Michelle dela Torre, a Pantawid Pamilya parent leader and a KALAHI CIDSS volunteer in Brgy. Rawis, Legazpi City. She is also a beneficiary of the development center that will become a venue for livelihood opportunities that was constructed through KALAHI CIDSS project with a total project cost of Php1.1 million. She was trained to become one of the qualified beneficiaries to train on dressmaking.
Michelle should’ve never cared. She could’ve stayed inside their humble abode and minded her own family. However, she was brought by destiny to serve others.
Michelle dela Torre is one of the few volunteers in Brgy. Rawis, Legazpi City. Unlike other residents, she has actively participated in community activities under government programs.
It all started when she was elected as the Parent Leader (PL) in their sitio for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of DSWD in 2011. Out of gratitude to those who voted for her during the community assembly, she accepted it and admitted that she was clueless about it.
She said that as she became aware of the PL’s roles, she never expected that it will be a difficult task. She could’ve finished off her tagalong pocket book or sit around the corner after a hard day’s work at home.
It was even difficult to convince her husband to support her with this new endeavor. Aside from being a housekeeper, a mother of three and a wife, Michelle got herself involved in meetings and seminars which entailed time apart from her family.
It even took long conversations before she persuaded her husband to support her. After a while, she discovered her purpose and gave her husband the best justification.
“Ang interes ko makatabang. Ang kaogmahan ko yaon sa paguswag kang komunidad, [my interest is to help. My happiness is in the progress of our community]” she explained to him.
Michelle assured him that her family is her top priority. Gradually, her husband learned to understand this.
As a parent leader
Michelle revealed that it was her first time to engage in community work and function as a leader. She has no similar experience except at home. With the capability building support provided by the program, she was able to make use of her full potentials to others. This paved way to completely understand her function as the head of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries.
She explained that her main role was to monitor about 30 beneficiaries in Purok 3. Michelle said that this is a large number for a group but she was able to manage issues specially when it comes to encouraging others to perform their responsibilities as parents.
“Importante and pagururon [Communication is important],”she said.
She developed a more matured way of handling complex situations. She ensured that everyone involved in the problem would get the explanation they deserve. Michelle remained subtle and calm rather than get rough about it.
All of these experiences molded Michelle to become an effective leader at home and in the community.
On the other hand, her family receives Php2,800.00 monthly under the said program. Applying all the things she learned from the regular meetings and trainings, she valued the grant she received from the government by safeguarding her kids’ future through responsible parenting.
A principled procurement volunteer
Michelle thought that being a PL was tough until KALAHI CIDSS project came in 2013. Again, she was elected as the procurement team head through the barangay assembly.
After the consensual decision from its residents to build a livelihood center amounting to Php1.1 million in solving unemployment in Rawis, Michelle came in as a volunteer.
She again admitted that she had no idea how the procurement works but she accepted it wholeheartedly knowing that she will learn about it along the way. DSWD provided the training Michelle needed to perform her task as the procurement officer. With the assistance of DSWD personnel, she became more confident in performing her tasks.
Being the head of the procurement team was more complicated than ever. From the public announcement of invitation to quote or to bid, awarding of contracts, contract implementation to payment to suppliers, contractors and local workers, Michelle should ensure that transparency was observed.
Even the Community Facilitator, Maria Melissa B. Sanchez, said that she did her job very well.
Yet, there were attempts of some suppliers to influence the result of the procurement. However, she remained immovable and scrupulous of her role. She said that this was the most critical part of implementing the project.
“Pinaagi ko sa tamang proseso [I followed the correct procedure],”she added.
One of her co-volunteer Leizle A. Corpuz, described Michelle as friendly, intelligent in handling the team and was focused in attaining the project’s success.
After that incident, she realized that even an ordinary person like her, could actually contribute to the elimination of corruption by doing her role as a volunteer with integrity.
“Maski grabe pagtios, dae yan excuse na magibo ki sala [Being poor does not exempt you from wrongdoings],” she explained.
She also applauded the project because of the opportunity given to local residents in managing their resources in solving poverty issues.
“Gusto ko ang prinsipyo ng KALAHI CIDSS [I like with the principles of KALAHI CIDSS],” she said.
On top of the development center, qualified beneficiaries were provided 5 units of padyak (cycle rickshaw), two non-motorized boats and skills training on dressmaking.
Michelle also trained for 270 hours (almost a month) on dressmaking and a member of the cooperative who will benefit the development center.
Being a mother since 2000, Michelle perfected household management and parenting. But she never imagined that a life full of challenges was just waiting for her outside.
Owning a convenience store and junk shop, Michelle could’ve focused her time on their business but she continued her volunteering up to now.
Though her engagement was fortuitous, she realized that it was more than delivering what was expected.
“Nabuksan ang kaisipan ko na hindi lang dapat nakafocus sa bahay kundi dapat aware ka din sa mga nagyayari sa barangay mo at sa mga proyekto na binibigay sa komunidad [I found out that my focus should not only be at home but also be aware of what’s happening in your community and its projects],”she said.
Michelle said that everybody in the village should participate because they can get free seminars, workshops and avail of services sponsored by the government.
Her concern was not only her family but also the general welfare of the community.
She wanted to be a teacher but cannot afford to be one.
Her father died when she was a sophomore and after graduating high school, she went to Manila and tried different kinds of jobs like becoming a saleslady and even a maid. She went back home after two years and settled in Legazpi City for good. In 1995, she got married.
Being known for being a high school graduate, her in-laws always disproved of her because her husband was a college graduate. Despite of the pains and belittling, Michelle proved her worth.
She gained her confidence through government projects and programs. As a very optimistic woman, she did not give up even during the hardest time of becoming a volunteer. She faced it with might and found solutions to dilemmas.
The most significant change to her was she had gained the trust of others. After all the capability building activities she went through, Michelle increased her knowledge while enjoying the activities with friends and neighbors. Her circle of friends also increased because of these.
Through building her self-worth, she was able to speak with high ranking officials and wealthy individuals that she thought she could never do before.
“Garu man sana ako nagkaugwang college degree [It’s just like having a college degree],”she said and burst into laughter while fighting her tears back.
With this being said, her in-laws became proud of her and even bragged of her contributions in the community. In spite of her accomplishments, Michelle chose to stay humble and lived low-key.
With so much work being done in the community, she envisioned that their development center’s success would solely rely on how the people would manage it.
“Samuya ini kaya may pagmakulog kami digdi [this is ours so we will take good care of it],”she said.
To Michelle, a volunteer is someone who helps the community and expects nothing in return. In the community where teamwork is nurtured, she said that for the project to become successful, everyone should participate and complete their designated tasks. In the end, it is the people in the community that will benefit all the resources from the government if put into good use.
She cared for the general welfare of her neighbors. She went outside to discover the beauty of change in her and in the community. ###nelsonosialjr