No more earthquake scares for T'boli children with Kalahi-CIDSS day care center

Tiboli, South Cotabato—Children rushed out of a tiny building as a strong earthquake shook South Cotabato in 2011, leaving huge cracks on the walls and floors of the day care center that  housed 60 pupils. The tremors sent chills to Rose Tabara, a day care teacher, who immediately thought of the worst case scenario: “What if another strong quake hit us and  crushed us all inside?” “Good thing no one was hurt,” she said, but she swore to herself to find ways to get the children out of the doomed day care center, which was built in 1998.


“I won’t gamble these children’s lives while the building awaits its fate. I know I can do something to save them. Their future starts here,” she said.


The need for a new day care center is particularly pressing for both parents and local officials of Brgy. Afus, a hinterland town in South Cotabato


Tabara can breathe more easily today. As she assisted students belonging to the T’boli tribe to their multicolored seats, she understood that the parents will now have peace of mind in knowing that their children will be learning the sounds of animals, finger-painting, or napping inside the newly-built day care center safely. The day care center is the first step to higher education that the children will go through as part of the Department of Education’s K12 program.


Janis, a curly haired youngster, is one of the 34 pupils at Brgy. Afus Day Care Center, Tiboli, , which opened April 2012. He excitedly explored the 60 square-meter space, which was bursting with bright prime colors. “Everything looks [like] candies to me. Studying will be fun here, and we’ll be safe from another earthquake that might strike us,” he said through his mother, Marina.


The gleaming new day care center, located at the heart of village, is just one of the 16 government-sponsored facilities available to the residents.


With space for up to 50 children between 3 and 6 years old, the freshly-painted center offers day care services from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at a monthly rate of P100 for the two teachers on staff.


“Before this, the parents settled in fear, thinking that an earthquake might strike anytime. Now, we have peace of mind, so this is a blessing,” said village chair Roger Brana. He encouraged the day care center workers to take good care of their wards, saying, “The only thing I will ask you from you is to teach with a smile.”


The enthusiasm came abundantly Wednesday, where the ebullient speakers at the inauguration included town Mayor Ernesto Manuel, local government public officials, Department of Social Welfare and Development - Kalahi-CIDSS Regional Project Coordinator Emerita Dizon, social workers, and some of the students’ parents.


“This day care center will certainly give parents peace of mind for their children’s security. We expect reduced absenteeism [and] tardiness for the children, and enhanced productivity to the teachers,” Manuel said.


The day care center, Manuel emphasized, is a symbol of hope for the tribe of T’boli. “The government does its job to free everyone from poverty. But to ultimately solve the problem, we need other government bodies and civil society organizations to open up their purses and give what the people ask. All we need to do is to listen to them, [since] they know their needs. Making the community-driven development strategy a national approach to solve poverty is the solution to keeping their faith,” he said.


This project was implemented with the participation of Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), the DSWD-implemented and World Bank-supported project. This is one the Philippines’ largest community-driven development programs, bringing development decision-making to the grass-roots level to the millions of poor rural communities across the country. The program enables rural communities to decide how to improve their livelihoods, build appropriate infrastructure, provide health care and education services, and build effective local government and community institutions. Flexible grants, ranging from P400, 000 per barangay, are channeled straight to the communities to finance activities that villagers define as the most important. Trained local facilitators provide technical assistance to communities across the country.


The mountain town of Tiboli is recorded to have the highest rural poverty incidence in South Cotabato, but has been steadily developing its basic social services through construction of classroom building, water systems, electrification, training centers, day care centers, solar dryer with warehouses, and road network.


Tiboli has been engaged in the Kalahi-CIDSS project from 2005 to 2008 and local government-led Makamasang Tugon project from 2010-2011, with a total project cost of P53 million.


In 2011, Tiboli, which is composed of 25 villages, received a grant of P12 million, plus P1.7 million counterpart contribution. In the prioritization process, 16 sub-projects were completed, including three more day care centers in the villages of Lemsnolon, Malugong and Talufo.


"This process in Kalahi-CIDSS, which incorporates 30% counterpart—cash or in-kind—by the local government units, has the potential for wider replication as the project introduces empowerment through cooperation by way of training and labor for community members and project sustainability,” said Bai Zorahayda Taha, Regional Project Director.


As of 2012, Kalahi-CIDSS has released grants of nearly P469, 876 million for 483 projects in Region 12. Kalahi-CIDSS covers the four provinces (Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and South Cotabato) in Region 12 in 13 municipalities and 254 villages in the region. The recipients are villages in the poorest 25 percent towns of the 42 poorest provinces identified across the country.


“We all have a role to play to change the landscape of poor communities,” Taha said, concurring with Manuel. “The government, businesses, and civil society share the responsibilities of improving social services, especially for children and their parents.”


“With Kalahi-CIDSS, Pantawid Pamilya Pilipinong Program and Sustainable Livelihood in place, the DSWD assures that no one gets left behind.We are reaching the hardest-to reach Filipinos,” Taha said, stressing the goal of the agency’s social protection programs in convergence strategy.