Eleazar and Juliet Rivera proudly pose before a collection of their children’s academic awards and medals.

TALAINGOD, Davao Del Norte (DSWD XI) – Had she been given the chance to finish her studies, she would have wanted to become a doctor or a soldier. Instead, she became someone more than she ever hoped for. She became the ‘people’s soldier’ or as her co-beneficiaries fondly call her “sundalo sa katawhan”.

Fifty-two year-old Juliet Rivera is an ordinary housewife. She finished high school and lived a simple life in their quaint little village at Barangay Sto. Nino, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Her husband Eleazar, 55, works as a laborer at a local farm. With no permanent income, Juliet helps her husband by working as a freelance masseuse.  On a regular day, she earns P 150.00.

“Ang amoang ginakita sa una igo ra gyud aron makakaon mi  (What we earned was enough to meet our food needs),” she shared. “Sa panahon nga naay mga panginahanglan sa eskwelahan ang amoang mga anak, maghilak gyud ko kay kulang man jud amoang kwarta. Igo ra gyud sa panginahanglan sa sulod sa balay Sama sa ilang ginaingon, hand to mouth lang gyud (Whenever our children need some stuffs for school, I would end up crying for we were really short with cash. We just had enough for the basics at home. As they say, we survived in a hand-to-mouth basis).”

It was in 2009 when the Rivera Family was identified as one of the beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Juliet recalls how excited she was when for the first time there was someone from the government who did a house-to-house enumeration in their barangay. Though there were no promises of anything when they were interviewed, still she prayed and hoped for the best.

“Pirti gyud nakong lipaya pagkahibalo nako nga naay programa nga motabang sa amoang mga kabos (I was overjoyed when I learned that there’s going to be a program that would help us),” she exclaimed.

“Karon nga naa na ang Pantawid, dili na mabiyaan ang akoang mga anak sa mga activities sa school. Sa una maibog lang na sila kung naay mga girl scout camping ug uban pa kay wala man gyud mi ikagasto. Karon  makaapil na gyud sila (Now with Pantawid, my children will no longer be left behind in any school activities. Before, they felt resentful when there are girl scout camps and other events since we could not afford to pay for these things. Now, they can easily join),” Juliet tearfully reminisced.

“Sa una kung mag-ulan mangabasa mi sa sulod sa balay tungod sa dagko nga bangag sa atop. Maluoy gyud ko maglantaw sa akoang mga anak. Karon, nakapa-atop na ko aron makatulog na mi og tarong maski pa mag-ulan (When it rained, we would end up soaked inside our home because of the large holes in the roofing. I felt sorry for my children. Now, I can have my roof repaired so that we can sleep comfortably even when it rains).”

Eleazar and Juliet’s six children are consistently on the top of their class -Christian Louie, 27; Agatha Gloria, 24; Eleazar Jr, 17, and in 1st year college; Reymound, 16 and in Grade 11; Eliza Mie, 15, and in Grade 10; and Jessa Mie, 13, a Grade 8 student.

In 2012, the Rivera Family was awarded as the provincial winner for the Huwarang Pamilya Search.

Juliet shared how the program had helped her gain self-confidence and developed her trait as a leader. Her 32 member-beneficiaries look up to her.

“Sa una mahadlok ko makig-atubang sa tawo kay maulaw ko kay unsa ra gud ang akoang naabot. Dako gyud og kausaban sa akoang pagkatawo ang nahatag sa Pantawid, na-educate ko. Daghan ko og nahibaloan nga mga kaalam nga akoang ma-treasure ug mahimong kusog (I felt nervous in front of people before because I was ashamed of my low education status. Pantawid has tremendously changed me. My eyes were opened. I learned a lot of lessons from the program which I could treasure and which will serve as my strength).”
“Pinaagi sa Pantawid, nahatagan mi og bili nga makatabang sa amoang isig ka tawo. Napahimuslan mi maski wala mi naabot na grado. Mapasalamaton ko sa DSWD nga gipaminaw ug gihatagan og bili ang amoang mga suhestiyon aron mapalambo ang programa (Pantawid valued our worth and capacity to help others. We were mobilized despite our low educational status. I am grateful to DSWD for accepting and appreciating our suggestions to further improve the program).”

“Kung wala ni nga programa daghan pa karon ang nagkamang. Daghan pa karon ang kawang pa gihapon, walay kausaban sa kinabuhi. Dili lang ako ang natabangan sa programa mao nanghinaut ko nga ipadayon gihapon ni nga programa (If not for the program, many would still be impoverished. Many would still lead the same old routinary life with no significant changes in their poor living condition. The program has helped a lot of people, not only my family. I am hoping the program will be continued).”

Juliet voluntarily went around the entire District 1 of Davao del Norte to gather support from her co-beneficiaries for the continuance of Pantawid Pamilya. She alone was able to muster 75,000 households sign her signature campaign for the program in 2015.

“Ang Pantawid Pamilya naghatag og dakong kausaban diha sa akoang pamilya, kausaban diha sa akoang pagkatao ug katumanan sa gamay nako nga damgo nga mahimong sundalo -sundalo para sa katawhan (Pantawid Pamilya made a substantial improvement to my family and to myself. It paved the way for me to fulfill my simple dream of being a soldier – a soldier for the people.

Pantawid Pamilya has been helping over 234,000 families in Davao Region attain their dreams and access better opportunities. The program is also assisting 29,884 IP beneficiaries thru the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Indigenous Peoples (MCCT-IP). (DSWD)