The Heroes of Philippine Funds for Little Kids (Zamboanga)

I know it has taken me some time to recognize the little heroes that have made the Philippine Funds for Little Kids possible, but here goes. We are slowly scaling our operations and I would just like to thank all the people, all the organizations and all the media organizations that have helped the Philippine Funds for Little Kids become what it is today.

Almost a year ago (October 29, 2010), I traveled for the first time to Zamboanga City.  A city I have always wanted to visit.  Though I was born in Cotabato City, I have never gone there. I have been to Gen. Santos City, Saranggani area, South Cotabato, Davao City, other areas of Davao, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and Lanao area, I have not been given the chance to visit Asia’s Latin capital.

I went to Zamboanga City as one of the speakers for the 4th Mindanao Bloggers Summit where I was to speak on using social media for nation-building. My first thank you goes to Ryann Elumba, who was the lead coordinator for the 4th Mindanao Bloggers Summit in Zamboanga City and was largely responsible for making my visit to the city possible. Many thanks goes to Ernie Tomas of the Mindanao Development Authority as well for suggesting me as a speaker and for Blogie Robillo, one of the founding members of the group, Mindanao Bloggers, for passing the suggestion on to Ryann Elumba. Special thanks also goes to Sec. Sonny Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, for allowing me to take this trip.

Surely, I would never have heard the story of the swimming kids in Layag-Layag if I didn’t go at that time. But this is getting ahead of the story.

During the sidelines of the summit, since I was already there I also met with volunteers who helped us during the campaign. One of them was Juljimar Gonzales. And my second thank you goes to him for bringing up the story of the kids who swim to school somewhere in Layag-Layag. Upon hearing it I was really shocked and couldn’t believe it. I could even remember asking him countless times if he wasn’t making up the story. (It is very true that movements start with the first conversation.)

The other volunteer that I met was the head of the People Power Volunteer Center in Zamboanga City, Dr. Anton Lim.

Upon my return to Manila, I really felt something had to be done to help those kids. And so I shared the story through my Facebook status and asked people what we can do to help these kids. Josiah Go, the marketing guru, immediately responded with an initial P5,000 donation and that practically started the mini-fundraising campaign on Facebook to help the kids of Layag-Layag. Over the next few days, friends and friends of friends “donated” both time in re-posting the donation call and money to the cause (so that we can buy a boat) which came to be known as the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids. So, my third thank you goes to Josiah Go.

My fourth thank you goes to all the initial donors – Manuel Wong, Joshua and Marilyn Go, Howell Cu, Rosanna Llenado, Lerma Advincula, Maximo Joaquin, Butch Jimenez, Jerry Caritan, Cindy Trinidad, Danessa Lu, Josiah and Chiqui Go and Josiah’s kids Chase, Juju, Tricia and Calel.

While all these was happening, I also called Anton Lim again to verify the story and also to ask him if he can take on the funds that will be raised so that we can buy those kids a boat. My fifth thank you goes to Anton Lim for accepting the challenge of ‘buying’ the boat. (I put buying between quotes because we eventually had to build the boat.)

Within one week, we were able to raise P70,000 which we believe was enough to buy those kids the boat. Anton Lim together with his friends also wanted to make sure that the local community in Zamboanga City can play its part. And so they started their own fundraising as well and began looking for a boat.

Unfortunately, boats we could buy (it needed to be big and motorized) were pretty expensive and so we decided to build them a boat instead.

It took quite a while but at last around January 2011, Anton Lim found a boat-maker, Abraham Mawadi, who was also one of the parents in Layag-Layag. My sixth thank you goes to Abraham Mawadi for accepting the boat-building project. And so around the middle of January 2011, they began building the boat. This gratitude extends to all the people who helped Anton find the boat-maker which includes Kagawad Jesse Jamolod.  My seventh thank you goes to Tito Gadon of CENRO-DENR who donated their confiscated logs to be used to build the boat.

By early March 2011, the boat was almost finished and Anton and I were discussing the possible name of the boat. Eventually, Anton decided on “Bagong Pag-asa” (New Hope) since the boat is sort of a symbol of this renewed optimism and hope for the kids and for the community of Layag-Layag.

