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 Office, People 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 GoodNewsPilipinas.com.
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, WhenInManila.com 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)