“Ar-aramidek daytoy panagtulong, as a pastor ket makitak iti hand of God. Ginagamit ni God ang project na ito at ako, para matulungan ang mga tao. This is an instrument, a channel of blessing. Makitkitak nu inya iti purpose iti panag-biag ko ditoy lubong. This is my mission.(I am doing this, because as a pastor, I can see the hand of God. God is using this project and me to help the people. This is an instrument, a channel of blessing. I can see my life’s purpose in this world. This is my mission.)”,shared Pastor Rufino “Jun” Belerma, Jr. or “Manong Jun” as he wants him to be called.

Manong Jun is from San Juan, Abra but moved to Barangay Lamao, Bucloc, Abra on 2011 to serve as a pastorat Highland Tingguian Baptist Church and at the same time, as a volunteer Values teacher at Labaan Elementary School. A year after, another opportunity to serve and fulfill his mission came into his way.

It was in 2012 when the proposed sub-project of Barangay Lamao was prioritized for the 2nd cycle of Kalahi CIDSS in Bucloc. Since he has been staying in the said barangay serving as a pastor, he then volunteered to be part of the Project Preparation Team (PPT) for that cycle. He also helped during the construction of their drainage canal. Manong Jun shared that the constructed drainage canal is a piece of their hardwork, it was exactly how they visualized it when they were making the proposal. “Idi inimplement mi diyay [sub-] project, adu met a ti naadal ko, nakita mi iti ‘sense of ownership’ diyay project mi, adda iti pannakailala. Kinuna mi nga, ‘daytoy ket project mi’ Iti importante ket mabati kanya mi diyay [sub-] project ken kanya mi diyay en.’” (When we implemented the [sub-] project, we learned a lot, we had this ‘sense of ownership’ for our project. We told [ourselves], ‘this is our project’. What is important is that the project will stay in the community, and that is already ours.)

Manong Jun shared that prior to the construction of the drainage canal, they have been encountering problems especially during rainy seasons, to include health and sanitation issues in the community. Some of the children were even getting sick due to the foul smell coming from the pathways, and at times, rain water may be mixed with the urine of their animals or water from the laundry. The construction of the drainage canal made a positive impact on improving the health of the people within the community, their crops,their farm animals, as well as sanitary conditions in the community.The drainage canal was constructed through the funding of the Millenium Challenge Corporation and the Millenium Challenge Account – Philippines. As of October 2014, the project is already 90.85% complete physically.

After a yearof being avolunteer,ManongJundecided that he would like to be a part ofthe program, not as a volunteer but as one of the facilitators. He said he would like to share everything he learned as a volunteer to other communities implementing the program. He recalled that before the program most of the people in their community were very passive. They would even keep their comments to themselves because they are afraid to be criticized in a negative way. Manong Jun said that through the activities under the Community Empowerment Activity Cycle (CEAC), they were taught how to voice out their feelings, and in a very simple way, they gained their confidence to share their comments and suggestions during barangay assemblies.

The CEAC is the five-stage process followed by the program implementers, including the community volunteers, to train them in the community-driven development (CDD) approach, and to prepare them for their next year of implementation.

Manong Jun also saw the importance of a community coming together, especially during the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum (MIBF) where they have to vote for the sub-projects that need to be prioritized. He wanted other communities to realize the importance of the CEAC, the same way that he did.“Para kenyak dagiti naadal mi ijay CEAC ket isu ti haan nga maawan wenno madadael. Dagiti sub-projects nga naaramid ket addan tu iti panawen nga madadael met laeng. Ket nu dumteng tu, ammo min ti aramiden min gapo ta naadal min [diyay process]. Isu daytoy iti kayat ko met nga maadal iti sabali, kayat ko nga maawatan da, nga ipursige da kuma nga masuro diyay process ken isu ti itanek da iti panpanunot da, ta isu daytoy ti talaga nga makatulong kanyada,” (For me, everything that we have learned from the CEAC will never be gone or damaged. Time will come and the sub-projects may be damaged or destroyed. If that time comes, we already know what to do because we were taught with the process. I want other peopleto understand this, to pursue to learn the process, and to keep it in their minds, because this will be the one that could help them), he said in a very hoping voice.

Manong Jun also emphasized that helping the communities to uplift their lives also means making them realize the value of self-reliance. Manong Jun believes that he will be able to help change the lives of the people because he has God with him. “Nu ayatem ni Apo Dios ket nalaklakam nga maaramid iti trabaho ta tulungan naka. Masapol nga ayatem iti padam nga tao, ta makita nga ay-ayatem met ni apo Diyos. Ken nu ayatem iti padam nga tao, tumulong ka, haan lang nga iti spiritual need da wenno ketdi pati pay amin nga maitulong mo iti panagbaliw iti biag da. Ta ‘what you give to others will be given back to you by God twice as much’. (If you love God above all, you will be able to do your work easier because he will help you. You have to love other people, because it reflects your love for God. And if you love other people you have to help them, not just for their spiritual need, but to help them uplift their lives. Because ‘what you give to others will be given back to you by God twice as much.’­)

Manong Jun is now assigned as one of the Community Empowerment Facilitators at Tineg, Abra. Tineg is one of the municipalities to be implementing the project under the KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP, the expansion of the CDD strategy into a national scale.

 “Iti Tineg ket maysa nga kaadayuan ken karirigatan nga municipalidad iti Abra. Sermatak iti Tineg nga mairwar kuma ti yaman da ijay tapnu maipromote pay dagiti produkto da kas kada orchids ken red rice lalo ijay Bangued. Maiaramidan kuma iti konkreto nga dalan iti bar-barangay, farm-to-market roads, ken dalan nga mangiasideg kanyada ijay Bangued. Ket, Uray manu aldaw ak nga aghike, manu nga karayan iti masapol nga ballasiwen, ket icommit ko nga tumulong iti amin mga mabalin nga maitulong. Ken icommit ko nga talaga nga immerse mi iti bagbagi mi ijay bar-barangay satnu mas maawatan mi pay iti sitwasyon da. Ken icommit ko iti passion ko para kenya da, ta nu adda passion mo, awan ti maka-stop kenka.” (Tineg is one of the farthest and poorest municipality of Abra. ­Tineg is known for their beautiful orchids and organic red rice. I envision Tineg to be able to showcase their major produce and market them at Bangued, the capital town of Abra. I am hoping for a construction of concrete barangay roads, farm-to-market-roads, and road for an easier access to Bangued. So, even if I have to hike for days, or cross how many rivers, I commit to help in every way Ican. I commit to fully immerse myself in the barangays to understand their situation better. I commit my passion for them, because if you have the passion, no one can stop you.), Manong Jun shared.

No doubts his passion for the project when he was a volunteer has been carried on as he takes a new challenge as a Community Empowerment Facilitator. Manong Jun, is an embodiment of empowerment through CDD such that from a volunteer, Manong Jun continues to being an advocate of change. #DSWD – CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, STRELLE C. QUEJADO

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