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She hopes to heal what used to hurt: A sexual assault survivor uses her voice with hopes of empowering others

Life changed in an instant for Sarah (not her real name), as a result of choosing to face her fear and break a painful silence.

She was 15 then when she became a victim of sexual abuse. The alleged perpetrator is no stranger to her. He was even part of her second family where she used to stay in to render some housekeeping services in the province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Sarah who spent her childhood in a municipality in the said province recounted how she and her family were so contented and happy with their life before the horrible incident. But since it was only her elder sister supporting them financially, she had to at least earn a little to make ends meet for their family.

In 2011, she was sent to her aunt’s house to help in the household chores. But in attempt of helping her family, Sarah turned out to be the one who needed help. The husband of her aunt allegedly attempted to rape her. A day that Sarah recounted she thought would be her last.

“Buti na lang nakatakbo agad ako. Tinutukan nya pa ako ng baril. Binantaan nya ako. Kahit na hindi nya man ako nagalaw, na-trauma talaga ako.” Sarah shared.

Because of the fear that it might happen again, or worse, that he will succeed in his intention the next time, Sarah decisively told her teachers and sought their help. She was immediately brought to DSWD for necessary intervention and to take appropriate steps.

A case on Act of lasciviousness was eventually filed against the alleged suspect. Sarah, on the other hand was brought to Home for Girls to undergo psychosocial assistance while the case was ongoing. Not long after, she was transferred to Balay Dangpanan sa Kabataan in Polanco, Zamboanga del Norte, a center managed by DSWD, due to persistent threats coming from her perpetrator.

Wala ku narealize gyud katung mga threats. Pero nahadluk ku katung naa na ku sa center kay abi naku gi preso na ku. Kasi maraming guard, room, bata. May mga rules nga gi sunod. Sigi ku’g hilak.” Sarah opened up.

However, the counseling, and regular meeting with their house parents in the center helped her calm down and adjust to her surroundings.

Despite the pressure and the hurdles that she was going through at that time, Sarah didn’t stop schooling. After graduating in high school, her transfer to Zamboanga City was immediately facilitated by DSWD so she can continue her education without being distracted by the threats that she has been constantly receiving.

In 2012, she was enrolled in one of the colleges in Zamboanga City and took up course in education. On top of the adjustments that she had to go through again, she was also faced with rejection.

“May mga friends ako dati, pero nung nalaman nila yung sitwasyon ko, umiwas sila kasi natakot silang madamay. Kaya feeling ko noon kakaiba ako sa mga ibang studyante.” Sarah disclosed, saying that she was fastidiously selective on people whom to share her story with.

Her decision to keep her story unknown from the people in school also became a challenge for her to seek permission from her teachers to absent herself whenever she had to attend the hearing in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur.

“Ang hirap talagang magpaalam sa teachers. Na kailangan ko mag-absent ng ilang araw para pumunta sa hearing. Tapos, kailangan pang magtago kapag pumupunta dun para umiwas sa kalaban.” Sarah narrated in tears.

And the years went by filled with fear and pain for Sarah, but hope never left her heart. Somehow, her studies contributed in her recovery little by little. That instead of thinking about her fear and pain, she became busy complying with her school projects and other academic requirements.

Yung negative experiences ko, nakakalimutan ko na. Mas naiisip ko yung mga projects, mga ikokomply sa skul. Kaya sobrang nagpapasalamat ako sa DSWD kasi hindi lang bahay, pamilya at pag-alalaga yung binigay nila sa akin. Yung suporta na binigay nila sakin sa pag-aaral, malaking tulong yun.” Sarah said while fending off her tears.

SarahSarah in no time finished her college education. Just last April 8, 2016, she was conferred with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, a milestone in her life that her family couldn’t just miss.

In that day, her mom who came all the way from Manila where she’s working as a house maid, her father from Davao who used to work as a gravedigger and her younger brother who traveled all the way from Bohol just to witness her sister’s graduation.

For a day, it was like a dream come true for Sarah who was able to make her family come together after several years of being away from each other, as a result of her situation. She added that part of her motivation and determination comes from her desire to build a house for her family where they can stay together.

“Pangarap ko to na magkita-kita kami ulit, magkasama. Kaya kailangan ko talagang makatapos para makahanap ng maayos na trabaho. Priority ko talaga ang magkabahay para maipon ko na yung pamilya ko at di na kame magkawatak-watak.” Sarah added.

