It was a rainy touch down at the Bacolod Silay Airport when 15 families on board a Philippine Airlines flight made a homecoming of sorts, with the sight of hope coming their way as well.
Orange bags labeled "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa" littered around near the airport’s baggage claim belt as these families await for their checked in stuff while mothers readied their envelopes with documents and vaccination cards ready for presentation at the arrival desks.
Practically all their belongings packed in recycled boxes and ecobags with their children in tow, one even wheelchair bound, these families were welcomed at the airport by their respective social workers who will bring them to their hometowns to start life anew.
Anabel Gutib will go home to Minapasok in Calatrava town with her four children aged 12, 8, 6 and 4 years old after having been evicted from their rented place in Manila for not being able to pay for rent since the pandemic made their lives miserable.
“Nagpuli ko di kay sang sa Manila, kapigado sang amon panimalay. Sang COVID, ang tatay sang mga bata ko nagka COVID and pina-alis na kami sa bahay naming nire-renta (We decided to go home because life in Manila is very hard. And during COVID, the father of my children contracted COVID, and we were not able to pay the rent,” Anabel shares as she recalled being sent out of the house they rented.
Anabel is fond of inquiring from government sources and at one time she was able to seek help from 8888 and she received a return call asking her if she wanted to avail of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program of the government, which she readily availed because she wanted to live a new life.
Executive Order No. 114 signed May 6, 2020 institutionalizes the BP2 program as a pillar of balanced regional development
which in part, the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 espouses the strategies of spatial development which aims to decongest the National Capital Region and direct growth to key centers throughout the country, improve linkages by connecting rural areas to growth centers or strengthening urban-rural linkages, and make growth more inclusive by creating more opportunities for production and employment in the lagging regions, thereby reducing poverty.
“Ako po ay lubos na nagpapasalamat kay Senador Bong Go and President Duterte na may program silang ganito na makatulong po sa mahihirap tulad ko na single mother. Sana po ay matulungan po ninyo ako na maibigay yung pabahay, scholarship at pangkabuhayan para maitaguyod ko po ang aking apat na mga anak (I wholeheartedly thank Senator Bong Go and President Duterte for this program that helps single mothers like me. May the promised housing, livelihood and scholarship for my children will be given soon so I can raise my children well),” Anabel said.
Another mother of five, Donna Mosquiera with her husband also went home for peace of mind.
When asked what made her decide to go back to the province, she answered in the dialect – “sa mga naga rugby.” It turns out that where they came from in Muntinlupa, rugby use was rampant even among young children and she strongly despised the thought that her children would end up the same.
“Sa mga nakita ko nga naga rugby, indi ko gusto didto kay basi mag amo man ang mga bata ko ba (From what I saw of those using rugby, I do not want my children would end up like them),” Donna shared as she wipes a tear that trickled down her left cheek.
Like everybody else, at the height of COVID-19 transmission in the country, Donna’s life was at a standstill, including work for her husband who is a construction painter.
Donna recalled her difficulties especially when buying food. She had to walk from Sucat to Alabang to buy food and have no choice since finances are scarce, to do it all over again the next day and when she gets tired, she sits down by the sidewalk and walk again.
Hearing about the Balik Probinsya program from her 4Ps City Link, Donna and her family were initially scheduled to avail of BP2 for Samar since her husband is from there, but they were not accepted for Samar but instead they were bound for Negros Occidental.
Donna first came to Manila 15 years ago when she was just 19 years old to work as a nanny until years and five children
later, she is at peace now that she has arrived home. Happy that she is home and that her voice cracked as she blurted the word “Salamat,” stopping in between conversations as she tended to her youngest child who was coughing.
Donna and Anabel, both mothers, only wished what’s best for their children now settled in their respective hometowns. Both are living testimonies that the government is working for them and their young families to start life anew, full of hope back in their home province. (AAL/EAD-PIA6 Negros Occidental)