Thriving Through Poverty

For poverty-stricken families, survival is a constant battle. Securing the most basic of necessities was a struggle. Most times the choice is survival, thus they sacrifice their ambition and insistent desire for an academic feat. This is not so for the Francisco family. For them, to succumb to poverty is not an option, nor is it an obstacle too daunting in achieving success. Their view and conviction that sacrifices have to be made and forbearance is the key to maintaining order and unity, truly makes the Fransisco family a force to reckon with.


Ligaya and her husband, Relie Rey Francisco, hail from barangay Batu, Allacapan Cagayan. Ligaya serves the community as the “First Kagawad” while selling kakanin on the side. While Relie works as a Farm Labor contractor, a carpenter and basically an all-around go-to guy for anyone who needs menial tasks done. The couple lived in a simple one-room home made with light materials. Their simple home stands on a land owned by Ligaya’s mother. To help them sustain their daily needs the family maintains a backyard garden and livestock of a few heads of pigs and chickens.


Between them are 6 children. Rhea Mae, the eldest, is a fresh graduate of a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. Rhea Mae’s expenses for schooling was shouldered mostly by a scholarship grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) at the Cagayan State University – Carig Campus. She is followed by Lyra, a Valedictorian, an incoming 4th Year college student of Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in Mathematics. Then Leriza, who after sacrificing and waiting for her sister Rhea to finish her degree has taken up and passed the aptitude test for Alternative Learning System (ALS) in secondary education. She (Leriza) is now set to enroll in a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) sponsored skills development program while also setting her eyes on a degree in Agriculture after her sister Lyra graduates. Ayagil, after having finished as Valedictorian is currently a Grade 7 student while Jerry, sixth grade, is a formidable contender in school competitions on poster making. Vivian, the youngest, is an independent 4th grader and consistent top student like her big brother Jerry.



Ligaya was born and raised in Allacapan, Cagayan. A very bright student as attested by a former classmate but was forced to relocate in Manila in order to pursue her education. At 16 years old, she moved to her elder sister’s home to be a nanny while taking up secondary education however, irreconcilable differences as well as maltreatment soon made her pack up and apply to be a househelp in Cubao with the help of a friend. Here, she met Relie, who at the time was new to Manila working for her employer’s construction business. Relie is a native of Masbate, not having pursued secondary education due to poverty, had been doing odd jobs to fend for himself until he was employed and later shipped to Manila for his skill and hardwork that impressed his employer.


Working under the same supervisor, Ligaya and Relie always found themselves the object of other co-worker’s teasing. At first, Relie was hesitant to pursue Ligaya upon learning that she came from further north of Manila but when he was designated to Roxas Capiz for work, the two started exchanging letters and love blossomed from there. As if to support them, fate gave them two thousand pesos (PhP2,00.00) which was enough for the couple to move back to Relie’s hometown in Masbate City and finally getting  married on January 1999.


Living in Masbate turned out to be more difficult for the couple. They settled in the house of Relie’s parents, despite that, everything else had to be paid for. They didn’t own a land to till and safe drinking water had to be purchased from water refilling stations, considering that there were more members of the household besides them and Relie could not find a job that paid more considering his lack of higher education and limited skill. Every day was a constant struggle to just to survive. Because of this, Ligaya urged her husband to move back to Allacapan. She told him that back in her home, they could till lands and grow their own food. Relie relented and before Rhea was born, the couple managed to collect enough money for a one-way ticket to Allacapan.

Relie was more anxious of the transfer than he let on. He is a skilled laborer in carpentry and painting, something he knew that is not in highly demanded in a town that is primarily agricultural but he was determined to prove himself to his in-laws. The first year, he would accompany Ligaya as soon as farm laborers are called for. The first time he attempted to harvest, he cut the palay stalks the wrong way and had been doing so until half the day’s labor had been done and most of their companions had a good laugh at his blunder. Unperturbed, he pushed on, ignoring the cuts, bruises and the pain at being bent the whole time. His first time to try planting haven’t been good either. He was mocked by fellow men because he worked really slow and was always among the women, considering Ligaya kept a closer look at him in order to correct any mistake he made in planting.


Naalala ko pa yung biyenan kong babae, sabi niya, bakit daw ako nakipag-asawa na hindi naman marunong sa gawaing bukid. Pero hindi ko pinansin yon, ang importante sa akin, magagawa kong buhayin ang pamilya ko.” (I remember how my mother-in-law would scold me and tell me that I shouldn’t have gotten married without first learning how to till the land but I did not mind her words a bit. What was important to me then was that I will be able to provide for my family) Relie quips pertaining to how things became more difficult when Rhea was born.


“We had a tiny baby but I could not stop working or else we wouldn’t have any food to eat,” recounts Ligaya. “Rhea was such a cooperative baby that we would bring her to the farm with us. Relie would set up bamboo poles where we can tie a makeshift cradle and umbrella where she would sleep the day away, only waking up to feed. When Rhea started crawling, Relie made a small crib-like cage. There he’d place our equipment to carry to the farm and while were both working, that’s where we kept Rhea.”


By the time Lyra was born, Relie had become so efficient that Ligaya could stay home to take care of the two. In fact, Relie had become so efficient that people started to trust him to organize labor group during planting and harvest seasons. Ligaya, meanwhile, did not relegate herself to just be a stay-home mother and was soon helping out at the Health Center as a Barangay Health Worker shortly after Leriza was born.