At this point in time of Sarah’s life, she is still able to see the pinprick of hope that someday she will get by and survive these challenges. While scared and ashamed at first, it eventually became such a relief for her to be able to get a step closer to realize her dreams for her family. She is also able to slowly realize that she doesn’t deserve to carry the shame any longer and would like to begin to use her voice to encourage the other survivors who are scared to break their silence and try to forget them themselves.

“Kung may ginawang masama sa kanila, wag matakot magsumbong. Kung binabastos sila hindi sila dapat mahiyang magsabi, kasi baka walang tutulong, kung di nila kasalanan wag sila matakot.”

With courage and faith in God, Sarah believes that her life is bigger than what happened to her in that one fateful day. She acknowledges that she has still got a lot of healing to do, but nevertheless she also got a wonderful life in front of her.### Lei Mohammad, DSWD-9

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A foundation of dreams

FODAt age 19, Abdulmajid believes it’s never too late to pursue a dream. Standing tall among the rest of the grade six students in Panganuran, he knew things are bound to get better.

Like many others who came before him, education in their place was limited to a certain level, this is primarily because of lack of structures and facilities in school. Panganuran, a coastal barangay used to have only three classrooms to accommodate students from grade one to grade five. In addition to that, whenever the barangay officials see the need to conduct meetings and assemblies, classes are being cut. Teachers have no choice but to send their students home early. This interruption has been a frequent visitor to students, since the barangay does not have a legitimate structure of their own then.

In effect, students as much as they want to finish elementary had no choice but to stop attending school soon after they reach grade five. Or others lose interest to even attend their classes considering the inconveniences they’re facing in Panganuran.

This has been the case of Abdulmajid Jahasan Tungayun, who had stopped school for five years. “Mahirap po, kasi dati yung mga bata nag-aaral dito grade 1 hanggang grade 5 lang, tapos konti yung room, tatlo lang”, he shared, (Its hard, back then the school could accommodate students from grade 1 to grade 5 only, the rooms are limited, just three).

Although he had a choice to continue his studies at the municipal proper, but knowing how much it will cost his parents to send him for school, it was neither an option.

“Yung nanay at tatay ko po magsasaka lang sila, nagtatanim ng mais at mga gulay. Sapat lang yung sa pagkain naming ng tatlong beses sa isang araw”, he added, (My mother and father were farmers, and we plant corn and vegetables. These are just enough for our meal three times a day).

“Mahirap talaga ang buhay dito, walang mabilhan ng bigas, pupunta pa kami sa Sibuco para magbili. Pag malakas ang alon, maglakad na lang kame. Karamihan naman sa tao dito naglalakad lang, meron naman kalsada”, Abdulmajid opens up about their daily lives in Panganuran before.

(Life is really hard around here; we have nowhere to buy rice. Should we need a supply, we have to travel to Sibuco, the municipal proper. When the tide is high, we’ll walk our way to the proper. People here are used to walking since the road is fine).

Farming and fishing is the main source of income for the majority, but these aren’t enough for the community. Rice and other goods runs out of stock everytime, and it’s a burden on them to look for it downtown.

The distance from Panganuran to Sibuco proper is about 30 to 45 minutes if one has to travel through the sea which is way faster than by land.  But tide hasn’t been friendly to them at times, and due to financial constraints, they’ll have to take on the long cut.

Walking usually takes them almost half a-day to reach town. That would only mean they’ll have to stay the day out to gather enough goods they’ll need to last until the next trip.

In 2014, KC-PAMANA was introduced in the Municipality of Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte to include Barangay Panganuran. The community welcomed the program’s initiative with a positive response most especially from parents with gradeschool children.

fod4

“Bilang yun talaga ang kulang sa amin, school talaga ang pinili namin na maging project”, Dina S. Sahid recalled the days when they were starting for KC-PAMANA. (Since this is what we’re missing here, school was then chosen as project). Dina was also a pantawid beneficiary with two kids and was the BSPMC Chair.

