Filled with passion, a Social Worker from Brooke’s Point, Palawan has proven that the virus cannot stop a heart who has committed to serve. Instead, it further ignited her desire to give back to her community. With a brave heart, she has continued serving the people even in the midst of the pandemic.
Marecar Gayamo works as a Municipal Link (Project Development Officer II) at the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Municipal Operations Office Bataraza, Palawan. After passing the licensure exam for Social Workers in 2015, she decided to join the government service. As a Municipal Link (ML), her tasks include coordination with key partner stakeholders to ensure efficient, relevant, and timely delivery of services for the 800 household beneficiaries in Bataraza. She is also in charge of monitoring the compliance of the households with the conditions set by the program. Moreover, as an ML, Marecar shall also ensure that proper interventions are given to the households to improve their well-being.
When the pandemic came, Marecar felt the need that she must go beyond what is required from her duty as an ML. “Ang dami pong nawalan ng trabaho. Lalo na sa mga benepisyaryo po natin. Madami po ang nangangamba kung paano na sila. Sinimulan ko po ang pagkilos, sumunod po sila. Kahit natatakot, kailangan kumilos”. For the 40-year old Social Worker, helping the beneficiaries of the program is more than a job she needs to perform every day. With or without the pandemic, Marecar is determined to continue what she has started as she wants to give back to her community.
A test of courage and determination
Marecar was 20 years old when she married Oliver. Since both of them were not able to finish school, it was hard to look for a stable job that will be enough to financially support their four children. Her husband works as a commission-based tricycle driver. From the Php 8.00 fair for every passenger, Oliver needs to pay a fixed Php 350.00 daily boundary (rent) for using the vehicle. “Minsan Php 50.00 na lang po ang naiuuwi niya”.
The mother of four clearly recalls how hard it was for them. There were times that only rice topped with soy sauce and cooking oil were served on their table. “Hindi ko po lubos maisip kung paano namin nairaraos noon. Man-Toy nga ang favorite ng mga anak ko. Mantika at toyo. Saka tubig at asin na ulam”, jokingly said by Marecar.
Until in 2011, the family of Marecar became a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Aside from the conditional cash grants, the program provides different activities and interventions to the beneficiaries. “Noong benepisyaryo pa po kami, may mga pagkakataon na pinaghihinaan ako [ng loob]. Pero kapag umattend po ako ng FDS, nagpapalakas sakin [ito]. Kahit sa asawa ko po malaking tulong ang bawat topic. Napakahalaga ng FDS.” According to her, the Family Development Sessions (FDS) has greatly stirred what her heart desires — finish school, and be like the ML who handles them. “Sa kaka-FDS ko po, halos mga topic e women empowerment. Kaysa magmukmok at intindihin ko ang problema, kailangang kumilos.” She realized that instead of waiting for an opportunity to come, she must create a door to possibilities.
Paving the way towards a better life
Marecar firmly believes that education can change the fate of her family. Thus even if unsure of how they can financially support her education, she pursued college. “13 years ako nahinto sa pag-aaral [at] 30 years old na po ako nag-aral ng college. Noong nagkapera po, pinambayad ko po agad sa tuition. Nag-enroll ako sa BS Social Work.” However, the couple knows that they must not rely on what they receive from the program.
Marecar and her husband have doubled their efforts to further support what their family needs. “Nakiki-boundary po ang asawa ko. Alas-tres [ng umaga] umaalis na po s’ya, tapos ala onse na umuuwi [ng gabi]. Naglalabada naman po ako sa classmate ko kapag walang klase. Kahit naka-uniform po ako. [‘Yung] mga project at contribution sa school minsan sinasagot na ng kaklase ko. Utusan ng mga lakad-lakad. Pasa-buy.”
According to her, it was hard to keep up with her dreams. But Marecar is determined to finish school. Until in 2015, she finished her Bachelor of Science in Social Work and passed the licensure exam the same year. “Napatunayan ko po na ang pag-aaral ay hindi binabase sa edad ng tao. Kahit 35 na po ako grumaduate…kung may pangarap ka, kikilos ka.”
For Marecar, the ‘man-toy’ is a reminder that she must continue dreaming for her family. She said that, now, the word ‘man’ in ‘man-toy’ no longer means ‘mantika’ (cooking oil), it means being a super wo-man — determined to succeed despite limited resources. On the other hand, ‘toy’ that stands for toyo (soy sauce) symbolizes a person who stays to–ugh in the midst of life battles and keeps up with her dreams. She believes that one must stay grounded and if you want to succeed, you must believe in y-ourself and work extra miles to reach your dreams. Because dreaming is for all — no age, no gender, and no race.
As of this moment, Marecar supports her younger sister’s education who is now in her final year in college, taking up a Bachelor of Science in Education. She also volunteers in church every Saturday and does charity work during her free time.