by: flor jackson, PIA Biliran

Naval, Biliran (December 28) – The weather was cooperating as it was a sunny day today when the activity dubbed “Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo” in Biliran province was launched at the bus terminal of Biliran town, one of the six municipalities in the entire province identified to receive gifts from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo this Christmas season.
Residents from the barangays who were identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the National Nutrition Council (NNC) at the regional office as the poorest in their areas trooped to the venue of the activity as early as six o’clock in the morning to receive their package of gifts.
Secretary Sergio Apostol, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel who arrived Biliran by chopper at the Biliran National Agricultural College (BNAC) helipad at around 9:00 o’clock in the morning together with his party composed of regional Directors of the line agencies led in the ceremonial distribution of the gift packs from the President to the first 20 identified recipients coming from the barangays of Biliran town. He was assisted by Director Juan Sabulao of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), Director Letecia Corillo of DSWD, Asst. Director Adelaida Asperin of DOH, Regional Manager Benjamin Marta of the National Food Authority (NFA), Director Olive Tiu of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Director Leo Caneda of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other officials.
Aside from the gift package of goodies, the recipients of the Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo likewise received a package of services to help them earn livelihood that would augment their family income.
In his welcome remarks, Mayor Carlos “Charlie” Chan of Biliran town expressed his appreciation and thanks to President Arroyo through Sec. Apostol and to the guests as he said, he was deeply honored that today, his town was visited by government officials who brought in the Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo saying that this would make the less privileged families in his town happy during this holiday season.
He said that if there would be another Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo in the future, he hopes there would be more for the poor families of Biliran town.
Mayor Chan was delighted to say that he felt so good because his very own town-Biliran, was the first to receive the Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo in the whole of Eastern Visayas.
“We would like to graduate from the list of poorest provinces in the country. Please give priority always to Biliran town and Biliran province”, he said.
For his part, Sec. Apostol who represented President Arroyo was the guest of honor in this morning’s launching ceremony said “this is only the beginning of a series of activities that will help the parents of poor families keep their children in good health through proper nutrition”.
“Biliran is lucky because it is the first province in region 8 to receive the grace of the program of President Arroyo on poverty alleviation through the Pamaskong Handong ng Pangulo. Biliran is priority two, meaning in region 8, it is the priority area”, he said.
He ended by saying “we are here to help bring the gift from the President to the people of Biliran town and the entire province”.
According to Mercedita Ochea of the DSWD regional office and point person of the activity in Biliran, the distribution of the gift package in other municipalities in the province was done simultaneously with Biliran town this morning except for the municipality of Kawayan which will distribute the Pamaskong Handog ng Presidente in another schedule.
The activity in Biliran town was very dramatic as everyone saw the placards displayed by the parents of the beneficiaries and some beneficiaries themselves at the venue of the program thanking President Arroyo for the jobs they have at present through the trainings they got fron concerned agencies on poverty alleviation.
Tha placards carried messages like “Salamat Madame President, Ang Anak Ko Nagtatrabahon na
sa Qatar”, “Nagtatrabaho Na Ang Anak Ko sa Holiday Inn – Salamat Madame President, “Salamat Ma’am, may sarili na akong welding shop”, and many more messages of thanks especially from parents
whose children have landed in jobs abroad because of President Arroyo’s program to help poor families increase their income through skills traning and other livelihood programs.
On the other hand, the beneficiaries in Biliran town, thanked the President for the gift they received through Sec. Apostol.
Eufemia Mendoza, 59 years old, laborer with nine children and a resident of Brgy. San Isidro, Biliran, Biliran was teary-eyed as she thanked President Arroyo for the packs of goodies, in an interview.
Norlita Corpina, 36 years old, a housewife with five children and likewise one of the recipients of the gift pack from Brgy. San Roque said, “ito ang unang pagkataon na ako at ang aking pamilya ay nakatanggap ng regalo mula kay Presidente Macapagal Arroyo. Sana tuwing Pasko may pamasko kami galing sa kanya”, she said.
She added that the goodies she received are enough to let her family especially the children feel the joy of the holiday season.
As part of the Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo gift package, the DSWD through Director Letecia Corillo distributed the Tindahan Natin Operators (TNO) certificates to operate to the beneficiaries.
Scholarship coupons and training starter kits for the “Galing Mekaniko Ako” and “Galing Masahista Ako” were given to the trainees in this particular program by TESDA through Director Juan Sabulao.
Certificates to operate a Food Terminal in Naval and seeds were also given to the beneficiaries by Director Leo Caneda of the DA.
On the other hand, DOH through Assistant Director Asperin who represented Director Teogenes Baluma turned over drugs and medicines to the Biliran Municipal Health Office.
Earlier before the arrival of Sec. Apostol and his party, the NNC through the Leyte State University (LSU) conducted a cooking demonstration to teach the beneficiaries especially the mothers how to prepare nutritious but cheap meals and other menu for the family. During the cooking demo, they prepared “puto” made of squash, vegetable lumpia and other nutritious recipes and foods.
A total of 7,011 households in six municipalities were beneficiaries of the Pamaskong Handog ng Pangulo in the entire province of Biliran.
The distribution of the gift packs by the local officials in Biliran town continued even as Sec. Apostol and his party has left by chopper for Sta. Rita in Samar province for the same activity. (PIA-Biliran)

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