Inside the quiet and quaint village of Barangay Peñafrancia in the town of Del Gallego, Camarines Sur, the rhythmic taps of sewing machines loudly resonate with the lush greenery rice fields that became the source of hope and dreams.
As yards of fabric were glided through the needle, Maricris Manalo, 42, guided the seamstresses and tailors to accomplish the placed order for thousands of school uniforms.
Weathering the needles of challenges and patching up the chapters of life was difficult for Maricris who started working as a seamstress at a young age of 17 far from her family.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, it took a greater toll on Maricris and her husband, Danilo who is a tailor as they were affected by the working conditions and demands of the workplace in Taytay, Rizal. Despite their dedication to make ends meet, the couple decided to return to their hometown in 2020.
“Noong panahon ng pandemic, nasa loob lang po kami. Hindi makalabas. Yung pagkain namin dini-deliver lang. Tapos ang hirap po, ang init sa loob pagnananahi,” she explained.
(During the pandemic, we are just inside the workplace. Since we were not allowed to go out, the food was being delivered. It was difficult to work because of the heat stress inside the workplace.)
Maricris added that the rising costs of basic necessities also became one of the major factors to go back home.
WITH THE BP2 PROGRAM
To expand her dressmaking venture that she established in the village when she came back home, Maricris availed the assistance provided by the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (DSWD KALAHI-CIDSS) wherein the family received PHP 25,250.00 for Transitory Family Support Package and PHP 50,000.00 for the Livelihood Settlement Grant.
The BP2 program was designed to provide opportunities for Filipinos who returned to their home provinces to start anew through the provision of Transitory Family Support Package for basic living expenses and Livelihood Settlement Grant for the establishment or continuity of livelihood for the beneficiaries.
Equipped with the expertise and sewing equipment provided by the program, the couple began to create clothes such as school uniforms, blouses, and tops. Unaware that their skills would not only sustain the family but also become the dreams and hope of the entire community.
Due to the increasing demands from her clients, the seamstress decided to share her knowledge with others. Words spread quickly with her initiative of providing free training sessions and livelihood to villagers and it grew to a 35-member group of seamstresses and tailors.
Cecille Agutaya, 38, one of the seamstresses Maricris taught, was proud to be part of the group because it became her source of livelihood that helped with the daily expenses of her family.
“Laking pasasalamat ko [kay Maricris] dahil siya yung nagturo sa akin kasi kung hindi man ako natuto ngayon, hindi ko rin alam kung anong trabaho yung ano ko ngayon,” Cecille stated.
(I am very grateful to Maricris because she taught me dressmaking, if I hadn’t learned it, I don’t know what will be my job at this time.)
With the growing group of aspiring seamstresses and tailors, it formed a sense of heartwarming community with camaraderie and empowerment.
From school uniforms to ready-to-wear clothes, Maricris and her team became the go-to artisans of clients in Metro Manila producing thousands of orders a month.
The life-altering decision made by Maricris and her husband to return home not only mends the time with the family but also produces the stitches of prosperous future for the community.
“Patuloy ko po itong papangalagaan…hanggang kaya pang sulutan ng sinulid yung butas ng karayom,” Maricris noted.
(I will continue to cherish the blessings as long as I can pass through the eye of the needle hole.) ###