Keeping The Children Educated

A new challenge beset the family as soon as the children started going to school. Rhea, at a very young age already showed a strong desire to learn, she refused to get absent even when she had fever. Since the Barangay Health Center was just next to the school, Ligaya was more than happy to serve while having the time to look after the children.

It was no surprise that soon after, Rhea started to exhibit academic excellence obtaining meritorious awards every school year and even finishing primary and secondary education as class Salutatorian. Worry set in after Rhea’s high school graduation. There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to earn a degree in college but the family could not afford it. Still, that did not deter Ligaya in finding ways to give her daughter an opportunity to achieve what she dreamt-of. She started by going to the local government offices of the municipality and then the province. She patiently waited in line, foregoing hunger and thirst, just to have the chance at appearing before the local executives but to no avail, she was either too late or lacked in requirements. The visit to CHED and DepEd was also fruitless.


It came by chance that while Ligaya was doing chores at home, an announcement over the radio invited bright young students with an aptitude at science and technology a chance to avail of a scholarship from DOST. Ligaya was quick to bring Rhea to the agency and had her try out. It was not in vain this time, because Rhea was accepted for the scholarship with the degree in Chemical Engineering.

Not to be upstaged is their daughter, Lyra, who, with the constant guidance of her mother and elder sister resulted in her finishing as class Valedictorian. Finishing as valedictorian gave her an edge and made financial assistance available for her when she started her degree on Secondary Education major in Mathematics.


Leriza too followed in the footsteps of older siblings as she finished primary education as the first honorable mention.


Income from being a farm laborer and barangay worker could not cope with the children’s ballooning needs. With three more added to the brood, Ayagil, Jerry and Vivian, it became clear to the couple to step up with the improvement of their skills while making difficult choices in the process.


For Ligaya, having only finished second year in secondary school, she pushed herself to acquire secondary education by enrolling in ALS and passing the assessment exam soon after. With this, she was elevated from a BHW to the Barangay Nutrition Scholar. However, sacrifices also had to be made. Leriza had to stop secondary school to give way to her older sisters going to college and keep younger siblings in elementary school.


“Naging mahirap talaga sa aming mag-asawa kasi lubos yung panga-ngaral naming sa mga bata na pagbutihin at pahalagahan ang pag-aaral.  Pero walang-wala talaga kami noon kaya kinausap namin ng maayos si Leriza at ipinangakong kapag nakapagtapos na yung panganay ay siya naman ang babalik sa pag-aaral” (The decision was difficult for us because my husband and I instilled upon the children to do good with their studies. But at the same time, we really could not afford to send everybody to school. We had a heart-toheart talk with Leriza and told her that she can go back to school as soon as sister Rhea finished her degree) recalled Nanay Ligaya.


Leriza talks about how it felt the first time her parents talked to her about it: “Nalungkot man ako nung una kasi gusto ko talagang magaral, pero naiintindihan ko naman na minsan kailangang magsakripisyo para sa pamilya, na kailangang may mauna. Naniniwala ako na para din sa amin yun at balang araw ay makakabalik pa ako sa pag-aaral” (I was sad at first because I really wanted to go to school but eventually, I understood that some of us had to sacrifice to let others go first and wait for my turn. I believe that everything was for the good of the family and that someday I could go back to school).


Her time out-of-school didn’t remain idle, she used it to work as a pasta maker in one of the small pasta factories at the town center. Confident that she too would get her chance at a degree in Agriculture, she didn’t hesitate to start planning and saving for it early on.


Ayagil did not waste her sister’s sacrifice. She bested other students both academically and in extra-curricular activities. She is the school representative in the Division and Regional School’s Press Conference and has even retained the position of editor-in-chief before graduating as class Valedictorian.


Jerry is a consistent honor roll student and has also joined competitions on Poster Making for the school. Vivian, young as she is, understands the value of being educated and had made her older siblings her role model, herself also a consistent honor student.


“I know Ligaya as the very bright and very industrious classmate back when we were kids,” relates Engelyne Batugal, the school principal of Binobongan Elementary School. “It’s just so sad that she didn’t have the opportunity to finish a degree, but then again, look at her now, a first Kagawad, with a very supportive husband and mother to 6 outstanding children this school has ever witnessed. She is proof that education is never too late for anyone who has all the fortitude to continue not only for herself, but also for her children.”




It was in 2012 when the Francisco Family was made part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. By then the two elder siblings were already in college while the program monitored the three younger Fransisco. Ligaya attests to the contribution of the program in buffering for the children’s needs.


She cries foul on criticisms that the program has only encouraged laziness and dependence of the program beneficiaries to the cash grants. She shares, “Higit na mas mahalagang kontribusyon ng programa sa aming pamilya ang patuloy na paghahanda at pag-gabay sa amin upang tuluyang mapabuti ang antas ng aming pamumuhay. Sa pamilyang patuloy na nangangarap, hindi sapat ang cash grants, kinakailangan ang patuloy na pagtatrabaho at pagsususmikap upang pagdating ng panahon, makakaya na ang tumayo sa sariling mga paa.” (The most important contribution of the program to our family is in equipping and continuous guidance in order to uplift our living conditions. For families with ambitions, cash grants are not enough, there is a need to work harder so that when the time comes, the family will learn to be self-reliant).


Prior to the program, the family lived with Ligaya’s parents but as the brood started to grow, the couple decided it was time to start their own home. Borrowing a parcel of land from her parents, they established their first home made of light materials. Due also to the close proximity of the school from their house, it was an advantage for the children.


