THANKS TO 4Ps. Nicolas Sanico, 25, a member of the Philippine Coast Guard, poses in a station where he was assigned in Palawan, in this undated photo. Sanico, the coastguardsman who documented the May 2021 incident involving a PCG vessel warning a Chinese ship entering the Philippine exclusive economic zone in Sabina Shoal over the West Philippine Sea, recalled how the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and the Expanded Student’s Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation helped him and his brother got college education. (Photo courtesy of Sanico family through DSWD-7) 

CEBU CITY – A young fisherman who is now an active member of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday shared a story about how the national financial aid and student scholarship programs save them from sheer poverty.

Nicolas Sanico, a 25-year-old, fisherman from the coastal village of Bongalonan in Basay, a town of Negros Oriental province, cited the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the Expanded Student’s Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) as government programs that help him and his other siblings get a college degree.

Naranasan kong muntik ng malunod (I almost got drowned),” Sanico recalled his moments of hardships as he clung to a belief to accept that it was God’s will to be poor.

Sanico narrated that he was in his first grade in elementary, he used to sell ice candy and puto (steamed rice cake) topped with cheese -- owned by his enterprising teacher -- in order to have something to eat during recess.

By lunchtime, Sanico would go home but most of the time he would eat only rice without something as a viand.

His father, Romulo Sanico, was a construction worker and had to settle for a 20-kilometer daily walk just to spare the money for the fare for something that he can bring to their table.

One of his other brothers joined Romulo in the construction job with a combined income of PHP500 per day which later, in his fifth grade, became insufficient when the price of rice doubled and their meager income was not enough to sustain the needs of the whole family.

Sanico said his eagerness to help his parents forced him to venture into fishing when he encountered so many difficulties, especially when they had to dock in faraway places that would cause him to be absent from school.

Naranasan kong muntik ng malunod ang aming sinasakyang bangka na kinailangan naming hubarin ang aming damit upang gawing panakip sa butas ng bangka upang hindi malunod ito sa dagat, hanggang sa kami ay masagip ng mga rescuers (We almost got drowned because our boat had a hole, and we had to remove our shirts to cover the hole to prevent it from sinking until the rescue came),” he said.

When his mother got injured while drying the fish that he caught from fishing, Sanico said he had to stop going to the coast to catch fish to focus on his studies.

Thanks to 4Ps and scholarship

Sanico thanked the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Visayas, which made his mother a 4Ps Parent Leader then became active in the program’s community activities.

He said the 4Ps cash grant augmented the family’s income and helped in sustaining their school allowance and school projects.

Through their determination, Sanico finished high school, and his older brother, Romulito, finished college and received the Presidential Academic Award.

However, challenges continued to follow them while he and his other brother, Jeffer, also pursued college, but the tuition fee which was not free became burdensome, apart from the daily needs of the family.

During his third year in college, Sanico got help through the Expanded Student’s Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) where two slots were provided to him and Jeffer, as they were both qualified because of their high grades.

Not long enough, they faced another challenge when the guidelines suddenly changed wherein a sibling will not be allowed to be enlisted along with an existing beneficiary, which made Jeffer be removed from the ESGP-PA to give chance to other scholars.

Although a huge blow to the family as the stipend augmented school expenses and allowances, Sanico said it did not deter Jeffer’s determination to finish his studies and was able to get another scholarship from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

With perseverance and hard work, Sanico said both he and Jeffer graduated in college on March 23, 2018.

A Coast Guard man

After graduating, Sanico worked for two years in their municipal government and also took the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) three times but failed.

Without losing hope, he changed his plan and tried applying for the PCG and was accepted as a trainee.

Sanico became officially part of the PCG and was assigned to Palawan and joined missions to the West Philippine Sea.

Sanico played a role in the May 2021 incident involving PCG vessel warning a Chinese ship entering Sabina Shoal, which is part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone, as he was the one who took the videos and photos to document the encounter.

In just one year of service in Palawan, he received six recognitions. Currently, Sanico is under the Office of the President working in the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC).

Para sa akin ang pag-asenso ay hindi pala swerte kundi kinakailangan ng tiyaga, tapang, tibay ng loob kasama na ang panalangin at gabay ng Maykapal. Malaki din ang naitulong ng ESGP-PA at 4Ps upang matustusan ang aking pinansyal na pangangailangan at napatunayan ko sa pamamagitan ng edukasyon, maluwalhati kong nakamtan ang pangarap ko sa buhay (For me, success is not about luck because it needs hard work, courage, determination and faith in God. The 4Ps and ESGP-PA also played a very big part in the financial aspect and I proved that through education, I can attain my dreams in life),” he said. (PNA)