The Quezon Province is best known for its coconut produce. Every year they celebrate a week-long feast, as a thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest of coconuts, through their Niyogyugan Festival. Considered as the tree of life, municipalities in Quezon depend on it as their main source of income. A versatile source of products, the coconut tree serves as food, fabric, and material, to name a few of its most common uses.

One of the municipalities dependent on this tree is San Francisco, located in the westernmost part of the province. Here resides the Barangay of Sto. Niño, whose inhabitants rely mainly on the coconut tree for their everyday living. The barangay itself is situated in a mountainous area, with barely any traces of infrastructure development.

Covered with the shadows of palms from the tall, mighty, and sturdy coconut trees, Rene Pepito, 41, a copra farmer for 30 years, reminisces the countless days when he and his wife, Marites Pepito, 49, had to travel to the nearest public market to deliver their products. However, the hardest part was not carrying their goods, but having to endure the near five-hour commute from their home.

They selflessly endure the back pains, groaning stomachs, and sweat dripping from the hour-long commute so they could feed and support their families.

And yet an even bigger challenge is brought about by the rainy seasons. Due to the poor road conditions, labor and time spent on the road is doubled since jeepneys have great difficulties passing through the muddy and steep road sections.

“Kinakailangan pa naming itulak ang keep kasi hindi makaahon sa sobrang putik ng kalsada. Tulong-tulong kami lahat. Hapon na nakakarating sa palengke.”

Adding to the exhaustion brought about by the long commute hours is the expensive payment for the jeepney rentals, resulting to a lower income and leaving them with even less to spend for their needs.

Elsa Jorquia, 49, wakes up early in the morning to prepare food for her family, and open her small sari-sari and walis ting-ting (broomsticks) stores. After eating breakfast, she hurriedly prepares herself in order to catch a ride to the town proper, where she has to buy food for the week.

Along the way, she also delivers a batch of broomsticks to her regular buyer, just to maximize the 35-peso jeepney fare. Used to the long commute hours, she always expects to be home just an hour after lunch. However, on some days, things just don’t go according to plan.

Aside from the coconut products, residents of the barangay also own and maintain other businesses. One of these is a piggery owned by Cecilia Erna, 47. She recalls how hard it was to deliver pigs to the town proper.

The roads are not in the best condition to service vehicles that could carry pigs; as such, very few vehicles would travel to the markets. Cecilia has to exert extra effort to save her business, even if it meant walking down the roads for three hours while pulling the pigs.

“Dalawang tao ang naghihila ng baboy pababa sa Bayan. Napakaputik ng daan sa kalsada kaya bihira ang sasakyan dito.”

In 2016, a new start awaited the barangay, as the Provincial Government of Quezon, with the assistance of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) IV-A and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), awarded the Php 19,785,917.44 fund allocation for the concreting of San Francisco-San Andres Provincial Road.

This gave way for farmers like Rene to experience a comfortable and convenient life that a proper road brings. With the costs of having a motorcycle now being lesser than renting a jeepney, he purchased one so he could save more money for his family. He also ensures his children’s welfare, as he could personally drop them off and pick them up at their school.

Elsa, on the other hand, is satisfied with the reduced amount of time she has to spend on the road.

“Ginhawa na po talaga. Dahil kahit anong oras na gusto mo umahon, pwede ka umahon.”

Small time business owners like Cecilia are also pleased, now that the road construction opens more opportunities for her and her business. Now, these owners no longer have to strain all their muscles, hauling products or pulling livestock along the road to the town, as buyers now instead flock to their area, traversing the smooth and newly-paved roads, all the while having a breath of fresh air and enjoying the scenic view that the tall and mighty coconut trees give.

The residents could not thank the Provincial Government enough for the 1.35-kilometer newly-concreted road, as to serves as the barangay’s route to a better, more comfortable, and progressive life.