Laurente is utterly poor and several persons can attest to this.
Teresita lived through the pains of indigence. She lived in a community with profuse natural endowments but few opportunities. As a fish vendor, she even traveled to other villages to increase her sales. She usually carried a bucketful of fish and sometimes traversed a slick and muddy foot path during the rainy days which turned out to be a non-profitable trade for the drenched seller.
“Dati po, naga buy and sell po ako. Sus na sakit, mam. May surusuknong ako na balde. Pag mahalnas, nadudulas po ako. Tirigaya! Purot ko naman su mga sira. Ilaog ko naman sa balde [I used to buy and sell. Gosh, it was difficult! I am carrying a pail. The path was slippery, I slipped and stumbled. I just collected the fish and returned to its container],” she explained in zeal while she gestured her mishap.
Teresita also added that it embarrassed her to push for a sale with the mud-spattered fish on hand. With this, she only got a very low profit out of the fish supplies she hauled.
The bounty of fish in their coastal community did not guarantee Teresita and her fellow fishermen a dependable livelihood for their families. Even its transportation to town along with agricultural goods is considered to be a constraint for their business because they lack an access road to the town proper. Some of the buyers who came from town even haggled for a lower price because of the distance and travel time.
In the same neighborhood, another woman commiserated Teresita who likely relates to her predicaments. Mary Jane is one of those few women in their community who went to high school back in 1990’s. She got herself a boarding house near San Pascual National High School to pursue her formal education. For four years, she was accustomed to going on foot for one and a half hours from their village to town. She departed home on Sundays and returned Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with her family.
Mary Jane said they would seek shorter routes to cut the travel time despite of unforeseen harm along the way. Consequently, she and her friends would deal with bothersome cows as they scurried and crossed the pasture to hardly avoid them. However, there were instances they could no longer flee when they already provoked the cattle.
“Tiglalamag kami kang baka [Cows run after us],” she added.
Mary Jane vividly reminisced her brief encounters with furious cows that became part of her youth until she got a hold of her diploma in 1992. Contrary to the popular belief of their neighbors with low regard on education, her parents sent her to school to finish her studies.
She claimed that most of the residents in their community cannot afford to send their kids to school. Most graduates of elementary no longer step high school because it is expensive and distant from their village. Parents would make an excuse that their income is only enough to feed their families in which Teresita, an elementary graduate, could also affirm.
Another mother asserted this to be true. Gregoria had the same situation with Mary Jane. She admitted that it was a great struggle to complete her studies.
Similarly, Elizabeth also recounted how her fellow mothers would go a long way to reach the rural health center in town. She felt the troubles of pregnant women who also took the same route on foot just to avail of medical services they need.
Being a community health worker since 2009, she said that they lack the facility to accommodate the people in their small and dilapidated health center. Only ten people can come in and the rest of them would wait outside.
“Pagkasadit-sadit kang samuyang health center. Masikip talaga siya [Our health center is very small. It’s really crowded,” she described.
When the opportunity came to their village, the people never wasted the chance.
The stories of Teresita, Mary Jane, Gregoria and Elizabeth propelled them to become even more participative and active to attain prosperity for their families and community.
Luckily, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of DSWD came in 2009 investing in the health and education of poor households, particularly of children aged 0-18 years old that provides cash grants to compliant beneficiaries.
Teresita and Gregoria were one of those qualified beneficiaries molded by Pantawid Pamilya to become responsible parents. They have highly recognized the value of health care for their kids.
“Naaraman ko po kung malnourished ang aki ko ta regular kami magpacheckup [I am aware if my child is malnourished because we go to regular checkups],” Teresita said.
Aside from the cash grant that augmented their children’s allowances to sustain their daily needs and keep them in school, Teresita and Gregoria together with other beneficiaries attended monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS) where educational, interpersonal, interactive and adult learning engagement are discussed to empower and strengthen the relationship and ties among family members and the community.
“Grabe samuya ang tabang ki 4Ps (referring to Pantawid Pamilya). Natugunan ang sa health, edukasyon asin dakol nabago sa sakuyang sa sadiri dahil sa FDS [Pantawid Pamilya greatly helped us. Health and educational needs are met and I changed myself in many ways because of FDS],” Gregoria said.
