“Change is inevitable yet it remains a choice. It is never early, never late, always in perfect timing. It is accompanied with life-altering lessons and challenges for which prayer is the best weapon. It teaches patience, endurance, humility, indomitable spirit and self-motivation to reinforce the stamina in a battle for a place in history.” Stated with passion and conviction, Mrs. Myrna Rupisan Sagaysay’s eyes speak wisdom beyond that of her years. Her smile speak a gentle soul, and her calm demeanor hides the scars of poverty’s thaws.
Her other half, Mr. Felizardo Arimbuyutan Sagaysay exudes a calm and composed stance of someone who has seen and triumphed over various trials life has presented. Together they started off, but just as a simple couple with austere dreams of a small hut, backyard garden, farm animals and enough food to go around. In the coming years, they weaved one dream after another, for education, accomplishment and economic independence.
“Nagrigat apo ti panagbiyag mi, awan nangrugian mi nga agassawa ken nangnangruna awan naturpos mi nga duwa”(Our life started with difficulty, we did not have any properties upon marriage coupled with the fact that both of us did not finish tertiary education), claims Mr. Sagaysay as he started sharing their life changing story. “Nag-enrol nak met ti BS in Education iti kolehiyo ngem kasi ni Apo ket maysa nga semester laeng ti naturpos ku gapu iti kinarigat ti panagbiyag,”(I enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in education, however, I only completed one semester due to the difficulties we faced) he added.
Felizardo sadly reminisced how his dream of entering the teaching profession became unattainable when his father fell ill, became bedridden and (how devastated he felt after the livestock that he raised for his own education was used instead to pay for his father’s burial expenses.) After that, he vowed to himself never to deprive his own children of the opportunity for education someday.
On the other hand, Myrna, who is a native of Diamantina, Aurora, Isabela was sent by her parents to live with her older sister in Kalabaza, Aurora, Isabela. She finished her elementary and secondary education but failed to enter the tertiary level.
It was on a family outing when the two first beheld each other’s gaze which begun the courtship that immediately led to marriage. Felizardo was captivated by Myrna’s long black hair while she was enthralled by his deep searching eyes. After marriage, the two sought a humble home to start raising their family.
“Masaya po ang buhay pagpapamilya namin kaya lang hindi rin po maiaalis na sa bawat paggising sa umaga ay kailangan pang isipin kung saan at papaano mabuhay sa paraang kaya lang naming dalawa. Marangal at hindi ikinakahiya (We have a happy family life, however each morning when we wake up, we still feel troubled by thoughts of how we would be able to provide well for our children) ” described Myrna when asked how they find their married life. Yet the couple would sometimes still end up with petty quarrels.
“Idi baro kam pay lang nga agassawa kenni Myrna, adda met sagpaminsan haan mi pagkinnaawatan, gapu ta gagangay sa nu adda ka ti adjustment period nga kunada ngem haan mi pulos inpakpakita kadagituy annakmi ken haan mi inparikna kadakwada nu agapa kami kenni baket, (As a newly-wed couple, we can’t avoid quarrels about petty stuff. Maybe because were young and still adjusting, but we make it to a point not to show the kids something is amiss)” Felizardo explained
Felizardo’s determination to provide a decent living for his young wife and 2 daughters guided him to offer his services as tenant to a rice field owner and he continues to do so up to this day. The couple set up a house made of bamboo and black canvass, barely enough to keep the family from the harsh elements.
“Sina mama at papa ay palaging masaya, hindi namin sila nakikitaan ng panghihina ng loob. Una naituro nila sa pagkabata namin ay ang pagdarasal at pag-iwas sa pagsasagutan naming magkapatid. Kaya ngayon, bihira kaming magkatampuhan ni ading at halos sa lahat ng oras ay nagtutulungan kami lalo na sa mga aralin namin, (Mama and papa are always happy, we never see them lose hope. They taught us the power of prayer and to avoid misunderstanding between my sister and I. In fact we rarely argue now and help each in each other’s schoolwork)” Pearl Ann gladly shared.
Pearl Ann is the eldest child currently enrolled in Grade 10 at Doña Aurora National High School. At the age of fifteen (15), she knows exactly what she wants to pursue professionally. A voice over the intercom echoes in her mind, which serves to feeds her ambition.“A doctor, yes, I want to become a doctor,” she would repeatedly say to herself, perhaps to reinforce the dream until its fulfilment.
On her way to becoming a doctor, she found herself engaged in various academic endeavours including experimental researches. One such experimental research is a study entitled “Sawdust as Activated Charcoal,” one she is expected to defend later in March 2018 and has the potential to be nominated as an entry to a higher level of study.