Health problems also plagued the Fransisco children. Due to a very limited diet and lack of money for check-ups and medicines, the children would fall ill on some days and miss their classes. Only through compassion from teachers that the children would undergo special tutorials and sometimes even staying over at the teachers’ just so that the children would be able to catch up on missed lessons.

For Ligaya, the program has helped them get through their dire condition. The cash grants provided for the younger children’s education, sometimes even to the older siblings. Earnings that Relie was able to save became enough to have their roof rebuilt from nipa to galvanized iron. With the advent of Self-Employment Assistant – Kaunlaran, the family was able to start up a small piggery and chicken livestock the earnings of which would primarily go to Rhea’s living expenses in Tuguegarao.


The family development sessions (FDS) helped the couple in maintaining their good marital and family relationship. Aside from lessons on family life, the couple appreciated the tips and advice on income and economic development, disaster management, gender development and in establishing a Bio-Intensive Garden (BIG).


The program was also a gateway for Ligaya to gain the confidence to become a Parent Leader (PL). She confessed that at first, she was hesitant because of her lack of formal schooling but with her regular attendance to FDS, she became more confident in her knowledge and skills in assisting fellow beneficiaries. The establishment of the BIG project provided the parent group with the opportunity to grow vegetables and address hunger as well as malnutrition.


Through the support of the program, the local community and partners from the Department of Agriculture (DA), the parent group was encouraged not only to establish a communal garden but also to start a garden at their own backyards.



A glance at the Fransisco children and a group of bright young faces of 4 girls and 2 boys would be seen but upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that Leriza is in fact female and not male despite her boyish appearance.


“I was in fourth grade when I noticed something in me changed,” she begins. “Not only did I start preferring shorts, pants, jerseys or shirts instead of dresses and blouses, but I would also prefer to play with other boys instead of the girls. It didn’t surprise me when one day, I became attracted to a female classmate.”

Leriza wears her hair short and speaks with a deeper set voice compared to her other sisters. She admits feeling confused with her internal battle at first but was never afraid to show her true feelings to her family. By the time she was 13 and stopped schooling, she had more time to truly understand herself and become comfortable with it.


“I noticed the change even before,” Ligaya recounts with a smile. “Each time I ask the children to pick their clothes, Leriza would always say she would rather prefer clothes like the ones her father wore and her movements were coarse compared to her sisters. In fact, she didn’t even come out to us with it formally, we sort of just realized and that realization came with understanding. I also notice Jerry acting more feminine sometimes but don’t feel at all alarmed by it. They are good children that is all that would make any mother proud and happy.”


When asked what Relie thinks about Leriza’s gender preference he answers, “Hindi naman problema iyon para sa akin. Bilang magulang, tayo lamang ang naatasan upang gabayan ang mga anak natin. Kailangang tanggapin natin na may sari-sariling buhay ang mga anak natin at respetuhin ang kanilang mga desisyon. Kung iyon man ang desisyon ni Leriza o kahit sino pa sa kanila, hindi magbabago na ipinagmamalaki ko sila” (I don’t see it as a problem. As a parent, we are only here to guide our children. We should learn to accept that our children should lead their own lives and respect their decisions. If that is what Leriza or any one of them decides, it does not change the fact that I am proud of them)

Ligaya believes that her, having started out as a homemaker then to a barangay health worker until finally being elected as the first kagawad would inspire other women and mothers to realize that they can do more. For her, empowerment is not only knowing one’s rights and responsibilities but also the determination to take charge of one’s destiny.

Relie supports his wife in every way he can. He is not threatened that his wife has taken a path of public service despite the teasing from other men. He says his children being achievers was more than proof that his wife can handle both the pressures of community service and child rearing.

The couple admits to getting into arguments over household issues and money matters. Relie even admits to drinking alcohol on certain occasions to the annoyance of Ligaya. “I would just let her rant and when she finally stops, I explain and then were okay after that,” he says.

Minsan nakikita naming sila magsagutan” (Sometimes we see them argue) admits Vivian. “Hindi naman sumisigaw si papa, nakikinig lang siya. Tapos kapag tapos na si mama magsalita, bati na ulit sila.” (Papa doesn’t shout back, he listens and then when mama is done talking, they’d be okay again.) Asked with whom the girls usually side with on these occasions, they are quick to pick their mother and start giggling.




The Fransisco family primarily advocates for education. The couple believes that education does not necessarily equate to success, however, they believe that education opens more opportunities and chances for one to succeed.

Setting herself as a good example, Nanay Ligaya who was only able to finish 2nd Year High School because of the need to work at a very young age, did not hesitate to enroll under the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) – even at the age of 34 years. As she shared: “Noong 2014, nung naghanap ang mga taga ALS ng gustong mag-enroll, kinuha ko agad yung opportunity hindi lamang para matuto kundi maging ehemplo sa mga anak ko at iba pang kabataan sa aming barangay. Iba pa din talaga kapag nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral”(Way back in 2014, people from ALS [DepEd] were looking for people who wanted to enroll [in the program]. I took this opportunity not only to learn but to also be a model to my children as well as the youth in the community. It is still better to pursue higher education). With her determination, in the same year, she then passed the ALS Accreditation and Equivalency (ALS A&E) Examination for secondary level.


