A strong woman, good mother and a caring wife _ these are just some of the fine qualities of Gina G. Garcia from Barangay La Paz, Bayabas, Surigao del Sur.

“Nang” Gina is a mother to Stephanie, 12 and Shiela Mae, 11. Both excel in school and consistently rank first honors in their respective classes.

She is a wife to Gelio D. Garcia, 35, a multi-cab driver, fisherman and farmer. They were married for 6 years now.

Gina is one of the registrants of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program during the first round assessment of the Listahanan project then the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) in 2009. She is very happy and thankful for being selected as a program beneficiary. With the benefits of the program, Gina has now something to save for their future needs. Other than saving, she uses the cash assistance for the educational needs of her children as she complies to the conditionalities of the Program.

“Before we became a beneficiary of the Program, life has never been easy. We don’t have a stable job and, every passing day was hard for us. Every time I wake up, I always struggled thinking where to find something to eat for breakfast. And if we are lucky, it is only then we think were we can get something to eat for lunch, for dinner; and then it became a cycle,” Gina tearfully relayed.

“There was even a time when I questioned myself about our being unfortunate and less privileged. But those things did not stop me to live for my dreams and to continue to seek for change. Above everything else, I am a mother and it is hard to see my children sacrificing things they did not choose to experience,” Gina added.

Gina has a lot of ambitions for her children. She dreamed to see her children receive their diplomas with flying colors in a known university and get a decent job.

“It was during my second year in college at Surigao Sur Polytechnic State College (Now Surigao del Sur State University [SSDSU] when my parent’s expressed their inhibitions that they no longer can afford to send me in the said school. That time, poverty was at its heights. But that inspired me and gave me enough reason to fight in ending poverty and to continue to struggle for my children because they are the reason why I am so inspired to wake up so early in the morning. These efforts are all dedicated for them because I love then so much. I know that along our journey, challenges will always be there, but together – with my husband, I know, we can do it. And we can do it a lot better now,” Gina expressed.

To sustain the growing needs of her chidren, Gina being a lab-asera (local term for the fish vendor) went as far as San Francisco, Agusan del Sur to sell crabs, fish; and even to sell pigs (or even piglets) has become her serious career. This routinely activity has given her a name. Because of her determination, Gina was able to uplift their status of living. Gina has changed the perspective of other people towards them. If before they just exist as a commoner, now Gina is famous being the only Self-Sufficient beneficiary in the locality [March 12, 2015, date of interview] harboring an increase in economic sufficiency.

“Pantawid has given us a lot. Because of it, I have changed my perspective about government programs. Now, I have inculcated within me that the government is really doing to help the very vulnerable sector of the community, we, the poorest of the poor,” Gina said.

Biskan wala nay Pantawid, kaya na nako mupadayon. Tungud sa Pantawid Pamilya, nakamata ako sa akong pagkatulog. Kung dili tungud sa Pantawid, siguro karon, didto lang gihapon kami sa among daan nga puloy-anan. Salamat kaayo sa maong programa kay kami gyud naka-amgo ug tinuod nga kabag-ohan,” Gina happily uttered.

Other than being a beneficiary of the Pantawid Program, Gina is also a recipient of other government services and has joined private initiatives as well. She is now a member of PhilHealth, Social Security System (SSS), has availed the yearly cash assistance through the initiatives of the Local Government Unit (LGU) amounting to 500.00php for hospital bills, a member of the MLhuillier Life Insurance, and now an active member of the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRRMC) under the Search and Rescue Operations Team. Also, Gina is one of the many recipients of the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the DSWD under the “Nagkahugpong” Group SKA. Their group has received an initial finances amounting to 100,000.00php for fifteen members good to start their chosen micro-enterprise.

Her attendance in the Family Development Session (FDS) has taught her the significance of participation and cooperation. Being passive is no longer part of her vocabulary. Gina is now an active community volunteer for KALAHI-CIDSS. She was also designated as the auditor of the local women’s group, elected as business manager and auditor in the Parent’s and Teacher’s Association (PTA) in the secondary and elementary level, respectively. She is also a member of the Bayabas Group of Fishers and always attending purok and barangay related affairs. Indeed, her membership in Pantawid Pamilya has changed her a lot.

“I am forever grateful to Pantawid Pamilya. This program changed me a lot. If not because of it, I won’t become as inspired as this. If not because of the Program, I don’t think I could inspire others to live for their dreams too. If the program will stop its operations, I will not worry. Because this program taught me to believe in myself and to make effort in order to realize the things that I believe in,” Gina uttered.

“If others can, why can’t I? This line strengthens me during my down moments. But I believe in Him than anybody else. I think it is all that matters,” Gina inserted.

Though Gina has experienced the odds of life, but she did not make it a reason to stop, a thing that makes her different among many others. Her belief is bigger that her fears. She is now an active parent leader of Pantawid Pamilya. With her story, she can be an inspiration to other women and mothers like her. She may imitate a weakness of a woman, but her own story tells her that she is not just a woman; she is a mother- a woman of love above everything else. SHE IS GABRIELA #KayaKoangPagbabago dahil masipag at may tiwala ako sa sarili (###DSWDFOCaragaRyanMalbasTapayan###).

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