BALIK PROBINSYA ORIENTATION. The Bueno family undergoes an orientation process during the dispatch procedure at Multi-Purpose Court 1, BP2 Depot, Quezon City on Thursday (March 17, 2022). Around 12 individual beneficiaries were given the hope of starting fresh with the help of the government's "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa” (BP2) program. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – The prevailing impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic in a highly urbanized city like Metro Manila has pushed Gerardo Bueno, 49, to restart his business back to his hometown in San Antonio, Zambales.

Gerardo and his wife, Mary Grace, 45, along with their 11- and 15-year-old sons were residents of Sampaloc, Manila.

Like oft-repeated stories of entrepreneurs that were badly rocked by the pandemic, the Bueno family’s printing business has also shut down.

Due to financial constraints, the couple has struggled a lot, prompting them to give up their old rented house as well as their business office -- and moved into much a smaller place.

“Nitong pandemic, sobrang nadapa kami. Napalipat kami ng bahay dahil hindi na ma-sustain ang bayad ng renta sa bahay kasi nagsara yung negosyo namin (In this pandemic, we have suffered a lot. We even moved into another house because we could no longer afford the rent for the house because our business has closed)," Mary Grace said.

Their children were also forced to transfer to public schools.

The couple said going back to their hometown for good would be a practical decision.

The Buenos are among the three families, composed of 12 individuals, who returned home to Zambales last Friday through the government's "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (BP2)" program.

Gerardo hoped government agencies will help them to start a stable livelihood, once back in their hometown.

He also wants his kids to experience better living in the province, where there’s less air pollution and there’s no overcrowding of people.

Gerardo wants his kids to enjoy and savor each moment in the province and break free from feeling like “you’re always in a rush.”

“At least gusto ko maipagmalaki nila na nanggaling sila ng probinsya (At least, I want them to be proud coming from the province),” he added.

The Balik Probinsya will be assisting another 26 individuals returning home to the provinces of Soccsksargen (Region 12) in Mindanao.

The latest batch of beneficiaries will undergo a two-day verification and evaluation by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), starting Wednesday at the BP2 Depot in Quezon City.

The Department of Health (DOH) will make sure the beneficiaries will have healthy and safe travel upon returning to their respective provinces.

They will depart Manila at 10 a.m. on Thursday and will land at the General Santos International Airport in General Santos City.

President Rodrigo Duterte on May 6, 2020, signed an Executive Order (EO) No. 114, institutionalizing the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa program.

The EO primarily aims to address overcrowding in Metro Manila’s urban areas and assist informal settlers to go back to their home provinces with a fresh start. It also seeks to create a balanced development in the countryside

The application for the BP2 program is accessible via the website or call 0919-0657896 and 0919-0692530. (PNA)