As early as 2002, Ligaya has been serving the community as a Barangay Health Worker; until she was designated as a Barangay Nutrition Scholar (BNS) from 2009-2013. Feeling the call of social service, she then decided to run as Barangay Councilor during the 2013 Barangay Election – a move positively responded by the community and earning her a seat in local legislation and eventually as the Chairperson for the BLGU’s Committee on Nutrition. Committed to providing service to the community, she has strengthened the Barangay’s Mother Class – a program dedicated to provide parenting guides to mothers, particularly underage or teenage mothers and those with no prior parenting experience. She believes that knowledge is power and women should not shy away when it came to self-determination. She advocates that child-rearing is not the sole responsibility of the mother but both parents in order to ensure a balanced outlook on gender roles.


Further, Nanay Ligaya has strongly advocated for the improvement and construction of their farm to market roads. Her enthusiasm was the fuel to carry out a crucial role in the LGU-MSWDO’s delivery of social services catering Indigenous Peoples, Persons with Disabilities, Senior Citizens and other relative programs such as Supplemental Feeding Program and Disaster-Related Operations, as certified by the Local Government Unit. The chairman of the barangay proudly declares: “You will hardly encounter an IP who was not able to register the birth of her child because Kagawad Ligaya will make sure that births are properly documented. For Ligaya, the feeling of being of help to others is fulfilling and uncomparable. “Iba yung pakiramdam kapag nakakatulong ka sa mga taong nangangailangan. Hindi iyon kayang pantayan ng kahit anong salapi” (Nothing compares to the altruistic feeling of helping another, not even money).



True enough, her noticeable acts earned her a second term as a Kagawad for the Barangay Council during the 2018 Barangay election – posting 1st among all candidates and earning more votes than the elected Barangay Captain.


Meanwhile, Relie has been Nanay Ligaya’s number one supporter and a proud assistant, “Yung mga kailangang gawin sa barangay na hindi ko magawang mag-isa, tulad ng pag-aayos, nandun siya lagi para tulungan ako” (There are responsibilities in the barangay that I cannot do alone, like in keeping things in order, he’s always there to help me out.) says LigayaAs a husband, he reminds her to always look after herself in times he would not be able to support her. “Minsan kasi talagang dahil sa trabaho e nakakalimutan niya or pinapalampas niya yung pagkain or pagpapahinga kaya naman ako laging umaalalay”. (Sometimes, due to her work, she forgets to have a meal or rest that’s why I am always around to assist her)


Relie exhibits compassion and fairness in his dealings with labor-only contracting. He is not deterred by being a “dayo” or foreigner in finally earning the trust and confidence of fellow laborers. On his free time, Relie dedicates it to helping neighbors in keeping the spirit of bayanihan alive. His acquired skill in painting is shared through the beautification projects of the primary school where the children attend. He has likewise kept himself involved in acts of community service as an active officer of the Parents-Teacher Association of the Binubonga Elementary School where both he and Nanay Ligaya was recognized for their valuable contributions in the beautification and repairs of the school.



“Our school buildings look more alive because he offers his services without compensation.” Recounts Engelyne Batugal, “I remember one time, we only realized someone was working to beautify the walls of our school when we stepped out after class only to find him working silently and diligently.” For Relie, it is his way of giving back to the institution that has nurtured the mind and talents of not only his children but all the children that has set foot in its classrooms.



For the children, their plight and seeing their parents strive to support their educational endeavors inspires them to go beyond what is expected of them. As shared by the eldest: Kahit minsan walang wala kami – walang perang papasok sa school at kulang ang kailangan for school requirements, hindi kami nawawalan ng pag-asa. Yung alam lang naming na nandun sila (magulang), mas pinagbubutihan namin”. (Sometimes, our situation becomes so dire and we don’t have enough money for our school requirements but we don’t lose hope. We know that our parents would always support us that’s why we continue to do our best.)



The Francisco children has been very active in various organization and extra-curricular related activities – from being a Supreme Student Government officer, club leader,  school paper Editor-in-Chief to even being an active member of the local Boy/Girl Scout of the Philippines unit. They have inspired students of different ages that even with low resources, anyone can lead and influence change, determination and the will to serve is the utmost requisite.





The Francisco Family’s journey, is a story of inspiration hope and success – illustrating how a family of perseverance and determination could pursue their dreams despite the disadvantage of poverty.


The family has demonstrated positive family relations, discipline, unity, and sacrifice as a drive to triumph over the challenges hurled at them. With the desire to advocate for the Pantawid program and become a living proof that program beneficiaries do not entirely depend on the government subsidy but in fact use it as a window of opportunity to better themselves, the Fransiscos hope that the public will strip off their prejudice against the program.


Gusto naming maintindihan ng nakararami na ang mga Pantawid ay hindi mga tamad, ang mga Pantawid ay hindi walang mga pangarap, lalung-lalo na, ang Pantawid ay umaasa lamang sa bigay ng gobyerno. Tulad ng nakakarami, kami ay may mga pangarap din at ginagawa naming an gaming makakaya sa abot ng aming kakayahan upang ito ay aming maabot.” (We want the public to understand that Pantawid beneficiaries are not lazy, they do not lack ambition and most specially that they are dependent on the government to survive. Like everyone else, we have aspirations and we are doing what we can, in our own way, to achieve it) says Ligaya.


“Basta’t buo ang pamilya at puno ng determinasyon, walang imposible” – The Francisco Family is a story of hope and success worthy of emulation.


