Toward 'better' families PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rina Jimenez-David, Phil. Daily Inquirer   
Monday, 16 June 2014 17:22

Subic- Leonie Nervida, 47, lives in a tiny, two-room apartment that lies at the end of a row of similarly small apartments in Barangay New Banicain in this city. She shares the single bedroom with her husband Francisco (“Nanie”) who, at 60, is 13 years older than she.

They have eight children (“I had three children when he met me,” Leonie says, “but he accepted them fully and treated them, like the ones we had together, as his own”), only the three youngest live with them at present, all still in school. Her fifth child, says Leonie, is now 15 and should be a freshman in high school but he has yet to return home after taking a vacation with an older sibling. “Pasaway” (hard-headed), she describes the boy, who apparently has no wish to go back to school.
 
But on the wall of their cramped living/dining room and kitchen hang medals citing the recipients, their children who are still in school, for “politeness,” “obedience,” and academic accomplishments. Sharing pride of place with the medals and certificates is a plastic envelope with a document known as a “Family Scorecard.”

The Scorecard was the subject of a “Family Development Seminar” (FDS) that is the third “condition” for families covered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s “4Ps,” for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The 4Ps was initially known as the “conditional cash transfer program,” a social amelioration program that is also in place in countries like Mexico and Brazil. The basic premise of the program is the grant of regular subsidies to the poorest families in exchange for the meeting of certain conditions, including regular visits to a local health center for children and pregnant women, and regular school attendance for school-age children.
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In the Philippines, the DSWD imposes a third condition: regular attendance in the FDS, where such matters as communication between spouses, family cooperation and child rearing, health and nutrition, and even “building a relationship with God” are discussed, guided by DSWD coordinators known as “municipal (or city) links” and by volunteers.

DSWD officials, in particular Secretary Dinky Soliman, say the 4Ps is not just a conditional cash transfer program but also an “investment in future generation.”
 
Aside from the good that regular health checkups and school attendance do, the FDS is apparently the main vehicle through which the government hopes to shape and mold the values and sense of civic consciousness and involvement of the country’s young people.
 
4Ps families are expected to fill out the score card that involves all the members talking about their dreams and aspirations – such as graduating from school, earning a bigger family income, creating better relations among themselves, and even getting closer to God- putting these down in writing and noting what steps they are taking to achieve these goals.

This is why Leonie and her children have given the scorecard such a prominent place, to remind them, she says, of their “dreams” for themselves and what they need to do to achieve these. One child, she jokes, even jumps of from her place at the dining table soon after they say a prayer before or after a meal to tick off a box so they don’t forget to accomplish this self-imposed “requirement.”
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Our visit to Leonie’s home, and our sitting in on the Barangay New Banicain FDS, was part of the “sensing journey” we undertook as members of the DSWD’s Multi-sectoral Governance Coalition (MSGC). The day before we motored to Subic, we were in the towns of Balanga and Dinalupihan in Bataan, hosted by Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia and by his sister, Dinalupihan Mayor Angela Garcia. In Olongapo, even if Mayor Rolen Paulino was abroad we were received by City Administrator Mamerto Malabute.

The support of local officials for the 4Ps is crucial, as it can help direct and coordinate the work of local DSWD personnel (social welfare services have been devolved), regional DSWD officials, the local “links” who work with the 4Ps families, as well as the barangay chairs who can help identify and rally the families chosen for the program.

Part of the visit for the MSGC members involved sessions in which we together with DSWD officials, sought to clarify and give direction to concrete ways in which we, representing various sectors and other government departments, could help the DSWD do its job better, mainly by providing advice and feedback and assisting in communication needs.
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But the best part of our work with MSGC, as so many of us shared, was meeting the beneficiaries and seeing with our own eyes and listening to their unvarnished, unrehearsed stories about their lives.

One mother at the FDS we witnessed, for instance, broke down in tears as she told the story of how she had “suddenly” discovered that her daughter dreamed of becoming a nurse, something she had shared with her grandmother but was apparently loath to talk about with her mother.

I observed that talking about our dreams and aspirations was something we rarely, if ever, did in my family while the children were young, as perhaps is true of other middle-class families. Another MSGC member said he told himself that adopting the scorecard “was something I could do with my own family.”

Certainly, I never expected to come away from our sessions with the DSWD with lessons we could apply to our own lives and families. But it just shows us that while our families may differ in so many ways from one another, we are all the same when it comes to our dreams, wishes and prayers.
 
 
 
Reposted from Rina Jimenez-David's At Large column, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 6, 2014.
 
 
Department of Social Welfare and Development
Constitution Hills, Batasan Complex
Quezon City, Philippines 1126
(632) 931 8101 to 931 8107