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How I Met Two Former Cave Dwellers Who Became Core Shelter Beneficiaries

Mylene Ramos (leftmost), her youngest child (middle) with a DSWD FO2 worker looks on during their time in the cave.


“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” Unknown.

We were making our way back to Tuguegarao City from Manila one chilly night last October when our Officer-In-Charge informed us that we will be making a short stop in the Municipality of Cabarroguis, Quirino. I was ready to put my weary feet on my bed that night but duty called, so we made another stop before finally heading home.

It was about an hour past midnight when we traversed the rustic province of Quirino. It wasn’t all that dim that night but the lights weren’t as bright as it was in the city. We reached our destination, the place where we will be spending the night, at about two in the morning and after doing my normal night rituals, I fell asleep.

I woke up at six, not really enough to recharge my body but I felt fine. We ate fried fish and had some coffee and that was enough to get me going. I remember seeing how the clouds were ready to pour rain that day but luckily for us, it didn’t.

While I thought that reaching the town of Cabarroguis was the deepest we would go on the trip, I was mistaken when I realized that the festivities that we will be gracing was still a few knots away.

Our Officer-In-Charge informed me that the program we will be going to is a core shelter inauguration. The roads we took to get to the place were not yet paved, it was bumpy and I swear our driver might have needed to change tires after completing the trip that we had. But I was eager to see how the core shelter looked and how it could somehow enhance the lives of the people that these houses were given to.

The Arrival

I saw a large smoke as we reached the area and I thought someone might have burned something unnecessarily but I was glad to know that the community in the area were just preparing lunch for the festivities. First thing I did after getting out of the vehicle was to take pictures, first of the core shelter houses, second was the people there and third, the view of the mountains behind the houses. The view was breathtaking indeed. I didn’t know how such a nice place can hide in a little-known place for so long. I might not have been the first to take pictures there but I’m sure glad I took one.

While I was roaming around the community, passing time while waiting for the program to start, I happened upon an unsuspecting couple who were gladly talking to our officer-in-charge. My curious side wanted to get near to get to hear the conversation so of course I did.

The couple were both warm when talking but they were also guarded, given that we were strangers to them. They were talking about how happy they were that they can finally have a dwelling place strong enough to take rains and typhoons. Their youngest child was busy clutching her mother’s left leg while we were talking to them.

Michael and Mylene Ramos as I saw at that time, weren’t different from my previous encounters with beneficiaries of the different programs and services of the agency. They were poor yes but through the assistance that they were getting and also their hard work and dedication, they were finally getting themselves out of the clutches of poverty. Little did I know that there was more to them than meets the eye.

Mr. and Mrs. Ramos have four children ages 18, 16, 10 and six. Michael does fishing and Mylene, corn farming. They said that on good days they would gain about P200. Good enough, they said, to buy their necessities on a daily basis. Again, these information weren’t unusual for remote rural dwelllers.

Time in the Cave

What really got me was when they talked about the time they spent living in a cave near the core shelter area years ago. Mylene said they were forced to vacate their former dwelling place after a storm battered their house to the point where it was uninhabitable anymore. Fearing for their safety as a family, they decided to leave their house and run to a nearby cave.

They brought nothing but themselves. After the storm passed, the couple went back to their wrecked house to see what they can salvage. They got a few wet clothes and a few cooking utensils. Michael said it wasn’t much but it was more than enough. He said the fact that they weren’t hurt was way more important than saving as many house tools as possible.

They started almost from scratch. Michael said doing his job was harder given that he had to walk farther than usual to go fishing. Mylene also had a hard time cooking as woods were scarce in the cave. They also had to deal with making sure their children are taken cared of especially since they had a toddler at the time.

They lost their house and almost all that were in it but what wasn’t lost was their determination to push through, start over and build themselves back up again. They slowly learned to adapt to the place they were staying. They said the nights were lonely because they had no lights, it was cold and they had to deal with the fact that serpents can come and harm them. Couple those with the fact that their children were growing and staying in a cave wasn’t really ideal to their development.

Luckily, the couple were chosen as Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries. They said the help they have been constantly getting has been really helpful and that they were able to stay afloat because of it. Through all of their troubles, they were able to send their children to school because they were determined to make the lives of their children better than theirs.

The family stayed in the cave for three years. An eternity for others, even for the less fortunate ones. But help would come in the form of them becoming core shelter beneficiaries. The couple said that the day they were informed that they would be provided a new home, a real home that is, was one of the best days of their lives. The family didn’t really desire for it to happen, they were happy with what they had, but they were nonetheless thrilled to accept the new house. They thought about their children, not necessarily themselves. Giving their children a decent place to stay in was what they were aiming for.

