Official Publication of the Philippine Information Agency Bicol Regional Office, in cooperation with the RIAC-REDIRAS - RDC Bicol

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Change Has Come: How an IP family rises from poor, isolated life through DSWD’s Pantawid Program

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug 18 (PIA) -- Over the past years, indigenous people (IP) are often homeless, dispossessed of their lands, or in the center of conflict for access to resources due to their location, or yet, in other cases they struggle to live, the way they wanted. This has been the life cycle of indigenous people from one generation to the other.

But, for the couple Richard and Mercy Susootin, of Kabihug Tribe of Barangay Bakal, Paracale, Camarines Norte, breaking this cycle is within their reach.

The family of Richard and Mercy Susootin
The couple belongs to a total of 6,038 families of IPs in Bicol who went through drastic changes in their lives, overcoming the life of isolation, discrimination, hunger and ignorance through the social services provided by the government under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Indigenous People (MCCT-IP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

At present, a total of 6,038 IP households from the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) in the region are benefitting from MCCT-IP.

Of this, 1,007 are in the province of Albay; 1,884 in Sorsogon; 2,908 in Camarines Sur; and 239 in Camarines Norte.

MCCT-IP is a special project of DSWD which is culturally responsive in improving IPs access to basic social services such as health, nutrition, sanitation and to formal and non-formal education.

 DSWD Bicol regional director Arnel B. Garcia, said MCCT-IP uses the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) strategy that is substantially distinct from the regular program being provided since there is a modification in terms of targeting, process of implementation, package of services, and the IPs are involved in identifying, formulating, and planning development strategies to be employed in the program implementation.

Embracing “genuine change”

Since time immemorial, the group of Mercy lived in separate settlements outside the ancestral domain without security in present dwellings, facing discrimination, and in deep poverty.

According to her, their group is afraid to the people living in the city. “Kadalasan ay pinapalayas kami, sinisipa, pinagtatawanan kaya takot po kami sa mga tao sa centro, [Oftentimes, we were being driven away, kicked out, laughed with, that is why we are afraid to the people living in the city],” she said.

But the implementation of MCCT-IP in 2012 marked the beginning of sensible government undertakings directed toward putting an end to the long history of marginalization and neglect experienced by many indigenous communities in Bicol.

According to Mercy, now they were exposed to various individuals. The Family Development Session (FDS) also made a big contribution to their development.

The FDS is a monthly activity being conducted to beneficiaries of the Program. It is a venue for educational, interpersonal, interactive and adult learning engagement that aims to empower and strengthen the relationship and ties among family members and the community.

“Natutunan ko kung paano makisalamuha sa ibang tao, kung gaano kahalaga ang pag-aaral ng mga bata at ang aming kalusugan. [I was able to learn how to deal with various people, the importance of education and health of my children],” she stated.

Both, the couple also attended sessions which made their relationship better and stronger. “Dati po wala siyang paki-alam sa amin, pero utay-utay po ay nakikita ko na tinutulungan niya ako sa pag-alaga ng mga bata. Nabawasan na din ang pag-aaway namin. [Before, he does not care to us, but little by little, I see him helping me take care of our children. It also minimizes our quarrel],” Mercy said.

 What the cash grant means to them

 Like the regular Pantawid Pamilya, MCCT-IP targeted IP families with children aged 0-18. Identified beneficiaries received a cash assistance of Php500 for health and Php300 for the education of children who are in elementary or Php500 who are in high school for a maximum of three children per family.

However, this cash grants are accompanied with certain conditions.  As beneficiaries, the IPs are made to comply as 85 percent attendance of all children and adults enrolled in school; regular health status monitoring of pregnant and lactating mothers; full immunization for children and pregnant women; deworming for children, pre and post-natal care; should deliver in government birthing facilities; and attendance to family-community development sessions.

For Mercy, her compliance to these conditions subsequently enriched their family’s living. The cash assistance her family received allows them to provide the basic needs of her five kids. “Kung dati po isang beses kami kumakain, minsan kamote lang, ngayon po ay tatlo na. Sobrang laki po na naitulong sa amin ng cash grant, [Before we only eat once a day, sometimes only potato, but now we ate three times. The cash grant is a huge help to us],” she said.

She is now able to buy new clothes, slippers, school supplies and allocate money for the tuition fee of her children.

 Apart from that, her children regularly visit the nearest health center. “Tinuturuan ko na din po sila na maligo araw-araw. Natutunan na din ng mga anak ko na mag toothbrush ng 3 beses sa sarong aldaw, [I teach them to take a bath daily. My children learn to brush their teeth three times a day],” she stated.

Faith and Determination is the Key

Mercy believed that the little income from farming would not suffice the needs of her family. That is why she enrolled in the alternative learning system. “Pangarap ko na magturo. Gusto ko po na may kabihug na nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral at nagtuturo sa tribu namin. Makaktulong din ito sa amin para makahanap ng mas malaking pagkakitaan. [I aimed for a kabihug to finish education and teach the tribe. It would also be helpful to us to look for higher income],” she firmly stated.

For the couple Mercy and Richard, they have already graduated from discrimination and isolation. They have proven that embracing the life introduced to them gave them the courage to pursue their dreams for their children to finish until college. As Mercy said “Proud ako sa mga anak ko kasi determinado sila mag-aral at gagawin namin lahat para maabot ang pangarap nila [I am proud of my children because they are determined to finish their education and we will do everything to achieve their dreams],” she proudly said.

 The couple added that staying positive and faith in God is their shield from all adversities that will come their way. “Kaya po ginagawa namin ang paraan para patuloy kami na magkaroon ng pagkakakitaan dahil ito ang magiging susi para tuloy-tuloy ang pag-unlad namin, para sa pamilya namin at mas makakatulong pa kami sa aming kapwa IP, [That is why are doing everything to continuously earn because it will be the key to improve our living, for our family and to be able to help our co-IPs as well],” Mercy said. (MAL/SAA/GNL-DSWD5/PIA5/Albay)

- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/2571471335753/change-has-come-how-an-ip-family-rises-from-poor-isolated-life-through-dswd-s-pantawid-program#sthash.zSKuJpTo.dpuf

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