NEVER mind the irritatingly early morning departures to and from the sites. Never mind the torturous deliberations after each trip. Never mind the stink and dirt that were far more pleasant than the rubbish of urban jungle. Actually, I just minded myself getting the work done. After all, it was immersion for me at the same time.
And so I thought.
It took me five short trips that would have changed my life forever. It all formally started with a task to sit as a judge for a search on Huwarang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. To be able to assess the situation of each nominated family and know the veracity of documents submitted for the contest during the preliminary screening, I, along with other two field validators John Calidguid and Rowena Layugan were required to visit all five 4Ps beneficiary-families in their homes.
To cut to the chase, we needed to interview the families, their neighbors and the barangay officials who unsurprisingly highly spoke of each family.
While it was simply difficult to connect with their dire situations, their hodgepodge replies to questions conjure up images of powerful storytelling of their plight as forsaken inhabitants of this country. "Never give up," said one family in Sta. Maria, Laguna. "Hindi hadlang ang kahirapan para mabuhay ng maayos," said the other four nominated families from Bohol, Tacloban, Lanao del Norte and Masbate.
While these overindulging mantras reverberated, other things were percolating in my mind as to how an impoverished family is able to prove their worth in the community by leading and inspiring other families to rise above adversities.
I do not know if I saw and felt their utter disillusionment over their stark condition. Or was I just being objective as a judge? "But what was the point of applying fairness to an otherwise subjective task?? I asked myself. And then I became uncomfortably emotional: Life is so unfair.
That they were unanimously praising the goodness that CCT has done some miracles in their lives, has explicitly rendered me some loathsome and curse-inducing predisposition to the systematic and continuing robbery by a lot of shameless and greedy 'leaders' who continue to trap them in misery. As an aside I silently screamed, "Where have all the PDAFs gone!”
While the little monies they get simply allow them small purchases, they were 'forced or required' to value education by seeing to it that their children go to school regularly. Investing on education has never sounded so categorically good from these parents who all the while thought education is never a priority. Because they were simply busy trying to survive.
Things never really end on a high note. But I brought with me vivid images of a poor Filipino family that has been given a spark of hope and a tinge of inspiration from an assignment that went beyond formalities and niceties.
I salute the indefatigable social workers John Calidguid and Rowena Layugan -- and all the selfless men and women of the SWD in the regions for putting their heart and soul on the plight of indigent Filipino families. May your tribe increase and multiply to the ends of this archipelago.
As we were looking for the Huwarang Pamilya through less-traveled rough roads onto remote areas, my own experience was no less laden with rage and guilt as I saw the harsh realities -- and listened to the stories of the forgotten and neglected voices. Never mind the sob and sad stories -- and the deafening silence in between conversations that were all too revealing of their pain and little joys of simplistic living. I am nonetheless furious of the blatant and shameless stealing of people's monies that has left a lot of Filipinos dirt poor. I am guilty as well of having enough that I have no right to complain about what I still do not have at this point in time.
We were not exactly looking for the perfect family to fit into the mold of 'huwaran or model' because there is not one to speak of; but eventually stumbled upon varying degrees of tolerance and acceptance of poverty amidst the vast resources of this country that should have been equitably shared amongst the many struggling families.
To me, the Huwarang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino is not a search neither it is a tough competition among the meek and week families -- BUT IS A CELEBRATION FOR AND TRIBUTE TO ALL IMPOVERISHED FILIPINO FAMILIES that continue to lead and embrace a simple, honest, decent and hopeful life amidst uncertainties. May the DSWD, the HEART AND SOUL of the government continue to champion the Filipino spirit and deliver the graces that each less fortunate Filipino family deserves. Again, it is truly a humbling experience.