JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES 

In a country where things often don’t work, institutions fail or the government falls short of doing its job, a 31-year-old philosophy student opts to do what he can rather than rant and do nothing. “If you have something good to share, share it because these small acts of kindness may inspire people to do good. If you just rant, nothing will happen,” says Rey Bufi, founder of The Storytelling Project. The project is a volunteer-based reading advocacy focused on kids in remote communities, with the aim of instilling in them a passion for learning and a love for reading. Bufi did not conceptualize the project overnight. It came from his experience as a student of philosophy. “As a philosophy student in college, I had a difficult time reading,” Bufi told The STAR. He had tons of reading assignments and initially had a hard time coping. This was because he was not an avid reader. Though a little late, he realized that to become a reader, one just has to read and read. “If you want to be a reader, all you have to do is to read, read and read,” says Bufi. With this in mind, he thought it would be good to help Filipino children become readers while they are still young. * READ MORE...

ALSO: A grandmother’s wish  

Locating Conchita Atole’s home in Bagong Silang required a somewhat steep climb, littered with uneven steps, barking dogs and children running to and fro. It almost made one wonder how a woman her age manages to move around the rolling terrain. A modest bungalow with a warm welcome is home to Lola Conchita, her two children, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. It is the sight of her grandchildren that makes her momentarily oblivious to the family’s plight. She is all eyes and ears on grandson William David, whom doctors have diagnosed with congenital feet and leg deformities, called Genus valgus. Albeit shy compared to his boisterous playmates who could move around freely, William David is the picture of a happy child. He has a civility and gentleness about him, holding his grandmother’s hand when he needed assistance, exchanging hugs with his youngest cousin. One look at the child’s distinct features, especially his big, piercing eyes, can melt the heart. “Ang pogi mo naman,” we said to William, to which the curious child just smiled, possibly getting accustomed to neighbors and random onlookers telling him the same thing over and over. William, his Lola Conchita says, is the product of an interracial relationship gone awry – between her daughter, then in third year college, and a British boyfriend she met over the Internet. “Sabi ng anak ko dun sa foreigner, ‘nag-aaral pa siya, kaya siya na lang ang pumunta dito (My daughter told her boyfriend to come over since she was still in school),” recalls Lola Conchita. The foreigner obliged, lived in with her, and for a time supported her education, until she became pregnant with William. After telling the family that he’d have to go back to his country, the Atole family never heard from William’s father again. Though born “knock-kneed” on both his legs, William is quite cheerful and unmindful of his handicap. “Masayahing bata yan. Minsan lang, nalulungkot, hinahanap kung sino daddy niya. Sinasabi na lang namin na wala (He’s a happy boy, he just feels down sometimes when he asks who his father is. We just dismiss the question),” Lola shares. * READ MORE.....

ALSO: The ties that bind: Gloria Arroyo and Mike Velarde's friendship

PHOTO --Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai (left) and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (right). Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sought the Sandiganbayan's permission to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde and his wife Belen. Velarde, leader of the large Catholic charismatic group, is considered a spiritual adviser and a close friend of Arroyo. It is interesting however how Velarde became one of Arroyo's supporters, when he was also the spiritual adviser of Joseph Estrada, who was deposed in an uprising that led the way for Arroyo to assume the presidency. In an interview in 2005, Velarde said the El Shaddai's stance is to support "whoever sits in Malacañang because that is for the best interest of our country." This support however was not one without controversy. According to an August 16, 2007 Issue Analysis of the University of the Philippines think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), Buhay Partylist - the electoral wing of El Shaddai - has supported Arroyo during her terms. It is also believed that Buhay had had enjoyed the support of the Arroyo administration. In the May 2013 polls, Buhay's second nominee is former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, a known ally of Arroyo. Arroyo and Velarde did not also see eye to eye on all issues. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Love in the time of volunteerism --storiesofgiving 

Happy are the people who, despite having access to worldly wealth, revel in going back to the time when life was simpler and wheels turned a little more slowly. Blessed are those who find fulfillment and happiness in seeing the good in others and selflessly doing good for them. It was the year 2010. John Oliver Tablazon was fresh out of college when he was invited by a friend to volunteer for a medical mission. As it turned out, the medical mission required walking for six hours to get to an upland sitio where he witnessed indigenous B’laan children walking down the perilous Sarangani mountainside and crossing rivers for three to four hours just to get to school. The sight of these children made him oblivious to his own labor. And then he met Dr. Roel Cagape, a Bayaning Pilipino awardee and founder of Hearts and Brains Inc., who instantly became his icon for passion in helping others without asking for anything in return. In his own words, it was a life-changing experience that inspired him to traverse the road less traveled. That same year, his father Francisco passed away but not without bequeathing to him the value of pakikipagkapwa-tao (fellowship). Ignoring the lure of a lucrative career as a registered nurse, Tablazon answered the call of volunteerism and formally joined HABI, a group that advocates health, education, peace and livelihood for the marginalized in Mindanao. It has been four years since that day. * READ MORE...

