The construction of a multipurpose building at the Tzu Chi Great Love City in Barangay Lilo-an, Ormoc City is on full swing. When finished, the two-story structure will feature a clinic, a police station, and a City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) office that will serve the residents of the housing village.
The structure is a joint project of the Tzu Chi Foundation and The Grand Lodge of Scotland.
While the workers move on with the construction, 37-year-old Vicente Padua expertly welds the steel trusses for the roofing. He has been working at the said project for weeks now.
With how deftly he works, it is almost hard to believe that only a year ago, Vicente had not the slightest idea about welding.
“The only skill he knew before was cooking,” his wife, Estela Marie, shares.
The couple had earned their living by selling meals and dainties. They were getting by and were earning enough to support their two daughters.
But when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck, life became difficult for the couple. With their previous home flattened by the storm, they were among the thousands who ended up in government transitional bunkhouses.
“In the bunkhouse, we really had a difficult time. My husband and I didn’t have a source of income,” says Estela Marie, 34.
In September 2014, Tzu Chi launched its temporary housing project for the families displaced by the Super Typhoon in Ormoc. Wanting to dignify the housing recipients, Tzu Chi mobilized the housing recipients to build their future homes. They received daily cash allowances from this.
When Padua family moved in at the Great Love City in 2015, Estela Marie encouraged her husband to join the cash-for-work program in assembling the prefabricated shelters. He didn’t have any experience about construction work but out of the need to provide for his family, Vicente worked hard to learn.
He would spend the day working at the housing project where he earns Php250 daily. At dawn, he would help his wife cook meals and dainties, which the latter would sell among the villagers and Vicente’s fellow cash-for-work participants. On good days, the couple managed to earn Php300 from this livelihood.
In 2016, when the cash-for-work program at the housing village wrapped up, Tzu Chi volunteers worried that a lot of the villagers will lose their livelihood. In order to address this problem, Tzu Chi partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide welding training for ten Great Love City villagers. One of them is Vicente.
They flew to Taguig City in Metro Manila to undergo the six-month training program. TESDA offered the training for free while Tzu Chi provided the students with food and lodging allowance throughout their stay in Manila. Tzu Chi also bought them their needed gears and equipment after they graduated.
The training was challenging for Vicente, who was initially terrified to get shocked because of the current used in welding. However, the thought of his family waiting back home gave him the courage to overcome this fear.
After the training, finding a job has become a lot easier for Vicente and his fellow students. Apart from part-time jobs, they received offers from several major employers.
Vicente returned to Ormoc, a few months after the training. The best thing about learning the skill of welding is that it is in-demand everywhere, which means he can still find a job near his family.
At dawn, he still helps his wife make dainties to sell in the school.
“It’s not every day that we earn well from selling food. That’s why I am really thankful that he [Vicente] was given an opportunity to learn welding. It’s easier for him to earn because he gets a job more often now. Unlike before, even if I insist or beg that they give him a job, he couldn’t get one because he didn’t have proper experience,” says Estela Marie.
Recently, the couple managed to purchase a refrigerator through their combined earnings. The appliance is a big help to Estela Marie’s food business. They are currently paying for it on installment basis.
Things are starting to look up for the Padua family. But apart from the house or the opportunity to learn a skill, there is one more thing Vicente is most grateful for.
“As a father, the values [I learned from Tzu Chi] are what I treasure the most. Tzu Chi taught us the right attitude and character which is what I also teach my children. With it, I am able to guide them to the right path,” he says.
Vicente Padua and his wife, Estela Marie, are helping each other in order to provide for their children’s needs. Apart from selling meals and dainties, the couple also sells ice among their neighbors. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Having learned the skill of welding, Vicente Padua says he easily gets a job these days. Unlike before when his wife would still ask their friends in the construction to hire him. 【Photo by Rodel Ruiz】