Simple but challenging. Together but have nothing. That is how Edna Puda describes her family’s everyday struggle to survive. Every second counts to make it through the day.

Edna, a mother of nine hails from Brgy. Balingasay, Bolinao, Pangasinan. Her family has no single property to brag and made them suffer from the fangs of poverty.  

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She recalls the time when she and her husband had to climb the mountains bringing with them their two eldest children to gather twigs to sell for a living. After a long day, Edna carries the bunch of twigs on her head and continued to do so even when she was seven months pregnant. They had no choice but to take risks to overcome hurdles in their everyday living.

Sending her three children to school without anything in their pockets really breaks her heart. All she can give them are her warm hugs and kisses coupled with prayers. One day, their three children were yelling outside their house. Edna rushed to check on them. To her surprise, the ruckus was because they were thrilled to find three coconuts on the ground. They sold them and had money for school. To earn moneyt for the children’s education in elementary, his husband grabbed any job offer like carpentry and gardening.

Unexpected Gift

August 2008 was the most memorable month for Edna. It was when her household was included as one of the Set 1 beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya. Seeing her name in the list is an answered prayer. She engaged herself in the program and became the pioneer Parent Leader in their barangay.

“Magmula sa araw na iyon, nag-iba ang pananaw ko sa buhay. Para sa akin, hindi maaaring iasa na lang sa tulong ng pamahalaan ang ating pag-asenso. Gumawa ako ng sarili kong paraan para suportahan ang aking pamilya at pandagdag sa mga natatanggap kong benepisyo mula sa programa (From that day on, my perspective in life changed. For me, it is not good to just wait for the government’s help for us to progress. I worked on my own ways to support my family and augment the benefits I am receiving from the program)”, Edna shared.

Sparks of change

She learned how to cook delicacies from reading recipe books and sold them every afternoon. Her small business boomed when she received livelihood assistance from Self Employment Assistance Kaunlaran (SEA-K) Program. She also took the opportunity of finishing high school through the Alternative Learning System [ALS]. “Nagulat ako noong nakita ko ang isang malaking tarpaulin na binabati ako sa pagpasa ko sa ALS. Ang buong akala ko walang nakakaalam na ako ang katangi-tanging nakapasa sa aming 21 na kumuha ng pagsusulit mula sa aming barangay (I was overwhelmed upon seeing a congratulatory tarpaulin after passing ALS. I thought nobody knew that I was the only successful taker out of 21 examiners from our barangay)”, Edna proudly disclosed. Five of her nine children also already graduated from high school.

Choose to Rise

Edna sacrificed her dream of entering college and decided to roll her sleeves to earn for her daughter to finish her dream degree in education. So while her daughter is still in high school, they agreed to save money from their income for her tuition fee in college.

Her daughter successfully passed the examination for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) scholarship. This paved way in achieving her daughter’s dream of becoming a licensed teacher someday. Edna shared that her daughter (sixth child) is now a licensed teacher and currently teaching Grade 11 in Balingasay National High School.

“Gaya ng iba, hinahangad din po naming umahon sa kahirapan. Kaya kahit nahihirapan, pinili pa rin naming magpatuloy at ipaglaban ang aming mga pangarap (Like the others, we also wish to rise from poverty. Though we are challenged, we still choose to rise and fight for our dreams)”, Edna exhorted.

Get up and Move on

Edna acknowledges the time that her household had to leave Pantawid Pamilya. For her, leaving the program after eight wonderful years is a mix of emotions. Her stay in the program may end, but the learnings she gained from it will live forever. “Sa mga pinuno ng aming bayan, mga Municipal Link, pareho kong Parent Leader at benepisyaryo, hinding hindi ko kayo makalilimutan. Naging parte kayo ng bawat pagtahak ko sa daan patungo sa tagumpay (To our town leaders, Municipal Links, my fellow Parent Leaders and beneficiaries, I will never forget you. You became part of my journey in taking the road to success),” Edna said as she stood before the 148 household beneficiaries during the first Pantawid Pamilya Graduation Ceremony in Bolinao, Pangasinan. (by: Jaesem Ryan A. Gaces, Information Officer II / Pantawid Pamilya)