Pantukan, Compostela Valley – Vanessa I. Diez, 33, a volunteer of Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) in this town believes that women can actually contribute to the progress and development of their community.
Vanessa, fondly called Em-Em, grew up poor.
“Ayaw ng tatay ko na magtrabaho ang aking Nanay dahil kailangan niyang alagaan ang pito nilang anak. Naniniwala siya na ang mga kababaihan ay dapat nasa bahay lang at pinagsisilbihan ang pamilya (My father did not allow my mother to work because she had to care for their seven children. He believes that women should stay home and serve the family),” Vanessa related.
However, her father’s unstable income as an electronic technician made it difficult to sustain their family’s daily needs.
Vanessa recalled that her father would rarely go home due to his work and she had to find ways to help her mother by selling snacks in her school.
“Kailangan kong tulungan ang aking ina dahil wala siyang mapagkakakitaan, at bihirang nasa bahay ang Tatay ko dahil nagtatrabaho siya sa malayong lugar. Minsan, kinakapos kami ng perang pambili ng mga pangunahing pangangailangan (I had to help my mother as she had no livelihood to rely on, and my father was seldom home, working far away. At times, we were short of cash to buy our basic needs),” she added.
Because they were poor, Vanessa’s childhood was different from those of other children in their neighborhood. She had to be contented with the little that they have, but this never discouraged her, rather she learned from their hardships and emerged tougher than most. She also realized that nothing comes easy in life.
With her father finding a new source of income, she was able to pursue her dream of earning a degree.
“Gusto ko ng kursong Civil Engineering ngunit gusto ng Tatay na maging guro ako. Pinilit ko ang gusto ko at nakuha ko naman (I took up Civil Engineering but my father wanted me to become a teacher. I insisted and I made it),” she said.
In her second year in college, Vanessa got pregnant, stopped schooling and got married. Since they were both young and unprepared to settle down and raise a family, Vanessa thought this could be the end of her dream of having a better life. She was assailed by doubts and fears.
To make both ends meet, she began selling banana cue.
“Sanay naman ako sa hirap ng buhay. Napagdaanan ko na ito (Hard life was nothing new to me as I have been through it all),” Vanessa expounded.
Her husband, on the other hand, had a hard time looking for a job. The responsibility of providing for their family begun to strain their marriage, more so, when Vanessa saw her husband’s lack of determination to be the family’s good provider.
“Hindi madali nu’ng umpisa, gusto ko talagang magkaroon ng pamumuhay na iba sa naranasan ko nang ako’y bata pa. Parati kaming kinakapos dahil ang Tatay lang ang may trabaho (It was not easy at first, I really wanted to have a different life from the one I experienced as a child. We were always struggling because it was only my father who had a job),” Vanessa recounted.
Their marriage became better when her husband gradually started to recognize Vanessa’s efforts, as well as her need to grow. Since then, they have started working together, teaching their children to be responsible and independent.
Vanessa also started to serve in her church because helping others gives her a sense of fulfillment more than anything else. She also actively participated in other community undertakings.
“Ini-engganyo ko ang mga magulang at mga bata na mag-avail ng iba’t-ibang libreng serbisyo na ipinagkakaloob ng pamahalaan, katulad ng pagtutuli at pagbibigay ng mga gamot. Ayaw sumali ng ibang kababaihan sa aming purok dahil marami silang gawaing bahay. Ayaw kong mawala sa kanila ang mga ganitong oportunidad (I would encourage parents and children to avail of the different free services offered by the government, such as circumcision and medicines. The other women in our purok refused to participate as they were already burdened with household chores. I did not want them to miss out on these opportunities),” she emphasized.
Because of Vanessa’s active participation in community affairs, the Barangay Council of Women elected her as president with 14 puroks under her watch. She was then encouraged to run as Purok Leader, and was overwhelmed with her fellow residents’ support, considering that it was her first attempt to run for public office.
Further, she was the only woman out of four candidates aiming for the position.
That was when ‘women power’ began to unfold in their village.
When Kalahi-CIDSS conducted its Municipal Participatory Analysis in October 2012, Vanessa was elected to represent her Purok along with two other residents. She was hesitant at first but accepted the new assignment with determination.
“Hindi naging madali ang paglalakbay. Nahirapan akong kumbinsihin ang mga miyembro ng aming komunidad, ang mga nakatira sa 14 na purok sa aming barangay, na tanggapin ang pagbabagong eto. Inisip nilang hindi rin naman matutuloy ang ipinakilalang istratehiyang ito ng pamahalaan, bakit pa pag-aksayahan ng oras (The journey was not easy. To convince the members of the community of this new development strategy seemed to be impossible to achieve. Residents of the 14 puroks in our barangay had a hard time submitting themselves to this change. They thought that what the government introduced will not be sustained anyway, so why waste time),” Vanessa explained.
Closer to dream
With the construction of the 200-linear meter road through Kalahi CIDSS, she felt she was one step closer to her dream.
Vanessa considered this project as one of her childhood dreams. For a long time, villagers had a hard time transporting their products to the Poblacion especially during rainy season. Road accidents were common as the road condition was awful, apart from being strewn with potholes.
During the Kalahi-CIDSS Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum (MIBF), where all barangays were present to defend their prioritized community sub-projects, Vanessa took the stand for their project. She admitted she became emotional during the presentation.
All their efforts and sacrifices became more meaningful when their sub-project was prioritized.
“Walang pagsidlan ang aking kagalakan nang maging boses ako ng aming komunidad. Naniniwala akong maaari tayong magbago dahil sa nagkakaisa tayong nagtatrabaho at nagtutulungan sa isa’t isa. Ngayon ay nasa atin na ang daang magdadala sa atin sa katuparan ng ating mga pangarap (My happiness could not be contained when I became the voice of my community. I believe we can change for the better because we are a united community, working hard and supporting each other. Now, we have the road that will lead us to achieving our dreams),” Vanessa enthused. ###