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A Place for Every Juan in Dipolog City

“At an early age, about six, I experienced being in a war with my family. We were about to go home from Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, to Iligan City when suddenly somebody declared war and in a minute a house was burned, followed by another and so on. Knowing that I’m only six and witnessing these acts that disenfranchise us of the right to life, I was hysterical. I couldn’t internalize everything but my parents were beside me, never left me behind and showed to me that they’re strong and firm and that we could survive it. And yes we did. We were able to ride a native boat safely out of the place.”

This was an excerpt from the first essay contest I joined about five years ago, crafted from the experience as a child victim in armed conflict about seven years ago.

Thus a volunteer writer having been deployed to Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte gives me new light and hope that there is a place where children are given much importance, attention, and privileges that others may have overtaken.

Garnering the award as a Child Friendly City for three consecutive years and cited as Hall of Famer for the year 2013, Dipolog has proven their efforts of good governance towards the fulfillment and realization of children’s rights.

As our national hero aptly said, “Ang kabataan ay ang pag-asa ng bayan” (The children is the hope of the nation), the local government unit (LGU) has maximized their efforts in addressing children who belong to poor families and are in the streets begging for food and doing any form of labor. Under Executive Order No. 2008-01 dated January 21, 2008, Dipolog City Drop-In Center has been established to serve as temporary shelter for these children.

In reference to the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWD) of Dipolog City’s Narrative Report (January- December 2013), it has been reported that, “The number of children admitted at drop-in center for the past 12 months, starting in the month of March 2013, has decreased in number compared to the previous months.”

Counseling sessions for the children are being facilitated by the assigned social worker at the drop-in center. Following the children’s discharge from the center, continuous supervision and monitoring by the field social workers in the barangays were these children reside are also being done. Program interventions are not only limited to the children. Their parents are also encouraged to attend the Parent Effectiveness Service Session (PES) and Empowering Responsible Parental Ability Training (ERPAT) under the supervision of the community social workers.

It is heartwarming to know that the LGU in Dipolog are investing for the future through the children. It is a step to fully realizing the efforts to mainstream child-friendliness in the LGU, which will soon become part of the Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH).

Strolling along the boulevard, I could notice parents who are secure enough about their children freely running and playing around, free from the thought of any form of harm towards their kids from other people.

And as I sit down and watch the sunset, recalling my experiences from being a child survivor in armed conflict, I started to become hopeful that somehow, someday, we would truly realize what it is like to live in a country that fully believes in the potential and importance of children- free from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence.

Ayana Jamnia Maranda is a Psychology major at Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology. Passionate about peace and gender advocacy, she participated in the National Youth Ambassadors Program for Peace 2012 and served as a parliamentarian at the National Youth Parliament. She is a graduate of the Philippine Youth Leadership Program 10 (PYLP 10), a U.S. Department of State youth exchange program. She spends time doing productive summers in volunteering and organizing cause oriented projects.