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Story and Photos by Manuel Buliyat | Regional Program Manager | Heifer Northern Philippines

John Pating, 43, and his wife Florence, 39, live in the community of New Balbalan and have four children: Roldan, 20; Rovelyn, 16; John Ray, 11; and John Paul, 9. Roldan lives in nearby Tabuk City and is a sophomore at Kalinga State University.

New Balbalan consists of 52 households whose main economic activities revolve around rice farming with only one or two cropping cycles each year. Most of the tilled land is irrigated, but when the Chico River is affected by drought, the cropland suffers. There are a few pieces of rain-fed land, on which farmers have planted vegetables and other cash crops. Since continuous farm production is impossible here, many family members tend to look for jobs outside the community. Still others have resorted to selling household food and other basic necessities to small-scale gold miners working in their mountainous hometown.

John and Florence joined Heifer Philippines’ GIFTS for PEACE expansion project in 2009 as one of the original families that formed the New Balbalan Self-Help Group (SHG).

When the Pating family was identified as project participants in 2008 by Heifer and implementing partner International Association for Transformation, John was working in another town. Florence attended most of the trainings, including a 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development workshop, and shared what she learned with her husband. “We used what we learned to appreciate and care for the tangible gifts we received,” Florence said. “The children also did their share after school, taking turns in caring for the animals and maintaining our kitchen garden. Even the eldest, who only comes home on weekends, does his share.” The family received cattle, chickens, fruit seedlings and vegetable seeds. Since realizing success with the project, the Patings have been able to save some money, and each family member is very frugal. For them, farming has truly become a family affair.

During the project’s first Passing on the Gift® ceremony, the Pating family gave livestock and other inputs to another family. “Passing on the Gift® is good since other families without animals receive animals they can raise as a source of additional income,” John said. “It feels good to have finally passed on [the gift], because it feels good to be the giver and not to be the receiver all the time.”

John no longer worries about whether his children will have what they need for school because they have built up savings from the sale of their cattle and other project gifts. They have two pregnant cows that will be giving birth in a few months, so they are good candidates for personal loans if they need more money for emergencies.

“Now that my family has cattle that give birth almost every year, I can go to college,” Rovelyn happily shared. “My parents can save money for my tuition fees and school needs.” The teenager wants to be a nurse so she can help her parents and make it possible for her other relatives go to school. She says she believes it is one way of ending the cycle of poverty in her family and other families in the community.

The Pating family is active in community affairs, such as rural improvement activities, and Florence is a leader of the Alliance of Tribes for Oneness in Development. As a member of the alliance she is very thankful for the project, as it has given her family a chance to be part of the efforts to maintain peace among the tribes in Kalinga. “Now, aside from keeping peace within the community, we do not have to worry where to get money and other resources to feed and send the children to school,” Florence said. “We even have some extra from savings to improve our shelter.”

Although the project has ended, Florence and her family pledge to take care of the precious gifts as long as they can because they and their fellow SHG members have realized numerous great benefits. “We have passed on the gifts already,” Florence said. “Now our children will always reap the gift of knowledge.”

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.