And so on March 27, I went to Layag-Layag for the first time. Together with friends from Tzu Chi Foundation – Zamboanga, we turned over the boat to the community together with donations of blankets, school supplies and school bags. My eight thank you goes to the people behind Tzu Chi Foundation – Zamboanga who truly supports our mission. Some of them who were with us that day were Bryan Yeo, David Luy, Carol Lim, Cristopher Te, Jessica Enriquez, Fely Castillo, Noel Navarro and Cresencia Te. I will forever be grateful for the support that you’ve shown (as I’m sure the kids also are) the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids and now, the Philippine Funds for Little Kids.

That day was one of the happiest days of my life. As with the belief of Tzu Chi, it is very fulfilling when you have been given the opportunity to help. And indeed, we have been given the opportunity to help a whole of community where there are 200 kids and almost 1,000 households.

After some discussion with Anton and my new-found Tzu Chi friends, we realized our work in Layag-Layag has just began…

Again, thank you to all the donors, supporters, and volunteers of the Philippine Funds for Little Kids – you are all part of the solution!

Many thanks as well to the Zamboanga State College of Marine Science and Technology (ZSCMST) for taking on 12 college scholars from Layag-Layag and Ms Christine Marie Fernandez, Yolynne Medina for teaching our scholars basic computer skills, to Penny Laney from the US, DepEd USec. Lino Rivera for the continuous support in all our efforts, and to Rotary Club of Zamboanga and PP Sixto Kwan for the dental/health missions, DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman for the swift action on including the community into the CCT program, Zamboanga City Health OfficePeople Power Volunteer Center volunteer Ernie Castillo, and Willy & Maely San Juan for creating a music video about our project.

Special thanks goes to Charlie Villanueva for the video coverage of the boat turn-over last March 27, to Michael Vincent Cajulao of the Philippine Information Agency for the first article on the project, to Danny Macansantos for the interview of Dr. Anton Lim and me on Radyo ng Bayan, to Danny Corteza for his article in the Zamboanga Times, and to the bloggers who first wrote about us: Ubert Cruz, Noemi Dado, Jane Uymatiao, Cocoy Dayao, Karen Ang, Rico Mosesgold, Ria Jose, Dinah Libunao, and Rico Hizon of

Special thanks and mention goes to Winston Almendras for celebrating his blog’s 5th anniversary (BatangYagit) with a donation call to buy school supplies for the kids of Layag-Layag.

Special thanks also goes to the Associated Press for the international coverage that it brought to the story of Layag-Layag, Facebook for sending a team to create a video story for the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids, Readers Digest Asia for the special feature this October 2011, Luke Perez and Tempest Films’ Zap Berenguer & Lester Castor for also creating a video story, USA Today blog, ABS-CBN Bandila, ABS-CBN Umagang Kay Ganda, ANC’s Headstart team and Karen Davila, HuffingtonPost, Yahoo! News, Manila Bulletin, Al Jazeera, Planet Philippines, and Manila Times for allowing me to be a guest writer, and to all the other bloggers and news organizations that covered us – thank you very much!

Many thanks as well to Col. Pascual of TFC and the whole Task Force Zamboanga team for providing security during our visits.

Just like the story of the Starfish, little things do make a difference…

(This is the first series in my little heroes write up… next stop will be the little heroes in the Masbate Funds for Little Kids)

The ‘Little’ Fund


Last October 30, 2010, I had the great opportunity to discuss the role of New Media in Nation-Building to almost 100 bloggers from all over Mindanao for the 4th Mindanao Blogging Summit.  Little did I know then that I was about to become part of the solution to one problem in Zamboanga City.

During the sidelines of the summit, I met with some of our campaign volunteers in the city and one volunteer, Juljimar Gonzales, told me of a story that during the presidential campaign last 2010 their group came across a group of children who were swimming just to be able to go to school.  The story really moved me.  I have heard of stories about elementary students having to walk 4, 5 or even 8 kilometers daily just to be able to go to school.  But have never heard of children braving the waters just to go to school.

