DISPATCH PROCEDURES. Regine Pajares and her husband fill up forms at the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa depot on Agham Road, Diliman, Quezon City on March 29, 2022. The couple was among among the four families, consisting of 20 individuals, who returned home to Northern Samar on March 30. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – Grappling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, 22-year-old Regine Pajares and her husband saw light at the end of their dark tunnel through the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (BP2)” program.

Four years ago, Pajares and her husband left Lapinig, Northern Samar in search of better opportunities, leaving their then year-old kid behind.

She became a house helper while her husband was a construction worker.

At first, their combined income was enough for their monthly expenses and savings, but the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020 and they both lost their jobs.

Noong wala pang pandemya, okay naman ‘yung kita, kasi dalawa kami ng asawa ko may trabaho tapos nakakapagpadala pa ako sa anak ko. Halos linggo-linggo iyon (Before the pandemic, our income was okay because both of us have work and we can even send money for our child almost every week),” Pajares shared in an interview last week before they left Metro Manila for good.

Luckily, even if the couple was struggling to pay their house rent and other utilities, their landlord in Quezon City did not kick them out.

To somehow pay the kindness of their landlord, the couple looked for other means to earn.

They sold deep-fried peanuts and tried to pay off their debts.

But with their child about to attend pre-school, they knew they must earn more.

They already decided to go back to the province and were saving for their transportation fare when they received a call from the BP2 program.

Noong nabalitaan namin na may Balik Probinsya nga, habang naglalako ng paninda, naglakad kami agad galing sa Payatas papuntang Quezon City hall para mag-apply sa programa. Swerte nga ngayon natanggap kami. Makaka-uwi na kami (When we heard about the Balik Probinsya, while selling, we immediately walked from Payatas going to Quezon City hall to apply for the program. Luckily, we were chosen and we can now go home),” Pajares said.

She vowed to make the most out of the assistance to make sure her kid will have a better future.

Mas maganda naman sa probinsya kapag madiskarte ka kaya uuwi na lang kami at maghahanap ng pwedeng mapagkakitaan. Iyon naman din ang ginagawa namin dito. Dumiskarte din kami kaya uuwi na lang kami (It's better in the province when you are resourceful so we'll just go home and look for a better income. We also try to be resourceful here so we will just go home),” she said.

The couple wants to open a sari-sari (retail) store and go into vegetable farming in the province.

Given a chance, Pajares also wants to finish high school and proceed to an alternative learning system.

She thanked the BP2 program for facilitating their trip.

Salamat dahil nakasama po kami sa ganitong programa. Magiging maganda na ang buhay namin sa probinsya dahil sa tulong ng BP2 (Thank you because we were included in this kind of program. We can now have a better life in the province with the help of BP2),” she said.

Regine Pejares, 22, Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa program beneficiary (Photo by Lade Kabagani)

 Whole package

On May 6, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 114, institutionalizing the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa program that primarily aims to address overcrowding in Metro Manila’s urban areas and create a balanced development within the countryside.

The application for the BP2 program is accessible via the website https://balikprobinsya.ph/ or call 0919-0657896 and 0919-0692530.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said qualified beneficiaries can get up to PHP50,000 as startup capital.

It is on top of the emergency financial assistance given during the evaluation and assessment, which covers food and other basic needs for those who are required to stay at the BP2 depot for dispatch procedures.

They also get up to PHP50,000 worth of Transitory Family Support Package, covering food and non-food items during their transition period from the metropolis to the province.

The DSWD also shoulders the rental subsidy of the eligible family beneficiaries for a maximum of two years, which shall not exceed PHP240,000, while waiting for the housing construction or awarding of the National Housing Authority.

The BP2 program likewise facilitates psychosocial support for the family beneficiaries wherein a series of dialogues and specialized sessions for their reintegration back to their hometowns are being conducted. (PNA)