By Lade Jean Kabagani
MANILA – Struggling in Talisay, Camarines Norte way back in 2018, couple Ervie Dumasig San Fernando, 29, and Jeric Miranda, 25, sought chances of having a better life in Metro Manila.
Along with their then one-year-old son, they left their simple life in the province to seek a better future in the metropolis.
A few days after arriving in Cainta, Rizal, the couple got their luck as Jeric became a construction worker while Ervie was employed as a house helper. They eventually rented a house in Pasig City after staying for a while with relatives.
At first, the couple said life was quite easy on them and a daughter was added to the happy family. Their sweet, happy life in the city, however, didn’t last long. With the onset of the global health crisis, the couple’s family was struggling anew, financially.
“Noong una po maganda naman ang hanapbuhay kaso nagkapandemya, mas lalo po kami nahirapan na halos di na kami makabayad ng renta ng bahay at yung asawa ko po bihira na lang makapagtrabaho” (At first, we earned enough but when the pandemic hit us, we were rendered even more struggling to the point that we could hardly pay our house rental and my husband rarely got to work),” Ervie shared.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it made a significant impact on the construction sector — where Jeric belongs to. The problem was widely felt by many. The spread of infections and series of lockdowns disrupted the economy and greatly affected the construction industry.
Like some other “probinsyanos” who have aspired to have a sustainable life in Metro Manila, the country’s center of economic activities, the couple said their dream for a better life had crumbled.
Redemption, fresh start
In retrospect, Ervie said transferring to Metro Manila became an unsound decision for them.
Thanks to the government’s Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program (BP2), the couple was once again given another opportunity to have a fresh start; this time, trying their luck back to their hometown in Camarines Norte.
“Sinubukan po namin kumatok sa Balik Probinsya program kasi po may nakapagsabi na kahit papaano ay mabibigyan kami ng pinansyal na tulong, konting pangkabuhayan para po sa panimula namin sa probinsya (We tried to apply for Balik Probinsya program because someone told us we could at least get financial and livelihood assistance we can use for our fresh start in the province),” Ervie said.
Once back in their hometown, Ervie said she will start selling fish—because Jeric is also a fisherman—so that they can start saving money for their children’s future.
“Kahit papaano po sa probinsya magaan ang pamumuhay, hindi gaya dito na mahal ang mga bilihin. Doon kahit walang pambiling ulam meron namang sariwang gulay na maasahan, pipitas ka lang. Dito naman bibilhin mo lahat, magbabayad kapa ng kuryente at tubig eh sa probinsya hindi naman ganoon. Mas okay na po yung sitwasyon doon (Life in the province, unlike here, is at least easier and less expensive. Even if you don’t have money to buy food, you have access to fresh vegetables which you only need to pick. Unlike here in the city, you have to buy everything aside from expenses on electricity and water. It’s a lot easier and better in the province,)” Ervie noted.
The couple profoundly expressed their gratitude for the BP2 program. “Malaking pasasalamat po namin sa Balik Probinsya. Dahil sa programang ito nabigyan kami ng pag-asang makabalik sa probinsya noong nalugmok kami ng todo (We are very thankful to the Balik Probinsya Program. Because of it, we got the chance to go back home to our province, when we became helpless),” Ervie said, adding that she hopes BP2 will continue so other people will have the same opportunity, like them.
Plans for future
With a new beginning, the couple, who are both undergraduates, said they want their children to finish schooling and fulfill their dreams for a much better life for their own families in the future.
Jeric wishes he could also get assistance such as a fishing boat and fishing nets he can use for his livelihood. He vowed to do better in the province this time, and save enough money for the education of their 5- and 2-year-old kids.
“Gusto ko po makatapos sila sa pag-aaral. Iyon po muna ang pinaka-importante sa ngayon (I want them to finish their studies. That is the most important thing for now),” he stressed.
Along with their two kids, Ervie and Jeric were among another batch of seven families set to travel back to the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Naga City on Thursday night. The government will send off a total of 32 beneficiaries who have successfully enrolled in the BP2 program.
The Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (BP2) program was institutionalized through Executive Order No. 114, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 6, 2020. It targets to hel decongest Metro Manila.
The National Housing Authority, the lead BP2 program implementor, earlier said certain packages for the beneficiaries will be provided by the government and its concerned implementing agencies, upon their return to their respective provinces “for good”. (PNA)