Starting all over again is never easy and is often daunting for anyone who needs to leave the things they were used to. This is much more for a young couple who is still getting the hang of family life.

Zerah and Stephenson Puguon were then residents of Alabang, Muntinlupa City. Zerah has been managing a small computer shop business which she inherited from her brother and became her source of income.

The couple got together in 2017. All is well with them until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In December 2019, Zerah gave birth to their first child and decided to come home to the Province of Ifugao to fully recuperate as she delivered through caesarean section. Unfortunately, in March 2020, enhanced community quarantine was declared with the aim of containing the spread of the COVID-19. However, the lockdown affected most of the livelihood activities, including that of Zerah.

Idi nagawid kami,nagpandemic-en. Haan kami nakasublin. Haan mi nga nalukatan iti computer shop min. (When we went here [in Ifugao], the pandemic hit. We were not able to go back home. We were not able to open our computer shop.)”, Zerah shared.

While in the province, Stephenson engaged in backyard gardening while Zerah started a small loading business. While the couple did their best, they still had difficulty in providing for the basic needs of their family since their income had been barely enough.

With this situation, Zerah’s family qualified to receive assistance under the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program was enacted through Executive Order (EO) No. 114 which aims to facilitate the decongestion of urban communities by providing support to eligible Filipinos wanting to start anew in the provinces. It targets to allow beneficiaries who decided to settle in their hometown or other settlement area avail of services on employment, livelihood, and housing for them to start a new life.

The decongestion as a result of the BP2 program is seen to assist in the equitable distribution of wealth and resources, and the provision of social services in the rural areas.

Eligible beneficiaries of the program include those who are affected by government projects and legal demolition activities; families living on the street or in danger zones; victims of human-induced or natural disasters including health hazards such as COVID-19 pandemic; individuals who lost income opportunities; and informal settlers. Marginalized, disadvantaged, or vulnerable families who may wish to start anew may also avail of the program. Individuals in other circumstances may be considered depending on the assessment of social workers.

Through the BP2 Program eligible beneficiaries receive a  Transitory Family Support Package (TFSP) in the form of cash that they can use to cover for their transportation, meals, educational and housing needs released through the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) Program. Beneficiaries may also receive livelihood assistance under the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

“Nagdecide kamin nga itoy [Ifugao] kamin ta awan met iti stable job mi tapos awan iti sublianan min. [Usaren mi dyay inted yo] for food, paggatang ti gatas, at basic needs (We decided to already stay here in Ifugao since we have no stable job and we don’t have anything left there [in Alabang]. We will use the assistance for food, milk and basic needs), Zerah said.

The family also plans to use the assistance as a start-up capital for their business which is selling of dry goods and loading station which they hope to help with their livelihood.

For 2021, the DSWD has assisted 57 beneficiaries and their families with a total amount of PhP 923,950.00 TFSP. Of the beneficiaries, thirty-two (32) are from Abra Province, eighteen (18) from Apayao Province and seven (7) from Mountain Province. One family from Apayao received an additional amount of PhP 33,000.00 as transportation assistance.

As of June 2022, the DSWD has already provided assistance to 96 individuals and their families with a total amount of PhP 3,459,700.00 TFSP. These families have also received Livelihood Assistance Grant with a total amount of PhP 3,661,450.00. Of the families assisted for 2022, 24 are from Mountain Province and Kalinga, 20 from Ifugao, 14 in Apayao, 13 in Abra and one (1) from Benguet Province.

“We hope that the assistance that we gave do not just support them financially but also help them build a stronger foundation for their families. We know how much Cordillerans give importance to family ties. And through Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa, we are optimistic that we can preserve strong family bond among our Cordillera families”, DSWD FO CAR Regional Director Arnel B. Garcia, CESO II said. #DSWD-CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, Nerizza Faye G. Villanueva- Trinidad

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