Quezon City – Marecar Gayamo, former beneficiary reminisced how the Program influenced her to fulfill her dreams.

She was only 20 when her husband, Oliver got married. Because neither of them finished high school, it was difficult for them to find a stable job that would provide enough financial support for their four children. Her husband is a commission-based tricycle driver. Oliver must pay a fixed Php 350.00 daily boundary (rent) for using the vehicle. “Minsan Php 50.00 na lang po ang naiuuwi niya (Often, he only takes home Php 50.00),” she said.

A test of bravery and perseverance

The mother of four recalls how difficult it was for them. On occasion, they only have rice topped with soy sauce and cooking oil on the table. “Hindi ko po lubos maisip kung paano namin nairaraos noon. Man-Toy (mantika at toyo) nga ang favorite ng mga anak ko. Saka tubig at asin na ulam (Our situation back then was unimaginable and wondered how we were able to get by.  Lard and soy sauce is my children’s favorite. We also had viand made up of water and salt)”, Marecar jokingly said.

In 2011, the family of Marecar became a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Aside from the conditional cash grants, the Program provides different activities and interventions to the beneficiaries. “Noong benepisyaryo pa po kami, may mga pagkakataon na pinanghihinaan ako [ng loob]. Pero kapag umattend po ako ng Family Development Sessions (FDS), nagpapalakas sakin [ito]. Kahit sa asawa ko po malaking tulong ang bawat topic. Napakahalaga ng FDS (When we were still beneficiaries, there were times that my self-esteem is low. However, every time I attended FDS, I feel energized. Same is true with my husband. He finds every topic as a big help. For us, FDS is very important)”.

According to her, the FDS has greatly stirred what her heart desires — finish school, and be like the ML who handles them. “Sa kaka-FDS ko po, halos mga topic e women empowerment. Kaysa magmukmok at intindihin ko ang problema, kailangang kumilos. (As I always attend FDS, where most of the topics are women empowerment, instead of over thinking about the problem, I need to take action). Having those thoughts in mind made her realized the need to create the door to possibilities.

Creating a path to a better life

Marecar was convinced that education can change her family’s fortunes. Even though she was unsure how they would pay for her education, she went to college. “13 years ako nahinto sa pag-aaral [at] 30 years old po ako nag-aral ng college. Noong nagkapera po, pinambayad ko po agad sa tuition. Nag-enroll ako sa BS Social Work (I stopped studying for 13 years. I went back to college when I was 30 years old. When I had the money, I immediately paid for my tuition. I enrolled in the BS Social Work program),” she said.  However, the couple knows that they must not rely on what they receive from the Program.

Marecar and her husband have doubled their efforts to further support what their family needs. “Nakiki-boundary po ang asawa ko. Alas-tres [ng umaga] umaalis na po s’ya, tapos ala onse na umuuwi [ng gabi]. Naglalabada naman po ako sa classmate ko kapag tapos na ang klase. Kahit naka-uniform po ako. [‘Yung] mga project at contribution sa school minsan sinasagot na ng kaklase ko. Utusan ng mga lakad-lakad. Pasa-buy.” (My husband leaves for work at 3 AM as a tricycle driver and goes home at 11 PM. I also do my classmate’s laundry after class even while in my uniform. My classmates sometimes took care of school projects and contributions. Aside from doing laundry, I also accept any job such as doing errands for them).

It was difficult for her to keep up with her dreams, but Marecar was determined to complete her education. In 2015, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Social Work and passed the licensure exam. “Napatunayan ko po na ang pag-aaral ay hindi binabase sa edad ng tao. Kahit 35 na po ako grumaduate…kung may pangarap ka, kikilos ka (I have proven that having a degree is not dependent on a person’s age. I was 35 years old when I graduated. .. If you have a dream, act on it,’’ she said.

In the same year, she decided to join the government after passing the Social Work licensure examination.  Marecar works as a Municipal Link (Project Development Officer II) in the Municipal Operations Office of Bataraza, Palawan, for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).  Her responsibilities as a Municipal Link (ML) include coordinating with key partner stakeholders to ensure efficient, relevant, and timely delivery of services to Bataraza’s 800 household beneficiaries. She is also in charge of ensuring that the households follow the Program’s requirements. Furthermore, as ML, Marecar must ensure that appropriate interventions are provided to households in order to improve their well-being.

When the pandemic struck, Marecar felt compelled to go above and beyond her responsibilities as an ML.

“Ang dami pong nawalan ng trabaho. Lalo na sa mga benepisyaryo po natin. Madami po ang nangangamba kung paano na sila. Sinimulan ko po ang pagkilos, sumunod po sila. Kahit natatakot, kailangan kumilos” (“Many have lost their jobs, especially among our beneficiaries. They were worried about their situations. I took the lead and they cooperated. We needed to act no matter what ),” she added. For the 40-year old Social Worker, helping the beneficiaries of the Program is more than a job she needs to perform every day. Marecar was determined to continue her work regardless of the pandemic because she wants to give back to her community.

Filled with passion, Marecar proved that the virus cannot stop a heart that has committed to serve. Instead, it fueled her desire to give back to her community even more. Even in the midst of the pandemic, she has continued to serve the people with a brave heart.

Marecar is currently supporting her younger sister’s education, who is in her final year of college and pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Education. She also volunteers at church every Saturday and does charity work in her spare time.