Relating her experiences with enthusiasm, she said “exciting kasi nabigyan ako ng opportunity na makatulong sa kapwa ko Maganda rin kasi natutunan ko na dapat magtulungan, kung may problema dapat magkaisa, tapos pag activity dapat mag-share share ang lahat, magcoordinate, mag-attend ng meeting, wag mag-away-away. Para sa akin, nabigyan ako ng experience, na dati nahihiya makipag-halubilo, ngayon kaya ko na”. (It was exciting because I was given an opportunity to help others. It’s good that I learned the importance of helping, if there’s a problem we have to be united, and whenever there’s an activity everybody has to go out and share, to coordinate, attend meetings and promote peace. For me it’s the experience, I’m too shy and I don’t mingle with others, but now I’m confident).  

Noran was also a pantawid beneficiary with four kids and was an active volunteer for KC-PAMANA. “Yung proyekto binibigay nila nagustuhan ko talaga lalung-lalo napo yung school building, kailangan na kailangan talaga yun dito. Kasi mahirap ba kung sa Sibuco pa o sa Labuan manirahan at mag-aral ang mga bata namin tapos nandito ang hanap-buhay namin, may konting kabigatan pa ba”, she cried.

(We really appreciated the projects they gave us especially the school building, it was really needed here. Because it would be burdensome for us send our kids to Sibuco or to Labuan to stay and study there while our livelihood rests here).

Abdulmajid also witnessed the coming of the program in their barangay, as a student, he couldn’t contain his joy towards the outcome of the projects. Given priority the education in the community meant really big for them.

“Nakahinto ako bale limang taon, tapos ngayon nag-aral ako ulit ng grade 6. Kasama si bunso ngayon nag-aaral, siya ay grade seven. Ako din po yung tumatanggap ng tulong galing sa pantawid, kapag nakatanggap kami bale pinangbibili ko ng mga gamit namin, ng bag, papel, notebook”, he revealed.

(I stopped school for five years, but I am continuing my studies in grade 6 now. Together with our youngest, currently in grade seven. We are also a pantawid beneficiaries, and everytime we receive the cash assistance, I immediately buy things for school like bag, paper and notebook).

Noting the changes after the completion of the 1 unit, 1 classroom pre-school building, “malaking pagbabago talaga nung nagkaroon ng bagong building dito, excited yung mga bata kasi may bagong room, tapos nadagdagan pa yung room. Malaking tulong talaga ito sa mga bata”.

(A lot had changed with the completion of the school building, kids were really excited to utilize the newly constructed classroom, and then they constructed additional room. It’s really a big help to the kids”).

As soon as the PAMANA building was built, the Local Government Unit also donated another building and repaired the old structure to complement the program.

The community was also grateful to the program particularly the parents since they’ve noticed the positive changes brought by the program.

“Dati kasi may kulang talaga, nahihirapan kami mag-hanap ng pera. Dati ilang lang yung classroom naming, Ngayon, nadivide na sila, tapos nadagdagan na din yung classroom, hindi na sila crowded”, Dina shared.

(What we have before was not enough, it’s very difficult to make a living. Before we only have few classrooms. But now, they were equally divided with the additional classrooms. They’re no longer crowded).

What’s more rewarding to the parents is to see how they’re children learn not just in academics but in other aspect of life as well. They’re happy to share their kids learning proper hygiene, since sanitation is also one of the issues they have.

fod 3“Dahil may CR na ang pamana classroom, yung mga bata namin tinuturuan na sila ngayon mag-gamit ng CR. Nagpapasalamat kami dahil nabigyan kami ng project na malaking tulong talaga sa mga bata”, she further stressed.

(Since the PAMANA classroom has its own toilet room, the children were taught how to use it. We were very thankful that we’re given a project which is a big help to our kids).

Lastly, Dina and Noran shared their hopes to see their children finish their studies. The same goes for Abdulmajid, no hope lost despite the many challenges along the way.#

 

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A foundation of dreams

At age 19, Abdulmajid believes it’s never too late to pursue a dream. Standing tall among the rest of the grade six students in Panganuran, he knew things are bound to get better.

Like many others who came before him, education in their place was limited to a certain level, this is primarily because of lack of structures and facilities in school. Panganuran, a coastal barangay used to have only three classrooms to accommodate students from grade one to grade five. In addition to that, whenever the barangay officials see the need to conduct meetings and assemblies, classes are being cut. Teachers have no choice but to send their students home early. This interruption has been a frequent visitor to students, since the barangay does not have a legitimate structure of their own then.

