Rowena Casim and her son, John Lloyd beam with joy as they show their Sari-Sari Store in Barangay Alcala, Daraga, Albay.

Leaving a place you’ve lived for years is a very hard decision to make especially when you have to move back to your hometown and start from scratch.

For Rowena Casim, 42, and her husband, Cristoper, 41 who have lived in Makati City for more than a decade, it’s a different story. Before COVID-19 pandemic came, the couple was already contemplating returning to their home province, Albay with their son, John Lloyd, 15, because of the expensive house rental and rising prices of commodities.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cristoper, who was then receiving an estimated monthly income of Php 15,000.00 as an electrician, was laid off from work during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

Due to the dwindling income, the family grappled with paying their rental fees and utility bills, and meeting their basic needs.

“Yung wala na po kaming pang-upa kasi pinapaalis na rin kami doon kasi yung bayarin naipon, inipon nila, hindi na namin kaya bayaran iyon, yung ayuda na binigay kulang, pambayad sa upa sa bahay, tubig, at kuryente,” she noted.

(Since we don’t have the money to pay for the rental fee, we were advised to leave the house. The rental fee ballooned to the point, that we were unable to pay it and the assistance provided us was not enough for the rent, water, and electricity bills.)

With the struggles experienced, the family chose to come back to Barangay Alcala, Daraga, Albay on July 17, 2020.


For a family, it is difficult to make a fresh start, especially coming from the pandemic.

“Iniisip po naming kung paano kami babangon ulit kasi wala kaming pagkukunan, kaya [nag buy-and-sell ako] ng RTW (ready to wear) at inikot ko po iyon dito [sa barangay], nakapag ipon-ipon ako,” she said.

(We thought of a way on how we will recover because we don’t have any source of income, so I tried the buy and sell business of Ready to Wear clothes and offered it here in the community. In that way, I was able to save some income.)

When Rowena came to know the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (DSWD KALAHI-CIDSS), she did not hesitate to inquire and to apply as a beneficiary of the program.

Through the assessment of the BP2 Regional Program Management Office (RPMO), Rowena and her family received Php 50,000.00 livelihood settlement grant as startup capital for their livelihood and Php 35,000.00 Transitory Family Support Package to cover the food and non-food items during their transition phase with a total of Php 85,000.00 financial assistance.

The family opted to establish a Sari-Sari Store in their barangay. Managing this kind of business requires strong motivation and resourcefulness as it is a highly competitive industry.

To increase the customer base, Rowena added a Piso Wi-Fi vending machine and franchised the AICE Ice Cream. She also opens her store as early as 4:00 in the morning until late 11:00 in the evening.

This way, she was able to earn profits from the store amounting to Php 2,000.00 to Php 3,000.00 net income monthly.

With the demand in their growing business, their son also assists Rowena in managing the Sari-Sari Store. On the other hand, Cristoper also returned to work on a contractual basis.

Rowena compared the program to a pair of slippers that brought their feet to new opportunities in the new normal.

“Para sa akin, ang Balik-Probinsya ay parang tsinelas nabigyan ako ng malaking puhunan para sa aking pamilya [at] napaka-laking tulong sa amin ‘to na mapalago ang negosyo,” she explained.

(For me, the BP2 Program is like a pair of slippers that gave me a large capital for my family, and it is a huge
help for us in growing our business.)

The Casim family showed how strong motivation can turn their aspirations into vivid reality.

“Sa kapwa ko benepisyaryo ng Balik-Probinsya, sana yung ibinigay sa kanila yung pang-puhunan ay
sana mapalago nila nang maayos, magamit sa maayos na pagnenegosyo [at] pahalagahan nila yung ibinigay na puhunan,” Rowena advised.

(For my fellow beneficiaries of BP2 Program, I hope that the capital provided for the business by the program will be nurtured, efficiently used and well appreciated.)