Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur (DSWD XI) – A member of the Bagobo tribe is this year’s Pantawid Pamilya exemplary child regional winner. Justin Faith Sioco, 14, hails from Sitio Baruring, Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Justin is good in dancing, singing and acting and she learned to develop these skills at a very young age. Her talents helped boost her self-confidence and emboldened her to dream big.

Although it is normal for young ones to aspire and fulfill their passions, for the less fortunate and less privileged children like Justin, dreaming remains a luxury in limbo which seems so hard to attain.

Dreaming big

Justin belongs to a large and poor family. Her father Freddie, is a motorcycle driver while her mother Betty, tends to their home. She has three older brothers and three older sisters. With plenty of children to feed from such a meagre income, the family oftentimes struggles to meet their daily sustenance. Because of extreme poverty, Justin reached a point where she decided on quitting school.

Despite all the hardships, Justin knew she is capable of achieving great accomplishments. She is determined to finish school in order to succeed in life and support her family. However, being part of an indigenous tribe, she often encounters discrimination from others. People would tell her that her dreams are too big for her. Nonetheless, she never allows these criticisms to intimidate her. She gains strength and confidence from her family who have never stopped believing in her and is always willing to go the extra mile to support her in achieving her dreams.

Answered prayer

Being a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is more than just an answer to their prayers. In fact, the program has become a stepping stone to her path to achieving her dreams. Augmenting their measly income, the program significantly helped improve their life.

Knowing her interest in pursuing education, Justin’s family spends part of the monthly Pantawid subsidy on her school needs. Now, she can easily join the talent competitions she wishes to, since her other pressing needs are already responded to by the program.

Giving her best

“As my way of gratitude and gift to my parents, I will study hard. Rain or shine, albeit muddy roads or pangs of hunger, I will diligently go to school,” Justin promised.

As a student, Justin does everything with excellence. She does not only do good but instead she always aims to be the best in her class. She finished her grade school as class valedictorian. She also dedicates her extra time tutoring young children in her community. Apart from her academic achievements, she continues to bring pride to her school by winning in inter-school contests.

Finishing her studies and prevailing in competitions extremely matter to her because they do not only confirm her capabilities as an individual but most importantly, they are her best testimonials of the grandeur of her Bagobo tribe and they help as well raise the bar higher for her tribe.

“We won’t let anyone ridicule our tribe and we won’t let anyone ruin our dreams,” Justin stressed.

It is her advocacy to end discrimination and bullying of indigenous peoples especially for school children. She also wants to instill in her people that embracing one’s roots and origin is not a hindrance in pursuing one’s dreams.

She believes in the capability of indigenous peoples to contribute positively even in this modern society. With the continued support of Pantawid Pamilya, Justin is more determined and optimistic to achieve her goal.

“I believe that the challenges that come to your life are there to make you strong and successful. I always bear in mind that grades don’t define intelligence but attitude does.”

God and family

More than anything else, Justin is doing it all for her family. No matter how far she may have come, she never forgets to be a good daughter to her parents and as a person with good values, dignity and solid faith in God.

All the achievements she attained and future successes she may accomplish, Justin wants to share these with the people that truly saw her light even in darkness, the people who believed in her when everyone else doubted –her loving family.

Most of all, she celebrates and gives back her gifts and blessings to the Lord who always inspires her.

Justin is always grateful for government initiatives such as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program that helps children with big dreams like her become a model of hard work and perseverance.

Justin Faith’s family is one the 227,720 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Region XI. (DSWD)