In effect, students as much as they want to finish elementary had no choice but to stop attending school soon after they reach grade five. Or others lose interest to even attend their classes considering the inconveniences they’re facing in Panganuran.

This has been the case of Abdulmajid Jahasan Tungayun, who had stopped school for five years. “Mahirap po, kasi dati yung mga bata nag-aaral dito grade 1 hanggang grade 5 lang, tapos konti yung room, tatlo lang”, he shared, (Its hard, back then the school could accommodate students from grade 1 to grade 5 only, the rooms are limited, just three).

Although he had a choice to continue his studies at the municipal proper, but knowing how much it will cost his parents to send him for school, it was neither an option.

“Yung nanay at tatay ko po magsasaka lang sila, nagtatanim ng mais at mga gulay. Sapat lang yung sa pagkain naming ng tatlong beses sa isang araw”, he added, (My mother and father were farmers, and we plant corn and vegetables. These are just enough for our meal three times a day).

“Mahirap talaga ang buhay dito, walang mabilhan ng bigas, pupunta pa kami sa Sibuco para magbili. Pag malakas ang alon, maglakad na lang kame. Karamihan naman sa tao dito naglalakad lang, meron naman kalsada”, Abdulmajid opens up about their daily lives in Panganuran before.

(Life is really hard around here; we have nowhere to buy rice. Should we need a supply, we have to travel to Sibuco, the municipal proper. When the tide is high, we’ll walk our way to the proper. People here are used to walking since the road is fine).

Farming and fishing is the main source of income for the majority, but these aren’t enough for the community. Rice and other goods runs out of stock everytime, and it’s a burden on them to look for it downtown.

The distance from Panganuran to Sibuco proper is about 30 to 45 minutes if one has to travel through the sea which is way faster than by land.  But tide hasn’t been friendly to them at times, and due to financial constraints, they’ll have to take on the long cut.

Walking usually takes them almost half a-day to reach town. That would only mean they’ll have to stay the day out to gather enough goods they’ll need to last until the next trip.

In 2014, KC-PAMANA was introduced in the Municipality of Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte to include Barangay Panganuran. The community welcomed the program’s initiative with a positive response most especially from parents with gradeschool children.

“Bilang yun talaga ang kulang sa amin, school talaga ang pinili namin na maging project”, Dina S. Sahid recalled the days when they were starting for KC-PAMANA. (Since this is what we’re missing here, school was then chosen as project). Dina was also a pantawid beneficiary with two kids and was the BSPMC Chair.

Relating her experiences with enthusiasm, she said “exciting kasi nabigyan ako ng opportunity na makatulong sa kapwa ko Maganda rin kasi natutunan ko na dapat magtulungan, kung may problema dapat magkaisa, tapos pag activity dapat mag-share share ang lahat, magcoordinate, mag-attend ng meeting, wag mag-away-away. Para sa akin, nabigyan ako ng experience, na dati nahihiya makipag-halubilo, ngayon kaya ko na”. (It was exciting because I was given an opportunity to help others. It’s good that I learned the importance of helping, if there’s a problem we have to be united, and whenever there’s an activity everybody has to go out and share, to coordinate, attend meetings and promote peace. For me it’s the experience, I’m too shy and I don’t mingle with others, but now I’m confident).  

DSC02562Noran was also a pantawid beneficiary with four kids and was an active volunteer for KC-PAMANA. “Yung proyekto binibigay nila nagustuhan ko talaga lalung-lalo napo yung school building, kailangan na kailangan talaga yun dito. Kasi mahirap ba kung sa Sibuco pa o sa Labuan manirahan at mag-aral ang mga bata namin tapos nandito ang hanap-buhay namin, may konting kabigatan pa ba”, she cried.

(We really appreciated the projects they gave us especially the school building, it was really needed here. Because it would be burdensome for us to send our kids to Sibuco or to Labuan to stay and study there while our livelihood rests here).

Abdulmajid also witnessed the coming of the program in their barangay, as a student, he couldn’t contain his joy towards the outcome of the projects. Given priority the education in the community meant really big for them.

