Mr. Enrico dela Vega, Jr. is one among the few hundreds of Social Workers in the Cordillera Administrative Region. In January 2013, he became a part of the Department of Social Welfare and Development as a Municipal Link under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. In March 2013, Enrico was able to present in front of Secretary Dinky Soliman through a Covergence activity in the region. Within his 7 months stay with the department, Enrico said that he has already so many stories to offer, including his own story.

25 year old Enrico earned his degree in Social Work from Saint Louis University in Baguio City. According to him, he never had any other dream but to become a social worker. With this, he has set his mind towards the challenges of being a dedicated social worker.

After having many comfortable years in Baguio City, Enrico was set to begin his journey, figuratively and literally.

Travelling the road less travelled

Enrico was assigned in Tineg, Abra. Tineg is among the most far flung areas in the region. In addition to its geographic challenges, the municipality has been known for peace and order problems. No wonder the municipality is among the poorest in the country.

Immediately after being informed of his new deployment, Enrico researched on the place where he would spend his days fulfilling his utmost dream. He found out things that would have discouraged him, but instead he took it as a challenge.

For the first few days, Enrico admitted that he had a difficult time adjusting with the lifestyle of the people in Tineg. He said that he missed the steady supply of water, electricity, and other comforts of city life. Aside from this, the attitude of the people doubled the hardship that Enrico had to face. Dismay and sadness can be mirrored in Enrico’s eyes as he said “Hindi ko makakalimutan nung sinabi nila saakin na wala na silang nakikitang pag-asa, na mamamatay na silang ganoon [mahirap].”.  But this did not stop him from doing his job as a municipal link and a social worker.

Enrico said that he had to double his efforts to implement the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program successfully. And in just a short span of time, he was able to establish good relationship with the Local Government Unit in which he credits for the improved delivery of social services to the people. Not just that, he has gained the trust of the communities he has lived with for a few months now. People before look down or even hide when they see new people, but now, the people are not shy or afraid to talk. Random people would come to talk to him and thank him for the things he has done for the community.

Finding the right path

Having a talk with Enrico is a joy. His cheerful laugh and positive aura ensured a conducive conversation between us. It is as if he doesn’t have any concern on hand or any challenges in the past.

Before Enrico became a social worker, he also had a taste of life’s bitterness and trials. And the first thought that came to him when he was assigned in Tineg was “Ito na ba ang kabayaran sa lahat ng mga nagawa kong kasalanan?”.

It was in his second year in college when he decided to leave his family and explore the wilderness of Metro Manila. This was encouraged further because of the frequent fights that his parents had. Enrico confessed that his sojourn was an eye opening experience. It is during this time that he experienced to get hungry and sleep on the sidewalks. This is when he realized that he has a purpose.

Leading the Flock

Enrico said that his deployment in Abra was not only a career opportunity for him, but most importantly it is a chance for him to serve his purpose.

Mahirap lumaki na makita na nag-aaway yung parents mo sa harap mo. Nirerelate ko sa kanila yung experience ko, para as much as possible hindi na nila maranasan yung naranasan ko. ”, Enrico shared as he reminisced how he tries to encourage the parents to attend the Family Development Sessions (FDS) of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

As a social worker, he was also alarmed of the rising trend of adultery in the area. More and more people have started to fight over their “relationships”, more children have been threatened to suffer. Aside from Enrico’s constant reminder and encouragement, the Local Government of Tineg mandated the families to attend the FDS. The LGU even provided food and travel allowance for the families who attend the FDS. This close partnership of Enrico and the LGU has been giving a good result towards the problem. Moreover, Enrico still does his home visits even if he is not required to do so. He constantly visits the families involved and talk to them.

Enrico also has continued to keep the good relationship that he has with the LGU of Tineg. In his own initiative, he furnishes the LGU with his reports to keep them updated. With this, the LGU has started to extend more support to Enrico and the department. He even shared that the LGU now asks what help they can provide for the implementation of the programs and services of the DSWD.

With these developments, indeed, Enrico has served his purpose. But still, he does not want to be recognized for the job he has done. “Ayokong marecognize ako, gusto kong ma-recognize yung area na hawak ko.”, Enrico said. When asked on how he managed to survive the challenges of Tineg, he said that he have three strategies as a social worker. First, he said that communication is very important. He has used his communication skills, not only to talk with people but to establish respect and trust among them. Second, he said that one must be sensitive of the people around him. And lastly, one must live with the people because it is only if you are able to do all three, you can successfully become a part of them.

Indeed, Enrico is one true social worker. He has shown that service is not bounded by geography. He has a heart full of compassion for the people. He has used his experiences to help others. But most importantly, he has opened new hope and opportunities for the people and with the people.  # DSWD-CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, NFGV

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