Arlyn Analiza Oquendo, born and raised in Pandi, was one of the locals who drew her income from making clothes and dresses. Belonging to a poor family, Ana never thought that her life would change.

Being a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, Arlyn was able to access services under the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Aside from the capital seed fund, she also underwent skills training on Dressmaking and eventually received a National Certificate Level II.

Aside from acquiring her own sewing machine, she was also hired as a trainer’s assistant of the ATEC Technological College.

Malaki ang pasalamat ko dahil may mga oportunidad na nagbukas sa amin bilang mga benepisyrayo ng 4Ps. Kaya naman nais kong ibalik ito sa mga kapwa ko din 4Ps. Masaya ako na naibabahagi ko ang aking mga natutunan at ibang kakayanan sa mga kapwa ko benepisyaryo. Sana makatulong ito sa kanila upang may pagkakitaan din sila (I am so thankful that there are opportunities that have opened up for us as 4Ps beneficiaries. That’s why I want to give it back to my fellow 4Ps. I am happy to be able to share what I have learned and other skills with my fellow beneficiaries. Hopefully this will help them to make money as well)”, shared Arlyn.

4Ps is a program of the national government that invests in the health, nutrition and education of poor eligible households. It utilizes the conditional cash transfer scheme that provides cash grants provided that the program conditions are met.

The program also provides its beneficiaries the venue to enhance and acquire new skills and knowledge in responding to their parental roles and responsibilities particularly on health and nutrition, education and psychosocial needs of children; promotion of positive family values; and strengthening marital relationships, and promote involvement, participation, volunteerism, and leadership for strengthened individual and community empowerment, through the Family Development Session.

In April 2019, the program was enacted into law, making it the national poverty reduction strategy of the government. The law defined the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders in ensuring that program beneficiaries live an improved quality of life sustained even beyond the program.

 

Engaging the stakeholders

The local government units play a vital role in the implementation of the program. Aside from assisting its efficient implementation, it is also expected from them to provide or complement programs and services most especially for the exiting 4ps beneficiaries.

In the Municipality of Balete, Aklan, they provided livelihood grant amounting to P5,000 each to 59 Pantawid Pamilya households who graduated from the program.

This assistance is part of the commitment of the LGU to support the exiting beneficiaries during the transition period.

According to the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, exiting program beneficiaries will be organized into an association to facilitate provision of interventions based on their assessments.

Among the recipient of the livelihood assistance is Lindsay Castillo Felipe, 57, of Brgy. Calizo, Balete.

“I am very thankful that my four children have finished college. Two are already working as nurse and teacher, respectively while the other one is a newly graduate of Computer Science. I only have one children studying and is currently enrolled taking up Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education major in English” shared Lindsay.

Aside from the cash grants that they have received as program beneficiaries, she is grateful for the livelihood assistance provide by their municipality. She also said that her children could have not finished their tertiary education without the scholarship under the Expanded Students Grants in Aid for Poverty Alleviation Program implemented by the Commission on Higher Education.

Mary Leah Panganonong, 22, and Marialie Castro, 26, both graduated Cum Laude from West Visayas State University with each earning a degree of Bachelor in Special Education. They are now waiting    to be absorbed     by the Balete Integrated School.

Meanwhile, in Laoang, Northern Samar, the LGU passed a legislation prohibiting lenders/financiers, Pantawid Pamilya, and Social Pension beneficiaries from engaging in cash card pawning, loan collaterals, misbehavior, and false representation. The ordinance was created in response to the increasing cases of cash card pawning in the municipality among 4Ps beneficiaries.

Cash card pawning has been one of the concerns of the 4Ps as this defeats the purpose of the 4Ps providing cash grant to help the beneficiaries meet their basic needs. With the ordinance, it will help ensure proper utilization of cash grants, thereby helping address poverty and hunger in the municipality.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MSWDO), and the Pantawid Pamilya Municipal Links and other agencies, duly authorized by the municipal government, were identified as implementing bodies for the proper enforcement of the Ordinance.

 

Feet and feat: Mangyan parent leader moves mountain for her community

With courage and determination, a Mangyan Parent Leader from Bansud, Oriental Mindoro showed that no mountain is higher than her desire to help her people. For her, poverty cannot dishearten a woman filled with passion and commitment to serve even in the midst of a pandemic.

Haydilyn “Haydi” Dimaano, 37, belongs to the Bangon Mangyan tribe who lives in the mountains of Brgy. Rosacara, Bansud, Oriental Mindoro. Before becoming a Parent Leader, she has been serving the Uyugan Bangon (Group of Bangon Tribe) — a group organized through the Pamayanang Mangyan Ugnayan, Inc. (PMUI). As secretary, Haydi leads different development sessions that aim to empower Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

Even before the pandemic, Haydi is already known in their tribe for being resourceful. She can quickly think of solutions to the challenges her community faces. In September 2019, she initiated the cooperative called Ufudan Mangyan 4Ps (Ufudan is a Buhid word that means group). It was initially formed to address their problem with expensive and low-quality rice. Thus to answer the call, Haydi helped the Mangyans to access good quality and cheaper rice.

