MULTIMEDIA

High tides, boat rides: Bringing lockdown aid to an island barangay

George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2021 01:48 AM | Updated as of Apr 22 2021 09:03 PM

Surrounded by Angat River and Manila Bay, Barangay Tibaguin in Hagonoy town, Bulacan, can only be reached by motorized boats, a 40-minute ride from the Hagonoy Municipal Hall as there are no bridges connecting the island barangay to the mainland.

Like many coastal communities, Tibaguin relies mainly on fishing as a source of livelihood. In more ways than one, fishing has kept most of its 4,278 residents alive, especially during the pandemic. The residents usually sell their catch to wet markets in the town proper, and even when the COVID-19 lockdowns in NCR Plus started they were still able to eat because of their catch.

While fishing puts food on their tables, residents still need money for other purposes. As such, the residents looked forward to receiving the cash aid provided by the government to help some 22.9 million low income earners cope with tightened COVID-19 restrictions. Which is why, according to barangay chairman Rogelio Suico, it was disappointing to find out that they were not included in the cash aid.

“ ’Yan po ang hinahanap ng tao. Sabi nga sa TV lahat magkakaroon, e ang ibababa nila kulang. Napakasakit po sa amin na ’yung ibang ka-barangay namin ay hindi makakuha, samantalang sila’y parte din naman ng inaabot nating pandemic na ito. Di naman po pinag-uusapan na dito ’yung antas ng buhay mo., kundi ang pinag-uusapan po dito ay ’yung pare-pareho tayong apektado,” Suico says.

(That’s what people are looking for. We heard on TV that everyone will receive aid but it’s not enough. It hurts us that some of us here won’t receive aid even if they’re affected by the pandemic. We’re not talking about status, we’re talking about everyone is affected.)

According to the 52-year old barangay chairman, there are 1,300 families within 825 households in their barangay. Out of this number, only 704 beneficiaries are listed by the municipal social welfare development (MSWD) department. 

The process for making the payroll list is straightforward. The LGU assigns so-called mother leaders in each barangay to verify the number of members of each household, as well as the the number of household heads. The list is then forwarded to the barangay chairman for further verification, and then passed on to the local government. The list then becomes the basis for how much aid social workers bring during distribution. 

But Suico says: “Pagdating po sa ganitong klase ng kalamidad, sana po ’yung binabalita nila na pinapakita nila sa social media, sana po ’yun ang nangyayari. Para naman po ang mga barangay official e hindi nasisisi.”

(When it comes to calamities such as this, I hope what is shown in social media is really what happens. So barangay officials don’t get blamed.)

SOCIAL WORKERS IN THE FRONTLINES

For social workers such as Maidy Pahati, dealing with irate residents is part of the job as public servants. Pahati works for the city treasurer’s office but is also tasked by the MSWD office to give out aid. 

“Ang hinaing lang ng mga tao, kulang ’yung head of families na dumating sa barangay. Ang mga tao ang nagrereklamo na hindi 100% ng populasyon ang mabibigyan,” Pahati says after hearing the Suico’s sentiments.

(The residents’ only grievance is not all of the heads of families arrived in the barangay. They’re complaining that not all of them will be given aid.)

Dealing with irate residents isn’t the only risk for Pahati when delivering aid. She is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and hypertension, making her eligible for the A3 category of the vaccination priority list. Although she is registered for the vaccine, she still has to complete a few medical check-ups before being cleared for inoculation. 

“Nag-iingat lang kami lagi. I always wear facemask and face shield. At saka siyempre, dasal. Na sana maingatan lahat ’yung buong team pag lumalabas kami,” she says.

(We are always careful. Of course, I also pray that no harm will fall on the whole team whenever we go out.)