I couldn’t sleep that night.  The next day, I went back to Manila and I felt the need to post the story as an update on my Facebook status.  I know the story will move people but I didn’t realize it will open their pockets.  My good friend, Marketing guru, Josiah Go, saw my status update and immediately started an online fundraising campaign among his friends (myself included).  I was surprised and I excitedly re-posted his call for donations.  In less than 7 days, the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (as the fundraising campaign came to be known) raised almost Php70,000.  During this period, I asked Anton Lim, an active supporter of the President in Zamboanga City, to check the story.

In the middle of November 2010, I called up Anton if we can already look for a boat.  We had a hard time finding the right boat for the children so we decided to build it.  Anton, in behalf of the Tzu Chi Foundation, agreed to accept the funds we have raised and also raise additional funds from local donors.

It was a difficult journey though.  At first, we couldn’t find any boat-maker.  We found one but he lived in a far-away community; until finally Anton Lim through Kagawad Jesse Jamolod found a boat-maker (Abraham Mawadi) who came from the Layag-Layag community itself in Baranggay Talon-Talon in Zamboanga City where the children lived.  I thought the boat-building would start already but again we hit another challenge – finding the log to be used.

Fortunately, DENR was listening and CENRO IX donated the logs to the project through Tito Gadon.  In January 2011, the boat-building started.

And last Sunday, March 27, 2011, I joined Tzu Chi Zamboanga during the turn-over of the boat in Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City.  It took us 5 months to finish the project but nothing can be compared to the joy you feel in your heart when you realize you’ve helped make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small.  I slept well that night – it was as if I saw God smiled back at me.

My job includes receiving most of the email messages addressed to the Office of the President and monitoring the public discussions on the President’s Facebook Page and there are many times I feel so burdened with the country’s problems and I realize that I cannot possibly help all of them.

And that’s when I realize, after doing this project, that the role of New Media in Nation-Building is really to empower people not only with tools and information but more importantly with stories that inspire them to act on the problems they are facing themselves.

The boat we turned over was christened ‘Bagong Pag-asa’ (New Hope) – it is a symbol of change as we have a new President, a new government.  But more importantly, it is also a symbol of people power in action.  People helping other people solve their problems.  Nation-Building is truly about ordinary people helping other ordinary people.

You can be part of the solutions to the problems our country is facing.

And I know you also have dreams for the country.  I believe it is time we extend the meaning of People Power, one that not only changes governments and leaders, but one that also truly empowers our people – a people power that calls on every Filipino to become an active nation-builder.

I am sharing this story now because it is my belief that you can start your own versions of The ‘Little’ Fund among your family members, among your relatives, among your friends and among your colleagues to start creating solutions in the communities where you live or work.

I believe we can build our Dream Philippines even just by sharing our time, resources and know-how.

I believe this is at the core of the President’s Public-Private Partnerships, if you can see beyond the technicalities, PPP is nation-building at its core, where everyone is holding each other’s hand – no different from the dots forming a circle.  PPP is ‘Bayanihan’ – people helping their neighbors.

It is my fervent hope that this story has touched you in one way or another and that you won’t stop at just reading this – I hope you will tell yourself ‘I am part of the solution’ everyday and that you will start your own version of The ‘Little’ Fund today.

You can view a video of the March 27 boat turn-over and visit to Layag-Layag here.


I am forever grateful to all the people who helped make this happen:

  1. Sec. Sonny Coloma and the Presidential Communications Operations Office – for allowing me to attend the 4th Mindanao Blogging Summit;
  2. Josiah Go – for acting on my Facebook status update (I would never doubt the power of a ‘click’ again);
  3. OP New Media Team – Mitch Alvarez, Shella Raet and Regan Santos (who helped design the project’s logo);
  4. Our Wonderful Donors: Manuel Wong, Joshua & Marilyn Go, Howell Cu, Josiah & Chiqui Go, Rosanna Llenado, Lerma Advincula, Maximo Joaquin, Butch Jimenez, Jerry Caritan, Cindy Trinidad, Danessa Lu, Juju, Chase, Tricia and Calel Gosingtian – for sharing their blessings and taking the time to help out;
  5. Anton Lim – for being a gracious host and for being sport enough to run errands for the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids and really putting everything together;
  6. Tito Gadon (of DENR Region 9) – for donating the logs which were used to build the boat;
  7. Jesse Jamolod – for helping Doc Anton find the boat-maker;
  8. Abraham Mawadi – for building the boat;
  9. Tzu Chi Zamboanga – for helping out make the country a better place and supporting the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (I have learned so much from your teachings);
  10. ColPascual (of Task Force Zamboanga) – for providing the security during the turn-over of the boat last March 27;
  11. Alex Lacson and my Kabayanihan family – for launching this Cultural Revolution calling on every Filipino to become part of the solution (united, there is truly little we cannot do);
  12. The nameless kids who swim to school – YOU ARE THE TRUE HEROES IN MY BOOK!

