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Women of Bolinao weaves good income through buri bag making

The Buri Crafters Association of Bolinao, an all-women group organized by a common goal, religiously weaves buri bags every day to help their husbands augment their families’ daily needs. “Masaya ang aming mga asawa dahil kahit papaano ay nakakatulong kami sa mga gastusin sa bahay. Dati ay umaasa lang kami sa kita nila (Our husbands are happy that we supplement their income. We only depend on their income before),” said Ermelita R. Caasi, the Association President.

The 50 members used to do the business individually prior to the intervention of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 through its Self-Employment Assistance Kaunlaran (SEA-K) scheme in 2015. The Association was able to avail PhP70,000.00 from the BUB GAA 2014 fund of the DSWD FO 1.

Although most of their materials are bought in the market, their barangay is blessed to have Buri plants growing wild in their backyards. Responsible livelihood it is, the members only collect and process the Buri leaves into buri strips once they reach their maturity (when the tree is at least 8 meters high).

The bags are meticulously hand-woven by these housewives to ensure uniqueness and durability. With an established market, these are sold in retail at the local market, and in bulk at Divisoria in Manila. Not only that they are earning, the Association members contribute to the preservation of traditional weaving practice in the Ilocos Region.

Each member can earn a net income of PhP200.00 to PhP1,000.00 weekly depending on the number of bags produced. “Hindi ko kailangang mamili sa pagiging housewife o paghahabi kasi kaya ko namang pagsabayin (I don’t need to choose between being a housewife and a sewer. It is convenient that I can do both at the same time),” said Margie G. Casta, the Association Secretary. “Minsan naghahabi ako habang hinihintay kong maluto yung kanin (Sometimes, I weave while I wait for the rice to be cooked),” she shared.

As an association, each member is required to save PhP50.00 monthly to the group. Some of the accumulated savings were later utilized as an emergency fund where a member can loan a maximum of PhP3,000.00 per cycle with five percent monthly interest.

Just as a single Buri strip beautifully weaved into bags, the members – in grateful appreciation to the DSWD’s intervention – realized that working together as an association sharing ideas and knowledge is way more effective than working alone. (by: Janine Joy B. Altero, Social Marketing Officer, Sustainable Livelihood Program)

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Former CICL now a Cop

PO3 Jethro Fabros, while sharing his testimonies during the 1st Semester SWD Forum at Leisure Coast Resort, Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

Jethro Fabros, 30 years old, a former resident of the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) is living proof that despite life challenges anyone can become a better person from yesterday with hope, determination to continue, and faith to God.

“DSWD is a blessing in disguise para sa akin, pinadala ako rito [sa RRCY] ng Panginoon to become a better person dahil may mas maganda pala siyang plano sa buhay ko” (DSWD is a blessing in disguise for me, I was sent by God in RRCY to become a better person because he has a plan for my life)Jethro shared during the 1st Semester Social Welfare and Development (SWD) Forum held at Leisure Coast Resort, Dagupan City on 23 May 2019.

His RRCY story began when he was accused of violating Republic Act 8353 otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997. On 2 July 2003, he was arrested by police officers in the school where he pursued his secondary education .

“Katorse anyos palang po ako noon. Hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko, para akong nabagsakan ng langit at lupa dahil sa nangyari. At kinabukasan ay dinala agad ako sa RRCY. Noong una, maraming katanungan ang nasa isip ko, bakit ako nandito sa lugar, wala akong kakilala at malayo sa pamilya, napapaiyak nalang ako” (I was 14 years old at that time. I didn’t know what to do, I felt like the heaven and earth fell over me. And the next day, I was immediately admitted in RRCY. At first, questions keep on flashing on my mind, why am I here, I do not even know anyone, and I am far from my family. I just cried) he added in his testimonial .

But through it all, Jethro remained optimistic, believing what happened was the plan of God. His longing to his family has made him stronger. He managed to adjust and coped up with the structured activities and slowly became more equipped with skills and knowledge while in the Center.

“Pero naramdaman ko na masaya pala dito [RRCY], may mga recreational activities and livelihood programs. Actually, dito ako natutong gumawa ng cross stitch” (But I slowly felt that it’s happy here, there are recreational activities and livelihood programs. Actually, I was able to learn how to cross stitch in RRCY) he recalled.

With his passion to finish his education, he took the Accreditation and Equivalency Test – Alternative Learning System (ALS) in May 2005 and out of 100 takers only three of them passed. After a month, the case filed against him was dismissed. He was discharged from the Center and he wanted to continue with his studies, however, admission test of public schools were already closed.  

