Some 6 years ago, Matisalog native Edna Mansomina relocated to the city from her upland village of Paquibato in the hope of making life better for the family.
While half of her nine children were already married at that time, the 52-year-old matriarch was burdened by the extra duties of providing for the needs of her children and grandchildren.
Farming was not enough to feed all of them. The lure of the city’s sparkling lights and stories of overflowing opportunities — stories of a better life — teased her imagination.
One December, the family joined throngs of lumads who descended to the city for the yearly caroling. Captivated by the city’s charm, the family decided to stay. It was also an escape from the challenges they faced in their upland village.
But life in the city was not easy. They found themselves living on the streets — in the middle of a landscape of mostly concretes, dizzying traffic, blinding lights, and steady streams of strangers.
Job was difficult to find, food was expensive, water was not free, the river was not clean, and there was no backyard for a vegetable garden.
For months, the family’s home were the streets of the city until they were able to build a shack under the bridge in Matina.
Under the bridge, life for Edna’s family is a picture of extreme poverty.
From a distance, their home is just a structure made of hanging clothes, empty sacks, and plastic sheets that serve as walls. The main feature of the house was the bamboo floor that also serves as the bedroom.
Closer, one will see a home and a family struggling to survive.
To eat, Edna and her husband scavenged garbage and other ‘valuable’ scraps they sold to junk shops. But she also found treasure from garbage — a few strips of plastic crate binders that she used to create a basket.
“I thought I could make something out of the strips of plastic (binders) — I thought of making basket,” she said. “I learned to weave when I was a child. I was taught by my mother to weave mats and bags using rattan and dried plant leaves.”
It was the start of the small enterprise for Edna’s family.
The humble startup was funded by their own savings of only about P1,000. Edna bought plastic binders and made 30 baskets. With the help of her husband, they sold their products for P60 a piece.
Last year, Edna became one of the beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Program for street Children, Street Families and Indigenous Families of the Davao City LGU, a program implemented by the Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO).
Around 641 families in the city are under the said program. In Talomo area, it caters to 15 families, including the family of Edna. The program has helped them find livelihood and manage their finances.
Poverty alleviation is one of the priorities of Mayor Inday Sara Duterte. A set of programs and projects like this address the needs of street dwellers and the other sectors that need immediate attention, including the indigenous peoples.
Gilda Salvana, the head of CSSDO Talomo A District, said Edna and other beneficiaries were taught how to budget their money and manage their spending. The beneficiaries were even assisted in opening bank accounts.
Through the program, Edna received P6,000 — half of it was deposited to her bank and half was used as additional capital for her basket business.
Today, for a P1,500 worth of raw materials, Edna makes 90 baskets. She sells baskets for P90 per piece. On the average, Edna makes P700 to P1,000 a day.
“In less than a year, most of them (beneficiaries) have established income generating activities and have sent their children to school,” Salvana said.
Edna’s neighbor under the bridge, Rubelyn Gawilan, is also a program beneficiary.
The two women have the same backstory.
With her husband and two children, Rubelyn left her village in Paquibato to try their luck in the city nine years ago.
“Farming was very hard and it was the only source of livelihood,” she said in the vernacular. “Survival was getting tougher and tougher everyday and it was painful to see you children stand the day hungry. And there was very little that you can do. You cannot even tell your children to postpone eating or forget about their hunger.”
It was also Christmastime when she decided to go to Davao and to never return home again.
“Unlike in our village, there is no scarcity of food here,” she said. “But the problem was the money. With young children, I had to be persistent.”
Daily scavenging makes the family earn between P200 and P300 a day.
Through the help of the CSSDO, Rubelyn’s family were able to buy two trisikad (cycle rickshaw) that they use for collecting garbage, increasing their income to an average of P600 a day.
Through this, she was able to send her two children to school. The eldest, 17-year-old Pinky, is in Grade 7, while the 13-year-old Angelica is in Grade VI.
Edna, Rubelyn, and the other beneficiaries of the CSSDO social service program recently gathered for a picnic at the popular Gap Farm in Davao to celebrate ‘Family Week’ — a day they shared stories, fun, and food.
Rubelyn and her husband, Miguel, expressed gratitude for the assistance they received from the Davao City Government.
“The city has provided us both livelihood and education for our children,” said Rubelyn. “I want them to finish school. I don’t want them to be like me.”
For Edna, a little help from the Davao City LGU has made things less challenging for them.
“Life has never been easy, but with perseverance and the support of people and the LGU of Davao City, our challenges are more bearable,” she said.
Both mothers confessed to harboring the same dream — to find a safe and decent home for their families. CIO