Kapalong, Davao Del Norte- “Through prayer, action, unity and understanding, there is
strength to achieve whatever we aim to do,” Brgy Gupitan Rural Health Midwife,
Mary Jean I. Sabudan strongly believes in this.
Born of a
Mandaya-Ata-Manobo Dibabawon descent, Mary Jean was declared recently as
Regional Pantawid Focal under Health Category. She has been serving the
Indigenous Peoples in her community for nine years now.
“We were very poor.
Farming was our only means of living. Since my parents had eight children to
feed and support, we really felt the struggle of surviving each day,” Mary Jean
Even as a child, Mary
Jean already devoted herself to strive and study hard in order to free her
family from poverty. She also wanted to extend help to her fellow tribe
members who were in the same fate as them.
“I almost lost hope
for a brighter future after finishing elementary school. My parents were
incapable of sending me to high school, let alone support my college education.
But I refused to let go of my goals. I worked as a house helper to support my
high school education,” Mary Jean said.
Fortunately, with the
determination and effort of her mother, they were able to seek assistance from
a National Government Organization (NGO) to help Mary Jean finish a college
degree. Mary Jean then finished a course in midwifery and subsequently, passed the
board examination. Equipped with her educational achievements and professional
skills, Mary Jean returned to her hometown to serve her community, her tribe,
and help her family start a better life.
Even with noble
intentions, starting out her professional journey wasn’t easy. Mary Jean
couldn’t find a job fit to her qualifications in their town. It was in 1998
when she started volunteering in Barangay Gupitan as a community health worker.
“I served the people
of Barangay Gupitan where many residents are lumads, despite the difficulty of
reaching the area due to harsh roads, impending flash floods, and the looming
threats to security and safety of volunteers.” Mary Jean said.
None of these dangers
hinder Mary Jean’s dream to help the community in need of her services and that
of her fellow midwives, doctors and barangay health workers. They would visit
this remote sitio out of sheer sense of volunteerism.
“I may not have
received any financial compensation but my heart is full of joy knowing that I
have contributed to the good health and well-being of the people that we
served.” Mary Jean said.
As volunteer, Mary
Jean has formed partnerships with various medical groups such as the Mercy
Maternity Clinic and the Malaysian on-The-Job-Trainee Doctors to improve the
services they extend to remote areas. “There are times that government support
is not enough that is why I thought of asking help from other parties”.
In 2009, the
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has included all Ata-Manobo
and Dibabawanon tribesmen in the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for
Indigenous Peoples or MCCT-IP. With the implementation of this program,
Mary Jean had seen great improvements in the lives of her fellow lumads.
“I am thankful to be
part of this 4Ps program as coordinator. Through Family Development Sessions
(FDS), I am able to impart my knowledge in health and wellness, especially on
the importance of a pre-natal check-up.”
Mary Jean also
initiated efforts to educate the community about the importance of immunization
through FDS. Mary Jean also introduced to them the different health services
provided by the government like free vitamins, free medication, free medical
examination and consultation.
Mary Jean as a health
worker observed that mothers in the community struggle to find a safe and
accessible birthing place. Thus, as one of her proudest initiatives, she
coordinated with officials of Barangay Gupitan to help establish a birthing
facility in the area and was issued a resolution in year 2014.
“For me, being a 4Ps
coordinator is not an easy task. One needs to deal with different kinds of
people with different levels of needs. As an IP and a partner in implementing
the Pantawid Program in the community, I continue be inspired by God’s grace in
Because of these ‘extra mile’ efforts, Mary Jean was proclaimed
Regional Winner under Health Category of the first ever Search for Pantawid
This search aims to recognize the efforts and services of
partner stakeholders from the schools and health centers who have been crucial
in the successful implementation of the program.
At present, regional Pantawid Pamilya is helping 226,230
families in 43 municipalities, 6 cities, covering all 5 provinces, by keeping
their children healthy and in school. The program also has 29,070 IP
beneficiaries in Davao Region under the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for
Indigenous Peoples (MCCT-IP). (DSWD)