Sagada, Mountain Province, a six-hour trip from Baguio City, is the home of the famous hanging coffins and distinct tribal culture and traditions. People from different parts of the world travel here to experience caving, hiking, and trekking.
Behind these attractions is a story of a courageous woman who defied all expectations in a culture dominated by men to prove that she has a bigger role to portray.
Andrea Bacagan, a mother of seven, took the challenge of assuming the role as a Day Care Center teacher in Poblacion, Sagada despite the fact that women in her culture were supposedly meant to just live as housewives. She became a pioneer of children’s education in her community at a time when four to five-year-old kids do not have the haven to learn basic literacy skills.
On her 14 years of teaching, she enthusiastically recalled how the kids gathered closely around her during rainy seasons.
“The kids would run to me and hug me when they heard the thunder. When someone cried, I hugged him or her tighter”, she said.
When her children started growing up, the 500 pesos per month honorarium wasn’t enough to provide their needs especially that her husband only works in the farm. She put up a business and left teaching. But her business unexpectedly failed. Working abroad became more appealing to her. She borrowed money from friends and worked in Dubai as a domestic helper in 2007 with big dreams for her family. She was deceived by her employment agency. She went home penniless with credits she needed to pay.
However, she never stopped trying. In 2009, she traveled back to Dubai to work as housemaid of a Lebanese family for Php 6,000.00 a month. But destiny was never kind to her. After two years of not sleeping well, earning a small wage, not eating enough food and could barely get out of her employer’s house, she went back to the Philippines with only her luggage and another painful experience.
“It was agonizing. Every night I thought about my family”, she said.
After years of struggling to make ends meet, change finally knocked her door. Through the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, she can now provide the basic needs of her children because of the education and health grants she received every month.
She is now a Parent Leader in her community. She leads other parents in actively participating in community activities and projects. She also shares her story to others and encourages them to keep trying until life becomes much easier. She is a living testament of what past struggles and failures can make in changing someone’s life for the better.
Andrea’s story did not end there. Two of her children are now in college. Although their condition has improved through Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, sending all her children to school is still quite a difficult task. One of her college kids needs to work to support his studies. Andrea is hoping and praying that someone with a big heart could help in fulfilling one of her kids’ dream. We need to join our hands together to help our kababayan like Andrea to give her children a chance for a better education. DSWD-CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, JOMEL ANTHONY V. GUTIERREZ