#PHvote: Cebu poverty through the eyes of the kid in viral photo

David Lozada
#PHvote: Cebu poverty through the eyes of the kid in viral photo
As presidential candidates head to Cebu City for the debate, a non-governmental group asks: 'What are your concrete plans to alleviate families like that of Daniel Cabrera’s from poverty?

CEBU CITY, Philippines – In a slum area in one of Mandaue City’s poorest barangays (villages), Daniel Cabrera lives with his family.

Daniel got international attention in June 2015 when a photo of him studying outside a fastfood restaurant went viral. Netizens took inspiration from the boy’s eagerness to study, taking advantage of the light outside the restaurant because they did not have electricity at home.

Hundreds of good-hearted citizens here and abroad rushed to give him monetary help. Dilaab Foundation (DF), a non-profit Christian movement, helped course the various donations for Daniel and his family through its account.

Nine months after his photo drew attention, Daniel is doing well in his school. He is currently in Grade III and his grades are all in the line of 80. 

Social media helped his family a lot. They used to live in a makeshift house in Mandaue’s reclamation area; now, they have a solid roof over their head.

“Before, my family and I lived in different places. Now, we have a home. Thank you to everyone who helped me and my family,” the 9-year-old said in Bisaya.

Daniel still holds on to his dream of becoming a policeman“I study hard to be a good policeman. I read a lot and do my homework. My favorite subject is Math,” he told Rappler. 

Life-changing experience, sustainable livelihood

WONDER BOY. Daniel studies in deep concentration along one of the sidewalks in Cebu City. Photo from Joyce Torrefranca's Facebook account

According to DF’s Mark Palanca, who is in charge of taking care of Daniel, the photo changed the kid’s outlook in life.

“Everyone around him saw how he became more eager to study and more self-confident. He was a very sad kid before, but after that photo, he became happier and friendlier to his peers,” Palanca said.

Channeling all the donations Daniel and his family got, however, was a challenge. According to Palanca, they wanted the kid to use the resources he got to finish his studies and for his family to have a better life. 

“We took them out of the streets and put them in their current home. It’s better than their past situation. But we cannot leave them there. We already talked to the Housing and Urban Development office of Mandaue City to give them a house. There’s someone willing to provide them a house already and we’re just going through the process,” Palanca.

Their new house will be in Compostela, Cebu, and they will only have to pay P700 a month. 

“They can also have livestock and grow their own vegetables there so these will add to their livelihood,” he added.

DF also wanted the family to be financially sustainable. The organization gave Daniel’s family a pedicab, but they weren’t able to use it. Daniel’s mother, instead, started selling food in front of their house so they can have a living. 

The organization enrolled his mother in a food and meat processing course in the Mandaue City College Technological Entrepreneurship Skills Training (MaC TEST). She is set to graduate from the course on April 5. 

“We want them to be sustainable so that when we leave them, they can already stand on their feet,” Palanca added.

Poverty and the 2016 elections

Poverty remains a big problem in the province of Cebu. According to World Vision, poverty incidence is registered at 33.6% of the population.

Daniel and his family’s narrative is a success story of how civil society organizations, working with local government, can change the lives of those living below the poverty line.  

DF is under the Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS), an organization which includes the Mandaue City Police, the Archdiocese of Cebu, and Daniel’s barangay. 

SOLVING POVERTY. Mark Palanca of Dilaab Foundation believes barangays and local governments have the capacty to solve poverty. Photo by Rupert Ambil/ Rappler

“Poverty is a very broad problem. But Daniel is a very good example of how a focused initiative by the government can change lives. What can the government do to help the poor?” Palanca said.

Palanca added that solutions to poverty need to come from the barangays and local governments. But he believes local governments need all the help they can get.

“Efforts from the barangay are focused and based on the problems of the communities while those of the national government are very broad. Barangays see what is needed and what the best solutions are. The national government usually leave barangays to solve this problem without help,” Palanca noted.

Poverty is one of the 6 issues Rappler listed as major issues candidates need to address

Although poverty and development were tackled during the first presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro, families like that of Daniel’s still wait for concrete programs to be implemented.

One question

EDUCATION. For Daniel Cabrera, poverty is not an excuse to achieving his dreams. Photo by Rupert Ambil/ Rappler

Two days before the 2nd presidential debate in Cebu City, Palanca has this question to the national candidates: “What are your concrete plans to empower local government units and barangays to alleviate families like that of Daniel’s from poverty?”

Aside from the 6 issues, Rappler also crowdsources local issues, using our nationwide network of Movers, to make sure voices from the provinces are heard. 

Some local issues from the youth of Cebu, which will also be tackled during the 1st Cebuano Local Candidates Forum on Saturday, March 19, are the Sangguniang Kabataan reform and youth employment program, the prevalence of HIV in Cebu, environment issues, and the anti-discrimination law. (READ: Cebu millennials to Filipino youth: Engage in elections)

For Palanca, Daniel’s family is only one of the thousands more in Cebu that need help.

“After we give them a sustainable livelihood, we plan to help other families living in poverty. We need more programs for our street kids. There are so many people living in the streets and they are from the vulnerable sectors,” he said. – Rappler.com

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