Manong Romeo, with his wife and grandchildren, pose in front of their humble abode in Jabonga, Agusan del Sur. Having less in life did not prevent Manong Romeo’s family to make a difference in other people’s lives.
“Hantod nga kaya pa ninyo manarbaho, ug duna pa moy makuot, ayaw kamo pag depende sa gobyerno kay daghan pa ug gi atiman ug gi gastuhan ang atong gobyerno” (As long as you can still work, and as long as you still have resources that you can use, try not to demand from government for aid – government has still a lot of matters to attend to and expenses to take care of).
These were the words of Manong Romeo Demaymay, a 60-year-old farmer from Cuyago, Jabonga, Agusan del Sur, a qualified recipient of the Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
SAP is a social protection program implemented by various government agencies, including DSWD, to provide emergency subsidy assistance to low-income families in order to mitigate the economic shocks brought by the public health emergency due to COVID-19.
With majority of people clamoring to be part of the ESP, Manong Romeo opted to waive the aid, and told the barangay officials to give it to someone who is more in need.
“Ako usa ka mag-uuma. Makapadayon paman ko sa pag tanom-tanom. Duna pa pud ko ginagmay nga ma-harvest. Kaya pa nako mabuhi akong pamilya maski naa ning kalisod aning virus. Kahibalo ko naa pay uban nga walang-wala na gyud. Mas angay sila makadawat anang ayuda” (I am a farmer. Right now, I can still do some farming. I still have some crops to harvest and I can still provide for the needs of my family. I know there are other families who need this aid more than me, so they should be the ones who should get it), Manong Romeo explained.
Jabonga has a total of 4,365 families who received the amount of P5,000 as emergency cash subsidy.
Among the recipients were 2,143 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries and 2,222 non-4Ps beneficiaries.
“Wala ako naghago ana nga kwarta, mao ikaulaw ko nga dawaton ko kana labi na nga naa pay mas nanginahanglan kaysa kanako. Nakasabot ko sa programa ang angay makadawat kadtong pinaka-nanginahanglan gayud. So angay na sa uban nga wala gayud makuhaan ug kinitaan ug pang-konsumo” (I did not work for that money, so I do not deserve it. It would be a shame if I will still get that money knowing that there are those who need it more than I do. I understand how the program works – those who are most affected should get the subsidy. So it should go to those who no longer have a source of income), Manong Romeo added.
His neighbors, including their barangay chairperson convinced him to avail of the aid, but he still insisted on waiving it.
“Giignan man siya nga dawaton nalang pero nagingon gyud siya nga dili niya dawaton. Gusto lang niya nga siguraduhon sa Barangay nga mahatag ang ayuda sa kwalipikado gayud” (They tried to convince him that he should accept the aid, but he insisted otherwise. All he asked for was that the Barangay ensures that it would go to someone who is very qualified to receive the subsidy), Christian Joy Cervantes, OIC-Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer of Jabonga, stated.
Because of his selfless act, people began to show their respect towards Manong Romeo. They appreciated his strong will and principles in life. While the rest of the people are complaining against the local government units and the DSWD for their exclusion from the program, here is someone well-qualified but insisted not to take the P5,000.
“Karong panahuna, angay gani nga kita ang motabang sa gobyerno kay lisod ang panahon karon. Daghan ug gi atupag ang gobyerno nga mga panginahanglanon sa katawhan sa nasod. Kung kaya pa nato moatiman sa atong kaugalingon, molihok kita dili kay maghulat nga dunulan ta ug tabang ” (Nowadays, the government is facing a lot of challenges, attending to the needs of the people. It should be us who should help government, and just wait for government to extend help. If we can still manage to take care of ourselves – our needs, then we should take care of ourselves), Manong Romeo further said.
The inspiring story of Manong Romeo is an example of the Filipinos’ bayanihan spirit, that even in times of crisis, those who have less are willing to sacrifice and make do with the meager resources that they have so that others who are more in need shall benefit. -30-