.

The activity intends to educate and empower the youth through Focus Group Discussions (FGD) and lecture series of important topics such as Teenage Pregnancy, Premarital Sex, Relationships, and education specifically on having a diploma and landing a good job. These needs-based topics were carefully selected by the team in consultation with the parents and partner agencies. The team believes that it is essential for the youth to know these topics so they will have a sense of direction and goals in life.

The YDS is conducted once a month and runs for a couple of hours with 13 to 24 years old as target audience. Since every barangay has its group division, the first YDS was held last November 2013 in Group Gumamela of Sitio Cawacat, Barangay Campaasan with 17 participants. The team discussed the topic, Sino ako sampung taon mula ngayon? On the second month, the team conducted YDS on all Pantawid Pamilya Groups of the said Barangay. From 17 participants, the attendees increased to 132. The topics discussed are What is my New Year’s Resolution? and Bullying. The team aims to implement the Youth Development Sessions to all barangays of the municipality with the Pantawid Pamilya staff and various resource speakers.

In the three months of the implementation of YDS, the team can confidently say that the youth’s compliance to the program increased as well as their parents. The youth also seem to be more active and interested in the sessions now compared before. “We are starting the Youth Development Session step by step. We are optimist that there would always be a youth who will come. And through the word of mouth, eventually more youth will attend this activity,” said Vince Gasmin, Municipal Link from Team Bulalacao.

Education on-air

As if living on a time frame, Team Bulalacao continues to initiate activities that benefit their beneficiaries. The team launched its first radio program or the so-called Radio Development Session (RDS) via MUEWS 96.7 FM from 1:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon last January 18, 2014.

The debut of the radio program was a success as it receives more than a hundred text messages to the radio portal from the listeners all over the municipality. Vince Gasmin, one of the municipal links serves as the home DJ.

The program will run for four months and will tackle issues for the family and youth such as Disaster Risk Reduction, Environmental Sanitation, Organic Farming as well as Teenage pregnancy, Laws on the rights of women & their children and many more.

The team is very optimistic on the results of the initiated activities. The Youth Development Sessions and Radio Development Sessions is definitely a lot of work “We will not just talk but surely also walk,” agreed by the Pantawid Pamilya staff of Bulalacao.

Going beyond mere practice, Team Bulalacao provides its beneficiaries with a deeper understanding of the word “service”. The team is highly motivated allowing them to function in any setting using the new initiated-activities. Applying their knowledge in community organizing and leadership, as a result, the team’s innovative spirit has created a path for a more interactive and even first class development sessions.

 

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A new beginning

What does one say to someone who has lost the comfort and safety of a home? What does one say to someone who has work and work so hard to build a place to stay and be just washed away in hours of wind blowing and rain pouring? How do you form the words? How do you start the questions? It will be awkward. But not to Annabelle. “Okay lang po,” she said, when asked if she can be interviewed about that night. The night everyone wants to forget and move on from.

Annabelle stares at some of the materials left from their home when typhoon Yolanda made its landfall in Coron, Palawan.

Annabelle stares at some of the materials left from their home when typhoon Yolanda made its landfall in Coron, Palawan.

The interview took place in a space just a couple of meters from the shoreline where their house used to stand. Now it’s just a space. Empty. It has been more than a month when typhoon Yolanda showed its brunt to the residents of Sitio Bayo-Bayo, Brgy. Tagumpay, Coron, Palawan, and one of them is the Cardiño family.

Thief at night

 Annabelle Cardiño, 36, can still recount their family’s experience that night. Together with her 17-year-old daughter and eight-month-old child, Annabelle stayed in Coron School of Fisheries, one of the evacuation centers set up by the local government in preparation for the coming typhoon. Her husband Renante, 43, together with their 14-year-old son, Rayniel stayed in their house.

At around eight in the night of November 8, winds started to blow and rain started to pour, but Renante said it was still manageable. He was exchanging text messages with Annabelle the whole time. Then the winds and rain subdued and seemed to relax for 30 minutes. After that, Yolanda showed its true nature.

Napakalakas po ng bugso ng hangin. Sinabayan ng mga alon na malalaki. Paghampas po ng dalawang alon sa bahay, doon na po bumagsak, wala na pong natira,” said Annabelle relaying what his husband told her.

Parang hinihigop po yung dagat. Umurong tapos nung bumalik yung alon, malalaki na. Kumukulo po yung dagat, yun pala parang may ipu-ipo na,” continued Annabelle. When asked what he felt that night, reluctant and shy, Rayniel said, “Natakot po.”

Annabelle added, “Sa pagkabagsak ng bahay namin, may nakita pa silang pwedeng isalba, hindi na po nila inintindi, inintindi nilang mag-ama yung buhay nilang maligtas.”

When father and son couldn’t handle the force of the typhoon, they seek refuge from their neighbor’s house. They spent the whole night there while Annabelle’s at school and worried sick about her family.

Annabelle went back to her family and it was a sight that will be forever etched on her mind. The house that offered safe refuge was stolen from them. Her husband and son just sit quietly on where their house used to stand and after a while gathered some of their scattered things that can still be salvaged.

The day after 

Father and son, Renante and Rayniel work together to build a foundation for their new abode.

Father and son, Renante and Rayniel work together to build a foundation for their new abode.

For three days, the Cardiños stayed at the evacuation center. A relative, who happens to own a house in the sitio, extended a hand and offered a place for them to stay. A vacant lot is nearby and Renante and Rayniel have been working and putting up a foundation for a new abode.

The family also received relief packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, local government and other private groups and individuals more than willing to help. The provincial government of Palawan also provided cash assistance of 5,000 pesos to those whose houses were totally damaged. They bought wood, yero, and food, especially, milk for their baby.

A week after the typhoon, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of DSWD conducted payout to the beneficiaries of the municipality from November 13-14, 2013 where Annabelle’s family happens to be part of.

Annabelle received 1,600 pesos for the last two months that they complied. The first thing that she secured was 15 kilos of rice, “Pasalamat kami kasi may payment kami, nagpasigurado talaga akong 15 kilong bigas tapos gamit ng mga anak.” Annabelle also bought school shirt and pants, notebooks and bag for her son. “Mabuti yung sapatos niya, nakita niya sa isang tabi, bumili na lang akong medyas,” she added.

Annabelle also accounted, “Minsan nga, nag-iiyakan na lang kami, magkaharap kami ng asawa ko. Pero ang sabi ko, tawanan na lan gnatin.” They could not do something about what happened. She assures her children that they can always stand and work their way up again.

Better tomorrow

Just as the Cardiño family is working their way to get back on their feet again, the government is working its local and national arms to rebuild and restore the damaged done by typhoon Yolanda. The DSWD is positioning its food and cash for work, core shelter assistance and livelihood programs to those affected families. “Ang pambansang gobyerno ay nag-usap para sa early recovery, may nakalaan na pong cash for work dito sa Palawan. Ang starting amount po ay five million pesos. Kasunod po niyan ay ang kinakailangan para sa livelihood,” declared Sec. Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman of DSWD in the meeting of the provincial and municipal government units of Palawan together with Department of National Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin and Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II in Coron, Palawan.

A lot of residents lost their means to earn. Their boats were destroyed by the typhoon just like the Cardiño family. But with the assurance of assistance like what Sec. Soliman said to hundreds of families affected, “Walang maiiwan at sisiguraduhing mas maganda ang buhay matapos dumaan si Yolanda.” Hope springs in Annabelle and her family. She is grateful that the government and people from different institutions, relative or not, are willing to help. And kindness turns the slump spirit into optimism. Optimism of a better tomorrow and a new beginning.

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