Olivia Fuentes waiting for the arrival of Pres. Benigno Aquino III during the turn over ceremony of the certificate of occupancy.
Guiuan, Eastern Samar – “Grabe! Sobra-sobra akong nagpapasalamat sa Panginoon at sa gobyerno dahil sa paggawad sa amin ng pabahay dito sa Cogon Resettlement Site (I am extremely grateful to God and to the government for giving us shelter here in Cogon Resettlement Site).”
Typhoon Yolanda survivor Olivia Fuentes, 40, could not contain her happiness after receiving a certificate of occupancy to their new house from President Benigno Aquino III during the turn over ceremony at the Cogon Resettlement Site on Friday, November 7, a day before the first year anniversary of ‘Yolanda’.
Olivia is one of the 44 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries who are among the 132 families who have moved to the transitional shelters from tents after the typhoon wrecked their houses.
In his message, Pres. Aquino stressed that although the houses are transitional, they are sturdy, still in accordance with the “building back better” principle used to guide reconstruction and recovery efforts in disaster-hit areas.
“Gaya po ninyo, naiinip din ako. Pero kailangan po natin idiin na hindi p’wedeng idaan sa bara-bara ang ating ‘build back better’ (Like you, I also become impatient. But we need to emphasize that we cannot be lax in implementing our ‘build back better’),” Pres. Aquino said.
With the President were Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Panfilo Lacson, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Executive Director Alexander Pama, and National Housing Authority General Manager Chito Cruz.
Olivia recounted the times when she dreamt of having her own house.
“Pangarap ko talaga ang magkabahay para sa pamilya ko kahit noong hindi pa dumadating ang Bagyong Yolanda. Kaya noong nagkaroon ng shelter assistance mula sa DSWD at lokal na pamahalaan, natuwa talaga ako (It is my dream to have a house for my family even before Typhoon Yolanda came. So I was very glad when DSWD and the local government offered shelter assistance),” she said.
Every morning, Olivia holds the picture of the shelter units mounted on the wall of her small tent, which has been her home together with her six children and her husband after the typhoon destroyed their house.
“Kapag hinahawakan ko ‘yong picture ng shelter units, nagdadasal ako nang taimtim. Sinasabi kong magkakaroon ako nito at lahat ng pangarap ko matutupad sa loob ng bahay na ito (While holding the picture of the shelter units, I am praying deeply that I will have this and all my dreams will come true in this house),” she added.
When Olivia finally received the news that she will be a recipient of the shelter unit at the Cogon Resettlement Site, her heart was suddenly filled with greatest happiness and relief.
In her head, she saw a montage of scenes revealing her family’s pains and struggles in surmounting the challenges brought by the wrath of ‘Yolanda’.
With her voice slowly breaking she said, “Iba talaga ang tinuro sa amin ng Bagyong Yolanda at ang experience namin sa pagtira sa tent. ‘Yung pinagdaanan namin na hirap ang sumukat ng aming katatagan bilang pamilya. Kaya palagi akong nagdadasal at nagpapasalamat sa mga tulong na dumadating sa amin tulad ng Pantawid Pamilya[ng Pilipino Program] at ng pabahay na ito (The lesson brought by Typhoon Yolanda and our experience in leaving in tent is unparalleled. The adversities we went through measured the resilience of our family. Thus, I always pray and I am always thankful for the assistance given to us like Pantawid Pamilya and this shelter assistance).”
Pantawid Pamilya is one of the programs of the national government being implemented by the DSWD that provides cash grants to poor Filipino families in exchange of education and health conditions. The objective of the program is to keep children aged 0-18 years old healthy and in school.
“Malaking tulong ang cash grants na nakukuha ko sa Pantawid Pamilya lalo na noong pagkatapos ng ‘Yolanda’. Ibinibili ko ng gamit sa eskwela at pamasahe ng anak ko sa pagpasok sa school. Kaya nagpapasalamat ako na may Pantawid Pamilya (The cash grants that I receive in Pantawid Pamilya are great help especially after Typhoon Yolanda. I use the grants to buy school supplies and for the transportation allowance of my children in going to school. That is why I am thankful that there is Pantawid Pamilya),” Olivia proudly said.
Aside from the shelter units, the 132 families also received Pabaon Packs containing 25 kilos of rice, canned goods, cereal drinks, coffee, family kits (kitchen utensils, blanket, plastic sheet and jerrycans), and a hygiene pack composed of bath soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
“Masaya ako sa mga tulong na ito ng gobyerno. At sigurado akong tuloy-tuloy na ang aming pagbangon dahil kaya na namin ang pagbabago (I am happy with the help given by the government. And now I am certain that we will have a continuous recovery because we can face the challenges of change),” she concluded.
Now, with ticket number 18 in her hands, the lot number of her new abode and her lucky number, she is joyfully preparing her family for their occupancy of their new home, where she will rebuild her life and fulfill her aspirations for her family.
Indeed, a dream come true for Olivia and for the rest of the 132 families. DSWD