AROUND an hour's drive away from Davao City is the agricultural barangay of Sirib in Calinan District.
Over 5,500 residents live in Sirib with many being indigenous peoples. Many of the residents in the agricultural village work for multi-national agribusinesses operating within the village such as Davao Agricultural Ventures Corp. (Davco), Sumifru, and High Land Banana.
Despite being an agricultural community, it is clear that not many residents are making ends meet due to financial challenges.
However, the future is looking bright for some families here who are the beneficiaries of the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is a rights-based program that focuses on human capital development through the provision of cash grants to eligible poor households.
These beneficiaries are presently benefitting from Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP). The program seeks "to strengthen the skills, competencies, abilities, and resources of poor Filipino families, and create an enabling environment for accessing income-generating opportunities to address basic needs, thereby improving their socio-economic well-being." The SLP is targeted to the 4Ps beneficiaries.
"We make sure nga dili pa sila (beneficiaries) mugraduar, tagaan nato sila pangkinabuhian (Before they graduate, we will give them livelihood)," Luis L. Seras, DSWD Project Development Officer.
In this barangay, DSWD assisted in the formation of four SLP associations (SLPA) -- Lower Sirib Bibo, Center Sirib Bakeshop, Balas to Upper Sirib, and Hugpong Tambis. These associations have already started operating their respective enterprises since the first quarter of this year.
Buy and sell
Among the beneficiaries who have started to see hope from the SLP is Arcil Salasin, who is the treasurer of Hugpong Tambis, which is composed of 15 members who are Tausug, Muslim, and Bisaya (Tambis).
Salasin said they underwent a series of training and orientation programs before they established their buy and sell enterprise.
"Ang amoang plano bakery unta pero kulang mi sa gamit (We originally planned to have a bakery but lacked equipment)," Salasin said.
After further discussion with Hugpong Tambis members, they saw the opportunity to establish a buy and sell business in the barangay.
For those living in Sirib, whether they are selling their harvests in small or large amounts, they have to travel around 20 to 30 minutes to sell their agricultural products at the Calinan district center.
"Para dili sila ma-hasol baligya sa Calinan nga ginagmay, diri nalang sa amua (They can now sell it to us instead of traveling to Calinan)," Salasin said.
He said they would travel to the district center twice a week to sell the products they have gathered.
Salasin said of all the agricultural products they are buying and selling, a bulk of it is dried cacao beans. He said many in the area plant cacao because, for the whole year, they could be assured of a steady harvest. These dried beans are sold to cacao processors.
Hugpong Tambis' buy and sell shop is just located along the road just around a kilometer from the barangay hall. Fresh fruits like saba banana, coconut, jackfruit, avocado, papaya, and rambutan fill the front of the store. Vegetables like squash, pechay, string beans, saluyot, and sayote are also on display.
Salasin, who works as a security guard in the evening, said his days became much more productive after the establishment of Hugpong Tambis' buy and sell business.
"Gwardiya ko sa gabi-i ug adlaw diri lang ko sa balay...Sukad namugna ning tindahan medyo na busy sad sir (After my shift in the evening, I would just stay at home. However, since the business started, I also became busy)," he said.
Each member of the association has to do their part in taking care of the store.
"Katong mga oras nga medyo relaks kaayo, diri nako gibuhos para maplastar ang tindahan (During my downtime, I spend it here at our store)," Salasin said.
Though the association already hired someone to man the store, the members continue to do their part by going around the village to see who they can buy products from.
This effect is not only seen among the member of Hugpong Tambis.
Sirib barangay captain Mercelina S. Antogop said since the establishment of Center Sirib Bakeshop's bakery, some of the women in the village are already having something to do.
"Ang mga kababaihan man gud sa una makita nimo nga magsige ra suroy-suroy, magchismisan pero karon nga busy na kaayo sila, makita nimo nga grabe sila ka seryoso and naningkamot gyud sila (Before their bakery, the women would just roam around and some would gossip. Now, they are much more productive and have put the hard work on running the bakery)," Antogop said.
The Center Sirib Bakeshop, composed of 25 members, was established to cater to the community's need to have a bakery. Residents have to travel to the district center to buy pastries. Being the only one in the village, the bakery is also delivering pastries and bread to nearby barangays with no bakeshops.
"We are a very poor country. We have just to accept that," said Paterna M. Ruiz, Undersecretary of National Anti-Poverty Commission, during the Philippine Press Institute's Seminar on Poverty Reporting at the Casa Leticia Hotel in Davao City on July 29, 2019.
Data presented by NAPC showed that 21.9 million or 21.6 percent of Filipinos are income poor. Under the government's Ambisyon Natin 2040, the country's long-term development program, it seeks to lift six million Filipinos out of poverty by the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte's term.
While the poverty situation in the country is as complex as it is, Ruiz said by providing economic opportunities to the poor, we may be able to reduce poverty in the country.
She said while SLPs are good, it is important that these are linked to the economic value chain.
For the Sirib 4Ps beneficiaries who have formed an association and started their respective businesses, this is the start of a new beginning for them. A beginning that will eventually uplift them as a community and individuals.