MELFO Bitor, 28, started selling fishball and kikiam with a capital of only P150.

Bitor’s determination pushes her to continue in her street food business until she received a livelihood starter kit from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through the Southern Leyte Field Office (SLFO) in February 2021.

She received P12,310.00 worth of livelihood assistance, which slowly helped her business gain momentum in her hometown in Sogod.

From one vending cart at the Sogod Terminal, Bitor was able to buy another one situated inside a department store.

“Hindi ko po inakala na magiging ganito kami. Ang hirap talaga nung una, dahil maliit lang ang kita naming mag-asawa. Yung bahay namin noon halos napagkakamalan po na bahay ng baboy,” said Bitor, as she looked back on how she started her business.

(I never thought we would be like this. It was really hard at first, because my husband and I had little income. Our house was almost mistaken for a hog house.)

“Pero dahil po sa tulong ng DOLE, nag-iba at gumaan ang buhay namin,” she added.

(But because of DOLE's help, our lives have changed and become easier.)

According to DOLE-Eastern Visayas, the assistance “paved the way for the living condition of Bitor family to improve, earning a net income of P2,500.00 per day.”

Despite the challenges brought by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and the devastation from Typhoon Odette in December 2021, which drained her savings, Bitor did not lose sight of her goal.

"She managed to rise above the problems,” the labor department said.

Through its Integrated Livelihood Program, DOLE provided livelihood to the needy and deserving informal workers throughout the years.

At present, Bitor already opened her third business in front of another department store in Sogod, this time as a snack house where people can dine in and enjoy their favorite fishball, kikiam, and variety of snacks such as potato fries, kwek-kwek, siomai, and some refreshments.

“Her small-scale business is now a sought-after street food in their place,” said the regional labor department as it lauded Bitor’s perseverance.

Bitor’s successful livelihood is just one of the many testimonies that DOLE’s livelihood program “is indeed instrumental in improving the lives of the workers that the department ought to serve,” according to the labor department.

“Natutugunan na namin ang aming mga pangangailangan at nakakatulong pa kami sa iba,” Bitor said. (SunStar Philippines)