APAYAO, March 21, 2021 – Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus pertains to the socially and culturally acquired experiences which unconsciously structure actors’ dispositions and practices in the social field. Following this premise, in a simpler sense, empowering communities through capacity building can help craft values and redefine the sense of ‘self’.
With the impact of poverty on the aspects of individual and group identities, people in the marginalized sector experience a decline in realizing power in the individual sense, hence weakening collective agency at the community level.
Despite facing a multitude of manifestations of poverty, bayanihan and malasakit sa kapwa remain to be fundamental principles among Filipino communities especially in the rural areas where poverty is rampant.
In Conner, 8 individual beneficiaries of the Special Area for Agricultural Development Program (SAAD)-established association from Brgy. Paddoan pitched in to provide cash assistance to a community member with a mental condition. This act is a gleam of hope for the program whose ultimate objective is to empower marginalized rural communities.
Confronting the systemic rural margin setting
The Nabuangan Farmer’s Association (FA) in Conner, Apayao – one of the municipalities from the three SAAD priority provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) – has been receiving capacity building and livelihood support for two years.
While poverty is a collection of the impact of unequal access to opportunities, SAAD’s ultimate objective is to equip the target groups in or beyond the poverty threshold with opportunities that they can own, simultaneously enabling livelihood resources through agriculture and in the process, promoting community morale, for a stronger sense of social capacity and agency.
This is SAAD’s approach to organize marginalized rural communities. To impart malasakit as fundamental value to the context-sensitive social structures while trying to scale down the poverty gap.
Medical fund sourced from SAAD livelihood project
In 2019, Joseph Dumugo, husband of SAAD beneficiary Patricia Dumugo, was diagnosed with dementia – a mental condition symptom usually associated with memory, communication, and thinking impairment.
Mr. Dumugo is in dire need of psychological evaluation and medication to manage his symptoms.
In response, the beneficiaries of Nabuangan FA saved Php 8,500 from their Vegetable Production Project harvest earnings from June to July 2019. The cash donation was acquired from the FA’s profit after selling their vegetable harvests consisting of 10 kilogram (kg) of bitter gourd worth Php 500, 8kg of pole sitao worth Php 3,000, and 100kg of beans worth Php 5,000 within the community.
“Gapo ta kayat mi lang nga matulungan tuy kadwa mi a myembro metlang iti association, tay pag puunan mi kuma nga pang mentenar iti production mi, inted mi kanyana tay buo nga nalakwan mi tapno maipakita iti doctor tay asawa na nga ada iti disorder na. Gapu kin etuy nga program, natulungan na piman tay asawa ni Patricia Dumugo nga makapacheck-up iti kasapulan na.”[Because we really wanted to help our co-member from the association, we gave the money intended for our maintenance to Patricia Dumugo so she can bring her husband to the hospital and be checked-up by a doctor. Because of this program, we were able to help Patricia’s husband,] shared Ms. Benita Bayu, FA member, saying they sourced the cash assistance from the SAAD provided-project.
Interventions provided to the 8 members
In 2019, a unit of rain shelter, two pieces (pc) knapsack sprayers, 4pc of shovels, and 16pc of seedling trays were provided to the group under the Vegetable Production Project.
Conventionally, the capital for the next cycle of production will come from the previous cycle’s earnings. Although their donation cost them their wet season production in 2019 due to lack of capital, the group insisted on awarding the harvest earnings to Mr. Dumugo’s medical needs.
Table 1. Nabuangan Farmer’s Association intervention for Vegetable Production Project 2019-2020
Project Cost per unit
Total Project Cost
|1 unit of rain shelter||120,000.00||120,000.00|
|2 units of knapsack sprayer||3,000.00||6,000.00|
|16 pieces of seedling tray||100.00||1,600.00|
|4 pieces of shovel||500.00||2,000.00|
|Total Project Cost||129,600.00|
Back on track in 2020’s wet season cycle (December 2019 – January 2020), the farmers pitched in to purchase planting materials such as pechay seeds and tomato seeds amounting to Php 120 after the group gathered funds from offering individual farm labor to big landowners in their area.
The produce this time is only limited for their families’ consumption. From this production cycle, the group gathered 8kg of pechay and 4kg tomato. Each farmer shared their harvested vegetables with their co-members.
Meanwhile, for the dry season of 2020 (June-July), two sachets of pechay seeds, one sachet of tomato seeds, and one sachet of bitter gourd seeds were purchased at Php 180 for the association’s continuation of vegetable production. From this harvest cycle, the group collected 5kg of pechay, 3kg of tomato, and 4kg of bitter gourd, which were apportioned again to each member.
Joseph Damugo’s Condition
Joseph’s symptoms were managed for the period of 2019 because of the medicines provided by the psychiatrist. Unfortunately, there was no improvement in the manifestations of dementia because his family could not afford to maintain his medications.
Mrs. Damugo said that she was thankful for the financial assistance provided by her co-members from the FA which was sourced from the interventions provided by the SAAD Program.
As of March 2021, the group initiated to start cultivating the land under the rain shelter in order to produce more crops and to earn higher profit.
In 2021, Patricia also offered her land area for the expansion of their vegetable production.
“Gapu ta natulungan iti padak a beneficiaries ni lakay ko nga agpa check-up, kayat ko met nga isubli kanyada tay tulung da. Isu nga in share ko etuy arubayan mi nga mabalin pagmulaan.”[My co-beneficiaries helped me to raise funds for the medication of my husband. I am so grateful for the kindness that was given to my family. As part of my gratitude, I initiated to offer my land area for the expansion of our vegetable production.], said Patricia.
The group plans to recommence their vegetable production project and contributed Php 300 each for vegetable seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides for their next production cycle as they plan to start their journey as producers and sellers in their community.
With the group’s expansion in terms of area cultivation, they hope to gather enough vegetable produce to supply nearby barangay in the next harvest period (May 2021).
An alternative channel to escape the system
The danger of poverty is its penetration into the unconscious of the day-to-day affairs of ordinary people, the creation and reproduction of its symptoms which can later on structure a system, or in this case – values system that conforms and consents to inequality, which can lead to the abstract decline of ones’ or group’s capacity or agency.
While economy, culture, and politics bring different forces that shape perceptions and behaviors, the intersection of each is what determines the socio-cultural development of people and institutions. Context is very important in the sense of gaining personal and communal agency.
SAAD Program’s approach to development happens at the grassroots level, constantly locating the balance between tangible and intangible interventions, between the physical and abstract augmentation of the “quality” of life, that every Filipino deserves.
The program continues to provide capacity training, and carefully crafts livelihood projects that will complement the potential of priority areas while being culturally considerate and ethical.
Adhering to the core value of malasakit through meaningful people empowerment, the program takes pride in how it contributes to the betterment of a community and its members.
The program becomes a medium to pass down and live up to other forms of malasakit within the grassroots communities.
Kathleen Faye B. Agonoy, Information Officer I, Apayao
Jessamae Gabon, SAAD NPMO Information Officer
Nabuangan Farmer’s Association