They may be physically weak but when it comes to developing their community even frail kness could not stop them. The senior citizens of Pongayan, Kapangan proved that age is just a number.

Like the rest of the senior citizens in Pongayan, Kapangan, Syria Mapanao, 76, wishes to walk on paved roads in her barangay before she dies.

“It’s a big challenge for senior people like us to walk on unpaved and muddy road. We have to walk slowly with the support of a cane to protect us from slipping,” she said.

She added that whenever the senior citizens have to attend activities at the town proper, it would usually take them long hours to reach the venue.

Barangay Pongayan’s road is a one-way dirt road and residents have been perenially plagued by the road’s poor condition especially during and after heavy and continuous rains.

During the barangay consultations done by DSWD’s Kapit-bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), majority of the residents identified the improvement of the road as their most immediate need.

Since the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Kalahi-CIDSS applies the community-driven development process in implementing the program, a committee of community volunteers had to be organized and mobilized to undertake various functions.

Mapanao said that she was eager to join the roster of community volunteers for the program to realize her dream of walking through a paved and safe road.

She then accepted the role to chair the community volunteers in Barangay Pongayan while being the president of the Pongayan Senior Citizens Association (POSCA).

Under her leadership, community volunteers of the barangay developed the proposal for the improvement of their road. This was then submitted and contested to the MLGU and DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS.

However, as recounted by Mapanao, “In 2015, during the first cycle [of Kalahi-CIDSS], we fell short on our participation rate which is one of the major criteria for us to be prioritized.” She said that their barangay was not proactive enough to be able to implement a project.

As set by representatives from the different barangays of Kapangan, one qualifying criteria for project proposals to be accepted and funded is at least 80% participation of residents during barangay assemblies.

Better the second time around

Challenged more than despaired, the Pongayan Senior Citizens Association planned and implemented strategies to boost their participation rate during the second cycle of DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS Program in 2016.

Starting with an agreement among themselves, the Association’s first strategy is for them to participate in every activity of the barangay where they may be needed.

“After understanding how Kalahi [CIDSS] works, we, the senior citizens agreed to attend every barangay assembly”, shared Amparo Comila, POSCA Secretary.

By setting a good example to the younger members of their community, the barangay’s participation rate in 2016 reached 84.79 percent compared to their 52.96 percent rate in 2015 during the first cycle of the program.

As a result, Barangay Pongayan was prioritized to implement the concreting of a portion of their road during the second cycle of the DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS.

The senior citizens did not stop after they were granted the project. They assisted the actual implementation of the project until it was completed.

“Since we are not capable to join the labor force during the construction of the road, we also agreed to provide rice, vegetables, and other materials we could manage to give. We even volunteered to cook for the laborers”, Comila said.

Earning the respect of the community, their younger counterparts were seen to be actively participating from the identification, planning, until the implementation of their community project.

“We always advised them that they will be reaping the benefits of the road [improvement] ssince it will be easier for them to transport and sell their farm products in Baguio City or to [La Trinidad] Trading Post”, Oscar Banciong, POSCA member said.

Due to their mobilization efforts, an increase in women participaton in paid labor was also noted.

Finally, on 25 October 2017, the 552 linear meter farm to market road was turned over to the barangay.

The concreting of a portion of Barangay Pongayan’s road was a huge success. But, the community still clamors for the estimated three kilometers which remains as a dirt road to be improved sooner than later.

Residents of the barangay are hopeful that the remaining dirt road will be improved under the Department of Agriculture’s Second Highlind Agricultural Resource Management Project. #DSWD-CAR, Social Marketing Unit, Jasmin Kiaso

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