Ate Lowella computes the sales of Paspas Dur-as SLPA on a Friday afternoon.

“Bigla ko na lang maaalala tapos bumibigat na ‘yung paghinga ko, maninikip ang dibdib (It suddenly crosses my mind then my breathing starts to get heavy, my chest tightens), described Lowella Rasalan, 39, a member of Paspas Dur-as Sustainable Livelihood Program Association (SLPA) who was traumatized from her previous work as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW).

In 2004, Rasalan tried her luck as a domestic helper in Singapore to support her family of five. Like other aspiring OFWs, she was full of hope and determination. Rasalan thought it would be the key for her family to have a better life since she only finished high school. Never did it cross her mind that things would not go as expected.

After months of staying, she then experienced being maltreated by her employer. One of her neighbors who is also a Filipina even gave her a warning.

“Umalis ka na diyan kung ayaw mo pa mamatay – iyan ang sinabi niya sa akin (Get out of there if you do not want to die – that is what she told me),she recalled.

Without any money, she immediately grabbed a few of her things, took a cab, and sought refuge from the Philippine Embassy.

“Noong makauwi ako, takot na takot ako sa tao, laging nagkakasakit, ninenerbyos. Minsan ayaw ko na lang lumabas ng bahay (When I got home, I started to fear people, I always get sick and nervous), Rasalan said.

“Nang mabuo itong asosasyon, sa awa ng Diyos, unti-unting nanumbalik itong kumpiyansa ko sa sarili (When the association was formed, with God’s mercy, I am slowly gaining back my confidence), she added. As one of the most active members in the said SLPA, Rasalan is often chosen as the group’s representative in dialogues or meetings with officials in their locality, and even attend trainings sponsored by government agencies or private sector.

Alma Edra, one of the members of Paspas Dur-as SLPA describes Rasalan as trustworthy and skillful – main reasons why the group elected her as treasurer.

“Sa grupo naming ito, si Ate Lowella talaga ang may kaya humawak ng position na treasurer (In our group, Ate Lowella is the only one capable who could handle the position as treasurer), Edra emphasized.

Meanwhile, Rasalan shared that she almost resigned from her position as she still occasionally has anxiety attacks. Through the encouragement and support of her fellow SLPA members including the assigned Project Development Officer of the agency, she was motivated to stay. She then recalled the struggles they had when their association first started.

“Marami noong kumekwestyon sa kakayahan naming 4Ps. May mga nagsasabing wala pang isang taon, wala na ‘yung naitulong ng gobyerno. Nakakaproud kasi hanggang ngayon, buo pa rin kami. Puro high school graduate lang kami pero kaya pala namin (As 4Ps members, a lot questioned our capabilities. There are those who would say that the support we got from the government would just be wasted. I feel proud because until now, we are still intact. We are just high school graduates, but we were able to make it), Rasalan said.

“Laking pasasalamat ko sa SLPA namin kasi maliban sa nabigyan ako ng stable na trabaho, natulungan ako nang malaki para maka move on sa nangyari sa akin. Siguro dito ako mas mag ggrow (I am very grateful to our SLPA because aside from providing me a stable job, it helped me a lot to move on from what happened to me. Maybe this is where I could grow more, she explained.

Paspas Dur-as SLPA of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte was established in 23 June 2017 and is composed of 150 members. As one of the most active SLPAs in the country, the group was selected as a finalist during the Sulong Bayanihan in 2019. The said competition is an annual activity of the Department of Social Welfare and Development to recognize outstanding beneficiaries under its Sustainable Livelihood Program. (by: Radz Bismonte, Social Marketing Officer, Sustainable Livelihood Program