By Marife Matratar

Calamba, Misamis Occidental

One afternoon in broad daylight, like any other family – staying inside their house, figuring out how life could be better. 

It was the usual afternoon that we had daily. My husband and I discussed how we could get some extra money for our bills, food, and more. 

It was one of the most challenging times in our lives. We may be able to eat twice a day at least, but we need more to pay for our rent and electricity bills or even to pay for our basic needs such as personal hygiene. 

It was hard for us, even barely, to afford that because, at that time, my husband had just gotten into a vehicular accident, so he needed to stop driving his tricycle at his work. 

Though I worked in a private school, I needed an extra income since I was just a substitute teacher. 

Marife Matratar attends to her learner as a substitute teacher in a private school in Calamba, Misamis Occidental.

I was paid a tiny salary barely sufficient for us to secure our daily meals. It was indeed a season of financial crisis for us. 

Then, a group stopped by as we sat on our small veranda. They asked if they could have an interview for a specific survey from the government, and I let them in and had a short interview.

After many months, maybe a year or so, I was informed that, fortunately, I qualified as one of the people to receive help from the government. 

I learned that our family qualified to become a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a program of the DSWD from the national government that provides conditional cash grants to many poor households in the country.

It was of great help to support the needs of our family. 

As months and years passed by, the program 4Ps played a significant role in supporting our family. 

We are bliss and overwhelmed whenever we get the monetary allowance from the program because we can buy some food that we don’t usually have in our daily meals. 

I could pay for our monthly rice loan since this basic need is the most important for us to survive. (The House of Representatives and the Senate still need to file a law adding rice subsidy for 4Ps beneficiaries.)

It never crossed my mind that one afternoon, as we discussed how to find ways to overcome money issues, our lives would change for the better. Its impact has affected our family throughout up to this day. 

I can still remember that when I got my qualification as a member of the 4Ps, my daughter was still in high school and years after she went to college. 

She studied at Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, Iligan City, which is approximately a six-hour ride from home. 

So she needed to stay away from us. From then on, we needed to cut down our budget to what’s more important than anything else. At that time, I needed to be extra careful and mindful of handling our budget because I needed to give weekly allowances to my daughter. 

Whenever she asked for an allowance, I would borrow money first from others and then pay for it when I had the cash grants. 

This was our routine during her first year in college. But it did not stop there; her finances became more prominent as she entered another year of college. 

I could afford her meal allowance, but it was hard to afford her other payments, such as books and additional miscellaneous fees. 

Aside from that, I can still vividly remember that she shared with me about the incident where she got late in her first subject in school because she had no extra money for the fare. 

She can walk from her boardinghouse to school during that time, but it takes longer for her to arrive. That’s why people living near her boarding house area would ride on a tri-sikad

She mentioned saving some of her money for a project and some for computer café expenses for her online research and assignments. 

She had a cell phone then but only used it for texts and calls. Aside from that, she had to walk carefully, not further, to damage her already worn-out sandals since she only had two pairs of sandals alternately used when attending school. 

As a mother, hearing about all those situations experienced by your daughter was heartbreaking. It was always challenging. It made me think so severely about getting extra money to support her needs. 

From there, I thought of applying to my daughter for a scholarship. Though she had no payment in her tuition since she’s a Dean’s Lister, she still needed more money for her other needs to be supported. 

We learned that the DSWD and the Commission on Higher Education sought scholars under the 4Ps program. We asked more about its information, and fortunately, our school officials and Municipal Link confirmed that they are looking for scholars.

Shortly after, my daughter applied for the said scholarship. A few months passed, and our Municipal Link informed us she got a scholarship under the Expanded Student’s Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA). 

From then, she could pay her book allowance, boarding house, and other education-related and personal expenses, and she even bought a laptop so that she would no longer go to computer shops. 

Furthermore, the scholarship helped my daughter to be more focused on her studies since she will no longer think of other expenses and worries from time to time.

She managed to finish her studies top of the class, best thesis presenter, and with Latin Honor as Cum Laude. 

She is now a lecturer at Jose Rizal Memorial State University in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte. 

Before, we had no permanent address and always had to rent to have a place to stay. Now, we have a decent house and a small lot that we can finally say our own. 

It was not only because of my family’s combined hard work but also because of the scholarship of the DSWD under the 4Ps Program that helped my daughter survive her college days. 

As a member of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and ESGP-PA that allowed us to help my daughter become a scholar, we are very grateful for the continuous help and support we have received from then until now. 

With the program and scholarship, it would be easier for us to survive. Looking back at how I got the qualification, it was an unexpected blessing. 

It happened when we were in a state where we needed it the most. Indeed, timing is the best. Being qualified and availing your unwavering support has been a good journey. 

It served its purpose as a helping hand not just to us but to all other families. 

To the whole program, thank you for being part of the backbone that my family held on to. We are forever grateful and honored.

Last August 2022, I was one of the beneficiaries called to attend the said validation of Non-Poor. 

According to the Municipal Link assigned, the validation conducted on non-poor households based on the latest assessment through the adopted standardized targeting system (Listahanan 3) released last July 29, 2022, shows that my household is no longer poor.

Thus, I informed them that under Rule XV Section 34 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11310, the households are deemed to exit from the program and, thus, will no longer receive its corresponding benefits as soon as their families are tagged in the system. 

Even though I was from a non-poor household, I’m still thankful for the eleven years I benefited from the program in which we were able to send and finish our eldest child in college and become successful.