But God has never stopped showering him with blessings. His lawyer told him to enroll Bachelor of Science in Criminology in a private school and he will shoulder all the expenses.  From then, his life journey has continued outside the Center. He graduated in college in 2009 and he was able to pass the Criminologist Board Examination in 2010. He entered the Philippine National Police in 2011 and has been in the service for 8 years already. He received numerous awards and commendations for his good public service and he is now a Police Staff Sergeant (Police Officer 3) assigned in Ramos Police Station, Tarlac Police Provincial Office. Among all of these, he considers his loving wife and his soon to be born baby as his greatest blessings.

Despite his admission in RRCY, Jethro, a young police officer has accepted ordeals as a blessing in disguise in becoming a better person he is today. Indeed, his RRCY experience has molded him to withstand all the challenges in life. # By: Vincent Paul V. Ruiz, SWO II/Documentation Focal, Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) 1

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Ilocos Norte is winning battle on climate change

Everlina Agrade smiles after removing the unwanted plants around the rambutan plant.

Ilocos Norte is vulnerable to almost all types of natural hazards because of its geographical location. Yearly, the country experiences an average of 20 tropical cyclones, eight of which hit the Province. Alarmed by the effects of the tropical cyclones and the dire forecast of drought, soil erosion, month-long flooding, and siltation, the Provincial Government assessed its environmental situation and forest cover through a geo-hazard mapping which identified the municipalities of Solsona and Dingras as particularly high-risk areas where soil erosion, flooding, and drought are prevalent, especially in Barangays Puttao, Sta. Ana, and Nagpatpatan in Solsona, and Barangays Francisco, San Marcelino, and Barong in Dingras. The environmental assessment further showed that the majority of the forest cover had been denuded due to indiscriminate cutting of trees for human consumption and commercial purposes tantamount to the destruction of Ilocos Norte’s carbon sinks: forests, coastal habitats, and vegetation. 

The Provincial Government then set a goal to develop more adaptable communities and lessen flood-prone areas to become more resilient against unpredictable and natural force by tapping the Ilocos Norte Environment and Natural Resources Office (INENRO) and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) to create a wide range of project that aims to improve the environment with emphasis on sustainability. The birth of Green Wall of Ilocos Norte then came into reality, a well-planned project that establishes greeneries from the ridge to reef by planting a variety of tree species and mangroves that will enrich road networks and the environment. The Green Wall is also eyed to be integrated with the localized greening program in all cities/municipalities in Ilocos Norte to safeguard watershed areas to sustain agricultural productivity.

With the limited fund of the Green Wall, the Provincial Government tapped the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 (DSWD FO 1) to support and sustain the project through Cash-For-Work (CFW) under the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CCAM) project. The CFW is a 10-day undertaking wherein recipients received 75% of the prevailing daily wage rate set by the National Wages and Productivity Commission. In the case of Region 1, the minimum regional wage rate is PhP280.00, thus, the individuals who participated in the temporary work such as rehabilitation of denuded watershed areas, establishment of green walls, and establishment and maintenance of mangrove plantation site received PhP210.00 daily. “Malaking tulong ang natanggap namin mula sa Cash-For-Work kasi naibili namin ng aming mga pangangailangan sa bahay. Higit pa roon, nakatulong kami sa aming barangay para mapangalagaan ito (The assistance we received from Cash-For-Work is a big help to augment in purchasing our household needs. More than that, we were able to help protect our barangay),” said Everlina Agrade, a member of Saguigui Tribe Council Incorporation, an Indigenous Peoples group at Barangay Saguigui, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. In addition, Emilio Rabago, the chieftain of the aforementioned tribe, pledged to plant more fruit-bearing trees to fight climate change and to produce good harvests that will yield additional income. Despite the knowledge that the CFW is a short-term income-generating activity, the chief aspired that the CFW be a continuing initiative to provide decent income to the residents and sustain environmental protection beneficial to the next generation. Emilio thanked the DSWD for providing opportunities to both acquire income and fight the disturbing effects of climate change.

With the success of protecting the forest, the Provincial Government launched the Ilocos Norte Blue Wall, the shoreline counterpart to the Province’s Green Wall which focuses on planting mangroves to protect the coastlines and the inhabitants. In Gabu, Laoag City, the coastal barangay has successfully planted and grown more than 20 hectares of mangroves that will help ensure greater food security, improve protection against natural disasters, increase household incomes for the local communities, and sustain climate stabilization.