Fast forward to today and the family is in a better place. I was surprised to hear that the couple said they wouldn’t change anything that happened to them. They said the experiences they had in the cave can’t really be replaced by anything else. However hard and unpleasant it might have been, there really is beauty in the struggle.

The Departure

So I took photos of the houses, of the families, of the program, even the pets roaming around the place. We were there for about two hours but it seemed like it went by faster. Suddenly I didn’t want to leave the place. We had to, of course.

I never wanted to leave them. It felt as though I had more to ask them.

My father died a couple of days after our visit in Quirino. Tragedy can really change your perspective on life. Departing Quirino wasn’t the only sad thing to occur to me, my father departing was even more painful. I didn’t know how to go on, I still don’t after how many months. He has been there, at least the fact that he was alive, for my whole life and now he isn’t anymore. But I always go back to my visit to Quirino and meeting the Ramos Family and I realize that we are more than capable of withstanding tragedies than we’ll ever know. They were determined and they survived. They were strong. Maybe I am too.

“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, people we can’t live without but have to let go.” Nancy Stephan ### By: Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, OIC-Regional Information Officer

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SICAT Confers Graduate Certificates to 145 SLP Skills Training Participants

OIC Lucia S. Alan, SICAT Superintendent Perla V. Lucas (in green), SLP Isabela Provincial Coordinator Maricel Balisi (fourth from right) with graduates.

With the theme “Akmang Kasanayan at Kaalaman Tungo sa Magandang Kinabukasan”, the DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) in partnership with Sourthern Isabela College of Arts and Trades (SICAT) led the conferment rites of SLP Skills Training program participants last February 26, 2018 at Santiago City, Isabela.

The partnership was set to capacitate the 145 program participants from ten municipalities of the province of Isabela to ensure higher productivity and employability on chosen livelihood endeavor.

Program participants proceeded with NC II qualifications including Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Front Officer Services, Bread and Pastry Production, Beauty Care, Galing Masahista, Tailoring, Dressmaking, Electronic Products Asembly and Servicing, RAC Servicing, Computer Systems Servicing, Electrical Installation and Maintenance, Driving and Automotive Servicing NC I.

The participants were also given starter kits that correspond to their qualifications.

The ceremony was graced by the presence of Officer-In-Charge Lucia S. Alan, Provincial Coordinator Maricel T. Balisi, Vocational School Superintendent Perla V. Lucas, Vocational Instruction Supervisor Engr. Dominador D. Dizon, San Mateo MSWDO Emily Carino, SLP Field Project Development Officers and SICAT Faculty.

In her remarks, Guest Speaker DSWD Field Office Officer-In-Charge, Lucia S. Alan challenged the program participants to realize the technical and theoretical skills gained on the learning opportunity. She further emphasized the significance of the proper utilization of the awarded starter kits for their micro-enterpise.

“Tandaan natin, kayo ang bida ng inyong buhay, ang DSWD, TESDA, SICAT at iba pang ahensiya ng gobyerno ay pawang mga “extra” lamang na nagbibigay ng tulong at gabay sainyo”, Ms. Alan said. ### By: Melisen Taquiqui, SLP Social Marketing Officer with a report from: Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, OIC-Regional Information Officer

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DSWD FO2 Holds Adoption Consciousness Month Celebration

ARRS Focal Person Rosario Corpuz (middle) and ARRS staff May Asuncion (right) during their appearance in the Tipon-Tipan sa PIA on February 9, 2018.

The Adoption and Resource Referral Section (ARRS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 02 (DSWD FO2) will hold a series of activities in line with the Adoption Consciousness Month Celebration this February.

The celebration with the theme “Pagmamahal Palaganapin, Legal na Pag-aampon Ating Gawin!” aims to promote legal adoption as a manifestation of unconditional love and care to abandoned, neglected and surrendered children and urges families with children entrusted to them to legalize their adoptions.

The first in the set of activities lined up was an appearance by ARRS Focal Person Ms. Rosario Corpuz and Ms. May Asuncion along with Atty. Noel Mora, member of DSWD FO2’s Regional Child Welfare Specialist Group (RCWSG) in the Tipon-Tipan sa PIA program last February 9, 2018.

In the said program, Ms. Corpuz urged the importance of legal adoption and foster care to nurture a safe environment where children can heal and thrive.

Atty. Mora added that legal adoption is “free, absolute, voluntary and unconditional” to encourage families to follow the process of legal adoption.

