The story of a family from "rags to riches" is no longer extraordinary. It is a common life story to many. But the expected twist of how two families turned their situations into where they are now is unexpected, it is very inspiring!
Cita and Wilson Pamittan started to build their family in a nipa hut in Alibagu, Enrile, Cagayan. They were blessed with eight children whom they raised very respectful, kind, obedient and industrious despite poverty. Cita was a laundry laborer and a domestic worker (kasambahay) while Wilson was a bus conductor.
"We started very poor. We can even see stars in the sky every night when we lived in a nipa hut. Then when our children are growing, we built a bigger house but unfinished and unfurnished," Cita recalled.
Sometime in 2010, the family was qualified to be a member beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilya Program (4Ps), a poverty alleviation program of the government. With their situation then, in which all of their school-aged children are in school, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) included them in the program.
The 4Ps, in the beginning, was a controversial program as it triggered a lot of negative impressions and clamors from various sectors of society. Some believed that the government is spending billions of pesos to teach poor people to become lazy, but the Pamittan family proved them wrong.
As the couple performed their responsibilities as beneficiaries of the 4Ps set by the program conditionalities, they didn't sit on their laurels and lived neither a regal life nor just waited for their financial aid to be withdrawn from their cash cards. They worked harder to augment the financial requirements of children's education.
"We valued every peso we received from the government. We used them wisely. We invested them for our children's education," Cita said.
Wilson also recounted that during the challenging times in their lives, their meager income could not be enough for their children's needs but with the help of the 4Ps program and through the perseverance of their children, they were able to survive it.
"When we receive our salary, it will be immediately spent on our children's needs. No luxury in life as every single cent was very precious to us at that time," he cried as he recalled how they were able to survive the hardships in life.
At present, four of their children have successfully finished their college education. The eldest of them is now working at the Local Government Unit of Enrile, one is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who is also taking law studies, the other two are now working in private companies, and another two are expected to graduate this semester. The other two younger children are still in school.
After 10 years as 4Ps beneficiaries, the couple had voluntarily exited as they believe that the assistance must be passed on to other families who need it. Aside from the success of the education of their children, their success is very evident as they now live far from how they started. From a nipa hut to an unfinished house, and now to a 3-storey house.
"We were surprised by our children. I thought they will just build a small house. They also established some businesses for us because they wanted us to stop now as laborers. They want us to just enjoy what we have now," Cita happily said.
Another inspiring story is the family of Eliza Respicio's of Batu, Enrile. She was also one of the pioneer beneficiaries of the 4Ps in 2011. She served as a parent leader in her barangay.
Her husband is a farm laborer and they have seven children. They also started in a very poor situation, living in a nipa hut too to a lot owned by her mother-in-law.
"We have nothing. We don't have land to till. We only serve as laborers in the rice fields of our neighbors. When we were qualified as one of the beneficiaries, I was very happy because I know that it could help me a lot in sending my children to school," she said.
"I can also recall the times that we have nothing to serve on our table. There were even times that we only eat noodles because that was very affordable back then. When I received our first cash grant, I bought some kilos of palay," she recounted.
Today, one of her children is now serving in the Presidential Management Staff office in Malacañan, one is a Civil Engineer, and one has just graduated college and now looking for a job.
The Respicio family is still active as a 4Ps beneficiary as her other younger children are still in school. It is one among those at the subsistence level as per the evaluation of the DSWD, but will soon graduate from the program. They also built a bungalow type of house.
The Pamittan and Respicio families are not only thankful for the 4Ps program, but they are also very grateful.
"Without 4Ps, we might not have successful children who are now supporting our family. They are now slowly fulfilling our dreams to improve our living status from survival to self-sufficiency," Cita said.
Both families believe that the 4Ps program must continue. It must cater to others who are living in a survival stage.
"To our co-4Ps beneficiaries, value every peso you receive from the government. You have to be wise in spending them so that you will also be able to achieve your goals to improve your life status. Take note, you will not forever be a 4Ps beneficiary," Eliza added.
The two families are also hopeful that by sharing their life stories, others will be inspired not just to stare but to reach their stars in life through perseverance and discipline. (BME/Oliver T.Baccay/PIA Region 2)