Personnel from the municipal social welfare development office walk towards a rented boat as they prepare to travel to Barangay Tibaguin in Hagonoy town, Bulacan for the scheduled payout of government financial aid on April 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Barangay Tibaguin is an island community, which is a 40-minute boat ride away from the municipal hall of Hagonoy town in Barangay Santo Niño. The only way to reach Tibaguin is by boat. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Carrying cash amounting to over P2.5 million, personnel from the MSWD are accompanied by 6 heavily armed police officers in their payout mission in Tibaguin on April 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Upon arriving, social-welfare personnel are welcomed by local barangay officials for a quick snack and short meeting for the aid payout. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Barangay chairman Rogelio Suico, 52, shares with the MSWD personnel that some of his constituents took out their frustration out on barangay officials after discovering that they were not included in the list of beneficiaries. 
“Mahigit po 1,000 ang pamilya dito sa amin. Nasa 700 lang po ang nasa listahan,” Suico says.
(There are more than 1,000 families here. Only 700 were listed.) George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents return home with fresh catch from. Locals say that fishing has helped them to survive during the pandemic.
“May mga anak kami na du’n nagtatrabaho sa Maynila. Nu’ng nakapag-aral kasi sila, gusto nila du’n sa siyudad magtrabaho. Sawa na kasi sila dito e. ’Pag naman nandu’n ka at wala kang pinag-aralan, dito ka pumunta. Magsasawa ka sa trabaho dito kahit wala kang pinag-aralan. Basta’t masipag ka, mabubuhay ka,” one resident says.
(We have children that work in Manila. When they graduated, they wanted to work in the city. They’re tired of staying here. But if you’re there and you have no education, you should go here. You’ll never run out of jobs here, even if you didn’t go to school. As long as you’re hardworking, you’ll live.) George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents fill out forms for government financial assistance payout at the covered court of Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan, on April 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents start lining up for the government’s financial assistance payout at the covered court of Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan on April 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A barangay tanod uses a megaphone to remind beneficiaries to maintain physical distancing and wear their face protections properly during the payout of the government financial aid in Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan on April 21, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Upon entering the covered court, seats are provided for beneficiaries to maintain physical distancing. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Maidy Pahaty hands out government financial aid at a covered court in Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan on April 20, 2021. The supply officer of the municipal treasury office was assigned P417,000 to give out to beneficiaries. 
“Maganda doon kasi laging nand’yan ang kapulisan to assist us. Siyempre may dala kami pera. Kailangan kaming ma-proteksyunan. So salamat sa kanila,” Pahaty says.
(It’s good that the police are always there to assist us. We’re carrying around money, we need protection. So thanks to them.) George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

After receiving the cash aid, members of the barangay’s Sangguniang Kabataan take pictures of beneficiaries for documentation. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The payout resumes a few minutes after lunch, as the water starts to rise along the streets of Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan on April 21, 2021. Most of the barangay is flooded during high tide. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Residents fill out forms for the government’s financial assistance payout at the covered court of Barangay Tibaguin. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Administrative aide Cecile Lucas is accompanied by a resident as they wade through knee-high water while looking for the house of a bed-ridden beneficiary in Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan on April 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Lucas hands out cash aid to a bed-ridden beneficiary in Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan, on April 20, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Police officers escorting social workers remove their shoes, as they prepare to wade in floodwater after the distribution program ended earlier than expected. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Social workers wade through floodwater after the financial aid distribution program. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Social workers prepare to go home after the cash distribution program in Barangay Tibaguin, Hagonoy town, Bulacan on April 20, 2021. 
Pahati says that despite the risks of contracting the virus, social workers brave risky conditions to distribute aide as soon as possible. While most of them aren’t vaccinated yet, she says that basic safety precautions keep them and their loved ones safe from COVID-19. 
“Pagkauwi, ligo agad. As much as possible hindi ako tumatabi matulog sa mga anak at kasambahay ko. Di ko alam e, puwedeng may uwi na tayo kahit nakaligo ka na,” Pahati says.
(When I get home, I take a bath right away. As much as possible, I don’t sleep next to my children or the helper to be safe. Even if you take a bath, you are not sure if you washed away all the virus.) George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

After a day’s work, social workers take selfies as remembrance for the day. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

RELATED VIDEO:

Watch more in iWantv or TFC.tv