Walang Forever –we all have heard of this famous Philippine millennial phrase that literally translates to nothing lasts forever. It has been uttered probably a million times by millions of Filipinos. It was heard from the mouth of the rich and famous people, the poor and poorest of the poor, the elders and the children. In many occasions, it has been used as a mockery or a joke to certain unfortunate situations.
But one 4Ps beneficiary took this phrase very seriously and used it as her daily reminder of life.
This story tells how Milagros Barcelona, a mother of 5 from San Roque, Zamboanga City, changed the seemingly negative phrase “Walang Forever” to her favor as a beneficiary of the country’s conditional cash transfer program, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
WORDS FROM CHILDREN HIT DIFFERENTLY
Almost every household-beneficiary of the 4Ps has a fair share of story about struggle and adversities in life. Many could surely tell someone a story about how they strive to go to school or how they cannot pay the bills in time due to low or no income at all. These are common scenarios for a typical 4Ps household.
Despite living in an urban area that has very easy access to social services, life was still tough for the Barcelona family. With both household heads having no job, how could they afford to supply the needs of their growing family that then had 3 children back in 2009? How could they afford the schooling of their children? They could not even provide a decent meal for the entire family, to say the least.
As difficult as their situation back then, Milagros knew that they had screwed their children’s welfare. And as a mother, it was very painful for her to know that they offered this kind of life to their children. But you know what they say about problems in life, when it rains, it pours.
Not only that they have not a single centavo in their pockets and empty stomach, the hardest part was that she had to hear it straight from her son’s mouth.
“Porque ba ustedes ya casa temprano? Kame el ta sufri ahora. Con ambre ya yo. (Why did you marry at such a young age? We are the ones who suffer now. I am famished,)” says her son in a casual yet weighty tone.
Though it was articulated in a casual manner, a part of Milagros’ heart seemed to have been poked by a needle. It was subtle yet it hit differently. It went straight to the core of their being parents.
She knew then that their life must be changed.
POSITIVE OUTLOOK REAPS POSITIVE OUTCOME
The words of her son were engraved in Milagros’ mind like a daily note to continuously strive and enhance their way of life. It served as a driving force for her and her husband to hustle and wrestle with opportunities and win.
Milagros made sure that those words will never be uttered again by her children. So, with a renewed positive outlook in life and even stronger driving force, she took it as a challenge to work harder, taking whatever chances that came her way, every opportunity to make a living was grabbed like it is the best opportunity that they have got.
Edgardo, her husband, despite losing his main source of revenue as a tricycle driver, unlocked a completely different set of skills in construction.
It is as if they have been reborn to gain what they deserve.
And when you help yourself, you will be able to see things in positive point of view. It is when you will be able to see the opportunities that have always been there waiting for you to grab it.
In 2011, Barcelona family became one of the beneficiaries of the 4Ps in Barangay San Roque. Milagros was told by a neighbor that her name was in the list of new beneficiaries of the program. Though skeptical at first, she was delighted when she personally read her name on it.
“Ta acorda yo dol tan lutao yo ta camina na camino. Ya puede yo habla na mi cuerpo cay answered prayer ya gaha este. (I recall it was as if I was floating as a walked down the street. I told myself that this could be an answered prayer,)” Milagros shared as she recounts when she knew about them being a member of 4Ps.
Many years have passed and they were able to stand on their feet with strong foundation from the program.
When they first started in 4Ps, they were at SURVIVAL level of well-being, the lowest among the levels. During the 2015 Social Welfare and Development Indicator (SWDI) assessment, it was found out that they improved to SUBSISTENCE level. In 2019, the Barcelona family was declared as one of the successful SELF-SUFFICIENT families produced by 4Ps.
They now have a stable, small sari-sari store which serves as the main means of support of the family, they were also able to acquire 2 tricycle units that they offer for rent. As of today, they run a small printing services shop with 2 computer units as augmentation to their income.
Their house, which used to be made of bamboo, is now built from concrete and sturdy materials and their area is already flood-free. And though not yet fully paid, they already posted payment for their lot which is way better than their situation before.
THE CHILDREN ARE THEIR TRUE SUCCESS
More than the financial stability that the Barcelona family now enjoys, what they consider their true success is the achievements of their children. If not for them, their strength, resiliency, determination, and these milestones would not be possible.
Inspired by the 4Ps field staff that monitored and guided the progress of the Barcelona family for years, Chandhaya, the eldest child, saw the beauty of the field of social work. She aspired to do the same thing that contributed to the success of her family. Chandhaya decided to study Social Work and is already a Registered Social Worker today. She currently serves as a Social Welfare Assistant in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
When asked about why she pursued Social Work, she said that this is her way to give back to the community for all of the beautiful things that she received from the government and the people.
Rainjain, the second child, was also able to finish a college degree in Marine Engineering. He is now waiting to be called for his apprenticeship.
Shrijivan, the third child, is in Grade 12 –Senior High School and plans to take up the same course as his brother did.
Shrigijon and Shrijusen are in Grade 9 and Grade 2, respectively.
“Si hinde kame miyembro del 4Ps, baka puede man entra escuela mi maga anak pero sigurao lleno kame de debe ahora. (If we were not beneficiaries of the 4Ps program, we may have sent our children to school but surely we will be full of debt by now),” says Milagros.
MORE THAN JUST GRANTS
Milagros admits that she has gained more from the program than just financial grants. In one of the Family Development Sessions (FDS) that she attended, she recalls a particular discussion that struck to her core as a parent.
It was about parenting and children’s rights. The kind of discipline that she enforced to her children back when she still knows little was very traditional. It was not until she learned in FDS that there are many other and more effective ways to discipline a child without using violence, deprivation, and fear.
In the past, she said, she would lock her children in chicken’s cage or sometimes she would beat them. And she feels embarrassed recounting it now. It was a good thing that 4Ps has an avenue for growth for beneficiaries/grantees to help them become better parents to their children.
Milagros noticed a behavioral change in the way she handles her children and her family. And for her, it is something that she will bring on and live by as she exits from the program.
Barcelona family is one of the household-beneficiaries that will graduate from the program on June 10, 2021. Milagros says they are ready and grateful that they have experienced being part of a program that changes lives of the people.
“Hinde yo forever na Pantawid, sabe yo se. Life changing gayot el programa. Si nohay ese, no sabe yo si puede man enjoy mi maga anak el cosa sila tan enjoy ahora (I know that I will not stay in 4Ps forever. 4Ps is life changing. Without it, I don’t know if my children will be able to enjoy what they enjoy right now,) Milagros added.
They say that nothing in this world stays forever and so we have to seize every opportunity and make the most out of it. Yes, walang forever may be true. But if you work hard, nurture the good things that you currently have, you will surely reap the fruits of labor in the future.
The Barcelona Family (Self-Sufficient family from Zamboanga City)