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How a 4Ps beneficiary turned a 'nightmare' into a sweet dream

Dili na makahuman og eskwela. Habal-habal driver rana ang amahan (He would not finish his studies. His father is just a habal-habal driver).” Mark Harley Caspiz vividly remembers hearing this comment during his childhood years

As he grew up, Mark Harley became envious of other children. He was not able to experience birthday parties, play with nice and expensive toys, or even eat sumptuous meals. Growing up with seven siblings, he cannot imagine how his parents could send them to school, let alone sustain their daily needs.

His father, Glenn Caspiz, is a habal-habal driver, while his mother, Josephine Caspiz, is a housewife. Both his parents also tried farming and selling vegetables and local delicacies, or kakanin, in their neighborhood in Brgy. Luzong, Siquijor Capital, Siquijor.

However, poverty and a lack of resources did not stop Mark Harley from achieving his life goals.

Nagdako ko nga daghang pangandoy sa kinabuhi ug ang uban gani nga among silingan gatuo sila nga ambisyoso ko. Tinuod, sakto sila sa ilang pagtuo. Pero, kung dili ko maningkamot, maka survive kaha ko? Daghan ko og what-ifs (I grew up full of dreams, and other neighbors called me an ambitious person. Yeah, they are right in their perception. But if I do not persevere, will I survive? I am full of what-ifs. What if I do not continue my education? "What if I will live to contentment and accept the fact that I’m wasting my time dreaming?)," he lamented.

Mark Harley candidly shared that he did not wish to work on the farm the whole day. He did not wish to eat salt with oil, dried fish, and root crops, and he did not want to experience sleeping the whole night starving. These were his nightmares from the past.

Mark Harley Caspiz currently teaches Grade 12 at Banban National High School, Siquijor, Siquijor. (DSWD photo)
4Ps Beneficiary

The Caspiz family became one of the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 2012, a poverty alleviation program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

As a mother, Josephine used the 4Ps cash grants for the health and education of her two monitored children, Mark Harold and Mark Vincent. It helped the family sustain the student’s school needs and ensure they were healthy by accessing health services.

Diligent students

All of the Caspiz siblings were diligent and graduated with flying colors from school. Mark Harley doubled his effort in studying, for he believes it will be his ticket to achieving his dreams in life.

His efforts did not go in vain as he graduated as salutatorian and valedictorian in elementary and secondary schools, respectively.

"But the more we moved to the next educational level, the more my family struggled, especially since my other siblings were also studying in college," said Mark Harley. “I said to myself ‘What if I do not enroll in college and instead look for a job?’ I thought about it because I want my older siblings to continue and graduate in their chosen college courses," he shared.

It was a difficult time for Mark Harley to decide whether he would continue his college studies or, in the meantime, find a job to help his family. However, he held onto his prayers and continued to seek guidance from the Almighty. The Caspiz family believed that they could overcome all obstacles as a united family. They even became more active in their church activities and other community activities.

Glenn and Josephine Caspiz flanked by their two sons, Mark Harold and Mark Vincent, hold the graduation photos of their children. (DSWD photo)

Armed with determination and faith in God, Mark Harley enrolled at Siquijor State College. He studied for a Bachelor's degree in Secondary Education with a Major in Mathematics.

"When I entered college, I envied my classmates because they wore nice clothes and had elegant bags; they had a complete set of school uniforms, an allowance, and even lived in a dormitory," recalled Mark Harley.

Looking back on their situation before, he said it was difficult for his parents to pay their college tuition fees and other miscellaneous fees. His mother, Josephine, would use a promissory note a couple of times just for them to take the midterm and final examinations.

To unload his parent’s burden of providing his daily allowance, Mark Harley tried selling biscuits, candies, and chocolates in school and offered tutorials to his other classmates and schoolmates. He also applied for different scholarships to help pay his tuition fee.

Nakatabang to aron maminus-minusan ang galastohan pero dili gihapon paigo kay daghang paperworks sa eskwelahan ug ang usa nako ka igsuon mograduate pud sa college (It helped lessen the expenses, but not enough because there were many papers at school and one of my sisters will graduate from college)," he said.

As their family is a 4Ps beneficiary, he was able to apply for the Expanded Student Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA).

"Luckily, I was chosen to be one of the grantees. I was grateful and happy at that moment because the grant covered the tuition and other miscellaneous fees plus a monthly allowance. Through this scholarship, I was able to focus on my studies, and I was determined to finish my bachelor’s degree. I can still remember the days when we had our monthly Youth Development Session (YDS), where we actively participated in various activities that could improve and develop our personal and professional growth," said Mark Harley.

The ESGP-PA was implemented by the Commission on Higher Education together with DSWD, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). The beneficiaries of ESGP-PA are 4Ps families whose children are enrolled in specific SUCs, who chose CHED priority programs, and who enrolled in other course offerings within the government's key growth areas.

In March 2017, Mark Harley graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Secondary Education, Major in Mathematics and was recognized as magna cum laude. In the same year, he was also recognized as one of the regional finalists for the Ten Outstanding Students in the Philippines in Central Visayas and the only student finalist from Siquijor province.

Self-sufficient level

In September 2017, Mark Harley took the Licensure Examination for Teachers and passed. He started his teaching career at the Ave Maria Academy and later applied with the Department of Education (DepEd).

"Now, I am celebrating my fourth year of service in DepEd. I am happy that I finished my Master of Arts in Education with a major in Mathematics at the Foundation University in Dumaguete City in 2021. Currently, I am pursuing my doctorate in education at the same institution and hopefully finish as planned," he said.

"The grants in ESGP-PA really helped my college journey. Without this, I do not know if I could finish my course. Now, together with my two sisters, who are also teachers, we help finance our younger siblings' education," he proudly said. 

Through the family’s unified efforts, they were also able to renovate their house and now live in a concrete house. Glenn also continues to be a habal-habal driver but on an occasional basis, and presently works as a barangay councilor, while Josephine stopped selling kakanin and focused on taking care of the family.

The monitored child, Mark Harold, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminology this year, while Mark Vincent is presently in 8th grade in high school.

"To our young dreamers, continue to dream because it is priceless. Invest in education. It might be a cliché that no one became rich by studying alone, but you will reap what you sow in the near future. Let your nightmares be beautiful, sweet dreams. As you create and fulfill your dream, do not forget the people who contributed to your success and always keep your feet on the ground," he said. (PR)

About the Author

Rizalie Calibo


Region 7

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