 

 


Read Full Stories here:

Journey of a thousand miles


storiesofgiving Children from Pinalpal Elementary School in Sison, Pangasinan head home with their new ‘Sampung Magkakaibigan’ storybooks courtesy of the Storytelling Project.

MANILA, JULY 14, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Iris Gonzales - In a country where things often don’t work, institutions fail or the government falls short of doing its job, a 31-year-old philosophy student opts to do what he can rather than rant and do nothing.

“If you have something good to share, share it because these small acts of kindness may inspire people to do good. If you just rant, nothing will happen,” says Rey Bufi, founder of The Storytelling Project.

The project is a volunteer-based reading advocacy focused on kids in remote communities, with the aim of instilling in them a passion for learning and a love for reading.

Bufi did not conceptualize the project overnight. It came from his experience as a student of philosophy.

“As a philosophy student in college, I had a difficult time reading,” Bufi told The STAR. He had tons of reading assignments and initially had a hard time coping.

This was because he was not an avid reader. Though a little late, he realized that to become a reader, one just has to read and read.

“If you want to be a reader, all you have to do is to read, read and read,” says Bufi.

With this in mind, he thought it would be good to help Filipino children become readers while they are still young.

The idea of a reading advocacy project firmed up when he was with Smart Communications, which conducted the Read to be Smart storytelling project in different areas around the country every year.

He started volunteering as a reader and decided later on to come up with his own project.

Together with like-minded individuals, Bufi started The Storytelling Project. With volunteers, proponents went around the country, coordinating with public community schools and trekking to far-flung villages to read stories to children.

The project consists of three phases, with the first phase consisting of a 21-day storytelling program. Each session lasts from one to one-and-a-half hours.

“We read to children everyday. These are mostly Grade 1 and 2 students,” he says.

The books they use are mostly Adarna books. Many of these books are written in English and Filipino and focus on topics that children can relate to, such as self, family and community.

After each session, the children receive a book they can bring home to their families to share stories with other children.

There was a time when a child asked his parents if he could plant some tomatoes outside their home after learning about farming and planting from a story he picked up from The Storytelling Project.

There is then a simple graduation ceremony, usually featuring a group performance by the children, upon the completion of the 21-day storytelling program.

The second phase is the library project, which involves the construction of new libraries in schools or communities or the renovation of existing ones.

“Reading is an academic activity, so a library is necessary,” he explains.

The third phase is the formation of a book club where children are taught how to write their own stories.

“The goal is to also teach children how to illustrate,” Bufi says.

The project has gone to several communities in Pangasinan, Mountain Province and Rizal.

In August, it will be heading for Coron in Palawan.

Bufi’s partners in the project are Mary Grace Soriano, Mannie Vazquez and lawyer Chris Linag.

Proponents know that they cannot do it alone so they seek the help of the entire community for the project.

For instance, they ask the parents to practice the storytelling routines at home while beneficiary schools are also enjoined to continue the activity in school.

Bufi and his group are seeking the help of corporate partners as well as individual sponsors to help them implement their activities. A corporate sponsorship of P50,000, for instance, goes a long way.

The proponents themselves do not require a lot. Bufi says they sleep in the schools or in the homes of families in the communities that open their doors to them.

When The Storytelling Project visited the Dumagat kids of Purok Tayabasan, Sitio Ysiro, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, the group told the story of “Si Langgam at Si Tipaklong.”

“The book was all about saving and so we created piggy banks made of bamboo,” Bufi says.

He adds, “In this community, we stayed in their tribal house for almost 26 days. There is no electricity and mobile phone connection in the community and before you reach the area, you have to trek for at least four hours and it requires several river crossings.”

The Storytelling Project welcomes volunteers who want to join them as readers.

Indeed, Bufi is right in saying that if one has something good to share – be it a talent or an idea – there’s no better way to go than to share this with those who need it most.

Corporate and individual sponsors interested in supporting the project may get in touch with Bufi at 0918-9482590 or reysbufi@yahoo.com .

(Editor’s Note: The Philippine STAR’s #28StoriesOfGiving is a campaign that turns the spotlight on 28 inspiring stories of people and organizations who devote their lives to helping themselves or others. Everyone is encouraged to post or “tweet” a message of support with the hashtag, #28StoriesOfGiving. For every post, P5.00 will be added to The STAR’s existing ‘give back’ anniversary fund. For comments and suggestions to #28storiesofgiving, email contactus@philstar.com.ph follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit The Philippine Star’s page on Facebook.)

