By David Pagulayan  | September 25, 2012
with reports from Marco Macatangay

Lourdes Cynthia, Maria Gomez, and Maria Elena currently own their respective sari-sari stores within their Barangay. Jane, Lilian Salvador, Jenny, Lina and Marife, on the other hand engage in handicraft production units, selling weaved items from baskets to containers. They are all mothers of two or more children and have lived in the same community in the barangay of Bulusan in Libon, Albay beside a long stretch of asphalt in a forest patch of land. The area itself is a long distance from the nearest city, municipality, or town, and public transport is rare. It is hard to fathom how this small community found itself in the middle of the road-laden forest patch and have remained for so long before the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

A group of SLP participant women share their stories.

The Miry Clay

Before the program, the mode of living was dealt in monotony; the wife takes care of the children, while the husbands become the breadwinner of the family. This was true for all of these women, and it seemed like the only divergence from these were special events in the barangay or in their lives. Talking to friends, chatting with neighbors was the most of what they did in the small community, and to them this was the only life that they were born into, hence will stay into.

They depended on their breadwinners for everything. It is not to say that such a system or custom is of error, but it begs the question, what happens when the sole source of livelihood when it is gone? These are one of the questions that this group of women learned to answer through the SLP as they have come to realize that there is more to life than chismis.

A Leap of Faith

This group was tapped by DSWD’s regional office and it was with their consent that they engaged in the program. To many living in the cities with good income, a loan of P10,000 seems like a small amount. But to them, their reluctance served as a speed bump on the road to progress. Repaying such a huge loan for them was a daunting task, but these women took the leap of faith and engaged in the SLP’s micro-enterprise track.

The SLP in Bicol was implemented about a year ago on May 2011. It was only a year later that the SLP was able to interview this small group, and the change in their lives showed not only in economic standing, but also in their eyes and smiles.

These women shared that they found a certain kind of empowerment through the program. “Maganda naman po ngayon kasi may ginagawa na kami.” [Compared to before, we have become productive], they say.

Dried seaweed

Dried tiger grass

All were able to learn how to save income properly, select only the things that matter and are important, and interact with other micro-entrepreneurs as well as customers better. To many, learning is a great experience, especially when one knows one’s power to change things. New knowledge on micro-management and basically being part of something big gave them a sense of renewed spirit.

Maganda ang feeling na may negosyo na. Maganda na may hanapbuhay kaysa nasa bahay lang. Ngayon may pinagkakakitaan na.” [It feels great to own a business.]

To many Filipinos, it is a dream (and to some, only but a dream) to have one’s own business and earn enough for a good living. These mothers have already achieved that dream and want it to grow more. When asked if they wanted to loan from micro-finance institutions rather than from DSWD, they were reluctant and afraid. But after explaining to them how the system works and that they could loan bigger amounts, they were more than willing to dive right in.

Having had a taste of success, these mom-trepreneurs want to expand their businesses.

But over and above personal convictions having concrete resolutions, what fuels their drive for the program the most is their family. Being able to help the husband with daily expenses and having the small luxuries, they have a better sense of purpose than that of before. The effect on the family gives the most impact to their lives.

Masaya din na nakakakuha na ng puhunan. Magandang may pinagkakakitaan. Nakakapag aral din ng mga bata.” [The income I earn helps my child learn.]

 

A nanay's tiger grass products

A nanay’s tiger grass products

tiger grass finished products
tiger grass finished products

It is not to downplay the resilience of the Filipino that he or she cannot live without the program. Rather, the program becomes a stepping-stone for these mom-trepreneurs to reach out of their comfort zones and take the extra leap of faith – not for their own sake, but for those that they love.

This is the story of the Filipino.