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More Aid Pour in as Students Volunteer to Repack Family Food Packs

Tuguegarao City – More aid pour in as students from the Cagayan State University (CSU), University of St. Louis Tuguegarao (USLT) and University of Cagayan Valley (UCV) volunteer to repack locally-purchased goods into family food packs ready for distribution to the affected areas in the region at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office Field Office 02 (DSWD-FO2) warehouse on September 18-19, 2018.

Students at work repacking family food packs for distribution to affected families throughout Region 02.

Taking advantage of the suspension of classes, a total of 39 undergraduate students from the College of Social Work and College of Allied Health and Sciences and 52 graduate students from the College of Law arrived for the undertaking.


Atty. Norman Clarence Lasam, a professor from the CSU College of Law, expressed support by declaring the two days as Law Day where the service rendered by the graduate students will be credited as hours rendered in their practicum, citing the need to produce proficient lawyers with the passion for humanitarian service.


Zeneth Quilenderino, one of the law students who volunteered for the task, said that the service is her way of showing how much she appreciates studying while being subsidized through the people’s levies.


“As scholars of a state-owned university, we are given the opportunity to study through the peoples’ taxes. This (voluntary work) is one of the ways for us to give back to the government and render service to our countrymen,” she added.

Ms. Zeneth Quilenderino (right) shares her passion for volunteerism while doing work in DSWD FO2’s Warehouse.

1,660 Family Food Packs were repacked and immediately delivered to nearby municipalities in Cagayan for distribution to affected families.



A locally produced family food pack containing 6 kilos of rice, 5 cans of sardines and 4 cans of corned beef slightly varies from the food pack delivered by the National Relief Operations Center (NROC) of DSWD Central Office which also contains coffee or cereal drink but still follows the standard price of 350.00 per food pack.


A Family Food Pack should sustain a family of 5 for 2-3 days.

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Serbisyong Ompong

Ni Shekina Glorie Sario

Delibyo kung ituring
Samantalang handa ang lahat sa iyong pagdating
Sa ngalan mong Ompong
Hindi patitinag sa lakas mong angkin

Nakahanda ang lahat mga tao sa baba
Orientasyon na ginawa bago ang pagsalanta
Inisip ang kaligtasan ng mga tao sa bawat munisipyo
Samantalang pamilya ay naiwan sa baryo

Ilang araw ang pagserbisyo
24/7 ang trabaho
Maibigay lang ang serbisyong totoo
Sa bawat katao

Nariyan ang lahat sama sama sa pagtulong sa nangangailan
Iba’t-ibang ahensiya na nagsilbing daan
Sa pagbibigay ng serbisyong makatotohahan

Profiling of evacuees
Packing and distribution of relief goods
24/7 duty at kung ano ano pa
Yakang yaka basta sama sama

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The Path I Chose To Take

The path to success is not made with a golden brick road, nor is it free from any burdens. Its possibilities are as vast as the deep blue ocean giving one the liberty to choose one’s path. However, as endless as the options, the opportunities can be limited to those less fortunate. It is how one overcomes the limitations that finally bring end to the struggle that is fervently sought. This is my story, this is the path I chose to achieve my dreams.

I am Edleen Joy S. Pariñas born to Eddie C. Pariñas and Merlinda S. Pariñas of Andres Bonifacio in the rural town of Diffun, Quirino. First born in a brood of four, I was akin to the difficulties my parents faced in order to support us. My father worked as a driver for commuter vehicles and would do construction on the side while my mother took on different jobs mostly as a sales person.

When I started school, my parents took on more jobs, but still, I would go to school without anything in my pocket or occasionally, five pesos when the earning was good. My classmates teased me for my rundown clothes, meager supplies and paltry food. Those who didn’t were my friends and they were but a few.

With my parents hardwork and support, I joined various extracurricular activities and became an achiever, ultimately finishing primary school as Valedictorian at Diffun West Central School, class of 2010.

I was in secondary school when my family was selected as one of the beneficiaries for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. With the cash grants and my parents’ continuous industry, I was given more opportunities to join in school activities and even ventured into sports while also being crowned winner in a school pageant against other contenders who were college students. During vacation, instead of going out with friends or spending my hours idly, I worked as a sales person or did babysitting jobs. I kept the money I earned  in preparation for the incoming school year for college. Ultimately, I finished secondary school as the class Valedictorian at Quirino State University Laboratory High School.

Despite all my achievements, Tertiary education proved to be a more difficult path. As much as universities offered scholarship grants to poor and deserving students,  the grant only covered as much as the tuition fees. It did not include cost-of-living expenses which were more costly. I also had to consider that my three younger siblings who were also going to school. I knew that even my temporary stint as babysitter would not be enough to support my education.

As fate would have it, our Municipal Link informed us that I was recommended to be a grantee of the Expanded Students Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA). I was more than thrilled to comply with the requirements as well as enrol at Philippine Normal University – North Luzon Campus under the bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

Being away from my family, it was an entirely new experience for me. I was constantly overwhelmed by being homesick and anxiety. To counter this, I joined various extra-curricular activities and mingled with my fellow grantees. The ESGP-PA program even gave me an avenue to express myself during various development conferences and it has helped me gain confidence at public speaking.

