San Isidro, Davao Del Norte – “It doesn’t matter how small you are as long as you work hard and have faith, you can reach great heights,shared Jemie and Maribeth Salas, regional winner of Huwarang Pamilya annual search of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Residing in a simple home in Purok 6 San Nicolas, Barangay Kipalili, Municipality of San Isidro, Davao del Norte, is the Salas family. Albeit leading a humble life as farmers with their share of adversities, the Salas family is greatly regarded by their community as model of diligence, resilience and success.

“In our early years of marriage, we already met troubles mainly brought by financial poverty. My husband Jemie was criticized by my relatives because of his measly status in life and low level of educational attainment.  Jemie felt hopeless but I never failed to lift up his spirit. I often told him, “Nakaya nako pagbuhi ang akong mga manghud kaniadto, karon pa kaha nga duha ta magtambayayong para sa atong pamilya. Basta hugot lang ang atong pagsalig sa Ginoo ug pag-ampo kini masulbad ra ang tanan (I was able to sustain the needs of my sisters before. Now, the two of us can do much more to support our family. As long as our faith in God is strong, we will overcome),” Maribeth recounted.

Since then, the two have worked hand-in-hand and remained together more strongly, with God as their inspiration.

Staying firm

The couple makes a living as coconut sap harvesters (mananggiti). Jemie wakes up early in the morning and climbs 25 coconut trees every day to be able to produce at least 12 gallons of coconut wine (tuba).

Maribeth delivers the gallons of coconut wine via one and a half kilometer-hike to Sitio Kipalili.  She makes two delivery trips everyday -six gallons in the morning and another six in the afternoon.  On the average, their estimated income is Php 8,000.00 per month.

Another source of income is farming.  Jemie helps cultivate the agricultural land on behalf of his uncle but only earns Php 7,500 from the cacao harvest annually. Although it is already considered productive, it still does not suffice especially after their family has grown with the addition of three children.

The Salas family have been blessed with three daughters -Jemarie, 22; Jebeth, 21; and Jemalyn, 11 years old.

Sige mi i-bully sauna sa eskwelahan tungod sa paglukdo og tuba kauban si Mama pero gibalewala lang namo tanan pam-bubully kay kabalo mi nga kining trabahoa ang makatabang nga mahuman mi sa among pag eskwela (We were constantly bullied before at school because we carry the tuba gallon on our head to help our mother but we ignored the bullying for we knew this endeavor would help us finish our studies),” shared eldest daughter Jemarie.

What they lacked in money as a family, they covered it up with love, good values and proper education. Jemie and Maribeth strongly believed that education is the only real treasure they can pass on to their children.  It may be a difficult goal to reach, but they were willing to invest in their children’s future.  They also believed they are lucky to have helpful and understanding children. But as their children grew up, so did their needs -another challenge that Jemie and Maribeth must face.

Enters Pantawid Pamilya

One of the greatest blessings they received was their inclusion in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in 2010. According to them, the program is a big help especially in supplementing their basic needs. More importantly, their fund for the education of their daughters was augmented.

Their eldest daughter, Jemarie was able to finish her degree in Education Major in Mathematics with the help of the program.

Presently, their second daughter Jebeth is also a grantee of Expanded Students’ Grant-in-aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) and is determined to succeed in her educational pursuits through the education subsidy of the program.

Even before becoming a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary, the family has lived life more positively and contributed more in the improvement of their community.  All family members have established a deep relationship with God and have continued to engage in church activities. Maribeth is a Pantawid Pamilya parent leader and a catechist volunteer of District 8, GKK San Nicolas, Barangay Kipalili.

Moreover, Jemarie and Jebeth actively participate as members of the Diocese Youth Association (DYA). Also, the youngest, Jemalyn is active in the Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban (GKK) in their Purok.

Giving Back

The family gives back to the community through civic volunteerism. Both Jemie and Maribeth actively volunteer in the Brigada Eskwela community service at Kipalili Elementary School. Jemie was also conferred a recognition for providing outstanding support to Kipalili Day Care Center in fighting the war against illiteracy. Jemarie also pays forward by financing the education of a son of a parent leader in their community.

The hospitality and generosity of the Salas family had been most significant in the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo in 2012. The family willingly opened its home as a safe haven for the affected families in their community who were seeking refuge. The family also offered free use of its motorcycle unit in case of emergencies. Their hands were ever ready to extend help in the best way they can to anyone who needed support, without asking for anything in return.

The family also gives importance to environmental and physical wellness. Family members have developed their backyard into a healthy vegetable garden patch which has helped them sustain their daily nutritional needs, ensuring that proper nourishment is not compromised especially for their children. They also gather recycled materials like plastics and have crafted garden tools out of it.

For Jemie, one of the greatest treasures they can impart to everyone is their inspiring story of weathering the plights of poverty through sheer resilience, faith and determination to obtain a better life.

As Jemie ponders on, the moment he marched with Jemarie during her college graduation day, he had never been more proud to be a mananggiti  -a trade badge he wears with pride.

The Salas story is a good example of family resourcefulness and wisdom in putting into good use all the blessings that have been provided unto each member.  But above all, they made sure to grow as a family with God’s grace and with love for one another.

The Salas family is one of the 256,761 Pantawid Pamilya households in Davao Region. (DSWD)