He has a bucket list but most are left unchecked. He scrolls through it every now and then and wonders when if he will ever put a tick on it. On most, days he is busy making a living, that he forgets about chasing what he scribbled on that list. He is engrossed on the usual noise in a busy street in Baclaran, Manila, selling fried chicken. He is Sotero Banan, a selfless father longing for the day that he will fulfil one of his ultimate to do list, fill up  the bucket of his children, his greatest joy.

He reached rock bottom when the pandemic hit in 2020. He was extremely unprepared that he can’t even put food on the table. As strict locked downs were imposed, he was forced to stop his livelihood and decided to go back to his hometown in Peñablanca, Cagayan. His decision was a mix of emotions; joy as he reunites with his family, uncertainty for not having a fall back, and fear that he may not live up to the expectations of being the head of the family.

His spirit was not trampled; with the little savings at hand, he started a small talipapa venture. He also bought a fishing net as he resides near the Pinacanauan River. He fishes from time to time to augment on their needs. Unfortunately, fate was not in his favor as his business didn’t go well and he was to back to square one.

In 2021, the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 02 (DSWD FO2) provided him an opportunity to revive his fried chicken business. He was granted with Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG) amounting to P15,000 and used it to buy a burner, cooking utensils and raw materials to fabricate a cart for his project.

He had his cart stationed, initially, in Callao proper and eventually transferred at the town proper, earning a gross income of P8,000 a day for selling an average of 300 pieces of chicken. With his persistence to go further, Sotero doubled his efforts and hustled harder. It paid off as he expanded his project. He now owns another branch stationed in Tuguegarao City. His income doubled, as he now sells an average of 700 pieces of chicken with a gross revenue of P17,500 a day.

Out his steady income he was able to purchase a kulong-kulong for his service, freezer, jetmatic water pump and some household appliances. He also renovated their house and they finally have a decent comfort room for his family. He no longer worries during meal time as he can provide enough food for the table. After a tiring day, he looks forward going back home, knowing that he will be able see the joy in faces of his children.

As of the moment, he is aware that he is still far from unlocking his bucket list but with the help of SLP, he is confident that sooner or later he will be able to achieve all of his dreams.

“Akala ko noon ay wala na kaming pag-asa para bumangon ngunit itong programang ito ng DSWD ang talagang nakatulong sa mga katulad ko na muling magsimula upang makabangon sa pagsubok na dala ng pandemya. Iba ang saya na dulot ng alam mong may masasandalan kang gobyerno na handang tumulong sa mga nangangailan. Napakaking tulong ng LAG upang ako ay makarecover muli”, he uttered.

As he enjoys the small wins for today, he remembers how SLP became an instrument for putting back his faith on taking chances. The hope that was once robbed by the pandemic was replaced by a sense of assurance of a better day ahead. He is more than grateful for the opportunity of filling his bucket, one ounce at a time. It may take a while, the process may be slow but the joy is worth everything. ###Written by: Melisen A. Taquiqui/ SLP Social Marketing Officer