The program helped shape who I am today, graduating as Cum Laude and receiving the Saniweng Rondalla Leadership Award. I was even chosen to represent the ESGP-PA graduates of Region 2 during the Ceremonial Graduation held by the DSWD Central Office on March of this year. Having met fellow graduates who, like me, has also waded hardships to arrive at where they are today inspired me to dream bigger and trust in my own abilities.

At present, I teach at Philippine Yuh Chiau School while reviewing for the upcoming Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers. Looking back, I think about the difficulties, the frustrations, the helplessness and poignant memories from my past. I could have given up but didn’t and this is where that path led me. I am treading on a new chapter with new challenges but I am confident that I can make it, this is the path I chose to take.

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Buhay ML (Municipal Link)

ni Shekina Glorie Sario

Ating alamin ang trabahong inihain

Buwis buhay kung ito ay ituring

Lakaran sa init at hampas ng hangin

Makarating lang sa benepisyaryong pamilya na rin ang turing


Andiyan rin ang BUS na hindi tumatakbo

Ngunit ito ay kailangan sa puso ng mga tao

Mapalitan lang at maipabago

Ang datos ng eskwela, lilipatan at kung anu-ano


Hindi rin papipigil ang CVS

Katok dito katok doon

Makarating lang sa Principal ang piraso ng papel

Piraso man na ituring laking tulong naman sa maraming kababayan natin


Oooppps ooppp teka lang

Andito ako! GRS naman

Anuman ang iyong katanungan

Masasagot ko yan basta magtulungan tayo wag tulugan.


Ito ito ito na talaga Case Management ang dapat mauna

Kaso na bitbit nila tayo ang may toka

Huwag mag-alala tutulungan kita

Meeting! meeting! meeting!

Walang katapusan yan FDS, MIAC at MAT panalo tayo diyan

Isabay narin ang FGD tiyak swak na swak ang labanan

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Paglalakbay Tungo Sa Pangarap

Panahon man ay lumipas, ang mga alaala ng nagdaan ay mananatiling malinaw. Hindi hadlang ang kahirapan sa pagkamit ng tagumpay. Ang mga katagang ito ay tunay sa bawat Pilipinong naghihikahos at nag-aasam ng pagbabago’t tagumpay sa pamamagitan ng edukasyon.


Batid kong ang bawat isa ay may kaniya-kaniyang kuwento. Ito ang aking kuwento.


Ako si Maria Jessica O. Villantes ng Cabarroguis, Quirino at pangalawa sa pitong magkakapatid. Musmos pa lamang nang mamulat sa katotohanang hindi marangya ang aming estado sa buhay. Ang aking ama ay isang construction worker at ang aking ina ay masigasig na nag-aalaga sa amin sa aming tahanan.


Sa kabila ng kahirapan pilit kaming pag-aralin ng aming mga magulang. Napakasipag ng aking ama, sapagkat kahit hindi permanente ang napapasukan, hindi niya pinabayaan ang kalidad ng kanyang pagtatrabaho. Madalas, kapag wala pang bagong kontrata, pumapasok siya bilang ekstra sa kung anu anong arawang trabaho upang maitawid ang aming mga pangangailangan.


Sa aking murang edad ay nasaksihan at naramdaman ko ang patuloy na paghihirap ng aking mga magulang. Tandang-tanda ko pa na nakikilaba ang aking ina para sa aming pang-araw-araw kapag malayo ang ang aming ama. Sariwa pa rin ang mga ala-alang laging wala si inay sa bahay dahil lagi siyang pumipila sa Kapitolyo upang makahingi ng kaunting tulong. Sa mga panahong iyon, buhat-buhat ako ng aking ina, sama-sama sa pila, nakikipagsiksikan sa maraming tao, makahingi lamang ng gamot dahil sa ako’y sakitin. Sa edad na pito, ang mga oras na naglalaro ang mga  ka-edad ko ay natuto akong maglilinis ng bakuran ng ibang bahay, mag-igib ng tubig para sa ibang tao, magbebenta ng santol o pastilyas sa mga kaklase o kakilala para sa sampu hanggang dalawampung pisong pambaon naming magkakapatid sa pagpasok. Naririnig ko ang puna ng ibang tao, sapagkat napakarami naming magkakapatid na siyang dahilan ng paghirap ng aming buhay, o ang pagiging mailap ng magandang mapapasukan ng aking ama. Sa paaralan, nahuhuli kami palagi sapagkat madalas ay wala kaming pambayad o kontribusyon sa mga proyekto, minsan ay hindi pa napapayagang makadalo sa gawain ng paaralan at mga pagsusulit.


Gayunpaman, kumuha ako ng inspirasyon sa aking mga magulang. Sa kanilang sipag at pananatiling positibo, hindi ako nangambang mangarap na balang araw ay makakapagtapos ako ng pag-aaral at maibabalik ko sa kanila ng maraming beses ang pagmamahal na ipinamalas sa akin


Noong ako ay nasa ikatlong baitang ng sekundarya, ako ay pinag-aral ng isa sa aming kamag-anak. Siya ang nagbayad sa aking miscellaneous fee at nagbigay ng dalawandaang piso kada linggo pambaon kapalit ng pagsisilbi ko sa kanilang tahanan araw-araw. Naging ganito ang aming kasunduan hanggang sa ako’y nagtapos ng sekundarya ng may mataas na karangalang ipinagmalaki ng aking pamilya at ng pamilyang tumulong sa akin.


