Gibb Tanutan giggled as she shared a funny story on winning the National Search for Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya in 2014.
She said a lot of people congratulated them, even those who they didn’t know personally. But some got quite confused on why Gibb’s family was on TV.
“’Yong ibang tao iba ang pagkaintindi nila. Noong lumabas kami sa TV akala nila artista na kami,” the 19-year old recalled.
Gibb had to explain to her neighbors and strangers that her family was part of the search that recognizes exemplary Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) family-beneficiaries. That year, her family bested 14 families from different regions nationwide. She was in disbelief when her family was called on stage to receive the top prize.
The Tanutans becoming a celebrity on TV was definitely an anecdote that still makes Gibb laugh truth be told winning was not on her mind: “Hindi ko inakala na aabot kami dito.”
Her then 14-year old self could not quite comprehend how a poor, fatherless family from Lemery, Iloilo could be called a model family.
Raised by a solo parent
Gibb and her four brothers Ferdinand, Bryan King, Jaworski, and Jebbie grew up without a father who supposedly went to Manila to look for a job but never came home. The eldest, Ferdinand, was only 10 years old then. The sole responsibility of taking care all of them was left to Gemma, their mother.
“May lima akong anak. Bilang solo parent na ina ng tahanan, sobrang hirap ng mga responsibilidad ko sa mga anak ko. Sobrang hirap na mag-alaga sa mga anak– kung paano sila mapakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw,” Gemma shared.
To provide for her family, Gemma sold vegetables and root crops and engaged in farming activities. These jobs did not pay much so she did not have enough to buy food and their other necessities, like baon and requirements for school.
But no matter how heartbreaking it was for her not to be able to afford the needs of her children, Gemma pressed on. She never stopped working because she had one dream for all her children: “Isa lang naman ang hinihiling ko – ang mabigyan sila ng edukasyon.”
Gibb and her brothers were not blind to the hardships of their mother who tried everything just to keep things going in their lives.
Gibb shared, “Hindi ko naramdaman na wala kaming tatay. Nagampanan (ni nanay) lahat ng responsibilidad niya sa amin. Noong bata pa lang ako hindi ko talaga alam ‘yong naranasan niya pero ngayon naiintindihan ko na. Napakahirap.”
Gemma felt relieved when they became part of the program, saying that she finally had an ally in providing for the health and education needs of her children. She saw the program as her “katuwang”in catering the needs of her children and “gabay” on how to raise them.
Gemma said, “Noong dumating ang Pantawid parang biglang (gumanda) ang paningin ko (sa buhay ng pamilya) ko dahil nakikita ko yung magandang dala sa amin ng programa.”
There are 1,592* 4Ps households in Lemery, Iloilo.
Her children likewise felt inspired. Ferdinand, Bryan King, and Jaworski looked for college scholarships and part-time jobs so they could have money for school projects, books, and other college requirements. The cash grants from 4Ps were for the health and education of Gibb and Jebbie.
The three oldest siblings are now all graduates but it was not an easy accomplishment. After his graduation, Ferdinand helped Bryan King go to college, and Bryan King made sure that Jaworski would also finish tertiary education.
Gemma’s dream for her children is gradually coming true.
“Ngayong tapos nang mag-aral yung tatlo ko, nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon dahil nagkaroon ako ng anak na mababait na nagtutulungan. Bilang ina, magaan na sa akin yung mga ibang pangangailangan sa bahay,” she said.
Gemma is also proud that her family has learned to manage their finances properly. The cash prize they received from the Search was used to buy fertilizer for their palayan, which they acquired through a land loan from a bank.
A portion of the winning was also used to pay for paperwork and other requirements that his sons need to apply for a job.
Advocacies and lessons learned
Gemma and her children felt that people treated them quite differently since winning the search. They thought they are given the kind of respect and appreciation that were not there before. People now wanted to hear their voice and include them in activities that would require decision-making.
“Magandang epekto sa amin (ng pagkapanalo namin). Sa school kasi nakita nila pwede kaming maging modelo. Pwede pala akong maging (PTA) officer. (Sa mga community activities), kahit na kasama ko malalaking tao, politiko, mayaman. (Dati) naisip ko hindi ako bagay (doon) pero siguro nakita nila sa ugali ko na pwedeng-pwede (ako na makilahok),” Gemma shared.
The Tanutans also treasure the lessons and learning they got from the program through the Family Development Session and the training seminars they attended.
Gemma said, “Noon wala akong alam, pero ngayon dahil sa knowledge na ibinahagi sa akin hindi na ko nahihiya. ‘Yong mga binibigay na benepisyo lalo na yung mga tinuturo sa amin na adbokasiya ng program talagang inaapply ko sa pamilya ko (para magkaroon ng) education ang anak ko, may mabuting behavior, values, malapit sila sa Panginoon. Naging masipag kami at nagtulung-tulong.”
She has also seen changes in their community: “Dati ‘yong mga tao sa amin naglalaro ng braha, hindi naglilinis ng environment, kung magsalita bastos. Ngayon kasi parang dahil sa (programa), hindi na sila pasaway.”
Whatever she learns from the program and training she attended she makes sure to shares them to her neighbors and co-beneficiaries.
“Yung mga knowledge na nakuha hindi yan mawawala ishe-share ko sa nangangailangan. Active pa rin ako kahit wala nang program.”
Gemma likewise commends how the program links beneficiaries to many opportunities and projects of other government agencies.
“Maganda yung programa lalo na pag may dumating na ibang ahensya ng gobyerno na nagbibigay tulong, priority ang Pantawid. Talagang nabigyan kami ng pansin.”
Gibb’s teachers also sees as her an exemplary student in their school.
“Parang dapat ikaw yung mag-lead at ipakita na ikaw ang role model sa kanila,” said Gibb who is also part of the student council of Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College where she is taking up Bachelor of Elementary Education.
Looking back on their lives five years ago, Gibb can now finally make sense of what made them a huwarang pamilya. It was not just because her family is headed by a solo parent. It was definitely not the drama that came with an incomplete family. They are exemplary because they were able to empower each other and other families.
If there is one thing she wants to give to her mother as a gift that would be to become one of the top students in her batch: “Ang sabi niya sa akin mag-cum laude daw ako kaya gagawin ko ‘yon para sa kanya.”
Gibb says this with confidence because she is positive that her hard work in school will be complemented by her family’s support and assistance from 4Ps. ###
*As of June 2019