A roundtable discussion with representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) will be held on February 14, 2018 at DSWD FO2 to seek support of the agencies in the promotion of legal adoption.

A simultaneous hanging of streamers with the theme of the celebration will also be held on the same day as well as the launching of adoption help desks in SM City Cauayan and SM Center Tuguegarao Downtown on February 14-15, 2018.

The culminating activity of the Adoption Consciousness Month Celebration will be a fun run to be held on March 3, 2018. ### By: Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, OIC-Regional Information Officer

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DSWD FO2 Leads Approval of Cagayan Valley Regional Disaster Response Plan

With the aim of improving efficiency in the delivery of services during disaster response situations, the Cagayan Valley Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CVRDRRMC) steered the approval of the first Cagayan Valley Regional Disaster Response Plan (CVRDRP) on February 2, 2018 at Hotel Carmelita, Tuguegarao City.

The CVRDRP, which was operationalized as a result of the creation of the National Disaster Response Plan (NDRP), is an operational plan that offers well-designed concepts and procedures for all the agencies and networks throughout the region to follow in disaster risk reduction and management.

The CVRDRP has designs that cover three activity phases namely: Pre-Disaster, During Disaster and Post Disaster which enhances the recovery and rehabilitation of affected constituents and improves the effectiveness of agencies that are mandated by the plan to serve affected constituents.

Under the said plan, the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 02 (DSWD FO2) is tasked with the protection of Internally Displaced Population (IDP), Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) and the management of Food and Non-Food Items (FNFI).

Officer-In-Charge, Ms. Lucia S. Alan, represented the office in the signing of the CVRDRP with the concurrence of regional directors and heads from other regional agencies.

Mr. Franco G. Lopez, Social Welfare Officer IV, OIC-Head of DSWD FO2’s Protective Services Unit and overall head of the agency’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Unit, said that the approval of the CVRDRP is another step towards making Cagayan Valley more resilient in dealing with disasters and other natural calamities.

Region 2 people are resilient when it comes to preparedness and even with the effects of disasters, they can immediately (recover) because of their (resilient) attitude and with this plan, we will be able to achieve our goal of zero casualty during disaster situations,” Mr. Lopez added.

Mr. Lopez added that the approval of the plan would not cost additional administrative cost to the agencies involved when doing disaster operations and would in fact lessen overall expenses because the said plan focuses on eliminating duplication of function across agencies and other institutions.

The CVRDRP corresponds with “The Practical Guide for National Crisis Managers” and “The National Crisis Management Core Manual” authorized by Executive Order No. 82 of 2012 issued on September 04, 2012 which confers ideas and rules for national crisis management. ### By: Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, OIC-Regional Information Officer

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447 SLP Skills Training Participants conferred Graduation Certificates


OIC Lucia S. Alan, leftmost, speaks during the conferment of certificates last February 01, 2018 in Isabela School of Arts and Trades in Ilagan City, Isabela.

The Isabela School of Arts and Trades (ISAT) in Ilagan City, Isabela awarded certificate of completion to 447 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries under DSWD FO2’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) last February 01, 2018.

The graduates, who come from 16 municipalities across 3 districts in the Province of Isabela, were presented with their certificates for different competencies by the Officer-In-Charge of DSWD FO2, Ms. Lucia S. Alan, along with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Region II Regional Director, Dante J. Navarro, TESDA Isabela Provincial Director, Romeo O. Talosig, ISAT Vocational School Superintendent, Igmedio S. Casticon and SLP Isabela Provincial Coordinator, Ms. Maricel Balisi.

“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,” Ms. Alan said in quoting William Ernest Henley to challenge the graduates to use what they have learned in school to better their lives and uplift themselves out of poverty.

All the 447 graduates of the said school were also conferred the National Certificate (NC II) by the TESDA which makes them eligible to work for positions that fit their skills.

“You… have been instrumental in molding us to become globally competitive through proper skills training and development,” Melo Jane L. Somera, one of the graduates said of the agency and the school in her speech during the conferment rites.

Ms. Maricel Balisi said that most of the participants who were conferred with certificates have already started working and the awarding serves as a culmination of their journey towards being eligible to work in areas where their skills can be used.

Ms. Balisi added that the trainings conducted by the program enhances the “employability and profitability” of the participants as they are capacitated with skills that can be used for livelihood purposes.

The program was also used to distribute tool kits which the participants can use for their livelihood endeavors. ### By: Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, OIC-Regional Information Officer




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Yield from the Daily Grind

Rufino Buyoccan, Jr. proudly offers his achievements to his mother during his high school graduation.

