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DSWD - CAR Maria’s journey to aging gracefully and productively Cordillera Administrative Region- Her skin is dark and wrinkled. Her hair shows streaks of gray. Her body has turned fragile. But these would not keep Maria from aging gracefully and productively. Maria D. Galong from Brgy. Karikitan in Conner, Apayao was born on 26 March 1953. This year, Nanang Maria is 63 years old but as she roamed around the area where we met, she exudes an aura that of a young lady- full of enthusiasm and passion. AS HER NAME IMPLIES In foreign languages, Maria means bitterness, revenge, or rebellion. True enough, Nanang Maria had her fair share of life’s bitterness and challenges. Nanang Maria lost the men whom she thought she would spend her days with. She married twice, but she lost them both as they have succumbed to illness and eventually, death. She has a child, Marlo, who is now 38 years old and has finished courses on automotive and diesel mechanics. But this does not spare Nanang Maria from the challenge of providing their dail needs to survive. FROM BITTER TO SWEET Though life has tested Nanang Maria, she never faltered to turn her journey into an enjoyable one. She was only able to finish her 2nd year in high school since her parents did not see the importance of educating a daughter. Due to lack of support, she dropped out of school and started to do farming for a living. Despite this, she became an active member of their community as she was then elected as the President of Karikitan-Guinaang Religious Group and the Rural Improvement Club which was organized by the Department of Agriculture. “Nakita siguro ng aking mga kasama na may maitutulong ako kahit konti lang. Kasi ako, kagaya rin nila[ng mahirap] kaya naman naiintindihan ko yung sitwasyon nila”, Nanang Maria shared in vernacular. Aside from these groups, Nanang Maria is also a member of the Senior Citizens Group in Conner, Apayao. She is among the senior citizens who assist the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Local Government of Conner during the distribution of stipends under the Social Pension Program. Though a social pensioner herself, she is glad to serve her Nanang Maria is among the senior citizens who assist during the Social Pension Pay-out in Conner, Apayao constituents. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos dahil binigyan n’ya ako ng talento upang makatulong sa mga kagaya kong senior citizens”, Nanang Maria added. In the Cordillera, Nanang Maria is among the 70, 287 social pensioners who receive a stipend amounting to Php 500.00 per month. The stipend is released every quarter to indigent senior citizens who are not under other pension program, those who do not receive support from their relatives or those who do not have a source of livelihood. As of 30 September 2016, there are 38,150 social pensioners who have already been served. The Field Office, through the Social Pension Program Management Office, is continuously conducting the distribution of stipend through on-site pay-outs, and fund transfer to the local government units. A total of Php 421,722,000 has been allotted for the Social Pension Program here in the Cordillera. “Hindi kinakailangan na mataas ang natapos mo para makatulong sa iba. Dahil sa sitwasyon ko, mas naging madali para saakin na lapitan ng mga kasama ko na senior citizen dahil magkakapareho lang kami, at naiintindihan ko ang sitwasyon nila”, Nanang Maria shared. Nanang Maria may not have supple skin, long black hair, or a vigorous body. But that does not make her any less than an example of someone who is aging gracefully and productively as she has whole heartedly served her fellow senior citizens and this passion to serve has made her even more beautiful. #DSWD-CAR, SOCIAL MARKETING UNIT, Nerizza Faye G. Villanueva 6 The Social Focus

Feature: ‘Merrier’ Christmas for Norman and Erlinda C ordillera - Norman and Erlinda* got married in December 2004. Since then, the couple has celebrated the Christmas season with their family and friends. “Every Christmas, pinupuntahan namin ang aming mga kapamilya. Sila ang kasama naming nag-cecelebrate. Sa office naman, during family day or Chirstmas party, pamangkin ang kasama o kaya minsan ay wala”, Erlinda narrated. Though the couples had tried many times, they remained to be childless. This led them to the decision to adopt a child. But it took years of praying before the couple decided to take the first step. Everything worth having is worth waiting (and praying) for Sometime in July 2015, the couple finally decided to start their adoption journey despite knowing that the process would not become brief and easy. “I went to DSWD-CAR and approached someone I knew who kindly ushered me to ARRS [Adoption Referral and Resource Section] in which I was entertained so kindly and was given materials regarding adoption, forms of several pages to fill up