The administration of Cebu Provincial Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has marked so many firsts since her return as governor of Cebu for the fourth time in 2019.
Like many firsts — she as the first lady governor of the Province of Cebu and the first to be re-elected after her first three terms, Gov. Garcia made another historical first as she gave recognition and honor to the real heroes and frontliners of the Province’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic – the barangay health workers (BHW).
The governor led the distribution of the P10,000 “pabaon” to the “graduates” of the health workforce in Cebu Province who have served their respective barangay constituents for more than thirty years.
Garcia hailed the graduates, aged around 60-80 years old, for their selfless contribution to the health and welfare of the people especially their untiring house-to-house visits amidst the pandemic.
Anunsacion Hutohot, 75, was dressed in her white Sunday’s best dress as she sat in the rows of monoblock chairs placed in front of the presidential table.
She happily shook the hands of the governor who walked towards them individually and distributed the certificates of recognition, cash gifts and goodies.
Despite being covered with a face mask, her smile can be seen in her eyes as she thanked the governor for the gift. She, like most of them, did not expect to receive cash, only the opportunity to personally meet the governor.
In Carcar City, 79-year-old Lucita Custodio Pamilag thanked Garcia for her kindness. She said she will use the money to repair her house and buy galvanized iron for her rooftop.
Pamilag was unequivocal in her work as “hilot” who started assisting expecting moms give birth and accompanying barangay doctors and midwives when they respond to medical emergencies in far-flung barangays at the age of 12.
“Salamat sa Ginoo nga nakaabot ko ingon ani kay daghan kaayo’g kinabuhi akong natabang. 26 ka kaluha, nanganak pa og dan,” she proudly said.
For Eustaquio Tibon, 80, from Consolacion, becoming a doctor of medicine was his ultimate dream but did not come true because of financial problems.
Later did he know that another path was set out for him in the medical field. In 1977, he grabbed the opportunity to become a BHW.
Working as a BHW for 43 years allowed Tibon to assist those who need medical help and to educate his fellow constituents that “health is wealth” and must be treasured.
Rain or shine, he visited each of the households under his area of responsibility to check on the people’s health and monitor the children’s growth.
Although he is retired from the service, Tibon assured his constituents that they can still count on him if they need his assistance.
The same goes for 72-year-old Hermosa Gomera of San Remigio who served as a BHW of Barangay Poblacion for around 40 years.
“Ceremonial ra ni siya (retirement) kay dili man gyud mi mahimong mo-retire. Naa ra man gyud mi permi nga andam moalagad,” she said.
She began serving as a BHW in 1980 and worked in the areas of family planning, women and child care. In 1995, she started receiving a monthly honorarium of P50 which rose to P1,000 years later.
Somehow, she looked back not at the rigors of the volunteer work but on how she was enriched by the experience.
“Fulfilling kaayo. Daghan ko’g nakat-unan. Ug nalukop nako og adto ang 44 municipalities and component cities sa Province. Seminars took me to places such as Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, Tagaytay City, and Siquijor,” she recalled with fervor gleaming in her eyes.
Another retiree, Expedita Sabal, felt the same way and said that serving the people gave her enough fulfillment. The P500-monthly honorarium she received also helped fund her vegetable business.
After working for 37 years, Sabal said she will miss her colleagues and the people she served, especially the children. (Vanessa Almeda, Eleanor Valeros, Mylen Manto)