B'laan Woman harvesting

B’laan Woman harvesting

“…that it is not all about what you acquire, but it is about how you live your life with what you have with contentment and satisfaction in your heart….”

It is undoubtedly hard to become a mother, wife, barangay health worker volunteer and entrepreneur at the same time yet this noble Blaan woman, who was able to send her children to college through stick broom-making, can say there is no hard thing if there is passion and dedication on what you do and what you really want to become.

Meet Percita Caliwang, 50, mother of four, and resident of Sitio Molo, Barangay Libi in Malapatan.

Hing Caliwang, 52, a farmer, and husband of Percita, said he is forever grateful for having Percita as his wife. He said he cannot make it possible for all their children to go to college without her help.

“Pasalamat ko kay akong asawa maayo mo-diskarte ug gusto g’yud motabang sa akoa, kay kung ako lang ang saligan, maglisod pud ko og pagpahuman sa among mga anak (I am so thankful that she is resourceful and she really wants to help me. I could not make it on my own if I shouldered all my children’s education),” said Hing.

Hing is entrusted by his aunt with a parcel of land planted with coconut trees from which they get their livelihood.Percita said they used to sell copra when their children were younger. However, the income was not enough for all their basic needs and for their children’s education.

“Nakahuna-huna ko nga maghimo og silhig kay kung maghulat mi nga mag-copras na pud, tulo pa man ka bulan, dugay pa mi maka-income usab (I thought of making stick brooms because if we will wait for another three months to produce copra, it will be hard for us, we will have no income),” she recounted.

Percita with the stick brooms, walis tingting

Percita with the stick brooms, walis tingting

Discouragement was not included in her vocabulary during the times when the selling price of her products was lower than market value. Instead, she never gave up and she continued with a positive attitude, thinking that all her labor would never be in vain.

Percita’s determination and persistence has caught the attention of her neighbors and her sister who also live in the same place. She became a source of encouragement for them to get involved in the same endeavor. For Percita, what she does is not “work.” She considers it  “leisure” because she enjoys what she is doing.

In the early 90s when she was just starting to craft stick brooms, Percita became the supplier of raw materials to her neighbors who were also committed to stick broommaking. Whatever her neighbors finished, she collected them and bought them at a cost of PHP2.50 each. Today, she consolidates and buys her neighbors’ produce at PHP4.00 each and sells them to wholesale buyers at the General Santos City Public Market at PHP6.00 to PHP7.00 each. A stick broom sells for PHP15 each in the marketplace.

“Ang akong pinakataas na gina-deliver kada bulan sa duha nako ka suki sa genSan kay 5,000 ka silhig. Usahay gusto nila mas daghan pa pero dili na pud namo maapas og himo (The highest delivery I make every month to my two buyers in General Santos City is 5,000 stick brooms. Sometimes, they want to take in more deliveries, but at this time we cannot afford to produce more),” said Percita, adding that today, more than 30 women in their place are involved in making stick brooms.

Percita said she also tried different livelihood projects just to support her children so they can finish their college education. She said she used to sell bananas but decided to focus on making stick brooms.

Aside from making stick brooms, Percita also operates a sari-sari store in their locality. Her attitude, she says, is about being always busy, knowing that what she does is all for her family.

In her busy life, she still manages to report at the barangay health center whenever she is needed there. She has been a barangay health worker volunteer for 18 years now.

 A-B’laan-woman-crafts-a-stick-broom-the-“walis-tingting”-in-lun-Masla-Sarangani-Province.


A-B’laan-woman-crafts-a-stick-broom-the-“walis-tingting”-in-lun-Masla-Sarangani-Province.

Three of her children are now professionals having acquired degrees in Bachelor of Science in Education, Accounting Management, and Computer Technology.

“Naa pa ko’y anak nga wala nakahuman og college kay nagminyo na. gusto namo pahumanon og college pero ingon niya, siya na lang daw ang magpadayon sa akong nasugdan. Lipay na man pud siya sa iyang kinabuhi kay naa na siya’y anak ug lipay na pud mi kay naa na mi apo (I have another child who was not able to finish college because she got married. We encouraged her to finish college now, but she said she wants to continue what I have started. Anyway, she is happy with her life, having her own child. We are also happy because we already have a grandchild),” she said.

As a mother, Percita, who was a college drop-out, stated that she really wants all her children to be professionals. However, she added that a mother should also understand and support her children with their aspirations and pursuits. She stressed that it is not all about what you acquire, but it is about how you live your life with what you have  with contentment and satisfaction in your heart.

Percita’s exciting story was first noticed by Nieda Ramos, agri-business coordinator of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), who was among those who conducted a validation activity for the Sulong Sarangani Program in Barangay Libi.

Sulong Sarangani Program is a major province-wide development program designed to address the socio-economic challenges in Sarangani. It aims to establish a sustainable system which will be used in terms of economic output and poverty reduction.

Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon said the program is a convergence of all resources which will be used toward evidence-based actions and measurable results.

The program has several components  Sulong Karunungan, Sulong Kaligtasan, Sulong Kapayapaan, Sulong Sarangan, Sulong Tribu, Sulong Kalusugan, Sulong Imprastraktura, Sulong Tribu, Sulong Pamunuan, and Sulong Kasaganaan.

Nieda Ramos was just one of the local government employees under the Sulong Kasaganaan which focuses on agriculture. This component aims to empower people in the community to engage in agricultural activities such as planting crops and others.

Ramos said Percita’s story is an inspiration to other women in the community to continue to strive in improving their quality of life.

“In Sulong Kasaganaan, we aim to engage the people in the community to always have food in their homes by planting agricultural products which they can later use as a source of income. Sa experience naman ni Percita, magandang halimbawa ito na kung ano ang meron ka sa paligid mo, gamitin mo. Magandang ehemplo rin siya ng kasipagan kasi gusto niyang wala siyang nasasayang levelna oras (Percita is a good example of someone who used what she has as resources. She is a model of diligence, wanting to make the most of her time),” said Ramos.

Sarangani Bay at the height of 120 meters above sea levelRamos posted Percita’s photo on Facebook and tagged it to her Filipino friend based in Canada who later expressed interest in the products’ potential of being sold there.

“Maraming Pinoy sa Canada at walang walis tingting sa Canada (There’s a lot of Filipinos in Canada and there are no stick brooms in Canada). We, in the government, can always help people like Percita in our own simple way para hanapan ng mas magandang market yung produkto nila (so they can have a better market for their products),” Ramos explained.

She added that in June this year, there will be a two-day MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) global conference in General Santos City to be jointly organized and facilitated by the General Santos City Small and Medium Enterprises Development Council (SMEDC) and the South Mindanao Fair Trade Network in which she is a member.

The conference, Ramos said, is a “collaborative network” of farm leaders, producers, and US-based and other overseas buyers whose advocacy is to uplift the lives of small farmers. This is the first-ever gathering to be organized in the Philippines with the coordination of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Sarangani and GenSan Chambers of Commerce, GenSan LGU (Local Government Unit), other government agencies and private sector groups.

What’s exciting about the conference is that participants will be given an opportunity to be tapped by foreign markets such as the USA, New Zealand, Canada, and others. This will also encourage the MSMEs to improve their products and increase their productivity.

Percita, on the other hand, said she appreciates the local government in trying to reach out to communities and small entrepreneurs like her by looking for ways on how they can help improve their living standards.

Percita admitted that she won’t stop making stick brooms even if her children have finished their college education, saying it is through broom-making that she is making her dreams come true not only for her children but for her other aspirations.

 

 

 

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