Grounding on the infamous television commercial’s question, “Saan aabot ang bente pesos mo?”, have you thought about how far can each peso go?

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about not just health but also economic concerns, leaving the vulnerable even more at risk to engross its impact. This led the Government to implement programs and service to soften the blow.

Through the Republic Act 11469 Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was mandated to implement the Social Amelioration Program which provides P 5,000 to 8,000 to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Cordillera Administrative Region, the DSWD was able to provide P 5,500 to around 299,903 families with the total assistance amounting to more than P 1.56 billion and 6,964 waitlisted families under the 1st tranche and more than 26 thousand families have received and are still receiving their assistance under the 2nd tranche.

Due to this continuing crisis, Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act has been passed into law resulting to the Department’s continuous intervention to recovering families affected by the pandemic. Under the said Act, the DSWD was tasked to provide an emergency subsidy amounting to P 5,000 to 8,000 to affected low-income households in areas under granular lockdown and families of recently returning overseas Filipino workers.

Aside from the Emergency Subsidy Program, the Department committed to continue the implementation of its regular services including livelihood assistance, provision of food and non-food items, Supplementary Feeding Program, Expanded Assistance to Individuals in Crises Situation and the Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens.

In the Region, there are 94, 211 senior citizens availing the Social Pension program. As of 2 December 2020, 87,407 were already able to receive their stipend for the months of July to December 2020 amounting to P 3,000 per pensioner.

Of the total Social Pensioners who received their grants, 20, 540 were from Abra, 18,802 from Benguet, 13,287 from Kalinga, 9,979 from Apayao, 9,114 from Mountain Province, 1,617 from Baguio City and 14,068 from Ifugao.

For Ifugao, the number is  around 96% of the total beneficiaries of the said program. And among these beneficiaries are Lola Letecia Lungub, Lola Marilyn and Lolo Erwin Santiago.

Shelter from Life’s Storms

Lola Leticia from Alfonso Lista was born on 25 September 1959. Lola Leticia depended on farming as their source of living. For the past months, she admitted that surviving became more challenging because of the protocols in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. She shared that they were limited to do farm work because of the age restriction. To make ends meet, they had to ask money from the people that were willing to lend them some. She is currently residing with her child and four grandchildren since her husband already passed away in 1999.

Being one of the beneficiaries to receive the stipend for the first time, Lola Letecia was very happy to share as to how she would spend the money she received.

“Ipaurnos ko iti balay mi nga nadadael idi napalabas nga bagyo. Agyamanak ta maysa ak nga napili da nga masuportaan iti daytoy. ([I will use the money] to repair our damaged house due to the past typhoons. I am very grateful because I am one of the beneficiaries to be supported [by the Program]”, Lola Letecia shared.

Although a small amount, Lola Letecia appreciates the assistance given to them. “Haan nga umanay ta adu iti kasapulan mi kadagiti apok. Ngem uray kasta, agyaman kami ta ada iti bassit nga kanayunan nga naited kadakami. Agtitinulong kami nga makitanggad tapno manayunan pay ti mausar ([The money is] not enough because me and my grandchildren have many needs. But we are still grateful because even if this a small amount, this augments to our needs. We work together in paid labor fur us to have more to use)”, she said.

Providing Food on the Table

Unlike Lola Letecia, Lola Marilyn Santiago, is lucky to still have Lolo Erwin on her side. Lola Marilyn who is born on 11 September 1958 and Lolo Erwin born on 5 April 1960 are both Social Pensioners.

The couple who are also farmers shared that they were able to plant corn in May. However, the worth of the product went down, living them with little to no income when they sold their produce in September.

Nagrigat idi lockdown ta haan kami makarwar nga agbirok iti sidaen. Uray kayat mi ti agtrabaho, awan iti pagtrabahuan. Nakaawat kami met iti relief. Dakkel unay nga tulong ta nainayon kami nga agasawa ket haan kami nga makaubra. (We had a hard time during the lock down because we were not allowed to go out to work for us to buy something to eat. Even we are willing, we cannot find someone who could offer us work. We were able to receive relief [assistance from our LGU]. This is a very big help because my husband and I can’t still do [farm] work.)”, Lola Marilyn shared.

Lolo Erwin, who is a first time recipient of the stipend was able to receive P 6,000. The couple received a total of P 9,000.

Lola Letecia, Lola Marilyn and Lolo Erwin also received P5,500 assistance under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP). Even though they were not able to receive the 2nd tranche under the SAP, they are thankful to receive their stipend under the Social Pension Program.

Salamat ta ada manen iti tulong iti gobyerno. Ingatang mi ti agas ken sabali pay nga makan dyay SAP. Tatta ,iyalak ti bagas daytoy kwarta. Mabalin nga umabot iti 2021 daytoy nga tulong. (We are thankful because we again received assistance from the Government. We used the SAP to buy our medicine and some food. Now, I will use the money to buy rice. I guess we’ll be able to use the money until 2021)”, Lolo Erwin shared.

For some of us, P 3,000 can be used to buy an exotic plant or a pair of sneakers. But for our Social Pensioners, the money means more than its economic value. They may use it to buy their needs such as food, medicine or materials for their home but being able to receive and use the money brings strength to their bodies, comfort to their homes, and recognition and affirmation that they are valued and cared for.#DSWD-CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, Nerizza Faye G. Villanueva- Trinidad

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