She also added that she was able to buy decent clothing, school supplies and black shoes for her children replacing the tattered and old ones.
Moreover, social infrastructures were constructed with the funding support from DSWD and other development partners.
The four women were some of the volunteers under the community implementation team of KALAHI CIDSS, a successful poverty-reduction project of DSWD using citizen participation.
Through the PODER 5, a Spanish-funded KALAHI CIDSS project responding to health needs, they were able to fully implement and complete the construction of their new health center in 2010. Likewise, the construction of the concrete pathway in 2012 under PODER 7 was realized through the concerted efforts of the local residents, barangay council and volunteers.
Moreover, the construction of their 410 meter-long concrete pathway implemented through Payapa at Masaganag Pamayanan (PAMANA), another KALAHI CIDSS modality funded by Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP), responded to their hopes of an access road. At present, an additional 210-meter concrete pathway will be constructed under the same modality.
Thus, travel time is now reduced into thirty minutes by riding motorbikes or tricycles.
Fishermen can now sell their products in the market for a more competitive price than before. Agricultural products are hauled easily to the public market and other barangays. More children are attending high school and there is ease of commuting pregnant and sick people who need special medical care.
The community heroes
“Dae matatapos ang proyekto kung dae kami nagkasararo [The project will not be completed unless we come together],” Mary Jane revealed.
The implementation and construction of the concrete pathway and health center was entrusted to its residents under the care of its volunteers.
Being elected as one of the volunteers to take the lead, Teresita, Mary Jane, Gregoria and Elizabeth never failed their neighbors. They never rejected the offer knowing that they will not receive any additional income except that they will leave a mark of change in their community.
“Magadan man ako, marurumduman ninda [her children], si mama palan nagtabang diyan [Even if I die, they will remember that it’s their mother who helped out],” Gregoria said.
Aside from bulky paper works performed by the volunteers for their compliance to the project completion, Gregoria and her children rendered a four-day free labor service during the construction of their pathway in 2013.
“Ining pathway, kung maagi ako, marumduman ko na saro ako jan sa nagtabang, pati mga aki ko [If walk on our pathway, I will remember my children and I extended our assistance]” she added.
On top of being a mother, they devoted a great amount of their time in trainings and seminars outside their community to get acquainted on how to run and implement a community infrastructure. Tired but they never wavered.
“Ginibo mi ang tama kahit anong nagabot na problema para ingatan ang tiwala ning mga tawo [We’ve done what is right despite of problems to keep the people’s trust],” Elizabeth said.
She was amused to learn that one cubic meter of sand is equal to around 56 regular [biscuit] cans. This simple computation made her more knowledgeable in ensuring the quality of their project.
On the other hand, there were few inevitable setbacks but it did not dispirit Gregoria. One of which was to deal with some stubborn people.
“Natuto ako magdara ning tawo na may iba-ibang attitude [I learned to handle people with different attitudes],” she said.
According to Elizabeth, they focused not on the problems but they looked on the brighter side of life. They sought for solutions to resolve problems that may delay the implementation of their project.
Teresita Talisic, Mary Jane Bani, Gregoria Rudina and Elizabeth Marquez are the few of those committed volunteers who served the people of and sacrificed for Laurente.
Barangay Laurente is one of the 22 barangays of San Pascual, Masbate considered as poor. At present, Laurente is home to 420 households. Based on the 2011 Listahan data, there are 276 poor households who are recipients of Pantawid Pamilya and there are now 55 beneficiaries of Sustainable Livelihood Program.
Now, they can take full advantage of their natural resources with the improved access to basic social services.
With the improved access road, Teresita can now sell her fish riding in a motorcycle while Mary Jane’s children can just commute in a tricycle to San Pascual National High School. Elizabeth’s grandchildren can also avail of the basic health care services in a more conducive health facility.
“Kayang-kaya na ning Brgy. Laurente na magtindog bilang sarong komunidad para ipadagos ang paguswag [Brgy. Laurente can now stand as a community to continue our development],” Mary Jane said in confidence.