In the Philippine island of Bohol, cash grants from an ADB-supported project are helping the Ewican family support their children through school, and learn how to be more responsible citizens who are aware of their rights and those of others.

Life is hard for the Ewican family on the Philippine island province of Bohol. Genaro Jr, 45, wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to walk to a nearby rice farm he tends to. Until 7 a.m., when he returns home for a quick breakfast of rice and vegetable soup, he goes about his daily tasks while occasionally driving birds away from the crop with a slingshot. The rest of his day is spent at a coconut plantation, where he also works as a laborer.

His wife Norma, 44, gets up a little later at around 6 a.m. She spends her day keeping the house and cultivating a vegetable patch where she grows most of the food that ends up on the family’s table. When needed, she visits the local barangay, or local authority, where she serves as one of the counsellors.

The couple’s hard work helps them meet their basic needs: the family is nearly self-sufficient in terms of food, as Genaro is mostly paid in rice for his work. They only need to buy meat or fish once a week to supplement their diet. However, they have little money for everything else, including their children’s education, which is most precious to them.

“We don’t have much in terms of wealth: our children are our most valuable treasures. Their education is their and our wealth.”

Norma Ewican, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino beneficiary

“We don’t have much in terms of wealth: our children are our most valuable treasures,” says Norma. “Their education is their and our wealth.”

In the past, it was very difficult for Norma and Genaro Jr. to support their six children, now aged between 14 and 23, through school. The children had to do with second-hand school uniforms passed down to them by relatives or neighbors, while finding the money to pay for school supplies and food was a real struggle.

“We could only afford to pay for school fees during harvest times,” comments Genaro Jr.

Things changed for the better when a conditional cash transfer program, known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, was introduced in Barangay Alegría, in the municipality of Carmen, where Norma and Genaro Jr. live.

Cash with conditions

The Ewicans now receive 3,000 pesos ($65) every 2 months for their two daughters Jennifer, 16, and Joan Grace, 14, who are still in school. The money is handed to the family on condition that it is spent on the children’s school needs. Besides, a school attendance rate of at least 85% a month is required.

The impact on the children has been remarkable.

“We feel good that we can wear new uniforms now,” says Jennifer. “It makes us feel proud when we go to school.”

Jennifer is into dancing, while her sister Joan is into drawing: they both are at the top of their class. Their academic achievements are not unusual in their family. All together, the six children in the family won 80 medals in school. Many of them graduated at the top of their class, which allowed them to move up in life. For example, Jason, 18, is now studying agricultural technology in Bohol Island State University, supported by an education grant from the country’s Commission on Higher Education.

Another conditionality in the program is the need for at least one of the parents to attend the monthly family development sessions held for the community. These are open discussions on issues ranging from violence against women and family relationship, to disaster preparedness, health, sanitation, and livelihood. For Norma, the sessions have made a difference in her life.

“I can handle my temper now, especially when dealing with children,” she says. “I know what their rights are, and I also know mine as a woman.”

In one of the sessions, Norma was taught how to recycle materials like food wrappers and Coca-Cola bottles into vases, pots, and decorations for the house.

Changing lives

The Ewicans are not the only family to benefit from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program in Barangay Alegría. Eighty-nine beneficiary families, out of a total of 300 in the area, were chosen based on a survey assessing their needs. The program was rolled out in 2011 and has been a success ever since.

As of 2014, the program reached 4.4 million students aged 0 to 18 throughout the country. In central Visayas, the area where the island of Bohol lies, over 250,000 households were registered in the program, receiving a total of 8.8 billion pesos in cash transfers.

“We have seen big changes in the living condition of the people,” says Isabelo Sumalinog, 63, barangay captain. “Out-of-school rates have been reduced dramatically. More people visit the health center and pregnant women also go for pre-natal checks.”

More people have become involved in community activities, while their attitude toward life has also generally improved. The local authority passed an anti-gambling ordinance so that beneficiaries are prevented from wasting their program money and invest them where they are needed the most: an education for the next generation.