Achievement from her previous years were also recognized by her school. One such output was when she was in 9th grade, a research entitled “Effectiveness of Kidney Bean, Peanut and Rice Bran for the faster growth and heavier broiler chicks” as well as a group output she headed on 7th grade entitled “Effectiveness of calamansi extract and orange peel in making air freshener”.
Her merits trace back to her primary school, a consistent academic excellence awardee, troupe leader in Girl Scout from grades four to six and troupe leader in Star Scout from grades one to three. She has received awards in the rigorous Mathematics Teachers Association of the Philippines (MTAP) schools and divisions contest when she was in elementary and took home sixth place out of the the thirty three (33) contestants in the Story Telling competition. When she was in grade six, she represented the school in the district Hekasi quiz bee.
As if academics were not enough to excel in, she even joined poster making contests and tried her hand in the athletic field as both a track-and-field and badminton player. Her consistency in maintaining an average grade of 90% earned her the status of class Salutatorian on her elementary graduation.
Not to be outdone by her older sibling, Mariel Kaye who is now 11 years old, is currently a grade 5 student in Kalabaza Elementary School. She finished day care and kinder as the first honor and was consistently second honor from grades two to four. Every school year, she receives different special awards and citations such as Best in Math, Best in English, Best in Science and other Bests.
She has good command on numbers, regularly attends and receives awards in MTAP. Likewise, her sophisticated grasp of literature and journalism makes her an active participant in campus journalism. Just recently, she participated in the 2017 Summer Camp for Campus Journalism held in Aurora Central School on May 25-27. Further, she was hailed champion in the interschool slogan making contest during the “National Drug Education Program” (NDEP) competition last March 3, 2017 and represented Aurora district in the Area II level held in Benito Soliven, Isabela last March 8, 2017 where she won fourth place.
Furthermore, with the guidance of her family, she is able to perform her duties and responsibilities as a leader in school where she seats as the vice president in the Supreme Pupil Government Organization (SPGO) and as a classroom treasurer. She actively participates in all school activities like Arts Month Celebration, Nutrition Month Celebration and other significant activities of the school.
The family’s main source of income comes from farming. Felizardo is a farmer leader of 15 tobacco farmers tilling around 20 hectares of land in their barangay. He has undergone various trainings and seminars on tobacco farming through the initiative of the Universal Leaf Philippines Inc. located in Reina Mercedes, Isabela for more than 17 years. The company appreciated his sacrifices and good leadership as a farmer and was awarded with a free water pump. In return, he sold his produce to the company for a fair market value. With his extensive knowledge in farming, he was able to negotiate to develop a small agricultural lot on the basis of tenancy. One of the sustainable practices that he adheres to is the use of intercropping to maximize the use of the land he is tilling.
In terms of their social and spiritual involvement, the family’s strong conviction as members of the Iglesia ni Kristo leads them to regularly attend the Thursday and Sunday service. Felizardo is a head deacon, while Myrna is the Acting Head of the Choir together with the girls as choir members.
“Yung patuloy naming pagsamba at walang palyang pagdadasal ang alam namin na bukod tanging nagpapatatag sa amin bilang pamilya. At dahil diyan ay alam po naming walang problema na hindi namin kayang lampasan (Faith and continuous prayer keeps our family strong. It assures us that we will be able to triumph over all trials.” Myrna said of her faith.
“Ti kina agpaysuwan na, ti sikreto ti pamilyak ket panay kararag ken kinnaawatan, pudno nga adda met haan nga pagkinnaawatan ti agassawa ngem insigida mi nga masolbar. Madi mi nga palampasen ti rabii nga haan mi nga pagtinnungtungan. Babaen dayta ket naurnus ti pamilya mi,” shares Felizardo.
Aside from being spiritually active, the family supports and joins activities of Lingap Foundation such as tree planting and roadside cleaning. This is in line with their church’s environmental advocacy.
Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program was introduced to them on 2011, when a local official informed them that they were identified as one of its beneficiaries. At the beginning of the implementation of Pantawid, the couple had reservations about the Conditionalities and how they would be able to comply without necessarily sacrificing their time for their religious obligations. Nonetheless, the couple religiously complied with their obligations which in turn helped Myrna overcome her shyness and serve as a parent leader.
“Hindi ko alam noon ang gagawin kasi nahihiya ako dahil hindi naman ako nakatuntong sa kolehiyo pero malakas naman ang loob ko na makakayanan ko yung pagiging lider dahil naniniwala akong hanggat hindi ko sinusubukan ay hindi ko malalaman at masusukat ang aking kakayahan,(At first, I was hesitant because I did not even go to college but I still pushed myself to be a parent leader, after all, I would never know what I am capable of if I don’t try)” she enthusiastically expressed.
