By Ivy Venus Avenado, Community Facilitator

LA PAZ, Abra – For a house wife like Alicia Palope, government programs are nothing more than dreams that are far removed from reality.

Long used to her little world in La Paz, she had long accepted the fact that projects brought by the government are empty promises that have good beginnings but will eventually leave them wanting in the end.

This has been her experience ever since. Originally believing that someone would come to rescue them from poverty, she became resigned to the fact that they would find no help from anyone, least of all the government.

It is this situation that made Manang Alice, as called by her neighbors, looks at the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) Project as another ploy devised by the government.

Like most of the other residents, Manang Alice did not attend the first Barangay Assembly (BA) conducted in Barangay Buli in the municipality of La Paz in Abra, resulting in a low participation rate during the activity. Out of 344 households, only 224 households attended the BA.

The attendees, who happened to talk to Manang Alice, said that she insisted her belief that the Project is another “sirang plaka” which sang promises of development and better living but would not materialize in the end.

Manang Alice even recalled that they have been used to be invited to meetings in their barangays for supposed community development projects, all of which turned into nothing more than empty shells in a dried land. Despite this, the Kalahi-CIDSS implementation pushed through in the barangay.

Barangay Buli is one of the 12 barangays of La Paz, a fifth-class municipality in the province of Abra. Like most of the municipalities in the Region, La Paz, which lies 14 kilometers north east of the provincial capital Bangued, is characterized by the rocky terrains of the area which seemed to obstruct the provision of basic social services to the communities. This situation challenged the continuation of Kalahi-CIDSS implementation in the municipality.

During the Participatory Situational Analysis (PSA), the community identified the absence of a day care center as their priority problem.

Pre-school children ages 3-5 had their classes at a Catholic chapel for several years, the result of Day Care worker Violeta Buemio and concerned mothers asking the parish management to allow the children to use it as their classroom because of the lack of a day care center in their community. The request for the use of the parish as an interim day care center happened yearly that it eventually became a tradition for the community.

While they had a place to stay in, the children had to bear with discomfort in their classes because of the insufficient chairs, tables and other school facilities. Some pupils had to share seats, while others simply squatted on the floor just to get comfortable while writing or doing other activities. Learning materials were not kept properly. Water and sanitation supplies were unavailable for use of the day care children.

This situation was experienced by Gianna Marie Baile, one of the day care children in Brgy. Buli. Five-year old Gianna eagerly attended her day care classes. However, the plight of the pupils did not escape the keen eye of the little girl. “Naka-alalas manang.Awan pay ti books mi kadabattit a tugaw [(The day care center is)] ugly. We do not have books and chairs),” Gianna said, describing the day care center.

On the other hand, Manang Alice, who became curious, decided to attend the second BA. While listening to the results of the PSA, she admitted that she was stunned by the current situation of the basic education system in their barangay.

“Nalidayak nga maamwan nga kasdyay gayam ti mapaspasamak(I felt sad when I learned about our situation)”, Manang Alice said. She felt sorry for the children. Manang Alice felt compassion for the little kids who have been patiently coping with this insufficiency.

With the prioritization of the construction of a day care center, she became eager to participate in the Project. She thought of possible solutions to their problem. Her doubts slowly turned into hope, and she finally opened her door to the Kalahi-CIDSS Project by attending the 2nd BA.

Days passed, with Manang Alice continuing her engagement in the Project. Being one of the trusted individuals in the community, she volunteered as a Barangay Representation Team member and involved herself in the remaining activities of the Project implementation. She saw how important it was to not only seek one’s interest but also the interest of the majority.

“Adda dagiti daduma nga umay lang maki-meeting nu amo da nga ada ti pakayranudan (There are those who attend the meeting only if they know that they could gain money and other material giveaways.)”, Manang Alice said, referring to the importance of true volunteerism, wherein nothing is expected in return for hard work.

Manang Alice continued to attend the various meetings and activities of the Project. She then began to ask questions regarding Kalahi-CIDSS until she gradually understood the concept by heart.

As a part of her involvement, she even rallied the OFW families into taking part of the decision-making in the community. Through her, she was able to generate PhP 15,000 pesos worth of donations from the group.

On one of our conversations, I asked the reason behind her changed attitude towards the Project. She answered, “Uray nu awan ti anak ko nga mangusar ti day care center tatta, amok nga adan to ti apok nga makausar dita. Uray pay no haan nga apok ti mangusar, ada ti kabagiak nga mairanud dita (Even though I do not have a child who could use the day care center, I know that my grandchild would be able to do so. Even if I would not have my own, for sure, some of my relatives would benefit from the day care center).” She also said that seeing the children comfortable and safe in their daily classes in their own classroom is enough reason for her joy.

Even though the proposed day care center has yet to be constructed, Manang Alice is happy because she is now seeing the fruit of her waiting and participation. Barangay Buli placed second during the prioritization of sub-projects during the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum-Participatory Resource Allocation (MIBF-PRA). They never expected this victory, especially considering the fact that their participation rate during assemblies hardly reached 80%. Manang Alice believes that God saw the compassion that the volunteers had for the children. She knew that God is in control of everything.

As of the moment, there are still a lot of activities to be done before the realization of the day care center. Gianna looks forward to the day when she will be able to use. She shared, “Saan ton a marigatan ni adingko (My little brother would not experience the difficulties we went through)”.

Mrs. Maricel Baile, Gianna’s mother, did not lose hope that her children would enjoy the comfort of the new day care center. “Siguradoak a mas lumawa pay tigundaway a makaadal a nasayaat daytoy ubing ko gapu ta syempre addan to metten ti charts kada visual materials a miktkitana tapnu saan laeng a nu imbaga tay meastra da nga elephant awan pay makita da. Makatugawdan to a nasayaat ken sumayaat ti relasyon na kadagiti pada na nga ubing. Nu daduma ngamin pagiinagawan da iti tugaw(I am sure that the new day care center would open new chances and opportunities of learning for my child because I know that there would be more learning materials like charts and visual materials which the teacher could use as a sample. They could also have their own comfortable seats which would prevent them from fighting over the chairs)”, she said. She even visualized that the new day care center would give her child a safer venue to explore her world and learn.

With these hopes is her prayer that this change will give her child more inspiration to pursue education and bring a new opportunity for her and their family.

As for Manang Alice, despite the challenges and activities that still need to be fulfilled, the only thing she is keeping in her heart and mind is the reality that God works to keep them trying even if everything seems hopeless. Thanks to Kalahi-CIDSS, the world became a much bigger place for Alice and Gianna. #

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