DAVAO CITY (DSWD XI) -Life is a constant struggle with life’s challenges. People fight for justice, others for their life; while the poor fight for freedom. They fight for freedom from poverty that has been entrenched upon them since birth. Some succeed, some fail to win, and there are a few who are doubly blessed.

Poorest
The family of Merlinda Momfil of Barangay Sasa has long resigned to an uncertain future. “Being poor is being constantly scared to face another day. We were anxious and insecure of having none, especially food on our table. And when rain comes, we panic for we live by the river bank. Too far from comfort and safety, we survived on the edge. For the longest time, it was a cycle of hopelessness and distress for my family and the rest of the families situated in our neighbourhood.”

Merlinda and her husband Junito grew up in a crowded riverbank where they also raised their five children. “Our five angels brought light and happiness to our troubled world. I could not contain my happiness that our love for each other would bloom to be a family but the fear in my heart compounded as my children grew older. Whatever the future holds for them, I was clueless. But I promised myself that I will never allow my angels to lead a life like we had.”

Merlinda was a full time homemaker while Junito had no stable source of income. For many years, their battle against poverty almost had no chance of winning. Until one day a spark of hope surfaced.

Chance to grow
The Momfil family qualified in Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The family was entitled to a monthly conditional cash grant of P 800 – P 1,400  for as long as their children stay eligible and for as long as the family adheres to the program’s policy. 

The spark of hope turned into flames when in 2015, External Relations Officer of DSWD-Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) Julius Duterte, in behalf of the poor families, initiated a partnership between DSWD and Holcim Philippines, a leading company in construction materials. When Duterte was assigned in Davao Oriental, Project Development Officer Angelo Iňigo took over the said venture which would dramatically affect the lives of the Momfils and that of their neighbors’.

“My husband participated in Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW). Holcim paid for the tuition and provided starter kits to Welding course participants. Holcim also hosted a training on Concrete Hollow Blocks Production back to back with the Welding Course. My son Orlan, 21, was lucky enough to have been identified to join. Participants of the two courses were required to build three houses as final output, Merlinda gladly recounts.

She said the hollow blocks they produced were used to build the houses while the ‘welders’ took charge of the steels works and other welding related jobs.

The Momfil family felt so blessed. Early Christmas gift came to them in full package. Little did they know that they would soon become the owner of a brand new disaster-resistant house.

The positive shift in the lives of the Momfil family didn’t stop with the livelihood opportunities.

It rained blessings upon blessings on the once desperate and scared Merlinda Momfil.

Public-private partnership
DSWD expanded its partnership with Holcim with another Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which provides for the Holcim donation of a three-hectare residential lot worth P 54,000,000.00 million in Barangay Ilang.

Moreover, Holcim put in an additional P 10 million for skills enhancement training on masonry, plumbing, carpentry, and concrete hollow block production. These skills would come handy for site development, water drilling, road networks, and drainage system.

DSWD, on the other hand, provided P 9 million for the Modified Shelter Assistance Program (MSAP) and P 2.9 million for Cash-For-Work, where beneficiaries receive cash of P260 daily as they build their new community.

Barangay Ilang released a P 295,000.00 counterpart for Food-For-Training during skills enhancement sessions, P 21,000.00 for social preparation of beneficiaries, and P 250,000.00 for construction management.

The City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) also supported the project.

My home
Soon to be part of Pag-asa Ilang Homeowners Association (PIHOA), the 129 family-recipients are currently benefitting from the livelihood program while 36 of them are also grantees of Pantawid Pamilya.

The Momfil family again is one of the lucky ones. Moreover, Merlinda’s son Orlan hit a stable job which helps ensure food on their table day after day.

Once devoid of peace of mind and comfort, the family of Merlinda has finally held a diamond too precious to let go –a happy family in a safe home.

“I know that whatever I say to express my gratefulness would never be enough for the Lord’s generous blessings that flooded our family. My heart rejoices with all the gifts. I am the happiest person. I have a family and a new home, far, far away from my ambivalent and wretched beginning,” Merlinda declares.∎

Written by Carmela Duron, DSWD Davao