Months after, the transaction between the rice supplier and the Mangyans went well. In return, the supplier has offered Haydi`s tribe a discount on every sack of rice her fellow beneficiaries will purchase.

“May ibinigay po sakin na Php 2,000.00, pero sabi ko po, sa grupo ito [money] (They gave me 2,000.00 but I told them this will go to our group)”, shared Haydi. Instead of taking this as an advantage, the Mangyan parent leader has seen this as an opportunity for Ufudan Mangyan 4Ps to generate savings for their group. Haydi informed her fellow beneficiaries about the discount they will get which will directly go to the fund of their group.

“Ngayon po nasa Php 41,000.00 na ‘yung pondo namin. Sabi ko po sa kanila, dapat magkaroon kami ng mapagkakakitaan kahit wala na kami sa 4Ps. Pag-uusapan pa po namin pero balak po naming magtayo ng tindahan para mapalago pa ito(Now our fund is at Php 41,000.00. I told them, we should have a livelihood even if we are no longer in 4Ps. We will talk more about this but we plan to build a store to make it grow)”, she added.

When the pandemic came, this mother of two became an instrument of change and a channel of blessing to the Bangon tribe as well as to the Buhi (tribe that also lives in Bansud).

“Nakita ko po sila [my fellow 4Ps beneficiaries] na labis na naapektuhan ng pandemiya. Madami po ang nawalan ng trabaho. Ipinagbawal po ang pagpunta sa ibang lugar kaya po naapektuhan ang hanapbuhay nila.“ (I saw them [my fellow 4Ps beneficiaries] severely affected by the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs. It was forbidden to go to other places so their livelihood was affected)”, laments Haydi.

Different challenges came along their way that have greatly affected their livelihood and source of income. This includes limitations on mobilization because of the community quarantines and increased transportation costs as protocols in physical distancing have to be followed.

Haydi knew that she must remain steadfast for the tribe. Thus to address these problems, she lobbied and sought help from different partners. One of those who heard her was the Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC). The cooperative has traversed the mountains and brought a rolling store to the Mangyans. “Naging mahal po kasi ang pamasahe pa-bayan. Nasa Php 60.00 po hanggang Php 100.00 balikan. Pang-ulam na po ‘yun sa maghapon. Kaya nakiusap po talaga ako sa kanila na akyatin kami dito”. (The cost of transportation to the town increased from Php60.00 to Php100.00 roundtrip. It could have been money for our viand the whole day. So, I persuaded the Cooperative to climb up to us)”, Haydi added.

Because of Haydi, the rolling store has benefitted not only her fellow IP beneficiaries but the non-IPs and non-beneficiaries as well. Aside from saving the transportation cost going to the town proper, market prices of the goods remained the same.

For Haydi, no initiative is small as long as it is from the heart. She said that everyone can start with baby steps. Those baby steps count as long as you keep on moving forward.

“Likas po sa aming mga Mangyan ang pagiging matulungin. Kahit maliit pong pagtulong, nabibilang. Wala po sa maliit o malaki”. (It is natural for us Mangyans to be helpful. Even a little help, counts. Nothing small or big)”, beaminly shared Haydi.  She believes that compassion and benevolence are innate to everyone. “Ang tao po, likas na matulungin. Iba po kasi ang pakiramdam ng nakakatulong sa kapwa. ‘Yung nakikita ko pong saya sa mga ka-tribo ko, doble po ang sayang naidudulot sa akin. Kumabaga, mas masaya pa po ako sa kanila.” (People are by nature helpful. We feel good if we are able to help. Whenever I see happy faces of my tribe, the happiness is doubled. I am more happier for them), she said.

The 37-year-old Mangyan parent leader also acknowledges that it is not just her who moved the mountains. It is a collective effort of all the people, fellow IP beneficiaries and partners, who want the same for the Mangyans – a community where no one is left behind. She firmly believes that no culture, gender, race nor poverty or even a virus can divide the IPs and non-IPs, rather it unites us.

As of this moment, Haydi’s tribe is planning to officially register the Ufudan Mangayan 4Ps as an organization. She also plans to submit project proposals on livelihood to different government agencies and private organizations. In fact, she will meet her fellow beneficiaries this coming Sunday to convene them and decide on how to grow their funds.

 

Bridging the gaps

The success of the 4Ps is indeed a collective effort not jot of the government but of the private sector, civil society organization and even the community and the program beneficiaries bound by the common goal of alleviating poverty and giving the poor a fighting chance to improve their lives. #