According to Estrella C. Sacro, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Ilocos Norte, “We need to be always ready and resilient whenever disaster will occur. We converge and harmonize our resources with various national government agencies to ensure project sustainability. We thank DSWD for augmenting funds for the Cash-For-Work project that helped in the fast project implementation,” she shared.

DSWD Field Office 1 augmented PhP20Million for Ilocos Norte’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation – CFW project. # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit with reports from INERO.  

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Sugpon, Amontoc institutionalize CDD approach in local planning and development

The Barangay Council of Amontoc in San Gabriel, La Union together with the staff of DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS (top photo) poses for the camera and the Municipal Council of Sugpon, Ilocos Sur together with community volunteers (below photo) during the Pamumunong Makamasa exchange activity. (FILE PHOTOS)

The Municipality of Sugpon, Ilocos Sur and Barangay Amontoc in San Gabriel, La Union have institutionalized the community-driven development (CDD) approach in local planning and development when it enacted CDD ordinances recently.

The move by the two local government units came after Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 (DSWD FO 1) has intensified its call for the institutionalization of the CDD approach.

CDD aims to involve communities to have control in the implementation of projects, budgeting, and decision-making in the local government units.

Sugpon has enacted into an ordinance the yearly conduct of the Municipal Talakayan, a tool designed by the Kalahi-CIDSS to measure the overall development in the municipalities, to provide a venue for systematic face-to-face feedback from stakeholders, and to set plans to address identified development gaps.

Mayor Daniel C. Laño, Jr. of Sugpon who co-authored the ordinance when he was still the Vice-Mayor, said that the Municipal Council had pushed for the passing of the ordinance because it is a perfect venue to report local development activities for critiquing by the public.

Amontoc, on the other hand, has approved an ordinance creating the “Amontoc People Empowerment Council”, a local body to monitor perfect attendance of households’ representatives into a participatory situational analysis of key factors causing poverty in the community and wide range of possible solutions to address such problems.

Said barangay ordinance also mandates the council to endorse all identified projects during the participatory situational analysis to the Barangay Development Council for inclusion in the Barangay Development Plan and the Annual Investment Plan of Amontoc.

The Barangay Council of Amontoc said that they are challenged to get all households involved in the development process and they vowed that they will do their best to convince everyone to participate.

Meanwhile, Brgy. San Ramon and Brgy. Abaccan in Sigay, Ilocos Sur and Brgy. Alilem Daya in Alilem, Ilocos Sur have also passed resolutions adopting some of the principles of Kalahi-CIDSS such as participatory, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability in local development activities.

The Kalahi-CIDSS, one of the core programs of the DSWD FO 1, has been using CDD approach in its objective to empower poor communities and has been advocating for its institutionalization since its inception in Region 1 in 2014. (by Ruperto A. Sabalo, Jr., Social Marketing Officer, Kalahi-CIDSS)

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The difficult road that leads to cooperation and perseverance

The inauguration of the concrete access road sub-project recently in the small indigenous village of Binatadan at Puguil, Santol, La Union turned into a celebration of perseverance and cooperation among the locals.

The said sub-project was implemented by the community with the assistance of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 (DSWD FO 1).

(Left Photo) BSPMC Chairperson Larry Alejo and DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS through Regional Program Coordinator Virginia P. Sesay, also the OIC-Chief of Promotive Services Division of DSWD Field Office 1, turn over the responsibility of the operation and maintenance of the finished sub-project (Right Photo) to Puguil Indigenous Upland Farmers Association, Inc. through its representative, Romando Dangle.

For many years, the people of Binatadan had to walk roughly 4 hours through muddy and slippery pathways to go to the town proper.

Nagrigat ti biag idi. Marigatan kami nga isalog dagiti apitmi idiay market. Saanmi nga maitaray a dagus diay hospital nu adda agsakit (Life is difficult before. We had so many difficulties bringing our harvests to the market. When someone is sick, we can’t bring the person immediately to the hospital,” Larry Alejo, the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) Chairperson, said.

Even when road network to the far-flung villages of Santol was opened and slowly developed in the early years of this decade, Binatadan was still few kilometers away from the paved road in the nearby sitio of Puguil in Deccan.

Marigatan kami latta ta adayu met latta diay pagnaen aglalo dagiti estudyante nga mapan agbasa (We were still faced with difficulties especially the students because we still had to walk a few kilometers,” Selda Faustino, one of the community volunteers, added.

