A 40-year-old mother from the Ati broke the stereotype of indigenous peoples (IP) being aloof, and spoke about how Pantawid Pamilya has changed her family’s way of life. The Ati is a Negrito indigenous group from Panay Island, Visayas.

Leonida Bartolome of Barangay Balabag, Boracay, Malay, Aklan, said that her family’s way of life is now better since they became beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya.

“Pasalamat ako dahil napapansin mga tawo tulad naming mga Ati. Kami nakasulod sa Pantawid Pamilya (I am thankful that Ati, like us, are also given attention. We are beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya),” said Leonida.

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a human development program that invests in the health and education of poor families, primarily those with children aged 0-18. It provides cash grants to partner-beneficiaries who comply with the conditions of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for checkups, and attending the monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS).

Leonida is married to Joel, a part-time laborer. They have five children, namely: Judelyn, 21;  Jeremy Jhon, 18;  Abegail, 9; Joel Jr., 7; and Aniza, 5. Joel’s meager income from odd jobs that come few and far between can hardly support the family’s daily needs.

Leonida’s three younger children are covered by Pantawid Pamilya and are receiving monthly cash grants for their education and health needs.

Leonida shared that with the cash grants, she need not worry about the school requirements of her children.  She and Joel can now focus on putting food on the table.

“Bahul bahul bulig sa amon. Kon wala obra ang akon asawa, wala gid makitaan kwarta. Ngayon may pambili na ng bag, notebook, at tsinelas (The program has helped us so much. When my husband had no work, we really had no money.  Now, we have money to buy bags, notebooks, and slippers for the children),” she said.

Beyond cash grants 

While the cash grants have helped Leonida meet the daily school needs of her children, the lessons she learned from FDS have changed her perspectives in managing her household.

FDS is conducted monthly by DSWD and partners from non-government organizations, the private sector, and civil society organizations. It serves as a venue where topics on effective parenting, husband and wife relationships, child development, laws affecting the Filipino family, gender and development, home management, active citizenship, and electoral education are discussed.

Leonida narrated that practices such as washing the dishes and sweeping the floors used to be foreign to her.

After attending the FDS, she learned about the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of their house. Now, she said that her children are helping her keep the cleanliness of their home.

Leonida also shared that she is greatly thankful for the transformation of her husband.

“Sang una pirme sya gainom. Subong, sobrang minsan nalang. Indi na siya pasaway kay hadlok man mabawian sang cash grant (While he used to always drink liquor, now, he rarely does it. He is not hard-headed anymore. He does not want our cash grants from the government to be stopped),” she said.

When asked about her dreams, Leonida beamed and said, “Dapat makatapos ang mga anak ko ng kolehiyo (My children should finish college).”

“Kun makatapos sila ng kolehiyo, mabuligan man nila ang ila iban nga utod at mga kapwa Ati namin (If they finish college, they could help the rest of their siblings and our fellow Ati),” she said.

As of May 27, 2015, a total of 4,424,705 active households nationwide are covered by the program. Of this number, 559,374 are IP beneficiary-households of which 416,671 are in Mindanao, 134,471 in Luzon, and 8,232 in Visayas. In Panay Island which is composed of the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, and Iloilo, there are 496 active IP household-beneficiaries.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that the inclusion of IPs in Pantawid Pamilya reflects this administration’s principle of inclusive growth where no one is left behind, especially for the sectors that have long been overlooked in the past.