STO. TOMAS, Davao Del Norte (DSWD XI)- “We believe it is our destiny as a couple to be good servants and good leaders to the people in the church and the community,”couple Venice Dajao Toyungan and Rodelyn Bintas-Toyungan representing the lumads of Barangay Talomo here, proudly expressed.
Recently proclaimed Davao Del Norte Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya, the Toyungan family had its own share of trials and hardships but persisted through their strong faith in God.
Towards a better life
Venice Toyungan belongs to the Mandaya tribe, considered to be among the lower class in terms of living conditions. Since his parents did not have the means to support their children’s educational needs, Venice sought ways to realize his dreams. He worked and studied at the same time, until he was able to graduate high school.
His excellent leadership skills had already been evident during his high school years. He was elected as Battalion Commander and was consistently elected as classroom president. Rodelyn also hails from a poor family. Her father was a mananggiti (tuba harvester), the family’s only source of income.
Venice and Rodelyn met through a Youth Fellowship event in their barangay. She was a worship leader in an evangelical church. Rodelyn is very passionate in serving God and the church –a quality that was greatly admired by Venice.
Since then, their relationship has flourished through their faith. Because of his new-found partner and purpose in life, he committed himself to work towards having a better future. Thus, Venice decided to pursue his college education. In the meantime, Rodelyn decided to find job opportunities in Manila to support her family.
Through diligence and by the grace of God, in the 30th of March 2005, Venice finished Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, Major in Mathematics and cited with an academic special award and also Best in Student Teaching.
He was able to pursue his endeavors as grantee of the Provincial Indigenous Peoples and Muslims Scholarship Grants (PIPMSG). Rodelyn was also a big part of his success. She supported Venice financially through providing him monthly allowances. After he graduated, he was hired as part-time instructor at ACES Tagum College, Mankilam, Tagum City. Seeing that everything seemed to be in place, they decided to get married.
Family trials, triumphs
“But little did I know that life is going to be harder once we started our own family. We were blessed with two sons, Kent Venice and Kyle Venice. I stopped working as part-time instructor because my salary was not enough to sustain our daily needs. We experienced several financial struggles. I had to work in the rice fields, planted and harvested rice, while my wife was in charge of “hagdaw” or the gathering of grains left behind by reapers after the harvest. I also tried working as banana laborer to provide more for my family,” Venice recalled.
In spite of the great obstacles, their faith in God did not dwindle. The couple was called to serve God’s ministry and went on to preach the word of God in the 18 barangays of their town. In 2013, both Venice and Rodelyn were installed as Host Pastors at New Bantayan, Asuncion, Davao del Norte. “We, as a family and as servants of the Lord, are greatly inspired by the Bible verse, Numbers 14:8 -If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey and will give it to us,”Venice shared.
The couple served the community well. Venice was chosen as Purok Chair, founder of Helping Hands organization, chair of Tribal Association, and chair of the School Government Council of Talomo Elementary School. While Rodelyn was also chosen as Indigenous Peoples (IP) Chair for Women, and facilitated free Mass Baptism for Roman Catholics with almost 400 delegates at Barracks, Tagum City in July 2014. On top of all these, she actively participates in every event in the barangay including Araw celebrations, IP Day, and Nutrition Month celebration.
“A big blessing was poured out to us when we were qualified as beneficiary of Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Indigenous Peoples (MCCT-IP) in November 2014. The program gave us glorious hope; it provides better education for our children, and security towards good health and good future for our family,” Rodelyn said.
Both of Toyungan sons are attending school. Part of the program is to sustain school supplies, rice subsidy and school fees of the children.
As grantees, they actively attend Family Development Sessions (FDS) and learn many things for family welfare like backyard gardening, regular health check-up, and were enlightened on different laws such as children’s rights, Violence Against Women & their children (VAWC), Gender and Development (GAD), Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, and many more.
“Through this program we have been blessed, and our lives have never been better,” Rodelyn expressed.
Kent and Kyle are also constantly showing exemplary performance in every school activity. The eldest son was also consistent First Honor in his class from Grade 1 to Grade 6. He also received an award as Healthy Kid during nutrition month celebration and was recognized as Dancer and Singer of the Year. Kent was elected as classroom president and became a representative for Math Quiz Bee, in both District and Division levels.
“Because of the MCCT-IP program, there have been better changes in terms of our way of living. We have a better home now. We have also been able to help more people who are asking for assistance and those seeking for spiritual advice,” Venice said.
“We are really happy to serve God and His people. We are grateful for programs like the MCCT-IP that allowed us to do better in serving the community. I hope there will always be government interventions like this because it helps a lot of poor people in the Philippines. Many have already benefited and more will still be helped through this,” Rodelyn attested.
Presently, Venice is serving as Pastor in Panacan Christian Church of God, Inc., at New Bantayan, Asuncion, Davao del Norte. He is also serving the people as Barangay Kagawad of Barangay Talomo. Rodelyn continues to serve her community through the groups she actively involves in. Together, they never falter in being supportive and loving parents to their children.
The life story of the Toyungan family teaches the community that strong faith and hard work make a difference. “It is our choice what to do with the blessing that was bestowed upon us. Indeed, like the Bible passage that we live by -The Lord was pleased with their great service, and He had given their family an esteemed success and prosperity,” Venice and Rodelyn stressed.
Toyungan family is one of the 254,843 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Davao Region. (DSWD)