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Poor but not ashamed

“Ang hirap pala maging mahirap”.

This was what Lea Robles told herself as she stood in the line where people patiently wait for the NFA rice that they could buy for less than Php20.00. It was hot that day but nobody seemed to care.

At the age of 24, Lea married Joel. They were among those informal settlers who started their lives on Malibay, Pasay. She was a cashier back then while her husband was a tricycle driver. They were both earning enough for their daily needs and monthly rent. After two years, Lea’s sick brother offered a portion of his land in Dasmariñas so they could stay nearby and look after him. The couple accepted the offer and built a small house with only blankets to cover their doors and windows.

Their situation made Lea decide to work as a Domestic Helper in Hongkong leaving Joel to look after their eldest child. After three years of working there, she went back home.

“Naibenta na po namin noon iyong tricycle at FX na naipundar sa pagtatrabaho ko sa Hongkong. Nagtayo kami ng maliit na repair shop sa tapat ng bahay namin na masuwerte na po kung kikita ng Php500.00 kada linggo. Nag-tutor naman po ako ng mga anak ng kapitbahay namin. Isang daan naman po ang bayad sa akin kada oras. Nagtinda rin ako ng ice cream at kumita ng Php300.00 kada araw. Kaso, tumigil po ako noong manakit ang braso ko. Sa Php300.00 kong kapital, nagsimula naman akong magtinda ng puto at kutsinta na kumita ng Php150.00”, Lea shared.

Life even became harder when they had their three other children in the succeeding years and no one in their household got a regular job. She also had to keep her sick father with her.

“Umaasa lang po kami sa padala noon ng kapatid namin na nasa Russia na iniwan ang dalawang anak sa amin para alagaan. Minsan, inuuwi ko ang mga tirang pagkain sa church gatherings. Iyon ang pinagsasaluhan namin. Lagi akong nilalait ng mga kakilala namin pero never po akong nahiya. Noong 2009, in-inform po kami ng kapitbahay namin tungkol sa 4Ps. Pinuntahan kami ng surveyor at nakita niya kung gaano kaming nagsisiksikang siyam (9) sa maliit naming bahay”, Lea recalled.

It was an answered prayer for Lea when she found her name on the list of the Pantawid Beneficiaries that came out in December 2012. Her family was among those that were assessed by the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) or Listahanan during its first wave of data collection and processing around 2009 and 2010.

The grants that they have been receiving eased the couple’s worry about their children’s tuition fees, school requirements and other health needs. The couple also consider the learnings from the Family Development Sessions (FDS) as blessings.

“Nirere-search ko po iyong mga natututunan ko sa FDS para mas maintindihan ko tapos ishinishare ko rin po iyon sa mga estudyante ko sa Hilot Wellness sa TESDA. Mas na-encourage din po akong palaguin ang aking backyard garden dahil sa mga natutunan ko”, Lea proudly shared.

Lea underwent the TESDA’s Trainers Methodology Training and specialized in Massage Wellness while Joel underwent the same training but specialized in Electronics, Product Assembly and Servicing (EPAS) in 2015. They are now both working with TESDA’s Provincial Training Center in Paliparan II as Community-Based Trainers.

“Nag-aral po talaga ako. Kumuha rin po ako ng license sa pagma-massage. Iyong mga natutunan ko, itinuro ko sa mga kasama ko sa Pantawid kaya po noong March 7, iyong 17 na tinrain ko, National Certificate Level II passers lahat!”, she happily shared how she gathered and encouraged her co-Pantawid beneficiaries to undergo her training in Massage Wellness.

Lea and Joel never failed to remind their children Leanne Joyce, Lavina Joel, Jascinth Loyd and Jewell Leonard not to be ashamed about being poor.

“Hindi po namin ikinahihiyang 4Ps members kami. Dahil sa 4Ps, nakapagpapaaral kami ng anak. Iyong panganay naming si Leanne Joyce ay Secretary na sa FDSA Aviation College and Technology. Si Lavina Joel ay second year college na. Sila Jascinth Loyd at Jewell Leonard ay grade school. Hindi na namin pinoproblema iyong mga kailangan ng mga bata kapag nagkakasakit. Mabuti nga at mayroong gobyerno. Malaki ang naitulong ng programang ganito sa pagraos namin”, Lea concluded.xxxx

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