Though Binatadan can be reached through a single motorcycle during summer, crossing the road was risky since it was steep and still slippery.

In the spirit of “bayanihan

It was during the third cycle of DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS implementation in Santol in 2018 when the proposal for the sub-project was prioritized and funded under the National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP).

Hungry for a better-paved road leading to their village, the community worked in the spirit of “bayanihan” and volunteerism.

BSPMC Chairperson Alejo revealed that everyone in the village participated in the concreting of the road with some even sacrificing their field works in order to finish the sub-project before the rainy season.

Nagtrabaho ti amin, pati babbae. Bassit kami laeng ditoy lugar mi isu nga agkuti kami amin. Kasapulan a malpasmi sakbay ti panagtutudo (Everyone has worked including women. This is a small village so everyone had to act. We had to finish the sub-project before the rainy season),” the BSPMC Chairperson explained.

But things did not go well as planned as they were plagued with hindrances. The hauling of heavy materials became difficult because vehicles carrying these had to pass through ravines and narrow roads which afterward delayed the sub-project.

The sub-project had to be delayed even further when the community could not collect enough water to be used in mixing cement, sand, and gravels.

But with the support of the barangay and municipal officials of Puguil and Santol, respectively, they helped solve the problems and works had to resume immediately but it had to be extended until the rainy days.

Kasla saan kami nga maaw-awanan ti problema ngamin idi manen panagtutudo ket bigla nga adda immay a bagyo. Naanod dagidiay naurnong a darat ken bisil. Nabasa ken timmangken dagidiay semento (It seemed like we never ran out of problems because when the rainy days came, a storm had passed by that washed out the sands and gravel that we had collected. The bags of cement got wet and hardened),” the BSPMC Chairperson exclaimed.

According to him, though with dampened spirits, there was never a time they thought of giving up. The series of events made them even more determined to finish the sub-project until it was completed earlier this year.

When the inauguration took place under a small waiting shed near a solar dryer while raining heavily, it was no surprise that everyone was on high spirits with wide smiles on their faces. Stories of how they triumphantly overcame the challenges and their sacrifices filled the air.

In a cracked and shaky voice while holding back his tears, Arnel Peralta, one of the community volunteers shared, “Pagyamanak unay ta napapintas ti kalsada nga agturong ditoy ket saan kamin a marigatan nga bumaba diay ili, nangnangruna dagitoy ubbing nga mapan agiskwela (I am very thankful because the road in our place was concreted. We will no longer be having difficulties going to the town proper, especially our children who are going to the school).” (by Ruperto A. Sabalo, Jr., Social Marketing Officer, Kalahi-CIDSS)

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RRCY holds enrollment of OHSP Students

The Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 – Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (DSWD FO 1 – RRCY) in partnership with Don Eulogio De Guzman Memorial High School (DEGMNHS) headed by Ms. Myrna U. Ligas, Principal IV and with the assistance of the Center’s Teacher, Ms. Raquel Cavinta facilitated the enrollment of 52 residents who have been evaluated and qualified to enroll in the Open High School Program (OHSP) for School Year (SY) 2019-2020.

Ms. Raquel T. Cavinta, Center Teacher assisting during the enrollment of Open High School Program (OHSP) in Conference Hall of RRCY.

As part of the residents’ rehabilitation, upgrading their education is among the indications that they are on track in achieving their goals while at the Center. It is purposive endeavor for those residents who have been evaluated and qualified to enroll in school through the OHSP so they can achieve their goals and aspirations in life.

The partnership between the DSWD FO 1 – RRCY and DEGMNHS started on 7 May 2018 when both had entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in which the RRCY residents could avail a formal education through the PHSP. This is a move towards the development of a bigger future for the Children-in-Conflict with the Law (CICL). (by: Vincent Paul V. Ruiz, SWO II/Documentation Focal, RRCY)

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RRCY joins in Brigada Eskwela 2019

Urayong, Bauang, La Union – The Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 – Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (DSWD FO1 RRCY) participatated in the Brigada Eskwela 2019 with the theme “Matatag na Bayan Para sa Maunlad na Paaralan” to clean, restore, and provide a conducive classrooms to the 52 RRCY students under the Open High School Program (OHSP) of Don Eulogio De Guzman Memorial National High School (DEGMNHS) while in the Center. Volunteer parents, residents, and staff joined together to embelish and beautify four classrooms namely Matapat, Masipag, Magalang, at Masigasig.