Panibagong pagsubok ang pagtungtong ko sa kolehiyo. Naging masigasig ang aking ina upang makahanap kami ng iskolarship mula sa iba’t-ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno. Araw araw ay nagpursige ang aking ina at naghintay sa mga mahabang pila upang magkaroon ng pagkakataon na makapagsumite kami ng mga aplikasyon subalit kami ay nabigo. Gayunpaman, kahit may pag-aalinlangan ay sinubukan kong magpatala sa unibersidad ng aming probinsya. Natanggap ako sa Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) at dahil dito, lalo pang nagpursige ang aking ina upang mahanapan ako ng iskolarship. Sa pagkakataong ito, naipabalita sa amin ng Municipal Link na ako ay napabilang sa Expanded Students Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation o ESGP-PA. Ito na ang nagbigay sa akin ng panibagong pag-asa upang makamit ko ang aking mga pangarap.


Buwan ng Hunyo taong 2014, nagsimula ang buhay ko bilang grantee ng ESGP-PA sa NVSU, Kampus ng Bayombong. Sa unang taon ko sa kolehiyo ay nahirapan ako sapagkat unang pagkakataon ko na mapalayo sa aking mga magulang. Araw araw ay hinanap ko ang makapiling ang aking mga magulang. Nangyayaring hindi agad naibibigay ang tulong na galing sa programa kaya naman naghigpit pa rin kami ng sinturon. Paminsan-minsan ay nangungutang pa ang aking ina sa kung sinu-sino para lamang may maipadala para sa pag-aaral ko. Sa mga panahong iyon, naramdaman ko ang panlulumo sa kahirapan namin. Ginamit ko ito upang hindi ako sumuko sa aking pag-aaral.


Sa halos apat na taong pananatili ko dito sa probinsiya ng Nueva Vizcaya at pagiging grantee, maraming nagbago sa akin. Una, naipaintindi ko sa aking sarili na ang aming natatanggap mula sa gobyerno ay tulong at hindi dapat maging sanhi para kami ay habambuhay na umasa rito. Marami akong nakilala na nagpabaya at nagsasabing kinukulang pa rin ang tinatanggap na tulong sapagkat hindi nila naintindihan na ang layunin lamang ng programa ay ang bigyan ng oportunidad ang mahihirap upang makapagtapos sa pag-aaral. Ang determinasyong magpatuloy at maghanap ng paraan sa mga pagkukulang ay nakasalalay sa sarili.


Pangalawa, ang oportunidad ay hindi lamang sa salapi, kundi sa mga karanasang ibinigay ng programa sa pamamagitan ng mga pagsasanay at mga patimpalak upang mabigyan ng boses ang mga kabataang tulad ko at makapaghikayat ng mga kaibigan at kakilala sa adbokasiya ng edukasyon para sa lahat. Marahil ang kakayahang maging aktibo at mabuo ang tiwala sa sarili ang ilan sa mga magandang naging bunga ng programang ito.


At pangatlo, at habambuhay kong babaunin sa buhay ko ay iyong kakayahang makasalamuha sa iba at makabuo ng isang matibay at magandang samahan. Ito ay patungkol sa relasyon ng isa sa kapwa estudyante at ng estudyante sa kaniyang mga guro. Sa mga pagtitipong hindi ko na mabilang, sa bawat pagpaplano, pagkikita, pakikipagbiruan ay nakabuo ng isang magandang pagkakaibigan. Hindi ko kailanman malilimutan ang mga kapwa ko grantee sa aming pamantasan ganoon din sa kampus ng Bambang, lalong-lalong hindi ko malilimutan ang mga gurong naghatid at nagturo sa amin ng mga kaalaman at mga gurong nakasama namin sa buong programang ito. Ang ilan ay nagsilbing aming scholarship coordinator at mga naging katuwang mula simula hanggang sa aming pagtatapos. Hindi lamang nagsilbing guro na gumabay kundi nagsilbi ring kaibigan na aming natakbuhan at nakisabay sa aming mga halakhakan.


Pangarap kong maging isang batikan na guro ng Filipino at ng iba pang lengwahe. Nais kong makapagpatayo ng isang paaralan para sa mga nais magpakadalubhasa sa Wikang Filipino.

Sa aking  pagtatapos ng aking sanaysay, mayroon akong isang nais ibahagi at linawin. Mahirap mang simulan ang isang bagay, kailangan pa ring magpatuloy hanggang sa matapos. Binigyan tayo ng pantay-pantay na karapatan na makapag-aral kung kaya’t wala kang karapatan na matulog kung hindi ka nag-aaral. Hindi masamang magpursige nang sa ganoon ay may magandang bunga ang tulong na iginawad. Hindi masamang galingan sa mga asignatura, at lalong hindi masama ang mangarap ng matataas na marka at magawaran ng karangalan. Hindi lamang talino at utak ang ginamit upang makamit ang mga ito. Kinakailangan ang determinasyon, kasipagan, pagtitiwala sa sariling kakayahan, suporta ng mga mahal sa buhay at mga kaibigan at pananalig sa Diyos.

Ang mga natutunan, nakilala at karanasan ko ay patuloy na aalalahanin at bibitbitin ko sa susunod pang mga kabanata ng aking buhay.

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Sa Barangay Busilac ng Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya ang Sitio Pacpaco. Ito ay malayo sa kinalalagyan ng centro ng Bayombong, madalas nararating lamang sa paglalakad sapagkat naidurugtong lamang ng mga lubak na daan at makakapal na kakahuyan. Mayroong mga nakatirang katutubong Kalanguya sa komunidad. Natatangi ang kultura ngunit nananatili ang mababang antas ng pag-aaral.

