By Ramon C. Salvilla and Flordalie L. Pagente
Gapasalamat gid ako sa NIA tungod sa akon pag obra napatapos ko akon kabataan (I am thankful to NIA for the employment because I was able to send my children to school),” are the exact words of gratitude used by 44-year old, Agustilo Celeste to describe how thankful he is to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
A father of nine, Agustilo or Manong Oting as he is fondly called by his co-workers, hails from barangay Marandig, Calinog – one of the eight indirectly affected barangay of Iloilo’s biggest irrigation project. He is among the 12 laborers hired by NIA as part of the Memorandum of Agreement inked by and between NIA and the IP community for the feasibility study of Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II). Manong Oting has been working as labourer of NIA for more than a year now.
“Bangud sang akon pag obra dire sa Jalaur, napatapos ko akon bata sa college kag elementarya (With my employment in Jalaur, my children were able to finish college and elementary),” he explained.
A proud father, Manong Oting shared that her daughter earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (BSED) from West Visayas State University (WVSU) Lambunao Campus last March 29, 2016. In addition to that her twin daughters have also finished their elementary education this year in Bingawan town where his family is based now.
Prior to his employment in NIA, Manong Oting worked in a sugarcane plantation in Bingawan, Iloilo. According to him, the 120 pesos he earned per day was not enough to provide his family three meals a day and send his children to school. They simply lived from their hands to their mouths.
“Ti di kaigo ang akon sweldo kay nakaobra ko sa NIA gani kahit papano nakaturotibawas man kami dyutay . “It’s a good thing that I was able to work for NIA because somehow we were alleviated from extreme poverty”.
On top of her children’s education, Manong Oting also thanks NIA because through his employment, he now owns a house in Bingawan, Iloilo. They transferred there because of the proximity of this new place to the school. He did not even finish his elementary education, that’s why Manong
Oting works hard to give the needs of his family.
“ Gusto ko guid tana ang maayo para sa akon kabataan gani nagabaka baka guid ako para mapaeskwela sila kay ako wala guid may tinapusan (I want the best for my children that’s why I work hard to give them education because it’s something I was deprived of),” he said.
Currently, he is assigned at Agcalaga, Calinog. Prior to that, he was assigned in other NIA projects in San Miguel, Iloilo and Mabusao, Capiz. If asked of his advice to young workers in JRMP II, Manong Oting was quick to say “ Obra kamo maayo kag palangaa ng inyo mga trabaho kay indi tanan may ara sang trabaho kaangya ninyo (Work hard and love your jobs because not all are given the same opportunity as you have now.)
Certainly, JRMP II is everybody’s partner in progress. Apart from irrigation and other benefits, employment opportunities during project construction will make a huge difference in people’s lives. Manong Oting’s experience is a testament of how this project can be a real “Katuwang sa Kauswagan”.