Melvin Mariano (2nd from left) with her siblings and her parents in their home in Odiongan. (Photo by Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, DSWD MIMAROPA)

Melvin Victoriano thought that being able to work and help sustain his family’s financial needs was more important than anything, including school.

In 2016, the young man from Barangay Pat-o, Odiongan, Romblon, decided to drop out of the Alternative Learning School (ALS) so he could make money on short-term jobs either as a farmhand or construction worker. Most nights, he would also go out with his friends to fish.

His parents had wanted him to finish his studies so they enrolled him in the program via the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

But unlike his other siblings, Melvin could not focus on his studies.

“Pinipilit ko pumasok pero ayaw talaga. Tinatamad na daw. Kahit pilitin ko, ayaw naman pumasok sa school”, said Dina, his mother.

“Kumikita na kasi siya ng pera kaya nawili na kasi nabibili na niya ang mga gusto niya,” she added.

The Marianos are beneficiaries of the 4Ps since 2010. Marlon, the head of the family, works as a farmer and earns P2,000 per month. Dina, on the other hand, is a full-time household helper and a part-time vendor who receives a monthly income of P8,400.

The combined income, however, is not enough to support their three children who are all in school, especially Melvin’s eldest sister Nadine who is now in college.

Melvin takes a selfie shot while at work in Odiongan. (Photo by Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, DSWD MIMAROPA)

Melvin said he makes anywhere between P300 to P500 when he goes out fishing. He also receives fish in return for his services as a fishing crew in one of the boats in their area.

During the day, Melvin would work as part-timer in a koprahan, where he earns P1,000 per harvest. When its off-season, he said he works in the rice field as a laborer and receives P300 a day.

“Huminto po ako sa pag-aaral kasi gusto ko tulungan ang mga magulang ko. Saka nakakabili na kasi ako ng mga gusto ko, kaya hindi na rin ako nag-aral. Si ate na lang po,” he said, when asked about his decision of not finishing his ALS program.

In 2019, the Pantawid Pamilya staff, with the help of partners, provided several interventions to Melvin and his family.

Together with Agnes Catipay from the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) of Odiongan and the civil society organization partner iHelp, his family was visited in their house and were given counseling to reiterate the importance of education.

The Pantawid Pamilya staff also worked closely with the ALS coordinator to ensure that Melvin would regain his interest in attending school.

Navigating towards his dream
In 2019, Melvin decided to go back to school. He admitted that aside from his willingness to continuously learn in school, he thought about the probability of losing the conditional cash grants from 4Ps which helps his family.

To ensure that guidance will be provided to Melvin, the ALS coordinator regularly monitors and visits him every week.

“Sabi ko nga po, huwag lang pala mahihiyang humingi ng tulong kung kailangan,” said Dina, acknowledging the efforts and assistance of the people who have helped make Melvin realize the importance of finishing his education.

Melvin is now in Grade 11. Once he graduates from senior high, he plans to take a technical course from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and pursue his interest in repairing electrical wirings.

Melvin may have once lost his interest in school but along his journey, he was also able to catch another opportunity, and that is appreciating the value of education.

Realizing how important education is, perhaps, Melvin’s biggest catch of all time.

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