T’BOLI, SOUTH COTABATO: Johnny Tolentino is popular among the T’boli people here.
He recently earned around P100,000 for supplying bell peppers to Manila markets.
With P4,000, he started a vegetable garden that’s doing very well.
Now he’s cultivating a 2,500-square meter lot that will give him more money in the future. He also has a cargo truck and enough savings for his family to live comfortably.
All that started with the small allowance he got from the conditional cash transfer (CCT) fund.
His recipe for success is simple: “Use government money wisely and keep on dreaming,” he said.
Upon graduating from the CCT program, Tolentino has become a model to other T’bolis here. He is a good example of what indigenous peoples can do to make their lives better.
With the help of the CCT fund they receive every month, families here can beat poverty, bring their kids to school, and even put up their own businesses.
Of the more than 7,803 CCT beneficiaries, some 394 are considered self-sufficient. Some of them are gainfully employed while others tend to their own small business.
Juanita De Jesus, 38, is another CCT success story. Since 2009, the mother of four and her husband Lino, 44, receive a monthly P1,600 CCT allowance and religiously follow the conditions set by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Her eldest child is now in Grade 9.
The couple also has a small public market stall where they sell vegetables and maintain a tomato garden. Last month, they earned P9,000 from it.
Not all CCT beneficiaries are lucky though. The couple said they know other people whose CCT ATM cards were confiscated by the DSWD after they were caught gambling.
“These were returned only after they attended a series of trainings and conferences,” Juanita said.
For many, however, the CCT program has brought good news. T’boli Mayor Dibu Tuan said the health of children in the area has improved significantly because of the CCT program.
“Our Oplan Timbang program has been complementing the DSWD feeding program that has reduced malnutrition by 50 percent,” he said.
Currently, T’boli has 90 day care centers, 56 elementary schools, 8 high schools and 31 health centers.