She added that the program has guided her and her family to become “huwaran” not just for their children but to most of their fellow families living in their community. “Unti-unti nila akong nakikilala at dumami rin ang mga naging kaibigan ng pamilya namin kung kaya’t hindi ko rin pinagkakait yung mga kaunting bagay na nalalaman ko. Sa Pantawid, nadevelop ko lalo yung sarili ko sa pamamagitan ng mga Family Development” she said sincerely.
Felizardo recently received a Pre-Employment Assistance Fund amounting to ten thousand (10, 000.00) which he utilized as an additional capital for his tobacco and calamansi farm. During off season, the family depend on their livestock. They have practiced raising chickens and ducks which they usually sell in cases of immediate financial needs. Aside from profits, they can ensure good health for the family and spend lesser than buying commercial meats and vegetables in the market.
The family maintains a communal garden in the school and also a backyard garden. They were also recognized for practicing proper waste management and waste segregation at home which they never fail to share with their fellow beneficiaries.
Aside from being the head of the family, Felizardo fulfills his duties and responsibilities as the president of their association named Kalabaza Farmers’ SLP Association. He admits that though it is difficult to become a leader, he enjoys it as he considers it an inspiring and motivating role to perform. He said that he wants other farmers to be inspired every day and make the best of what they have. Co-members appreciate the efforts of Felizardo and expressed gratefulness with how he leads the group. They were able to learn how to improve themselves in terms of farming skills and managing their resources.
On the other hand, Myrna also actively participates in school activities being consistently elected as classroom officer and once appointed as a PTCA officer. Accordingly, she had gained courage to become a leader of a bigger group. She had inspired her fellow parents by sharing their stories and they managed to improve.
When asked how the family manages their resources, Felizardo explains that they prioritize their expenses and avoid luxurious things. The family maintains a journal of expenses of their cash grants and other income so as to monitor how they spend their money. If they notice that they have overspent on one thing, they try to balance it and adjust their other expenditures in the succeeding days of which they learned from FDS and developed at home. Their children also save from their allowances which they usually spend during Christmas seasons.
What contributes to the family’s significance to other people is that both of them never get tired of sharing what they learn and the little that they have. The couple actively participated in significant activities of the Local Government Unit and Government agencies such as “ International Women’s day Celebration”, “Fire Prevention Education Campaign”, “Oplan Double Barrel”, “Orientation on the Municipal Ordinances and Duterte Administration”, “Kaya ko ang Pagbabago, Pagpupursigeng Pamilyang Pilipino”, “Brigada Eskwela,” “CSO Led Forum”, “Anti-Dengue campaign” and “Disaster Preparedness Campaign”.
Being a member of the Kababaihan, Myrna dedicates herself in helping with their activities and some other activities in the barangay that advocates women empowerment.
“Their family is very dependable,” describes their barangay captain Roger P. Alejandro. “Not only are the couple an example of a good marital relationship but also the children as excellent students, they even best some of those who are better off financially.”
In terms of the family’s compliance to the program conditionality, it was significantly observed that they have not violated any. In fact, their children are always receiving awards of Perfect Attendance in every quarter. Aling Myrna after attending FDS, also shares what she learns to her husband and children if applicable. She shares even to her siblings who are not Pantawid beneficiaries. Being a parent leader she continuously advocates the program.
“Hindi ko man natupad ang sarili kong pangarap, gagawin ko ang lahat upang matulungan kong tuparin ang pangarap ng aking mga anak bilang isang Padre de Pamilya. (I may not have achieved my on dreams but I will do everything to help my children achieve their dreams being the head of the family)” Felizardo laments.
The Sagaysay family has chosen to change their lives. They were able to discern how they would manage and survive in the best way they can. They are one of the living witnesses that the chain of poverty is not intergenerational.
When asked how she could inspire her fellow beneficiaries, Myrna simply says, “Matuto tayong mangarap at magsumikap tungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pangarap dahil naniniwala akong ang pagbabago ay walang pinipiling tao at panahon kundi nasa tao ang mag-isip kung kailan niya ito sisimulan. Habang umaagapay sa atin ang Pantawid Pamilya, magsikap tayo at magpasalamat sa tulong na ating natatanggap. Gamitin natin ito ng wasto. (We should learn to dream while doing our best to realize it because I believe that change does not choose the person, it is the person who begins the change. We should take advantage of the opportunity that Pantawid Pamilya provides. Let us use this opportunity wisely”
### Story By Aileen L. Guzman