In the town of Tabuk lies Pinukpuk, a municipality located in the northern part of Kalinga. Pinukpuk is an agricultural community where more than half of the population are indigenous peoples. It has a population of 32,000 and 2,200 are beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (Pantawid).
Pantawid is a conditional cash transfer program supported by the World Bank and other development partners where households receive a cash grant when they regularly send their children to school and visit health centers for maternal and child care. It is the largest social assistance program in the Philippines, currently supporting 4.4 million households and 9 million children.
Pinukpuk’s municipal hall is an impressive structure—a gleaming mint green building supported by four large columns. Just beside the municipal hall is the health center. “We conduct regular check-ups, especially among Pantawid beneficiaries. We also get invited to talk about nutrition during family development sessions”, said Jairus Pacua, one of the nurses in the health center. In exchange for the cash grants, Pantawid beneficiaries are required to attend family development sessions which focus on a range of topics from nutrition to disaster preparedness.
Right across the health center is a concrete drying facility where Regina Marquez, a mother of three, is drying corn. Regina received her cash grant of 2,800 Philippine Pesos ($56) the previous day which she immediately used to buy half a sack of rice, a set of school uniform and new shoes for her daughter Krizel. Krizel is a 6th grader who dreams of becoming a teacher someday.
Providing social assistance to eligible households is not an easy feat. On particularly rough terrains, officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), who implements the program, have to go on a 5-day hike just to reach beneficiaries in far-flung communities. Maria Madiguid, a staff from the DSWD regional office, has made this trek multiple times. “There’s an indigenous peoples community in the province of Apayao where you have to allot a week for a visit—two days of hiking to the community with an hour to rest in between, one day for visiting the community, and a two-day hike back,” she explained.