Such was a surprising but confusing message from the call of the town’s mayor a month ago to Manong Dyoni or Johnny Tolentino of Tboli, South Cotabato after being known as a big-earner in a vegetable gardening enterprise in the locality.

His wife, Annalee who is a beneficiary of the conditional cash transfer Pantawid Pamilya and a recipient of the government’s micro-finance initiative “Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP)” couldn’t believe the big gains they got out of the P10, 000 capital fund assistance.

Annalee already imagined a house of their own, 3 healthy kids in school and a graceful aging. She said, “We know that as a simple tenant and caretaker today, soon we can move up from our previous poor economic condition.”

In 2005, caretakers Annalee and Dyonni Tolentino have a simple garden in the backyard owned by Tangco family. They only had “okra”, “sitaw” and “kamote” in a small parcel of the land.

In 2011, upon knowledge of the 10,000 loan for Pantawid beneficiaries, they ventured into a vegetable gardening enterprise. Mr. Tolentino planted a half hectare bell pepper although the loan was not yet released.

He took the risk pending the application for the Self Employment Assistance para sa Kaunlaran (SEA-K), an SLP component that provides financial assistance. Upon release of the fund, the bell pepper plants already have small fruits and the weeds were already tall. The fertilizer for the vegetables were not yet applied because of the lack of money.

Aside from the funds from SLP, Mr. Tanco, a municipal official in the area, also contributes financially to their venture. Soon, they materialize their project.

In the morning, upon waking up Mr. Tolentino would take his coffee in the garden. For the whole day he will stay in the area and would go home only to take his meals. The income that the family receives depends on the harvest that they got from the vegetables.

On their bell pepper harvest in the half hectare land, they earn as much as 300,000.00 in six months operation. But they still have no sufficient money savings since they roll up their income on their business.

In 2012, their business expanded and they have already purchased a truck for the operation of their business.

Today, Manong Dyoni’s hardwork paid off. But he cannot forget his humble beginnings.

Before the coming of the Sustainable Livelihood Program, Manong Dyoni cannot afford to buy household appliances for their house. He and his wife entrusted their eldest daughter to his in- laws because they cannot afford to send their child to school. Their in-laws were staying in Surallah, 23 kms away from their area.

When they visit their daughter they are going to walk the 23kms way just to get there because they cannot afford the 20 peso fare. He remembers the time when he was crying while walking. In his garden, he will just spray detergent soap in his garden using a bamboo spray due to lack of funds in buying pesticide/ insecticide. They cannot afford to borrow money since there is no one to lend money for them knowing that they are very poor.

The money was now used in buying the fertilizers and chemicals for the garden. Including the weeding of the field.

There were times that the bell pepper plantation was washed out by the floods. According to Manong Dyoni, “paningkamot”  or hardwork is the key word on overcoming the difficulties. The attitude also of optimism is the best attitude that the family has.

Although there are failures in his garden but he is still positive that next time he can overcome the losses. The 10,000 pesos loan became the turning point of the member.

Now, the family can send their daughter to school because of Pantawid Pamilya and the seed fund from SLP is solely used for the livelihood of the family. Further, the family have now  a cable satellite and other appliances which make their life easier and enjoyable.

The Tolentinos now plan to purchase a land of their own. He said, “when sipping coffee in the morning, you should think how to make the coffee.

The Tolentinos were just one of the families provided with SEAK out of the 296 target households.