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A Love that Never Ceases

At the foot of the legendary Apu Lakay-Lakay and Apu Baket-Baket rock formations in Claveria town lives a woman with passion for community service, which later became her true love.

Helen Eva T. Guzman is a woman who lacks prestige, position, or power, but she has made a difference by just being herself.

She is the youngest of four siblings. Her father was a policeman, who after retirement, worked as a security officer at the then Taggat Industries operating in Taggat, Claveria, while her mother, a housekeeper, who later ventured into fish trading business as their residence is near the Claveria Lagoon.

Eva, as she is fondly called, is an AB Economics graduate at the Divine World College in the Ilocos Region. She later worked as a field monitoring staff at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the National Capital Region, but later chose to become a Filipino Overseas Worker (OFW) in Macau for 11 years, working as a secretary for an architectural firm.  But, with the transition of the Macau government back to China, she was forced to go back to the Philippines.

In 2008, it was this time when her mother, now of senior age and sickly, that she decided to take over their fish trading business.

While it was difficult for her to love something that she is not used to, she learned to appreciate the ins and outs of the business, especially there are a lot of hopeless fisherfolk whose families depend on their business.

While most fisherfolk belong to the poorest of the poor, Eva initiated to personally share or shoulder the gasoline expenses especially during the time when prices of petroleum products are at its peak, so small fishers can go on with their livelihood which depends on their motorized bancas.

There was no contract as to when the fishers will pay. It was actually a “pay when able” scheme and this made her gain the love of the fishing community.

She serves as the savior of many parents during emergencies, especially for medical needs and tuition fees of their children. She always opens her doors for the needy until she considered herself a ‘mother’ with many children.

Eva is the stand-alone Santa Claus in Taggat, as she holds gift-giving every year, like providing sacks of rice and groceries to the less privileged families in the neighborhood.

Whenever her nieces and friends send her packages from abroad, her neighbors automatically get a share of her blessings.

Knowing her passion for service for her community and her capability to lead and initiate, she was chosen to become the president of the association of deputy fish wardens in Claveria. She is also the treasurer of the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC) and a member of the Fish Landing Management Board.

With the positions and trust given to her, she furthered her participation in various community activities while gaining deeper partnerships with stakeholders like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine National Police – Maritime Group, Philippine Coastguard (PCG), local government units, fish traders organizations, and other institutions.

She is the only woman who braves the heat and coldness of the time during patrol missions, if only to ensure that their waters, which was declared as a Marine Protected Area (MPA), are protected against illegal fishing activities.

One of her notable contributions in her community is the regular conduct of coastal clean-ups, wherein she influenced kids and her neighbors to join her.

She also personally provided labor and materials for the continuation of the operation of garbage traps installed in the Taggat River to ensure that waste will not go to the sea. It was a project initiated by the Maritime police, which she sustained.

During emergencies, she acts as an instrument in calling for rescuers, even providing her own banca during search and rescue operations in her town, especially when there are missing or in distress fishermen.

She also provides assistance to stranded passengers especially during unpredicted weather conditions and whenever the Philippine Coastguard imposes unexpected “no sail” notices.

In September 2022, a landslide incident occurred at Sitio Banguero, Barangay Pancian, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, causing a road closure in the area where many students studying in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, who were from Sta. Praxedes and Claveria in Cagayan and Apayao, were stranded.

Eva had to find ways to help her niece go back to Ilocos so she used her boat and invited other students to join the trip. This led to her initiative in helping other stranded students  in partnership with the PCG. Later, the LGU also intervened and did the same.

Being a lay leader in the community, Eva saw the need to rehabilitate and improve their chapel, which is aside from being too small, it also needed renovation. She took the initiative to solicit from her friends, who are mostly her customers in her fish trading business, where to her surprise, someone  donated P100,000 for the said purpose.

Today, the chapel has been improved and is now more conducive for worship.

After establishing her connections, she spearheaded the conduct of medical missions, operation tuli, and gift-giving in partnership with her family and friends.

This has been an activity that the neighborhood looks forward to as there are some who find it hard to avail free check-ups, circumcision, and medicine as well.

She has been doing this except during the COVID-19 pandemic when there were restrictions for mass gatherings.

During the pandemic, where most workers were adversely affected by the closure of many business establishments, Eva provided rice, groceries, and a small financial amount to families who belong to the poorest of the poor.

She also gained the support of her friends, and after which, she managed to reach out to more families.

Her special day and her father’s birthday are neighborhood celebrations as food and drinks are served for everybody to partake. Gifts and surprises were also handed to attendees as Eva’s and her father’s way of sharing their blessings.

What is more to ask? She has pampered her nieces and nephews and family while standing as a surrogate mother to many. Eva enjoys every moment of her life and asks for nothing but good health from the Lord, so that she can continue her mission for her community.

“I’ve learned to love everything I have now. All I want is to leave a legacy for the people around me. I am beyond thankful for the families who recognized the small things I have done for them. It compares to nothing else,” she said. #(GVB/OTB/ALM/JKC/PIA Region 2) 

About the Author

Oliver Baccay

Information Officer IV

Region 2

  • Assistant Regional Director, Philippine Information Agency Region 2
  • Graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication 
  • Graduate of Master of Arts in Education, major in English
  • Graduate of Doctor in Public Administration

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