Sampung Libong Pag-Asa helps save Manila barangay frontliner from debt trap

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As the country shifts to a more local approach to its COVID-19 containment strategy with the imposition of granular lockdowns, the status and safety of barangay health workers has seen increased attention among government policymakers.

Thousands of barangay health workers (BHWs) continue to serve at the frontlines of the pandemic despite working on a voluntary basis and being paid mere allowances, if at all. Among these BHWs is Joeseleen Gomez, a frontliner for Barangay 507 in Manila and a mother of seven.

Despite serving her community as a health worker for the last four years, Gomez has only been paid P1,000 a month for her work.

As COVID-19 started to spread across the Philippines in early 2020 and with Manila becoming one of the country’s pandemic hotspots, Gomez’s responsibilities for her community only increased; her allowance, not that much.

She began handling their barangay’s monitoring sheet of individuals recommended to undergo quarantine, which involved her physically going door to door to check on households that have confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19.

The increased risk of exposure came with a mere P700 increase to Gomez’s monthly health worker allowance. This prompted her to start selling food and garments online, from which she used to earn between P100 and P200 per day.

However, Gomez still incurred a relatively sizable amount of debt to supplement her family’s income amid the multiple lockdowns imposed upon Manila residents since early 2020 and had begun to worry that she might not be able to repay her credit pile on top of the more basic need of feeding her family.

It was in the middle of this situation that she was chosen as a beneficiary of the Sampung Libong Pag-Asa initiative spearheaded by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies from the Balik sa Tamang Serbisyo (BTS) sa Kongreso.

The P10,000 in cash aid she received was a game changer for Gomez as she saw it as an opportunity to finally change her family’s financial situation after months of being in the red.

Noong matanggap ko po y’ung sampung libo po na galing po kay Sir Peter Cayetano, tuwang-tuwa po ako kasi makaka-relieve po y’un ng pangangailangan,” Gomez said in the program’s livestream on September 24.

(When I received the P10,000 cash aid from Sir Alan Peter Cayetano, I was so glad because I knew it would relieve some of the financial pressure we were feeling.)

The program’s September 24 edition distributed P10,000 each to 100 pre-select BHWs from the municipalities of Malabon, Navotas, Parañaque, and Caloocan.

Gomez immediately used half of the money she received, around P5,000, to help pay off her debt. At the same time, she set aside P3,000 to recapitalize her electronic loading business and buy new stocks for her online store.

Finally, she used the remaining P2,000 to buy food and other essential items for her children.

Gomez said she is grateful for the lifeline she received through Sampung Libong Pag-Asa, as she has since started turning a reliable profit from her two side hustles, with her daily sales revenue averaging P500.

Sa kasalukuyan, ongoing naman po yung kita. Kahit papaano po lumalago naman po siya. Sa isang araw, may time na kikita ka ng P100 to P200, at malaking tulong po y’un para sa ‘kin,” Gomez said.

(Currently, the profit is ongoing. You could say it’s been growing. In a day, I would make P100 to P200 in profit, and that’s huge for someone like me.)

To date, Cayetano’s Sampung Libong Pag-Asa cash aid initiative has helped more than 11,200 families across the country since it started in May 2021. ###

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