“Nakahinto ako bale limang taon, tapos ngayon nag-aral ako ulit ng grade 6. Kasama si bunso ngayon nag-aaral, siya ay grade seven. Ako din po yung tumatanggap ng tulong galing sa pantawid, kapag nakatanggap kami bale pinangbibili ko ng mga gamit namin, ng bag, papel, notebook”, he revealed.

(I stopped school for five years, but I am continuing my studies in grade 6 now. Together with our youngest, currently in grade seven. We are also a pantawid beneficiaries, and everytime we receive the cash assistance, I immediately buy things for school like bag, paper and notebook).

Noting the changes after the completion of the 1 unit, 1 classroom pre-school building, “malaking pagbabago talaga nung nagkaroon ng bagong building dito, excited yung mga bata kasi may bagong room, tapos nadagdagan pa yung room. Malaking tulong talaga ito sa mga bata”.

(A lot had changed with the completion of the school building, kids were really excited to utilize the newly constructed classroom, and then they constructed additional room. It’s really a big help to the kids”).

As soon as the PAMANA building was built, the Local Government Unit also donated another building and repaired the old structure to complement the program.

The community was also grateful to the program particularly the parents since they’ve noticed the positive changes brought by the program.

DSC02559“Dati kasi may kulang talaga, nahihirapan kami mag-hanap ng pera. Dati ilang lang yung classroom naming, Ngayon, nadivide na sila, tapos nadagdagan na din yung classroom, hindi na sila crowded”, Dina shared.

(What we have before was not enough, it’s very difficult to make a living. Before we only have few classrooms. But now, they were equally divided with the additional classrooms. They’re no longer crowded).

What’s more rewarding to the parents is to see how they’re children learn not just in academics but in other aspect of life as well. They’re happy to share their kids learning proper hygiene, since sanitation is also one of the issues they have.

“Dahil may CR na ang pamana classroom, yung mga bata namin tinuturuan na sila ngayon mag-gamit ng CR. Nagpapasalamat kami dahil nabigyan kami ng project na malaking tulong talaga sa mga bata”, she further stressed.

(Since the PAMANA classroom has its own toilet room, the children were taught how to use it. We were very thankful that we’re given a project which is a big help to our kids).

Lastly, Dina and Noran shared their hopes to see their children finish their studies. The same goes for Abdulmajid, no hope lost despite the many challenges along the way.#

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Parent leaders as volunteer tutors

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Nagsilbing inspirasyon at magandang ehemplo ang labing-anim (16) na Pantawid Parent Leaders mula sa Brgy.Maasin, Zamboanga City na naglalaan ng 40 minuto araw-araw bilang volunteer parent-tutors.

Ang adhikaing makatulong at makahubog ng kasanayan sa pamamagitan ng pag gabay sa pagbabasa ang siyang nagtulak sa kanila upang igugol ang oras sa mga kabataang slow readers ng Maasin Learning Center.

Ang magsilbing daan upang magkaroon ng pagbabago sa mga kabataan ay isang napakagandang regalo sa kanilang dedikasyon.

Juana, Tuloy ang Pagbabago!

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Community women make transport easier for co-farmers

 

mercy 2

An ever reliable housewife, she has never fails to support her husband’s flight.

Mercy Estrella, 48 years old, a native of Margosatubig, Zambonga del Sur was married to Mycon Estrella, a local of barangay Tilasan, RT Lim, Zambonga Sibugay. Being married for 25 years, they are blessed with four children, two sons and daughters. Mercy works in the farm together with his husband who is a tractor and a thresher operator. They plant corn, bananas and other vegetables.

As a resident of the barangay, Mercy saw the importance of community involvement to which she learns from his husband Mycon, an active volunteer and the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee Chairperson (BSPMC) of Kalahi-CIDSS as well.

mercy 1“Pinaagi sa pag-tambong sa mga assembliya ug mga meeting, nahibaw-an namu ang programa sa Kalahi –CIDSS” she said, (It is through attending meeting and assemblies that we have heard of the Kalahi-CIDSS).And to show her support to her husband, she has also devoted her time to volunteer in the program.

Kalahi-CIDSS employs community-driven develop (CDD) strategy that gives people power to decide for their community in ensuring that their needs are addressed and empowering them to become active citizens of the country.

