Our time is now

I have never seen the international media cover much of the country since I started reading international publications when I was in high school in the late 1990s.  There is truly renewed interest in the country today and let us take note of these developments and build upon it.

This video captures where we are:

Watch it and be inspired to become part of the solution, today!

PS – I played a small part in the video. :)

#itsmorefuninCamiguin

Last June 29, I flew to Cagayan de Oro City to be with our local partner, Happy Soles: CDO Funds for Little Kids, so that I can go with them to Camiguin for June 30 – July 1 and also to help them organize the upcoming LOG ON seminar with Josiah Go and Anton Lim.

If you’re in CDO this coming August 1, please join Josiah, Anton and me as we share our experience in the Yellow Boat Project.

June 30 – July 1

I wasn’t really feeling very well when I flew to CDO last June 29 but as I’ve already booked the tickets in advance and there was no other time to go to Camiguin since I’m leaving for New York on September 5 and so off I went.

Check out what Beng Lim (of Happy Soles) gave me as a welcome gift.  I was pleasantly surprised! (they were delicious, thanks Beng!)

The next day we took the van going to the port of Balingoan where we could take the boat to Camiguin.

Here are some pictures I took of this 2-day trip to Camiguin and how I realized it’s really more fun in the Philippines:

Kids in the port of Balingoan, Misamis Oriental get ready to jump when passengers of the boats throw coins into the water

 Lovely Camiguin: the view from the port of Balingoan

One of the kids on my side of the boat jumps into the water as the boat is leaving the port

My attempt at taking a picture of a kid as he jumps to the water fails because the Samsung Galaxy Note’s camera wasn’t fast enough

Happy Soles sisters: Alexis Baldia, Cassandra Daba and Alexa Baldia

Your Yellow Boat captain tries to steer the boat to Camiguin

A yellow boat in Camiguin

We stayed at the Paras beach resort

A map of Camiguin at the Paras beach resort

The Sunken Cemetery in Camiguin

Becoming a giant, more fun in the Philippines

Dinners, more fun in the Philippines

The beautiful White Island: the sand bar which is just 5 minutes from the Paras beach resort

The beautiful Mantigue Island: an island paradise which has its own ecosystem

As we were leaving Camiguin’s port of Benoni, kids were also jumping back into the water when passengers throw coins at them

Before going back to CDO, we went to the famous Duka Bay in Medina, Misamis Oriental

Camiguin is a great place to go to; to enjoy nature as it not only offers beautiful beaches but also hot and cold springs, volcanoes and the food was great!

Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc.

Last May 23, 2012, the Philippine Funds for Little Kids (aka Yellow Boat Project) officially became the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc.

I am happy to note that since we started a little over a year ago, we’re now present in 6 communities around the Philippines and counting.

In the last 20 months, we’ve been able to establish a presence in Zamboanga City (Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon), Zamboanga del Sur (Lakewood), Zamboanga Sibugay, the Bicol region (Legaspi City and Monreal, Masbate), Pampanga, Cagayan de Oro City (Happy Soles), and now in Negros Occidental.

If you are interested to help us out in any of these communities, you may reach us at captain[at]yellowboat.org or me at jay[at]yellowboat.org.  Thank you!

Building regional competitiveness

I hope they succeed. I personally believe that one of the things that’s keeping our wages depressed is the oversupply of talent and labor in Metro Manila because most of the brightest around the Philippines choose to work and live here. If the opportunities are present in the region where they were born, it will stop this tide of internal migration and hopefully allow regional economies to take root – which is good for everybody. Just saying…

http://opinion.inquirer.net/29447/building-regional-competitiveness

Prioritize the poor

Earlier this morning, I happened to read through a wonderful article on Foreign Affairs entitled Prioritize the Poorest.

Before I go on to discuss what made it wonderful, let me first take a short detour.

Since I started blogging a few years ago (remember HungryPeople?), I have never really been comfortable about sharing my thoughts and my ideas.  And if you’ve been following me over these past few years, most of my blog posts were about events or things that happened to me, that happened to the country (Philippines), or global events that took center stage.

All of that is going to change.

Project to Foundation

Last Wednesday, May 23, the seemingly little project we called the Yellow Boat Project became the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc.

Growing up in Cotabato City, I never imagined that I would one day be a party to something as challenging and as tedious as establishing a foundation, more so a foundation that tries to help the poorest of the poor.  Come to think of it, I never imagined that I would one day grow up.

But I guess I did and so here I am calling myself the Chief Storyteller of the Yellow Boat Project.

It has been a crazy year indeed.  I have flown more miles in the last 12 months than all my previous 30 years (amazing, right?).

And this happened all because of a simple Facebook status that I happened to post sometime in October 30, 2010.  It was the day I learned of an amazing story where children in a mangrove village called Layag-Layag in Zamboanga City had to swim and wade through the water just to get to school.  I was really touched by their story.

The children in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City have to swim / wade through the water to go to school

Going back to the Philippine capital, Manila, I couldn’t shake the story off.  Up until then, I was engrossed in my job as the social media guy in the former Office of the Press Secretary, now called Presidential Communications Operations Office or PCOO for short.

Facebook

And everything changed because of that single Facebook status, a few text messages and phone calls.

It was the start of the Yellow Boat adventure that took me back to Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City after 5 months to turn-over the first yellow (school) boat which was christened “Bagong Pag-asa” (New Hope) to 20 more yellow boats for Layag-Layag, to another community in Masbate where children also swim to school and then to a hundred more boats.

Today, this little project is present in 5 communities with more than 120 boats built, a school, a day care center and quite possibly more in the next few months.

It was not easy.  But there were so many good Samaritans along the way – most notable of which are my co-conspirators: Anton Lim and Mike Dellariarte of Zamboanga City, Ofelia Sy of Bicol and Manny So of Pampanga.  (New recruits are Alexis Baldia of Cagayan de Oro and Jason Cardente of Zamboanga Sibugay)

Which brings me back to why I found the article earlier so wonderful – it made me realize that education is really where we want to be helping.

The article goes on to describe about the deepening divide on opportunities between the rich and the poor.  Though there is a global reduction in the number of people who live below the poverty line, the gap between the opportunities available to the rich and the poor is widening.

But solutions are at hand.

Which brings me back to education.

And this is something that has become central to what we are doing in the Yellow Boat Project – it has become our goal to find these communities where children are struggling to go to school.

We are primarily interested in helping bridge the gap for children in these communities to gain access to public education and as pointed out in the article and I quote “an increase in learning achievement (as measured by test scores) of one standard deviation is associated with an increase in a country’s long-term growth rate of around two percent annually. Countries in which large sections of the population are denied quality schooling are thus wasting a hugely important and productive resource.”

Yellow Boat = Hope

Over these last few months, I have come to realize that education can really level the playing field especially for the poorest of the poor.

Children in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City now use these yellow boats to go to school

It not only provides them HOPE and opportunities, it also gives them the confidence to pursue their dreams in life.  If we are truly interested in helping the poor, then we must, as a country, invest in them, our human infrastructure – more important than any other infrastructure out there.

An Invitation

Let me end by challenging you to join us in this wonderful endeavor and together let’s create a world beyond poverty.

(Don’t forget, read the article!)

PS – You can reach me at jay[at]yellowboat.org. :)