(A 4Ps Beneficiary Testimonial)

In the humble municipality of San Pablo in Zamboanga Del Sur province, we have met CRISTITA VILLARICO GEMIDA, a 42-year-ol mother of two and a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Her husband, Roque C. Gemida, was originally from Cebu City. He moved to the province to look for a simpler and better life yet what he found was love.

Cristita and Roque built they family in the province where farming was the main source of livelihood. Since Roque was from the city, it is understandable that he knew nothing about farming. Cristita taught him everything she knew about farming which eventually supported their growing family.

When the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program was implemented in 2009, Gemida family were not able to be included in the list of beneficiaries. They were a bit dismayed as they think they should be included considering the state of their lives. When the first payout was scheduled in their area, Cristita can’t help but feel envious for not getting any from the government’s poverty alleviation program.

I felt jealous that they were able to buy milk, bread, big fish and other things for their children. I remember looking into my children’s eyes and felt pity when they asked me why we were not included,” Cristita shared.

Part of program’s advocacy is to inculcate community involvement and unity amongst beneficiaries. This is probably why a neighbor, offered them generosity by sharing their blessing even in the simplest form. Gemida family was given a pack of bread worth of P20 pesos with five pieces of bread. Simple as it may look, but for Cristita, this is one kind gesture that she will never forget.

In 2014, another batch of beneficiaries was added to the already existing beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Luckily, Gemida family was included. Cristita felt ecstatic upon learning about it and excited to attend the monthly Family Development Session (FDS) that she anticipated for a long time.

“I remember the very first pay-out that I went to in San Pablo Municipal Gymnasium. I bought a big pack of Milo and milk, bread which I also shared with the others that were not beneficiaries of the program, fish, and vitamins for our children. That was the first time I truly felt the service of the government,” Cristita excitedly said.

“I told myself, I will comply with what I signed in the pledge of commitment to make health and education the number one priority for spending the grants,” Cristita added.

Because of the program, the worries on educational aspect of the children were significantly reduced. Cristita even encouraged the children to join the school activities such as drum corps. She bought them instrument that they can use in their extra-curricular affiliations. This opened the opportunities and likelihood of the children to participate in different school and community activities. Her youngest daughter, Queency Mae, joined the search for exemplary child in the year 2015 and awarded as 3rd runner up; she even crowned as the “Festival Queen” in the year 2016 and was also hailed as “Miss San Pablo 2018” 2nd runner up.

Personally, Cristita also learned a few things that she applied as a wife and a mother.

“I remember we had an assignment (in one of our Family Development Sessions) to say I LOVE YOU to our husband as we get home and share what his reaction was,” Cristita answered when asked about her personal learning.

Cristita mentioned that it made her realize that we often forget to say the simplest word that means a lot to our partner, the importance of quality time for a family. Furthermore, she mentioned about financial literacy, rights of the women and children, disaster-preparedness through the emergency balde (E-balde), and all sorts of things that they discuss in the FDS. She looked so excited as she tells her stories. Although a bit sad because their stay with the program has come to an end being a Self-Sufficient household, she says that she will cherish the moments she had especially with her co-beneficiaries and the Municipal Link.

Being an active Parent Leader brought her to many milestones that she can place under her belt. She became a Barangay Health Worker and became the Auditor of the BHW federation of the 28 Barangays of San Pablo, an active catechist, GSK leader and Altar server (Alagad) of the Catholic church.

“Through the Pantawid Program, we became empowered. We are not ashamed anymore to attend the different activities and organizations in the community,” Cristita said.

Her husband, Roque, also benefitted from the various social welfare interventions that was offered to them. He attended skills training in the Sustainable Livelihood Program through the Pantawid Pamilya. Because of the skills training, he was able to get an NC II certification in Electrical Maintenance. He also received assistance from DOLE and other government agencies as his job was affected when the pandemic hit. His knowledge in electrical maintenance is what gets them through in this time of pandemic.

As to their children, Roselie is currently a third year college student taking up Bachelor of Science in Biology. While Queency Mae has just graduated from Senior High School with meritorious awards and is presently enrolled at JH-Cerilles State College taking up Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education.

“To all of my co-beneficiaries of the program, we had an opportunity to grow, we were blessed by the cash grant. We just need to use it wisely. This help is not for a lifetime but we beneficiaries have the role to be transformed into better family, better parents, and become good citizens.”

Queency Mae Gemida during her Senior High School graduation last 2020 at Eugenia Andrin National High School