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“Nagasat kami kas maysa nga benepisyaryo ti Pantawid ta nakatulong daytoy iti panagbiyag me, karkaro idi tiyempo nga agkasapulan kami launay (We are blessed as beneficiary of the Pantawid [Pamilya program] because this greatly helped us in our most difficult times),” George Tiwang emotionally shared as he reminisced how grateful his family is when they became Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary.
George, 58, is a solo parent from Barangay Luplupa, Tinglayan, Kalinga. He lost his wife in 2004 and has raised his six children alone ever since.
A former member of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), George looked back on how gloomy their life was as he and his children bravely faced the struggles in life.
George’s wife, Romana, died in 2004 due to colon cancer. He recalled how they struggled to fight for Romana’s life. George would leave the children to his mother to accompany his wife to Bontoc, Mt. Province for treatment.
The family never imagined that such illness would fall on Romana. After several medical tests due to severe stomach pain, it was discovered that cysts formed in her stomach and were found malignant. In an attempt to cure the disease, Romana underwent two medical operations.
The situation brought tremendous fear to the family, especially when they had no stable source of income. The family only cultivates a small farm and income from such was not enough for their needs.
George hoped that his wife would survive. Unfortunately, after two weeks of confinement after the second operation, Romana succumbed to the disease.
Grief and fear engrossed George and his family as with the loss of their loved one, the uncertainty of their future dawned in.
But this was not the end yet. A year after, his second child, Noemi, who was then in first year high school was diagnosed with epilepsy. George was surprised with the diagnosis because he thought he raised his daughter healthily. Since then, George had to bring Noemi to the hospital monthly and spend more than PhP 3,000 a month, almost equivalent to his monthly salary as CAFGU. He then decided to quit as a member of CAFGU to take care of her daughter and other children.
Despite the unified conviction of the family that Noemi could survive, sadly, she passed away in March 2019 due to complications.
Since then, the bereaved family was challenged to overcome the gloom that life brings them.
Faith in God was the foundation of the family from the abyss of struggles. They coupled this with combined efforts to continue their lives while ensuring that every family member is healthy. George decided to stay as a solo parent and focused on raising his children.
In 2009, they were included as beneficiaries of the program, a blessing that would bring hope to their family.
George was thankful because at that moment, he badly needed additional income to support the studies of his eldest, Georgina, aside from the monthly medication of her late daughter, Noemi.
“Dakkel nga blessing daytoy nga programa iti pamilya me. Makatultulong diyay kwarta iti kasapulan dagiyay ubbing ijay eskwelaan da, ken maad addal me met ti kina-importante ti pamilya manipud ijay binulan nga Family Development Sessions (The program is a blessing to our family. The cash grant is a big help to my children’s school needs, and we learned the value of a family through the monthly Family Development Sessions),” George exclaimed.
According to George, the monthly FDS of the program strengthened their faith in God. The lessons and testimonies they heard from their fellow beneficiaries made them stronger and closer as a family.
Aside from the cash grant. the family also produces varieties of vegetables for food consumption in their small farm. They also sell some of it for additional income.
With perseverance and dedication, Georgina finished a Commerce degree in 2014. She worked as an apprentice in a technology company in Baguio City. With her good skills, she was recommended as factory worker in Pampanga, and later was endorsed as factory worker in Dubai, up to this date. Georgina earned a living for their family and supported her younger siblings.
Sonia, the third child graduated with a Criminology degree and is hopeful to become a Fire Officer. The fourth child, Calleb, took a vocational course. Prescilla, Gina and Jacob, the fifth, sixth, and last child, respectively, all excel in their academic performances. Gina and Jacob are the monitored children of the Pantawid Pamilya and they maintain 100% attendance to school.
Aside from building a strong faith in God, George inculcated to his children the value of education. His fifth child Prescilla shared that her father instills to them the value of responsibility and obedience.
“Papa always reminds us to study well and avoid doing unruly things. If he observed that we are hard-headed, he talked to us seriously and in a nice way. He also reminds us to not engage in romantic relationships yet, because that can wait,” Prescilla happily shared.
Meanwhile, St. Theresita’s High School of Tinglayan, Inc., recognized George as a model father for his unconditional love, patience, and kindness to his children and to the community.
As a model family of Kalinga, Tiwang family advocates for environmental protection. George shared that waste segregation, establishment and maintenance of toilets, and backyard gardening as a source of nutritious and safe vegetables are the important lessons they learned from the monthly Family Development Sessions. His children also advocate for planting trees as one way of caring for the environment.
The family continues to live as a good example to the community by complying with the conditions of the program while actively participating in community activities. George acknowledged they still have a long way to become a resilient family but he attested he is happy with the achievements of their children. With his guidance and support of her eldest daughter, he is confident that his younger children will achieve their aspirations in life.
The family of George Tiwang hopes that other families can learn from their story that there is always hope amidst the struggles as long as each family member stays to thrive as one.
By Marlo C. Abyado, Jr. with Lorna Lumioan