You can participate in the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids project by going to

Other articles about this project can be found at:

1. A life-changing facebook wall post by Michael Vincent Cajulao (re-posted in the website of the Presidential Communications Operations Office)

2. The Good Samaritans by Ubert Cruz

3. A facebook wall post that changed the lives of 200 kids in Zamboanga by Noemi Dado

4. When a Facebook wall post makes social impact by Cocoy Dayao

5. The New Media in Nation Building and the Little Fund at

6. Christians and Buddhists raised funds and built Muslim kids a boat by Jay Jaboneta (on

7. Zamboanga Fund For Little Kids and Pens of Hope Foundation by Karen Ang

8. Using the Internet for genuine social change by Rico Mossesgeld

9. Raising Little Funds by Ria Jose

10. Yellow Boat of Hope by PTV-4 Philippines (re-posted in DNA in Manila)

11. New Media in Nation-Building and the Little Fund by Zamboanga Today

12. Social media’s impact on charitable fundraising: Does it work? by USA Today Kindness Blog

13. Watch the Discussion on the new Facebook Groups by Facebook Live (where I appeared)

14. Facebook highlights Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids project by Best of Facebook Stories

15. Students no longer ‘swim’ to school, thanks to Facebook by ABS-CBN Bandila Program

16. Layag-Layag’s ‘SCHOOL BOAT’ by the Manila Times

17. Donated motorboat means children in Philippine mangrove village no longer must swim to school by Jim Gomez, Associated Press, Canadian Press

18. Donated motorboat means children in Philippine mangrove village no longer must swim to school by Daily Reporter, Greenfield, Indiana (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

19. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Herald Online (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

20. Donated motorboat means children in Philippine mangrove village no longer swim to school by Newser (Associated Press)

21. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Mercury News (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

22. Thanks to Facebook, Kids Don’t Have to Swim to Class by Newser (Associated Press)

23. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Boston Globe (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

24. Blogger Jay Jaboneta Raises Money So Kids In Philippine Village Don’t Have To Swim To School by Huffington Post (Jim Gomez, Associated Press)

25. Kids in Philippine village swim to school no more by Seattle Times (Associated Press)

Here is the story illustrated:

Get to know me

Jay is currently the Head for New Media under the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Jay Jaboneta is a hungry man. He eats at least a 100 books a year, loves chocolate and sometimes can’t live without coffee. He is working and has worked for organizations as diverse as the Philippine Government, Procter & Gamble, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (including Metrobank Card Corporation), and  Diethelm Keller SiberHegner (DKSH).

He has worked as a sales manager managing over 70 people, managed category management and retail operations for a range of brands for a national supermarket chain, and as a portfolio manager got cardholders to spend more.  He has in many instances, climbed insurmountable “mountains.”

In his past life, he has graduated on top of his class, has built an entire organization of young entrepreneurs from scratch in his university, and was born again after “drowning.”

As much as Jay loves to read, he also loves to write. His main goal in life is to stay hungry, stay foolish (Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Graduation Speech). Learning comes as much (if not more) from mistakes and failures than from victories and successes.

He believes in God and practices Zen Catholicism – his own brand of Catholicism. He believes life is a complicated phenomenal mystery and that it can never be explained in totality.

Jay loves to help people, companies, non-profits and brands breathe life into their brand story. He believes remarkable people and organizations deserve the attention of the world.

You can follow him on Twitter at .