“Poverty is not a hindrance to achievement” says Rufino Boyuccan Jr., standing unwavering in his threadbare school shirt and black slacks that may have seen better days. It is the day of their recognition, completion of Junior High at Maddela Comprehensive High School in that balmy April morning.

He looks back at his mom, not so far from where he stood and gives her an affectionate smile. “I know how important money is for us. It’s for food, allowance, transportation and for school fees and projects. We need it so that we have all the things we need to study comfortably.”

“I was born to a less fortunate family. My parents worked hard to make ends meet. I started school when I was seven and as early as that, I saw how my parents would work early in the morning till late in the evening just to put food on the table. That’s why I never complained when my mom cannot give me allowance or can’t pay for projects or contributions. That’s why it was okay if I never got any new school supplies at the start of the school year, or if I wear my old uniform even if it is too small for me.”

“I only realized how dire my situation was when I failed to be admitted for third grade due to lacking requirements and maybe even my own dwindling enthusiasm.” There is a sad tone on his voice, “I saw my mom, her face was devastated, like she aged a decade right before my eyes. A whole year of her sacrifice down the drain because of my negligence, and it broke my heart.”

“But what could I do? I was still too young then. I could not work to send myself to school. What I was determined to do was to make sure I will excel in school, but without the means to do it, I am back to just dreaming.” He looks down on his tattered shoes.

“Then someone from our barangay told my parents that we were going to be part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and everything changed. My parents still worked hard from morning till dusk, but compared to then, they would make sure that my school fees were paid on time now. Because of the conditionalities of the program, my mom made sure I would attend my classes and pay attention to my lessons.”

“On my part, there was renewed vigor, I started to look forward to going to school. I knew I had to take advantage of this good fortune. Every year I aimed to climb the ranks and indeed, each year I would get into the top ten of the class. I finished elementary with honors which is why I entered grade 7 at Maddela Comprehensive High School belonging to the Science class. Two years of hard work and I am now finishing Junior High as one of the Top 3 in class” There is an unmistakeable pride in his voice.

“I know I still have a long journey to achieve my dreams, but I am convinced now that I am not alone in making that happen. My advice to those who are in a similar situation would be: never believe that poverty prevents us to succeed, it should be our motivation to overcome it. It’s like how my dad tells us, it’s nobody’s fault to be born poor, but your own fault to die poor!” With that, he bids farewell and walks towards his waiting parent, his dull-colored shirt noticeable amongst the crisp white of his classmates, but his gait exudes confidence and dignity. ###By: Jeanet Antolin-Lozano, Information Officer – Pantawid Pamilya


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SLP FO2 Conducts Shielded Metal Arc Workshop for Pantawid Pamilya Beneficiaries

A workshop for Shielded Metal Arc Welding was launched by the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of DSWD FO2 last April 4, 2016 to 48 out-of-school Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in the Region.

The participants were enrolled to the Cagayan Valley Maritime Studies, Inc., a TESDA accredited school based in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya, where they will need to complete a 34-day training in order to finish the workshop.

The said participants come from the Nueva Vizcaya municipalities of Bayombong, Bambang, Sta. Fe, Quezon, Dupax Del Norte and Dupax Del Sur.

Nueva Vizcaya SLP Provincial Coordinator Jane A. Pumaras facilitated the partnership of the program with the school.

Mr. James Daryll B. Liggayu, SLP Project Development Officer II for Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, said that the training was pushed through because of the overwhelmingly positive response of the participants towards it during the profiling and the identification of the course by TESDA as an in-demand course.

“After their training and assessment with TESDA, they will undergo an on-the-job training on an industry located in Subic which will happen in May,” Mr. Liggayu said. ### Written by Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, Listahanan Information Officer

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Orientation on Employment Facilitation Conducted in Roxas, Isabela

An orientation for employment facilitation was conducted on April 21, 2016 by the Sustainable Livelihood Program of DSWD FO2 to 113 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in the municipality of Roxas, Isabela.

The said orientation, in partnership with Unitas, was done to inform the beneficiaries about job offerings in Magnolia Dressing Plant, which currently have various vacancies related to chicken dressing.

Ms. Cherry Joy C. Molina, Project Development Officer II of the municipality of Roxas, said that various beneficiaries signified their interest to pursue the open positions after the conclusion of the orientation.

“There are interested (beneficiaries) and we will process their referrals for them to be assessed and validated before getting them recommended to take the various vacancies,” Ms. Molina said.

Ms. Molina added that if another partner is willing to go down to their area to offer job openings, another orientation will again be organized. ### Written by Chester Carlo M. Trinidad, Listahanan Information Officer

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