Just like the famous calamay of Jagna, Bohol, the Garay has become quite popular in their hometown since winning the National Search for Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya in 2016.
Vicente, the Garays’ padre de familia shared how their life was changed by their faith and love for each other.
The father of seven said, “Dati ang relationship namin sa mga anak namin… medyo walang disiplina. Palagi (silang) lakwatsa noong una kasi kaming mag-asawa, (madalas ang) lakwatsa at bisyo, kaya ganoon din sila.”
But he and his wife Marissa changed their ways, something that they credit to the faith they found and the love of their children who inspired them to pick themselves up.
They changed and never looked back to their old life when all they did was “inom-inom lang, sugal-sugal sa tabi-tabi”.
“Si Lord ang nagbigay ng daang matuwid. ‘Pag nandiyan… sa bisyo wala (tayong) magagawa (na mabuti),” he said.
This story of transformation became an inspiration to many family-beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), especially those from Jagna province with 1,144* 4Ps households.
Vicente that through the Search, “(mas) nagkadireksyon kami. ‘Di namin akalain na sa 4Ps magsisimula.”
Fast forward to 2019, the Garays continue inspiring their neighbors and co-beneficiaries through nourishing their love for their family, serving their community, and working hard to improve their well-being.
Loving each other more
“Sobrang saya. Napakaraming pagbabago sa aming pamilya. Kung noon mahal, ngayon mahal na mahal (namin ang isa’t-isa),” said Marissa on how they had been since winning the Search.
And this love nurtures the Garay children who are all growing up and starting to live their dreams. Ivy, the eldest among the seven children, is now a licensed electrical engineer working at a solar energy company in Cebu City.
Next to her is Rose Marie who is soon-to-be a teacher after her stint as a barangay daycare worker. Prince, the third child is a freshman electrical engineer student. The three youngest Garay kids are Aria Venice (10th grader), Lee Mark (7th grader), and Vic (two years old).
But the kids are not the only ones who are growing. Vicente and Marissa have also taken various roles in the community that allow them to serve and acquire new skills as leaders in Brgy. Can-upao.
Marissa narrated: “Noon isa lang akong purok president ngayon purok kagawad na sa barangay. Kapag may (barangay) hearing nai-invite ako ni kapitan na taga-lead ng prayer at nagka-counselling ako sa (parties involved).”
Vicente, meanwhile, is a lay minister in their church and a presider to Sunday services held in far-flung areas.
The couple got to attend an ERPAT (Empowerment and Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities) seminar in Tagbilaran City that trained them to be future facilitators.
Vicente said, “Malaking pagbabago sa dati at ngayon… Dati gabi-gabi, araw-araw nasa laot (para mangisda), ngayon ‘di na palagi pero nangigisda pa rin… Kahit anong kayod noong una, wala talaga. Ngayon, nandiyan sa atin ang pagbabago.”
In the midst of these changes, the couple always prioritizes their children’s studies.
“Kahit mahirap lang kami basta ang mga anak namin makatapos ng pag-aaral. Kasi wala kaming bahay, wala kaming pera, wala kaming lupa na maiiwan sa kanila (maliban sa) edukasyon… kasi hindi (ito) mananakaw kahit kanino,” Marissa shared.
A sustainable livelihood
The Garays joined a group to start a livelihood project, care of the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Their group decided to put up a sari-sari store that offers ingredients and tools for making calamay, bigas, and other household products. To abide to their life free from vices, the Garays made sure that they won’t be selling cigarettes and alcohol.
The sari-sari store has been doing well. In fact, their group was able to recover their capital in just three months, and other SLP groups from various barangays go to Brgy. Can-upao’s SLP sari-sari store to learn good practices.
The biggest challenge, however, is maintaining the commitment of each member to help around the sari-sari store.
Vicente shared, “Sa umpisa nagtutulungan kami sa paggawa. Walang suweldo. Kinabukasan, ‘di na sila bumalik. Mahirap ‘pag ‘di kayo pasensyoso.”
But the Garays are determined to run the business even though they get minimal help from other members. They knew they have to lead by example thus they persevere so the others will realize that their livelihood has a chance of becoming successful.
This attitude reflects the Garays’ sense of responsibility in everything that they do. “’Pag ‘di ka gumawa lahat tayo babagsak,” said Vicente.
Being hailed as the grand winner of the Search made their neighbors and co-beneficiaries proud of the Garays’ achievement. Many people celebrated with them but there were those who questioned their worthiness of the title.
Vicente related, “’Yong iba sabi, ‘Bakit kayo pa? Ang daming tao dito sa Bohol.’ (Pero ang Search ay) galing sa barangay, province, region, nakarating ng national. Hindi namin akalain. Dati hindi tayo (napapansin) dahil nandoon tayo sa ibaba. Pero nang manalo kami, ang dami nang pumapansin.”
The good thing about the attention they were getting is they are able to share lessons they learned from their past and from attending Family Development Session and training activities.
“Ang daming nagpunta dito, nagpapa-advise. ‘Brod ano bang gagawin ko?’… Hindi naman ako adviser. Sharing lang, kung anong natutunan natin. I-share natin sa kapwa tao. Kahit na sa malayong barangay may nakakakilala sa akin,” said Vicente.
But for Rose Marie the title “huwarang pamilya” bears the pressure of becoming a perfect citizen, especially to her and her siblings.
She explained, “Unexpected (‘yong pagkapanalo) kasi sa dinami-daming (contestant) hindi ko naisip kami ‘yong mananalo…. Para sa akin noong nanalo kami malaking pressure. Kung ‘yong pamilya namin tinawag na ‘huwarang pamilya’, kaming mga anak dapat huwaran din kami sa ibang tao.”
But she knows better than to focus on the negative implications of the title. She understands that having that title also inspires them to do their best when they serve others.
“Tina-try ko rin na maging huwaran kasi isa rin akong daycare worker so kailangan kong maging magandang ihemplo sa mga bata,” she added.
There is no perfect family and the Garays do not intend to become one. Winning the Search gave them opportunities for development as well as criticisms from other people but the Garays very well know what to do: move forward and continue serving their community with resolute drive and passion. ###
*Data as of June 2019