and a long list of requirements. I was also told that the process would take time. At home, while reading with my husband, it was stressful especially that we are not used to work on papers. But we started to accomplish the requirements”, Erlinda shared. “We worked on all requirements, but the last requirement we had was the neuropsychological examination. And here we faced a great trouble. Typhoon came and there was heavy rain. Our car tires got deflated and we had no spare but we had to attend to our schedule and took the exam. After two weeks of waiting for the report, another typhoon came which left Baguio City at least two weeks without electricity. The result has not been printed yet. The following week, the doctor’s files were corrupted so she had to make another report”, Erlinda reminisced. This led to a month delay in this stage of the process which would normally take only a week. But this did not stop Norman and Erlinda from pursuing their dream of having a child. “These incidents were discouraging, only that we have the strong faith. God knows what is best for us”, Erlinda shared. Finally, the couple was able to submit their application on October 2015. “On January 2016, another set of questionnaires were given and was validated during the home visit. The production of the home study report was delayed due to a family problem encountered by the social worker handling our case but we understood The Social Focus because it was reasonable”. “This time, our relatives knew about our plan. Sometime in February, hinahanap ni mama ang bata. I was shocked yet happy. The withering hope was watered by mama. She was interested of having her grandson even by the way of adoption. And I know that there will never be a problem come my son.” “Noong una, ito yung isa sa mga rason kaya nag-push through pa rin kami, pero later on, nakita namin yung kulang, dadalawa lang kaming magasawa sa bahay. Trabaho, bahay, trabaho, bahay, ganoon na lang parati”, she shared when asked what made them push through. “Noong time siguro na nawawala na yung faith ko dahil sa pag-hihintay, pinag-ppray ko na lang siya. Pray lang ng pray”, Erlinda added. Trusting in God’s Perfect Time In April 2016, Erlinda was scheduled to accompany a relative to Korea. However, her VISA application was turned down. Not long after, a good news was received by Erlinda. On that same day, she received a call from the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC). The RSCC is one of the temporary residential care facilities run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). It provides interventions to abused, neglected, abandoned, surrendered, and exploited children and those with special needs such as children at risk and children who are in need of alternative family care. “It was supposed to be a sad day but on that same day was a call from ARRS that there is a child that was matched with us. Profile was sent through mail. We were looking closely at the child’s picture and he looked so much like my nephew. We accepted him and scheduled to fetch him”, Erlinda shared. Matching is a step in the adoption process where the preferences of the adoptive couple are suited to a child available for adoption or foster care. Soon after, Norman and Erlinda officially became the proud parents of a two-year old boy. “Alam mo, pinagpray talaga namin siya. Tignan mo ang DSWD - CAR binigay sa amin ng Panginoon. May balat siya, may balat din ako. He is made for me. “Mahirap man maghintay, in God’s time, you just have to wait for God’s time. And now that we have him, we are real parents. We have a little boy who hugs us when we arrive home after work. We have a playmate. He makes me a super mom and I try to do everything for him”, she added. “Noong una, it was hard. But later on, I realized na talaga sigurong may mga couples na hindi mabibigyan ng anak dahil may mga bata na gaya nila na nangangailangan ng pagmamahal ng isang magulang” Erlinda shared. Months after they started the process of adoption, Norman and Erlinda had a ‘merrier’ Christmas with their son. “On the 25th, we went to church together and we spent the day as a complete family. The long waiting has paid off. Having him, joy is in our hearts.”, Erlinda shared. As for the child, he is now having a merrier Christmas with the family he can call his own. Adoption is the socio-legal process of giving a permanent home to a child whose parents have given up their parental rights. The process can last for one year to one year and a half. This process also upholds the right of the child to identity. Individuals interested to adopt may forward their concerns or visit the Adoption Resource and Referral Section (ARRS) of DSWD-CAR at SN Oriental Building, Baguio City near PhilHealth- CAR.# DSWD-CAR, Social Marketing Unit, Nerizza Faye G. Villanueva * Surname withheld to protect the privacy of the family 7

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