Sa paglalayong mapukaw sa mga katutubo ang kahalagahan ng edukasyon, nagkaroon ng pagpupulong na pinangunahan ng Municipal Action Team (MAT) ng Bayombong sa pakikipagtulungan sa Alternative Learning System (ALS) Coordinator, ALS Teachers at lokal na pamahalaan ng Busilac. Inanyayahan ang mga kabataang napapabilang sa Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program kasama ang kanilang mga magulang sa isang lugar sa sitio.

Naging paksa ng pulong ang kahalagahan ng edukasyon sa bawat batang Pilipino at paghihikayat sa mga kabataan upang manumbalik sa paaralan sa pamamagitan ng iba’t-ibang pamamaraan katulad ng sa ALS. Naroroon ang mga kawani ng DepEd na siyang nagpaliwanag sa programa ng ALS at kung papaano nito matutulungan ang mga batang nagka-edad na upang maipagpatuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral na hindi kailangang makapasok sa pormal na paaralan sakaling sila ay nahihiya na sa mga mas nakababatang kamag-aral.

Nabigyan rin ng pagkakataon ang mga magulang upang maihayag ang kanilang pag-aalinlangan sa pag-aaral at kagustuhang matuto ng “basic literacy” upang makasabay sa pagbabago ng komunidad at pagbukas ng iba pang oportunidad.


Buhat sa gawain, dalawampu’t- isa sa mga kabataan ang nagpakita ng interes sa pagpasok sa ALS, hindi rin nagpahuli ang walong mga magulang na nagnais makapasok sa ALS-Elementary samantalang anim sa ALS-Secondary. Masaya ding nagpahiwa   tig ang siyam na mga  magulang na nais sumailalim sa Basic Literacy Program ng ALS.


###Kwento ni Jane Buligon

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603 Na Mag-Aaral Ng ESGP-PA Nagtapos Sa Kolehiyo

Technical Working Group for the grand graduation ceremonies line up with the graduates

Solano, Nueva Vizcaya – Tinatayang 603 na mag-aaral ng Expanded Students Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) ang dumalo sa ginanap na Regional Grand Ceremonial Graduation upang tanggapin ang kanilang certificate of recognition noong July 12, 2018 sa PTL Resort Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.


Ang seremonya ay ginanap bilang paggunita sa mga estudyante ng ESGP-PA na nakapagtapos sa kolehiyo sa iba’t-ibang mataas na paaralan o State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) na matatagpuan sa buong rehiyon sa pangunguna ng Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), at mga SUCs.


Sa mahigit na 600 na nagtapos, isa ang nakapagtapos ng Magna Cum Laude, 28 ay Cum Laude, may isang With Academic Distinction, lima ang With Merits at dalawang Leadership Awardees sa pagtatapos na may temang “Susi ng Kabataang 4Ps sa mas maunlad na Kinabukasan.”


Dinaluhan ang selebrasyon ng mga guest of honors na sina J. Prospero E. De Vera III, ang OIC-CHED Commissioner, Leonardo Reynoso, OIC-Assistant Secretary (ASEC) ng DSWD, at ang mga pangulo o kinatawan ng bawat SUCs sa rehiyon.

CHED Commissioner J. Prospero E. De Vera graces the occassion with an inspirational message to the graduates

Naging malungkot man ang hindi inaasahang pagpanaw ng Regional Director ng CHED Region 2 na si Dir. Honorato Alzate, naging matagumpay pa rin ang pagganap ng pinakamalaking selebrasyon ng pagtatapos ng programa ng ESGP-PA mula nang ito’y naipatupad taong 2014.


Bunsod ng pagpapatupad ng Republic Act 10687 o ang Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST), naging mas malawak na ang saklaw ng pagbibigay ng mataas na antas ng pag-aaral ng libre para sa mga estudyanteng Pilipino.


Binati naman ni ASEC Reynoso ang mga magulang sa patuloy na pagsuporta nila sa kanilang mga anak upang masigurong sila ay makakapagtapos sa mataas na paaralan. Aniya, “Kinakailangang maibigay niyo rin ng kaparehong determinasyon at pagpupursige ang paghahanap ng trabaho katulad ng iginawad ninyo noong kayo ay nag-aaral, ito ang panibagong hamon sa inyo.”

DSWD ASEC Leonardo Reynoso challenges the graduates to maintain the same determination in entering the labor force as they did as students

In times like this, we as public servants, feel validated and encouraged when we have better educated and highly employable young Filipinos who will continue in our goals to uplift the country… (Sa mga panahong katulad nito, kami na mga serbisyo publiko, nakikita namin ang kaganapan ng aming serbisyo at napapagaan ang aming loob sa tuwing nakikita namin ang mga nakapagtapos at makakapagtrabaho na mga kabataang Pilipino na siyang magtutuloy sa adhikain natin na maiangat ang antas ng kabuhayan sa bansa)” ay siyang nabanggit ni Commissioner De Vera.


Nabigyan din ng pagkakataong magbigay mensahe ang apat sa nga nagtapos ng Cum Laude na sina: Esperanza Labis ng Cagayan State University, Edleen Joy Pariñas ng Philippine Normal University-North Luzon, Maria Jessica Villantes ng Nueva Vizcaya State University, at May Ann Eugenio ng Isabela State University.

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