Manila, September 1, 2011—A mother’s inherent strength is magnified through the inspiration derived from her children. Such is the unwavering strength of Melanie Encabo, 37, from Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City. Melanie is the mother of four children, ages 13, 11, 8 and 3.
Like many rural poor, Melanie went to Manila in search of greener pastures. “I worked in a factory to help my parents. I hoped to work abroad. But after a few months in the city, I had a boyfriend. I regretted it then but now I’m happy because of my children,” Melanie narrated in the vernacular.
Camilo Encabo, her spouse, was only 17 when they got married. They were uncertain about their family’s future but they have committed to be good parents no matter what.
“What’s important is that they have food and they go to school,” she said.
With the growth of her family, their expenses also grew. Melanie took on different jobs – doing laundry and selling barbecue and snacks. However, it was impossible to sustain a job or a small business because taking care of her young children required undivided attention.
“I put my children first. They’re young and need my full attention,” she said.
Camilo is a construction worker and earns Php280 a day. Melanie budgets their income to cover the school needs of the children and food for the family. The children would normally have biscuits as their baon to school. The children lacked notebooks and had only one set of uniform each. “At night I wash their uniforms so they can use them again the next day,” Melanie narrated.
“We made do but then my child was hospitalized due to potassium deficiency, lack of vegetables and protein-rich food. He was two months in hospital, so I had to ask help from my siblings and in-laws,” she narrated.
When Melanie was informed last October that she was included in a government program, she was not expecting that it would be a direct help in the form of a cash grant. Her household has become one of the 971 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program in their barangay.
Pantawid Pamilya aims to reduce poverty and improve children’s health and schooling as well as maternal health in poor households in the poorest provinces and municipalities in the country. It provides cash grants to poor households in poor areas of the country in return for certain conditionalities:
- Beneficiaries are required to bring their children aged 0-5 to health centers for immunization and weight monitoring while children aged 6-14 are required to take de-worming pills at school;
- Pregnant women must avail of pre- and post-natal care, and delivery must be assisted by a skilled health personnel;
- Children aged 3-14 (pre-school, elementary and high school) should stay in school and maintain class attendance of at least 85 percent per month; and
- Parents are required to take “family development sessions” (topics include how to be better parents, among others).
The monthly cash grants range from Php500 (US$11) to Php1,400 (US$32) per household, depending on the number of eligible children.
“I thought it was a grocery pack since it was Christmas, or maybe a feeding program which they usually have here. I was surprised when they gave cash,” she gleefully said.
“That was our happiest Christmas. The children cried with joy when we got them complete things for school – a first. Now they have complete uniforms,” she added.
Melanie’s household gets Php1,400 per month which they receive on a bi-monthly basis. She now feels secure about her children’s health and education.
“My third child is no longer sickly because he has vitamins and I bring them for regular check-up. I learned a lot about responsible parenting,” she said.
She applies her learnings in the Family Development Sessions by preparing healthy meals for her children, and takes pride that her children are never absent except when calamity strikes.
Melanie’s household is aware of the limited time span of getting grants from the government but she feels confident that what she has learned will not be diminished once they graduate from the program.
“The government helps us but we also help ourselves. After five years, if there is livelihood, we will use that so our children will finish school. We can stand on our own. My husband and I work hard even though we have help from the government,” Melanie said.