Juanito and Geraldin Omipet’s family is one of the first to pass on the gift in Heifer Philippines’ Integrating Gift-Giving and Organizing for Overall Community Transformation Attainment (IGOROTA) Project . The couple and their two children, 8-year-old Sairene and 6-year-old Brayle, live in Poblacion, Bauko, Mountain Province. Both Juanito and Geraldin were unable to complete their education. Today, Juanito works as a seasonal laborer, while Geraldin takes care of the children and household chores.
Originally from Kabayan, Benguet, a neighboring province, Geraldin feels like a foreigner in her husband’s home community of Bauko. Because she doesn’t really know anyone in Bauko, she is often shy, quiet and reserved. “I did not join the original families when I learned that I’d have to attend many trainings and meetings,” she says. “I felt too shy to even introduce myself. But after seeing the productive activities of the original groups, I decided to join the first pass-on families. I was deeply touched by the Cornerstones, which helped me build my self-confidence, open up my thoughts, and control my temper. I shared it with my husband and children, and our family relationship has improved because we communicate better.”
In November 2012, during the first Passing on the Gift® ceremony of the IGOROTA Project, the family received one female pig, two hens, a rooster, 10 coffee plant seedlings, four rambutan fruit tree seedlings, and assorted vegetable seedlings from fellow participant Jose Boaging. Their pig soon gave them nine healthy piglets. The piglets are now the family’s main source of income. The hens have each hatched three times. Now the family enjoys eggs as an extra source of nutrition, and the children enjoy the cuddly chicks. The coffee and rambutan are planted and now grow in the family’s kitchen garden.
When asked what change the project brought to their family, Juanito replies, “Before, our family had no direction. We just lived one day at a time. We lived for the day with no future in mind. All our earnings were spent only for food. Now, we have future plans. We plan to have a house of our own, and we are preparing for our children’s education.”
The couple is currently saving for their children’s college education through their school, which collects their weekly savings and then deposits it into the children’s individual passbooks at a rural bank branch. “At first, we could only afford 1 peso per week ($.024),” Geraldin says. “But when our chickens multiplied and we started selling them for 300-350 pesos ($7-8) per head, we could afford to save 50-100 pesos ($1.19-2.38) per week. Now Sairene has more than $67 in savings and Brayle has more than $24. We hope to continue this until they finish secondary education, with hope that we will be able to have enough when they enter college. Even the kids understand the importance of saving. They have become frugal and appreciative of the things they have.”
Serving as the group’s secretary and a community animal health worker, Geraldin is a very active member of her self-help group. The group has saved more than $119 and continues to earn income through their rag-making enterprise.
The family’s pig is about to give birth for a second time, and the children are very excited to pass on the gift to another family. In addition to a pig, the family will pass on chickens and seedlings. “They will surely miss their chickens,” Geraldine says smiling. “But I carefully explained that other kids like them will love the chickens as much as they did.”
Story and Photo by Olowan Dom-oguen Jr., Program Officer, Heifer Northern Philippines