“Masaya po akong tumulong kasi alam ko na ang mga pasilidad na ito ay magagamit din ng aking anak habang nag-aaral dito sa Sentro.” (I am happy to help because I know that this facility will be used by my son while studying here in the Center) said Marris Dyanne, a volunteer parent.

This effort yielded positive outcome especially in promoting stronger bond among parents and child, good working relationship among the staff, and unity to all. (by: Vincent Paul V. Ruiz, SWO II/Documentation Focal, RRCY)

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More than 11,000 Barangay Ranger Officers protect Ilocos Norte

80-year-old Virgilio Batulan poses after the interview.

Since its inception in 2016, the Province of Ilocos Norte has now produced more than 11,000 Barangay Ranger Officers (BROs) who ensure the sustainability of the Provincial Greening Program dubbed as the “Ilocos Norte Green Wall” which aims to restore forest cover and protect the Ilocos Norte Watershed in the municipalities of Badoc, Pinili, Nueva Era, Solsona, Carasi, Vintar, Pasuquin, Bangui, Pagudpud, and Adams. Considered as the sentinels of the Green Wall, these BROs water and weed seedlings, and patrol and guard the forest areas against illegal loggers, forest fire, and slash and burn operations (kaingin) to increase seedling survival rates.

Progressive Results

Kaingin and charcoal production have been few of the major contributors in the global warming and climate change. Through the Ilocos Norte Environment and Natural Resources Office (INENRO) and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), strategic initiatives and continuous environmental campaigns such as the enactment of the Green Wall, a part of the Ilocos Norte’s climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) projects, is implemented to arrest the observable effects of global climate change.  As such, the BROs heighten security in the forest and mountains and eliminate the incidence of kaingin and forest fires to promote environmental restoration. Many of the former perpetrators of kaingin are now BROs who receive a monthly allowance of PhP3,000.00 that serve as their decent source of income. Further, these BROs are recipients of the 10-day Cash-for-Work (CFW) Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 (DSWD FO 1) wherein they receive PhP210.00 (75% of the prevailing daily wage rate in Region 1) per day as payment in the improvement of green wall and accomplishing environmental protection undertakings. The project has not only essentially rehabilitated previous environmental perpetrators to become productive individuals, but it also created thriving livelihoods and/or employment to 3,000 BROs on a quarterly rotational basis. Moreso, the Green Wall gradually eradicated kaingin operations, augmented income- generating activities, and provided stable food supply to the people of Ilocos Norte by planting various fruits and vegetables and producing their own seedlings and fertilizers.

Liberating the People

Now aware of their roles and responsibilities in the community, BROs uphold the value of volunteerism during disaster operations and blood donation, when necessary. They also underwent numerous seminars and information campaigns about climate change and environment, thus, developing a stronger sense of commitment to protecting the environment. “Sikami ti mangkitkita ti pagsayaatan ti lugar mi. Ti maysa pay nga pagsayaatan na ti trabaho mi ket makita mi diay pinagpintas ti mula mi. Tarakenen mi nga naimbag dagidiay inmula mi tapnu haan nga masayang diay pondo nga inted ti gobyerno. Dagitoy inmula mi ket makatulong to para diay maud-udi kadakami (We are the stewards of our community. One of the positive effects of our work is we are able to observe how our plants grow beautifully. We will thoroughly nurture our plants so that the government fund will not put be into waste and will help the future of the next generation,” happily shared Virgilio Batulan, an 80-year-old BRO at Brgy. Sagugui, Pagudpud Ilocos Norte. Virgilio also thanked the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte for giving them the chance to have a source of income and at the same time be environmental warriors in their lands and mountains. Moreso, he disclosed that the CFW of DSWD is a big help to augment their day-to-day requirements and even underscored that the CFW should be a continuous project so that it will help other Indigenous Peoples in their barangay .

Continuous Development

As the Province’s forests have expanded and safety measures are prioritized to protect the area, both locals and tourists go to the mountains for hiking and glamorous camping (glamping) as they can now enjoy a flourishing forest environment and are assured of their security knowing that the BROs are around to guide the people and patrol the area to ensure full safety of the mountaineers.  In addition, recognizing the impact and success of the BROs in the implementation of Green Wall, the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte hired additional BROs to plant, care for, and maintain a forest of mangroves along the shorelines of Laoag City, Badoc, and Currimao dubbed as the “Blue Wall of Ilocos Norte.” # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit with reports from INERO.

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