“It is while we are young that we envision what we want to be in the future.”

This is true especially to those children who have parents who are financially capable to support their every dream. But how about those with less in life? Those abandoned, neglected, orphaned or children born with ailing or unsupportive parents? Could they even afford to dream?

Working with children as Municipal Link of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program opened my eyes to various reality. Most of the children that I work with, no matter how miserable their situation might be, still create and hold on to their dream because for them dreaming is what keeps them going.

One of them is Raffy Orolfo, a fifteen year old minor grantee of the program from Barangay Caranan, Pasacao, Camarines Sur. For him, the hardships that he experienced in life serve as an inspiration to strive harder and persist in his dream of a better future.

Raffy lives with his two siblings and ailing father. Their small house, which is made up of hollowblocks for walls, “anahaw” as roof, cemented floor and with few salvaged materials on some sides, is being shared with two other families. On the “sala”, is where Raffy and his family live, eat, cook and sleep. On the other part, which was supposed to be the bedroom, lives his father’s married nephew, and on the other side, lives his father’s married niece.

Way back in 1982, when his father Miguel was still agile and working, the latter met Raffy’s mother, an Ilonga. The couple got together but Raffy’s mother refused to get married. They stayed together for 22 years in Bulacan and had six children, three girls and three boys. In 2004, his father started feeling the onset of his arthritis, which made him unable to work and provide for the family. He had severe arthritis- giving him swollen feet, making him almost paralyzed. Upon experiencing difficulty, Raffy’s mother, started having affairs, became a drunkard and eventually left them, taking with her, her three daughters. While his father Miguel, with nothing left but hope, took them back home in Pasacao in 2007.

Without anyone to turn to, Raffy then at his young age, took on the responsibility of providing for their family’s basic needs. Their situation may have deprived him and his siblings of an easy life but never did it diminish his spirit and determination to persevere and realize his dreams. Even with all the hardships, he did not give up. He worked hard to support himself through school believing that education could give him the life he wanted.

During school days, before and after school, Raffy, only in Grade 5, would fetch water for an eatery owner known to them as “Tiya Bibi”. In return, the latter provides his breakfast, lunch and supper. He also runs errands in the eatery.

They are very grateful of their neighbor’s generosity for they often survive the day through left-over being given to them. On Saturdays, Raffy washes clothes and earns P25.00 for 10 pcs. of shirt washed. They use said amount in buying rice while as for their viand, they most of the time borrow or “utang” at a nearby sari-sari store.

Meanwhile, his brother, Orlando, only in Grade 2, buys and sells scrap materials during weekends while Mark Anthony, also in Grade 2, has been informally adopted by a retired couple from the school in which the siblings go to.

But life for them is really hard. It is not every day that their neighbors could give them food. There are times that they have missed meals. As for Raffy’s schooling, even if he works double time he still could not cover all his school needs like projects and school contributions. He and his siblings walk to and from school because they don’t have money for their tricycle fare.

Becoming a Pantawid Pamilya Beneficiary

Although known as the Summer Capital of Camarines Sur, Pasacao remains as one of the third class municipalities in the said province and has initially 3,662 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries, of which Raffy is included.

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a human development and right-based program of the national government that utilizes the conditional cash transfer scheme to help poor families realize their children’s rights to health and education.

Raffy and his family are thankful to Pantawid Pamilya because it has helped them a lot. In times when the siblings have no earnings, they utilize the grant for their food and daily needs.

His personality may be that of a shy, reserved boy with few words, yet has strong determination to survive in a kind of existence he only knew– that of “hand to mouth existence.” His life is a testament to the Bicolanos ingenuity, the perseverance to endure the hardships thrown his way and his journey to what he envisions as a better and wonderful future.###by:annalindalorejo.municipal link (amayor.4PsIO)