A grandmother’s wish By Abby Rebong (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 7, 2014 - 12:00am


#28storiesofgiving Conchita Atole’s fervent wish at the moment is to see her grandson William David run, play and walk like any normal four-year-old child. VAL RODRIGUEZ

MANILA, Philippines - Locating Conchita Atole’s home in Bagong Silang required a somewhat steep climb, littered with uneven steps, barking dogs and children running to and fro. It almost made one wonder how a woman her age manages to move around the rolling terrain.

A modest bungalow with a warm welcome is home to Lola Conchita, her two children, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.

It is the sight of her grandchildren that makes her momentarily oblivious to the family’s plight.

She is all eyes and ears on grandson William David, whom doctors have diagnosed with congenital feet and leg deformities, called Genus valgus.

Albeit shy compared to his boisterous playmates who could move around freely, William David is the picture of a happy child. He has a civility and gentleness about him, holding his grandmother’s hand when he needed assistance, exchanging hugs with his youngest cousin.

One look at the child’s distinct features, especially his big, piercing eyes, can melt the heart. “Ang pogi mo naman,” we said to William, to which the curious child just smiled, possibly getting accustomed to neighbors and random onlookers telling him the same thing over and over.

William, his Lola Conchita says, is the product of an interracial relationship gone awry – between her daughter, then in third year college, and a British boyfriend she met over the Internet.

“Sabi ng anak ko dun sa foreigner, ‘nag-aaral pa siya, kaya siya na lang ang pumunta dito (My daughter told her boyfriend to come over since she was still in school),” recalls Lola Conchita. The foreigner obliged, lived in with her, and for a time supported her education, until she became pregnant with William.

After telling the family that he’d have to go back to his country, the Atole family never heard from William’s father again.

Though born “knock-kneed” on both his legs, William is quite cheerful and unmindful of his handicap.

“Masayahing bata yan. Minsan lang, nalulungkot, hinahanap kung sino daddy niya. Sinasabi na lang namin na wala (He’s a happy boy, he just feels down sometimes when he asks who his father is. We just dismiss the question),” Lola shares.

* At first, they resorted to massaging William’s legs when they noticed that he could not manage even a few steps without losing his balance. The family was later informed by doctors of his condition.

“Nilagyan siya ng brace sa Orthopedic. ‘Pag walang brace, bumabaluktot yung binti niya tapos yung paa niya tabingi (They put braces on his legs. Without the braces, his legs are bent and his feet are arched),” William’s Lola explains.

Though she thinks about William constantly, it’s not as if his condition is Lola Conchita’s only burden.

In a spate of misfortune, she lost her husband and her son one after the other. This was a big blow to the family, as they were the breadwinners. At a time when women customarily took to being devoted homemakers, Lola Conchita was consigned to being a dutiful housewife.

Fortunately, her daughter, William’s mother, offered to take up the cudgels for the family, only to be sidelined by stroke in September last year – at age 25.

Setbacks, so they say, come in threes, and Lola Conchita has met her quota.

She fixes her glance on William David, and then breaks into a loving smile. It is quite obvious that her grandson means the world to her.

“Sa school, hinahatid ko siya. Inaakyat ko sa hagdanan. Nakakaawa kasi pag di makaakyat. Minsan tinutukso siya ng iba (I bring him to school and lift him up the stairs. I feel sorry for him since he cannot help himself, and he sometimes gets a ribbing from his peers),” Lola avers. Unlike the sorrow one feels from losing a loved one, hers is a kind of heartache that comes from a love that burns.

Asked if he has a hard time walking or playing, William shakes his head. He would love to have a new toy. For William, life is normal, after all – he has a family, a home, and he feels loved.

Meanwhile, Lola Conchita is in constant touch with his doctors at the Philippine Orthopedic Center, and they tell her that William needs new braces soon.

“Ang sabi ni Doc, kailangan na palitan yung brace kasi masikip na yung sapatos. Minsan kasi natatanggal na rin, tinatali ko na lang (His doctors are saying that he needs new braces as he has outgrown his old one. His old one sometimes comes off, and I have to string it together to keep it from falling apart),” she explained.

It’s not as if William is her only burden.

Lola Conchita has her family to think about; there are eight mouths to feed from day to day, and her son’s job at a service station is all they have to stave off hunger.

But William means the world to her, and she hopes to get him those new leg braces and shoes that he needs, and the therapy that will give him a shot at becoming a normal child.

Is there hope for William’s deformity to be corrected?

“Sana nga po (I hope so),” was all Lola Conchita could say.

For now, it is all that matters to her.

In a matriarchal society such as the Philippines, strength is an attribute commonly associated with women from all walks of life. Although she has played a reticent role as housewife all her life, Lola Conchita is no exception.

For this, we celebrate her, and her story of giving.