“Nagvoluntaryo gayod ko aron lamang mahatagan ni kahapsay ug kasayon kay kani among lugar medyo lisud-lisud kon hisgutan natu ang pagpagawas sa mga produkto bisan sa ing-ani lang makonhoran ang kalisud sa pagpagawas sa among mga produkto”, Mercy cried. (We volunteered to make things better and easier for us because noticeably our place is really difficult in terms of transporting our farm products, even in this particular issue alone we can help lessen the difficulty we are experiencing with our products).

Since farming is the primary source of living of Barangay Tilasan, the increasing struggle in transporting products from their farm to the barangay center has driven them to identify their desired sub-project, which paved way to the construction of concrete pathway connecting the farm area of Purok Coconut to the barangay center of Purok Bamboo.

The people of Tilasan were pleased to find out that their sub-project was approved and prioritized, infact they’re one of the 11 barangays whose sub-project were prioritized under first cycle. Mercy couldn’t contain her happiness and excitement primarily because they knew about the opportunity awaits the women of Barangay Tilasan as soon as the implementation of the sub-project begins. The opportunity of working will help their husbands in terms of earning for their families. And aside from the earnings, she was also grateful of the learning she has gotten from the program. This is also a chance to show the people that it is not just the man who can do the work in this certain project; hence she served as role-model to them.

“Isip ka BSPMC chairperson nakita naku akong mga kauban nga mga volunteers aktibo pud sila nga mag-apil apil ug gani sa pagtrabaho daghan ang nag-apil. Ang mga tao determinado nga mahuman ang sub-project, para lamang matuman ang proyekto ang mga kababyen-han nagtabang sa paghakot ug tubig, pagpala ”, Mycon Estrella relates. (As the BSPMC chairperson, I saw my fellow volunteers actively participating especially in the hard labor. The people were so determined to get the sub-project done, driven with eagerness; the women also help in getting water and in mixing cement).

Noticeably, during the pre-construction conference a lot of women were eager to participate in the construction of the project. Undeniably, they were skillful enough to take on the man’s job.

While during the implementation stage, the challenges was on the limited quality washed-sand due to the ineffective sand delivered by the supplier, and also the need for large amount of water on site.

“Daghan natabang ang mga kababayen-han, aktibo ang mga babaye nga volunteers sa pagdawat ug pagbantay sa mga materyales nga mercymadeliver sa project site”, their foreman Archie Rivera confirmed. (The women volunteers did help a lot; as a matter of fact they were so active in securing the right materials delivered at the project site).

The youth in their community were encouraged to help because they were moved upon seeing some women working in the construction and the rest of the people in Tilasan saw that women can also do some work and take part in the sub-project of Kalahi-CIDSS.

“Sa akong naexperiensiyahan ug nasaksihan lahi sa una og karon, ang among kalisud pag-uma ra ug panimalay, karon naa na ang kalahi nagtaas ang panginabuhi gumikan sa pagtrabaho”, she recalls. (Based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed, which is different from before, we lived a hard life considering its only farming we do for living and doing household chores. With the entry of Kalahi-CIDSS we’ve notched a level higher in terms of earning a living through the job-opportunities).

With a physical accomplishment running to 87.16%, people of Tilasan couldn’t wait to see how this sub-project will take effect on their farming activities.

Mercy felt really grateful and proud to be part of Kalahi-CIDSS. More importantly she believes she has been a model to her children and to the people in barangay Tilasan, for she has shown them how resilient she is with work despite being a woman how she takes part in their community. ###

 

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Love at first smile (A story on adoption)

We often see in movies stories of adoption that revolve around infertility or incapability of a couple to reproduce. This has become a mainstream storyline in the reel world. But there is more to adoption than just not being able to reproduce –there’s connection, passion, and emotions that cannot be expressed in language.

Such is the case of a 48-year old woman, Monette.

Monette can never forget the day that she first visited the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) in Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City which is managed by the DSWD. She was asked by a co-teacher to accompany her to visit the latter’s niece. Never did Monette imagine that this day will change her life forever and how she sees it.

She was looking around and observing the kids in the study center. Some were reading books, others laughed in their play. But one caught her attention the most, a 5-month old baby staring at her so innocently. So innocent that for a while, Monette thought she was staring at an angel.

Then the angel smiled at Monette that instantaneously made her feel that the angel needed her. That’s when she was sure that she wanted to adopt the baby.

