Anyone on earth wants to own a safe home with a happy family inside. But fate never seems to favor everyone.
The Soquino family used to live in a makeshift house made out of anahaw roof and plywood walls before Typhoon Glenda reduced this flimsy abode into rubbles in 2014. Consequently, they received a tent or shelter box from a foreign donor as an aid to the homeless victims of the said typhoon.
This tent turns into a bedroom or a living room where its meager space can hardly accommodate six members of the Soquino family plus their personal belongings. They would complain of the extreme temperature inside: the blistering hotness or the freezing coldness.
Marites Soquino, 42, a solo parent with five sons, is one of the poor residents of Brgy. San Isidro Iraya in Malilipot, Albay. Two of her children in elementary are Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries who regularly receive education and health grants.
Her husband abandoned Soquino and their children in March 2012 whom she assumed to elope with another woman, a punitive incident that still brings back the tears in her eyes.
Though circumstances must have taken away a beautiful life for this woman but her strong character remains.
She barely provides the needs of her family in the absence of a partner who is supposed to share the responsibility of rearing their children.
“Nagtinda ako dati ning kakanin para mataguyod ko ang pamilya ko,” she added.
She takes home at least PhP3,000 a month as a clerk in a direct selling company in Tabaco City, another town next to Malilipot. Her mother taught her to sew clothes and gets an extra profit as a seamstress at home.
Soquino is fortunate to have diligent sons who share household tasks whenever she’s gone for work. She always reminds them: “Kung muya nindo makatapos mageskwela, magtarabangan kita.”
Volunteerism and the classrooms
In 2014, the same year when Typhoon Glenda dismantled the house of Soquino, she was elected by her neighbors to lead the group of volunteers who will manage the construction of additional elementary and high school classrooms in their village. It was an offer Soquino never refused despite of the ordeal she carries.
On top of her regular loads at home, she also allocates a considerable portion of her time and effort as a volunteer. As the head of the group, she is responsible for the overall management of the classroom implementation and construction. Their group complied with all the documents required to avail of the funding and support from the government.
Her dedication for the community was evident. According to Kristine Rozen, the Area Coordinator of the classroom project, Soquino did not miss any trainings and seminars relative to the implementation. It was inevitable that she skipped work just to attend to their classroom project. She was even aware that her take home pay will decrease because of this attrition.
Just like any other government projects, the villagers doubted the completion of their classrooms when its construction was put on hold because of the discrepancy with the documentary requirements submitted by the community in 2015. Residents accused Soquino of corruption because of the extended period of interval between the submission of requirements and downloading of funds that will eventually catapult the start of construction.
But she was unfazed and relentless to keep the spirits of her co-volunteers high despite of the tirades and bashings of their neighbors. She would candidly respond to queries by others to invalidate suspicion and malfeasance. Soquino who claimed to be innocent, kept her calm and remained focused on their primary goal—to erect the additional classrooms.
After the long anticipation in the village, the construction finally began in June 2016 and was finished seven months later, a clear vindication for the wrongfully imputed Soquino.
After all these difficult undertakings, she did not renounce her duty in the village. Until now, Soquino remains a volunteer for an upcoming project, a livelihood training center.
“Very proud po ako na makitang natapos ang aming proyekto. Masaya po ako na nakakatulong sa barangay. Sa ngayon ay ako pa din ay isang volunteer sa amin,” she said.
Life afresh with the neighbors’ aid
Shooting stars do really work for Soquino who aspires to have a safe dwelling when the construction of her house commenced last February 10, 2017 with the support of her neighbors, friends and relatives.
To those people who witnessed how a destitute woman living in a tent worked her fingers to the bone for the common good of the village, they accorded her of the aid she deserves to receive.
According to Soquino, there are certain individuals who donated cash and cement. She also received some construction materials from the barangay council and her neighbors.
Now, she and her children have temporarily used the galvanized metal roofs donated by the church for their tent while their house is undergoing construction.
Moreover, two of the laborers of their classrooms rendered free service during the first two days of her house’s construction. A colleague from another community was also present to assist during the first day of construction while her co-volunteers in Brgy. San Isidro Iraya sponsored the meals and snacks for the laborers.
“Maraming salamat po at nakatayo na po ang anim na poste ng aming bahay. Napaluha ako sa saya dahil ramdam ko ang tulong niyo,” she said.
Though the construction only ensues when she has excess money to purchase cement and pay for the laborers, hope never fizzles for Soquino. She believes that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Sigurado ako na kahit pahinto-hinto ay matatapos din ang pangarap namin na bahay,” she added.
For her, the classrooms and her house undergoing construction symbolize unity. That at a certain moment in her life, the villagers who are fueled with compassion have enliven the bayanihan spirit.
What compels a woman who spent two years of her life living in a tent build classrooms for her village?
According to Soquino: “Bako hadlang ang pagtios para makatabang sa kapwa.”
Her genuine concern and sincere intention for her community have sparked inspiration to others and reciprocated her with a tangible effort to at least uplift her from the needy situation.
About DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS
Kalahi-CIDSS- Kapit- Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) is a DSWD program that seeks to help alleviate poverty through community-driven development (CDD).
The operations of the community-driven development (CDD) approach expanded into a national scale, which was tried and proven effective by DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS. There are 101 poor municipalities in Bicol under its expansion from 2014 to 2019 with a total of grant of Php4,497,448,178.
Community-driven development (CDD) puts power back in the hands of the people by giving them the opportunity to make informed decisions on locally identified options for development and manage resources to implement sub-projects that address needs identified by communities themselves.
Albay has implemented Kalahi-CIDSS in 15 municipalities and one city with a total implementation grant of PhP474,787,911.4 and local counterpart contribution of PhP80,461,154.1 from barangay and municipal local government units (LGUs) to fund community-managed sub-projects.
DSWD had allocated Malilipot with PhP56,782,655.28 with a counterpart from the LGU of PhP562,888.3.
The construction of one (1) unit- two (2) classroom elementary and one (1) unit- one (1) classroom secondary School Building in Barangay San Isidro Iraya serves 1,212 beneficiaries with a total project cost of PhP4,126,249.92
Similarly, the village will have one(1) unit livelihood training center targeted to help 200 household beneficiaries with a total amount of PhP2,493,179.04.
For more details about DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS, follow this link: