For the Achuelas, the grand winner of the 2015 National Search for Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya, self-discipline may not be easy but definitely doable and provides rewards.
Conrado Achuela and his four daughters understand that great opportunities do not always come by to poor families like them. That is why when they became Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries they vowed to do all they could to sustain the gains they get from it.
Conrado shared, “Noong elementary pa sila parang ‘di ko akalain na mararating nila ‘yong ganitong level of education kasi mahirap kumita ng pera noon. Nagpapasalamat ako nang mapasok kami ng DSWD na maging miyembro ng Pantawid Pamilya.”
Conrado’s wife died two months after their youngest was born, but his neighbors and relatives can attest that he does a great job in singlehandedly taking care of his children, as they all learned how to be obedient and industrious.
In 2012, 4Ps started helping him sending his children to school. His family from Brgy. Salbang, Paoay is one of the 17,767* 4Ps households in Ilocos Norte.
Years later, the Achuelas started getting the breaks they needed to take off. Conrado’s eldest daughter Hazel was qualified for the Expanded Student Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), a college grant for 4Ps households. She took up BS Agriculture in Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) and graduated magna cum laude in 2017.
People in their community started recognizing the family’s perseverance and fruits of hard work.
“Mula noon hanggang maggraduate si Hazel, malaking tulong ‘yon. ‘Pag may nakakakita sa akin sa labas (sinasabi nila), ‘Congrats, may graduate ka na!’ Ganyan ang mga sinasabi ng tao lalo ng mga guro,” said the 62-year old father.
Hazel’s sisters are also achievers. Like her Ate Hazel, Amabel is taking up BS Agriculture in MMSU, while Fenelyn and Glenda are in 12th (MMSU-Science High School) and 9th grade (Salbang Elementary School), respectively.
All of them are able to balance their studies and enjoy extracurricular activities such as sports despite the demands of managing their household and farm and challenges of being poor.
After the Search, people were congratulating the Achuelas and telling them that they are an inspiration not only to their barangay but to the whole Ilocos region as well.
“(Binati nila kami), ‘Wow national winner!’ Tapos parang nag-serve kaming inspiration sa mga classmate namin,” Amabel shared.
The P50,000 cash prize from the Search was used for the Achuelas’ education and livelihood. They bought a printer that the children now use for research papers and other school requirements.
The other portion of the prize was used for crop production and poultry farming, their major sources of income. Hazel shares to her father updated farming techniques and technologies that she learned. These have been helpful in increasing their produce and raising chickens.
The power of discipline
This sense of self-discipline is one of the things that made the Achuelas the national winner of the search when they bested 15 other families from different parts of the country.
The Achuela siblings always help their father in the farm. They do not mind the scorching heat and hard labor usually performed by men, because they understand that their father needs their assistance and has no budget to hire helpers.
“’Yong labor po sa bukid (ay) mahal so initiative na naming tulungan siya instead na dagdag gastos pa na kukuha ng ibang tao na tutulong,” Amabel explained.
They also value farming and agriculture because they believe that “every butil counts.”
When it comes to household chores, Conrado proudly shared that he does not need to tell his daughters what to do because they have already divided domestic responsibilities.
The kids are also lauded for their academic excellence and for growing up caring and gentle even without their Nanay. They miss her, of course, but their father’s brand of care and love has able to fill the void they felt when she passed away. Conrado’s little acts make the biggest impact to the Achuela siblings.
Amabel said, “Naramdaman namin na hindi nawalan ng nanay ang pamilyang ito dahil nagawa ni Tatay na maging isang ina at ama… lalo na kapag kami ‘yong may sakit siya yung naglalaba ng damit namin, nilulutan niya kami ng pagkain. Sa gawain sa paaralan, siya yung nagtuturo sa amin ‘pag ‘di namin alam (‘yung lessons at assignments).”
“Ginagabayan niya kami tulad ng isang ina ng tahanan, sa mga decision-making, pagbibigay-payo tungkol sa buhay, sa studies namin. Importante po kasi yung mga pieces of advice kasi nararamdaman ng anak na nagga-guide yung tatay,” Hazel added.
The Achuela siblings constantly say that they admire their father for being disciplined. Conrado makes a conscious effort to be a role model to his children because according to him “kung ano ang ginagawa ng ama ‘yon din ang ginagawa ng anak.”
Hazel explained that building self-discipline helps them focus on their goals such as graduating from college, getting a good-paying job, and lifting their family out of poverty. She was able to demonstrate this self-discipline two years ago when she was reviewing for the Agriculture Licensure Exam while working as an instructor at MMSU. Her determination paid off as she was among the top ten exam passers.
The Achuela siblings understand that the rewards outweigh the inconveniences they experience when they work hard. After her stint as an instructor in MMSU, Hazel applied for a master’s degree in the University of the Philippines Los Baños with a DOST scholarship.
“Kahit malayo sa pamilya, ano ba naman ‘yong two and a half years kung ang kapalit noon ay to alleviate the family from poverty?” she shared, adding that she needs a master’s degree to qualify for a regular teaching position in any university.
Self-discipline likewise helps the Achuelas deal with the pressure that comes with being a huwarang pamilya. Since becoming the grand champion of the Search they are now in the public eye, attending various events of their LGUs and DSWD Ilocos region and accommodating media interviews.
Fortunately, they do not have to give more effort to become hard-working and behave extraordinarily nice because they have always behaved that way even before joining the Search.
Self-discipline keeps them grounded and respectful to others no matter where they go. As 15-year old Glenda put it, “Kung disiplinado ka dito sa bahay, mas disiplinado ka sa ibang lugar.”
Winning the Search could be like a badge they wear that confirms the family’s admirable traits but for the Achuela siblings it was an additional stimulus to do their best in school.
Conrado shares that since the awarding his daughters have become more inspired to study and motivated not to miss any school activities.
“Gabi-gabi tinitignan ko ang mga records nila sa school at mga notebooks nila. They keep on studying especially after they attended the awarding,” says Conrado who also brought another honor in the family when he became Ilocos Region’s representative in Pantawid Pamilya’s Search for Modelong Ama, an advocacy activity for 4Ps male clients who champion gender equality in their respective homes and communities.
Hazel remembered a Bible verse, “Many are called but few are chosen” when she heard the announcement onstage that they were the National Search for Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya champion.
She knew that many were encouraged to join the competition but not all could respond to the challenge of becoming a huwarang pamilya – the face of 4Ps.
This does not mean, though, that they consider their family as special. Hazel shares that being a huwarang pamilya is not only about titles or being a role model in the community; it also requires them to have a sense of responsibility. Somehow there is a pressure to be perfect but it also motivates them to give their best in whatever they do.
She said, “Pressure pushes you to be better… It was (an instrument) for us to keep moving.”
The Achuelas hope that other family-beneficiaries will find inspiration from their story; that despite the struggles they have encountered, they were able to rise above every challenge through hard work, faith in God, patience, and perseverance.
“Anuman ang mangyari sa buhay keep moving kasi hindi natin alam ang mangyayari sa atin in the future na magiging successful din tayo. Whatever happens we have to keep holding on to our dreams kasi yung goals natin sa buhay ‘yon ang nagbibigayng direksyon sa atin,” said Hazel. ###
*Data as of June 2019