She learned that the baby’s name is Christian, a very fitting name for an angel that he is.

But before she even started processing the requirements for adoption, she was told by the house parent in the RSCC that she cannot choose whom to adopt. A parent-child matching must be done by the social workers prior to the processing of papers for adoption.

This, nonetheless, did not disheartened Monette in any way. Because of the intense connection that she felt for baby Tian-Tian, as he is fondly called, she was positive that she was destined to be his mother.

It took a long 365 days or so to process the legality of her adoption. But never was there a moment that she forgot to visit baby Tian-Tian. She constantly visited the baby even before the schedule of his homecoming.

Monette has 3 biological children. They accompany their mother when she visits baby Tian while waiting for the papers. Her children –aged 19, 18 and 16 –saw how much she cares for baby Tian. It’s as if the baby is actually her own. They saw how happy Monette was when she carries and plays with the baby just like how she did to them when they were little.

They, too, have become very excited for the new addition to the family and cannot wait to finally bring him home.

The RSCC is a family and a home itself. But if one can reach out and make a child complete, Monette is more than willing to do it.

Before baby Tian came to their lives, Monette admits that she suffered a lot of emotional pain from being divorced to her husband. She felt alone. Her kids were growing up fast and they have their own interests as young adults.

Did she need someone to be with her after her failed marriage? She sure has thought of the idea.

But when she met baby Tian, a realization awakened her like she was doused with cold water. She realized that sometimes the love that we are yearning for doesn’t necessarily have to come from a romantic relationship. “Filipino tayo. Mas mahalaga sa atin yung pamilya. So yun siguro ang natutunan ko sa buhay noong dumating si Baby Tian,” Monette expressed with a happy face.

Baby Tian is now a bubbly 6-year old 1st grader at one of the primary schools in the city. His mom, Monette, describes him as very sweet, intelligent and expressive child. “Hyper sya. Ang buhay ko ngayon umiikot na kay Tian,” Monette added.

The RSCC social workers still visit Tian-Tian once in a while to see how he is doing in school and with his loving family.

Monette on the other hand has become an advocate encouraging the people she gets to share conversations with to visit orphanages or institutions like the RSCC.
“You will see how much these kids need care, assistance and love,” Monette talking based on her personal experience.

The RSCC has helped her feel her great contribution to the society by promoting and upholding the children’s rights for a decent life with a loving family. Monette believes that a good leader starts with the values that he learns from his own family. And so it is essential that we foster and nurture a strong foundation in every child as they are the ones who will lead our nation in the future, just like her son Christian.

When asked about her plans for baby Tian, she simply said “I want him to grow up a disciplined man.”

But before he grows up, Monette will just enjoy this moment when she is still able to carry him, tickle him and hear his laughter.

She cannot help but rekindle when she first saw his sweet, innocent baby smile that she fell in love with.###

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Beyond Incapability is a Changed Life

“Kahit ganito kami, may laban din pala kami.”

 Success does not require an able body. It only needs determination to embrace change despite the incapability.

Nora Aminuddin is someone people must take inspiration from not because of how much she has done but IMG_0734because of how much she has become after everything that has been done. She is but an ordinary civilian who works for a living in the busy street of Zamboanga City’s downtown.

With two little children with ages two and three, left with her to feed after sending off her eldest child to marry, Nora has been working hard day and night to supply their needs. She wakes up every morning hoping that one day, things would change and they would have enough resources to go through each day considering the fact that Nora has an orthopedic impairment most commonly classified as Polio. But this does not stop there.

The 9th of September marks the start of the bloody siege that caused the displacement of more than a hundred thousand people. It was at 2:00 in the morning that the city was in chaos and Nora, who was at the downtown that moment was deliberately instructed to go somewhere else as she could not go back to her home in Talon-Talon where she left her children. She told that her kids wanted to go to her but could not because it was simply impossible during that time.

With more soldiers than civilians in the wide streets of the city, Nora panicked, not able to move a muscle. “Hindi ko na alam kung saan ako pupunta kasi gyera na,” she said. The police then told her to go as she was still trying to sell off her goods. They told her to move out and look for a safer place to hide. “Hindi po ako pwedeng umalis kasi hihintayin ko ang mga anak ko,” she added with worries engraved in her eyes.

