Damayan Barangay Tangos, Inc.
The cost of living is expensive these days and so is the cost of dying. Funeral services cost money which many indigent families can ill-afford. Often, the indigent families are compelled to borrow money for the funeral services of their dearly departed.
In Barangay Tangos, Baliwag, Bulacan, the LGU leadership felt compelled to come up with a program to provide financial assistance to poor families who need to avail of funeral services. In 2003, the barangay LGU issued an ordinance calling for the establishment of a barangay association—Damayan Barangay Tangos, Inc. (DBTI)—that members can turn to for financial assistance if a family member dies. The DBTI had an initial membership of 50 families, which were composed of the families of the LGU employees and their relatives. The LGU leadership subsequently enticed their political rivals to join by offering them the job of directing the association as well as drafting its rules and regulations. By the end of the first year, the association had a membership of 300 families. Today, it is composed of 750 families.
Each member is merely required to pay a membership fee of PhP200.00 and to contribute PhP30.00 when a member suffers a death in the family. Initially, DBTI provided PhP6,000.00 in financial assistance. This later grew to PhP15,000.00 plus free use of the association’s tents, chairs and tables. The association also provides free technical assistance and counseling to the grieving members. Eventually, the association extended free funeral services to its members and PhP3,000.00 in financial aid.
The DBTI was able to amass furniture and other funeral equipment through fund raising activities and from its winnings in various local governance contests. These are loaned free of charge to the members during wakes but are rented out at a 50% discount to the members for other occasions such as birthday parties, weddings and meetings. Earnings from the rentals are used for the operational expenses of the Association.
After pooling enough resources in 2007, the association’s membership agreed to put up its own funeral parlor, which would cater not only to the residents of Barangay Tangos but to the people of adjacent barangays as well.
The association started with a basic set of funeral equipment. Since the funeral services are offered at a very competitive price—40% lower than competing funeral homes—and since DBTI even offered other associations a portion of the income if the latter’s members patronized DBTI’s funeral home, the association began to earn more income.
With more funds at its disposal, the DBTI began to extend additional assistance to its members. If the family’s breadwinner is the one who died, the DBTI would extend livelihood assistance to those left behind provided they pass the required qualifications. The DBTI, in cooperation with the barangay LGU would provide the grieving family the free use of the LGU’s store booth and a loan of PhP2,000.00 for the startup capital of the small business. The family pays back the loan within 100 days by paying back PhP25.00 daily. This is reasonable given that the store usually earns a daily income of more than PhP200.00.
Deserving schoolchildren of the bereaved family are also provided with a small scholarship assistance amounting to PhP2,500.00 per semester. It is small by any standard but is still a form of assistance by any measure. To date, the DBTI has extended scholarships to more than 40 college students and livelihood assistance to about 25 families. It has also extended PhP2.4 million worth of financial aid and funeral services to 160 families since the project started in 2003. Apart from providing affordable funeral services to adjoining barangays, the DBTI also extended free funeral services to 20 families in other barangays.
From its meager beginnings, the DBTI has now acquired enough equipment to simultaneously service seven families. It now has two funeral vehicles—a Mercedes Benz and a GMC Suburban. Today, the association is set to provide dividends to its members and is planning to establish a cooperative.
The success of the program has encouraged other barangays to put up their own neighborhood or barangay associations. The other barangay LGUs have also been compelled to issue supporting ordinances. This collaboration between the local government and the communities has resulted in better services for everyone.
The leadership of the association and the LGU attribute the success of the program to dogged determination, transparency, innovativeness and unified mission and vision.