“A piece of iron can only become what the blacksmith says it should become.” – Nigerian Proverb

This statement clearly reflects the journey of a humble farmer turned exquisite blacksmith from barangay Tabacda,Tubo, Abra.

Donato Domingo, a loving husband and a responsible father of seven, has been a farmer ever since he was young. He has mastered, perhaps, all the processes of farming from tilling the land to harvesting their produce. As much as he excels in and loves farming, he knows that it alone cannot support the needs of his family. Hence, Donato tried his hand on other jobs such as occasional construction works in Sagada, Mountain Province and in Tubo, Abra. However, those jobs were not permanent and sustainable; these would leave him packing his bags and going back to tilling land and farming in his hometown.  

One afternoon, while he was tending to his farm, a non-government organization employee visited barangay Tabacda. He, and five others, were invited to participate in a one-week training on blacksmithing. Despite being in his prime 40s, he did not hesitate to try a new endeavor, which was far from what he was used to, and far from what he was most knowledgeable in.  

Donato, together with his neighbors went to Sagada, Mountain Province for the training. They were taught how to use various materials and tools in creating knives and bolos from forging iron to creating durable handles. In that single week, a dull flame started to ignite in Donato. He made the most out of their activity. He actively participated in the different processes of blacksmithing. 

When he went back to Tabacda, he immediately knew that he wanted to push through with the endeavor of creating knives and bolos. With knives being a necessity in the kitchen and bolos being in demand in an agricultural community, he was determined to turn this new-found hobby into a livelihood that has the potential to have an income that can more than just make ends meet. As a budding entrepreneur, he was able to earn an average net income of PhP 500.00 daily. He would sell his bolos for PhP 700.00 and render repair services for PhP 300.00.

At the onset of the pandemic, Donato’s livelihood started hitting rock bottom. Pursuing blacksmithing was not a walk in the park especially during those difficult times as he found it next to impossible to sustain his blacksmithing enterprise. Instead of using his money to finance his business, he had to reallocate it for their basic necessities. 

Thinking that his blacksmithing enterprise was headed towards being a closed book, he was in the brink of giving up. As passionate as he is, Donato decided to try his luck one more and this time with the livelihood support from the Department of Social Welfare and Development- Cordillera Administrative Region (DSWD-CAR) which provides grants for individuals with microenterprises. 

The Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG) of DSWD-CAR, through its Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), is the agency’s response to COVID-19 which aims to aid pandemic-hit families to recover from economic losses by providing financial support to their new or existing micro-enterprise projects and/or by augmenting their expenses for pre-employment requirements. 

Brimming with hope that his blacksmithing enterprise can be revived, Donato submitted all the requirements needed to be considered as a beneficiary of the program. He was one of the chosen beneficiaries of the program who received a seed capital fund of PhP 20,000.00. 

Upon receiving the grant, Donato started purchasing raw materials to produce more knives and bolos that he could sell. Although knives and bolos take months to create, he was able to forge enough of different sizes to accommodate pre-orders and his walk-in customers.

Donato, through the SLP-LAG, was able to earn an additional PhP 1,000.00 per month for selling his products. This is a significant help for his family apart from his income from farming. 

To achieve sustainability in his business endeavor, the Municipal and Barangay Local Government Units, and the DSWD CAR’s Sustainable Livelihood Program provide technical assistance on business and operational aspects to ensure that Donato get through the difficulties of managing his enterprise. 

The livelihood assistance grant was more than just a capital for him. It was a symbol of hope that paved the way to reignite a passion while coping amidst the pandemic. This has been instrumental for him to fulfill his commitment as the provider for his family. 

“Agyamanak ti DSWD ta maysa ak na naalala nga naikkan ni LAG. Awan ngamin ti pagbirukan. Nasayaat ta maysa ak nga inikkan da ti livelihood. Isu pay nga haan nga steady, ta tiyempo tiyempo lang nga ah trabaho ak.” 

(I am thankful to DSWD that I was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of LAG. We do not have any source of capital. I am happy that I was provided with my livelihood especially now, that my work [in the farm] is not stable,” Donato said.

Donato’s story as a blacksmith is a testament that no matter what walk of life you are trudging, it is possible to rise above adversities. Because of his zeal and perseverance, Donato was able to continuously forge his iron of success to mold it into the life he wants for him and his family.  #DSWD-CAR,  SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, Lorillie R.  Gonzales

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