She forcefully insisted that she would wait for her children. “Kung magtatago po ba ako makikita po ba ako ng mga anak ko?” she asked the officer as she was forced to go. The police even called her family but could barely connect. The moment she was about to go, her children came. They ran all the way from Talon-Talon to where their mother was.

They were transferred to the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex (Grandstand) that is big enough to hold a huge number of people. Nora and her children, not including her eldest child who was left in her home at Sta. Catalina, were the first batch of evacuees accommodated in the complex. They received generous help from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) –help in terms of food, finances and more assistance that inspired them to get through the situation.

Since Nora was a PWD, she was brought by by the social workers to Area Vocational Rehabilitation Center (AVRC) after a month of taking refuge in the grandstand. The AVRC provides rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities like Nora Aminuddin. There are lots of things offered and taught to her in the AVRC; lessons on sign language to enable better communication with the deaf, mutual cooperation and connection with their co-PWDs, learning on how to boost self-esteem and how to protect themselves and also training in garments and other handy works.

 She was taught to be confident and never be shy despite her impairment because PWDs are also part of the society. “Kaya tumatag ang loob namin. Kahit ganito pala kami, may silbi din pala kami,” Nora said with joy in her face. She also added that after graduating in the AVRC, she would see to it that she would have a home-based livelihood so that she could also watch her children. “Kahit sa bahay lang ako, pwede kong mabantayan ang maliit kong anak. Takot na rin ako dahil sa nangyari dati,” she said emphasizing the fact that it is best for her to stay guarded.

Nora is now an empowered individual who managed to get on her feet and through her hardwork and a little help coming from the government. She said DSWD helped her open a door to new things that would she never thought could change her life for the better. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanila kasi dahil sa kanila nabago ang buhay ko. Kahit papano tumatag ang loob ko,” she added. Because of the assistance she got, she now looks at herself differently and that she now has hope. “Dati nagtatago lang kami at nahihiya sa mga taong walang kapansanan, ngayon kahit pagtawanan kami, hindi na kami mahihiya dahil mayroon kami na wala sila,” Nora ended it with a big smile and a light heart. A changed life is more than just a twisted fate.

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From sari-sari store operator to plantation owner

SLP cadilan 1

Edgar’s home-based sari-sari store before becoming an SLP program participant

For Edgar Cadalin, raising six children is never easy. Aside from the fact that he has to provide them with their basic needs, he also had to earn enough to support their education. But how can he send them to school when their only source of income was their small sari-sari store.

“Mahirap talaga noon. Kailangan pagkasyahin ang kita namin mula sa maliit na tindahan para sa anim naming mga anak.” (It was very difficult as we had to budget our income from our small store just to support our 6 children.) Edgar grieves.

With the meager revenue from his home-based sari-sari store, Edgar and his wife decided to join the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the DSWD in 2012. Edgar shared that SLP doesn’t only provide capital seed fund, but it also conducts social preparation activities such as livelihood trainings and seminars on entrepreneur to ensure that the business being pursued by the beneficiaries will be sustained.

“Masaya talaga kami na kaming mga pantawid beneficiaries nabigyan ng tulong ng SLP para kumita. Tapos yung capital na binibigay nila wala pang interes so malaki talaga ang ipon, tapos may training pa silang binibigay.” (We are very glad that SLP helped us earn. Especially that the money they lend has no interest so you can really save big, aside from that they also conduct training.)

Edgar's 1 hectare corn field

Edgar’s 1 hectare corn field

Edgar brags the biggest lesson that he learned from SLP is the formula Earning-Savings= Expenses. Right now Edgar has not just expanded his sari-sari store, he is also engaged in the buy and sell business for corn. Out of his increasing income, he was able to build a concrete house and acquired a motorcycle used for public transportation or habal-habal from which he earns at least Php 200.00 per day.  Aside from this, he now owns half hectare of rice field and 1 hectare of corn land.

“Salamat sa SLP at binago nila ang buhay namin, lalo na ang kinabukasan ng mga anak namin. Ngayon marami nang pagkukuhanan para sa pagkain, pang-eskwela at kahit sa mga extra, kayang-kaya na naming.” (Thank you to SLP because they changed our lives, especially the future of our children. Unlike before, we now have multiple streams of income for our food, for education and even for extra expenses.) Edgar proudly shares. ###

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