(Editor’s Note: The Philippine STAR’s #28StoriesOfGiving is a campaign that turns the spot- light on 28 inspiring stories of people and organizations who have devoted their lives to help- ing themselves or others and are in need of assistance. Everyone is encouraged to post or “tweet” a message of support with the official hashtag, #28StoriesOf- Giving. For every Twitter and Facebook post, P5.00 will be added to The STAR’s ‘give back’ fund. For comments and sugges- tions to #28storiesofgiving, email contactus@philstar.com.ph follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit The Philippine Star’s page on Facebook.)

The ties that bind: Gloria Arroyo and Mike Velarde's friendship(philstar.com) | Updated July 8, 2014 - 12:55pm


Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai (left) and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (right).

MANILA, Philippines - Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sought the Sandiganbayan's permission to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde and his wife Belen.

Velarde, leader of the large Catholic charismatic group, is considered a spiritual adviser and a close friend of Arroyo.

It is interesting however how Velarde became one of Arroyo's supoprters, when he was also the spiritual adviser of Joseph Estrada, who was deposed in an uprising that led the way for Arroyo to assume the presidency.

In an interview in 2005, Velarde said the El Shaddai's stance is to support "whoever sits in Malacañang because that is for the best interest of our country."

This support however was not one without controversy.

According to an August 16, 2007 Issue Analysis of the University of the Philippines think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), Buhay Partylist - the electoral wing of El Shaddai - has supported Arroyo during her terms.

It is also believed that Buhay had had enjoyed the support of the Arroyo administration. In the May 2013 polls, Buhay's second nominee is former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, a known ally of Arroyo.

Arroyo and Velarde did not also see eye to eye on all issues.

* In 2010, Velarde opposed the bid of Arroyo allies to amend the Constitution.

The religious leader, in a 2008 article posted by UCANEws, an "independent Catholic news source", had then warned Arroyo against supporting the move to change the charter.

"I advised the president she can have peace of mind until the end of her term in 2010 if only he allies will not tamper with the charter, because the people believe her allies are only out to extend her term," Velarde said.

Also in the 2010 polls, Velarde did not support the Arroyo administration's bet Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro, but was said to have given his virtual nod to then Sen. Manuel "Manny" Villar.

When Arroyo, who faces non-bailable offenses of poll fraud and plunder, was detained, Velarde has become one of Arroyo's frequent visitors, visiting in March this year and last week.

Love in the time of volunteerism #28storiesofgiving By May Serrano (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 13, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


One of the young volunteers of Hearts and Brains Inc. feeds a child of the indigenous B’laan tribe in the Sarangani mountainside.

MANILA, Philippines - Happy are the people who, despite having access to worldly wealth, revel in going back to the time when life was simpler and wheels turned a little more slowly. Blessed are those who find fulfillment and happiness in seeing the good in others and selflessly doing good for them.

It was the year 2010.

John Oliver Tablazon was fresh out of college when he was invited by a friend to volunteer for a medical mission. As it turned out, the medical mission required walking for six hours to get to an upland sitio where he witnessed indigenous B’laan children walking down the perilous Sarangani mountainside and crossing rivers for three to four hours just to get to school.

The sight of these children made him oblivious to his own labor.

And then he met Dr. Roel Cagape, a Bayaning Pilipino awardee and founder of Hearts and Brains Inc., who instantly became his icon for passion in helping others without asking for anything in return. In his own words, it was a life-changing experience that inspired him to traverse the road less traveled.

That same year, his father Francisco passed away but not without bequeathing to him the value of pakikipagkapwa-tao (fellowship).

Ignoring the lure of a lucrative career as a registered nurse, Tablazon answered the call of volunteerism and formally joined HABI, a group that advocates health, education, peace and livelihood for the marginalized in Mindanao.

It has been four years since that day.

* Nowadays, he leads the team of 15 HABI volunteers while working full-time at the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Sarangani. The prospect of working abroad, where registered nurses earn more than three times their wage here, is far from his mind.

“Masaya ako kapag napapasaya ko ‘yung mga taong natutulungan ko, pag niyayakap ako ng mga bata dahil sa mga na-impart namin sa kanila (I’m happy when those I help are happy, when kids give me a hug),” he beams.

At least once a month, HABI volunteers, together with Cagape, troop to barrios, sitios and remote areas to visit beneficiaries of their “missionary work.”

In the course of their missions, they would every so often hear sporadic exchanges of gunfire from the opposite side of the mountain.

On other days, they look for donors, personally or through e-mail and social media. They ask donations from friends and private organizations, and are sometimes loaned vehicles to help them reach outlying areas.

Continually, they recruit new volunteers, usually creating opportunities for students of Social Work and Nursing, most of whom remain volunteers even after their graduation.

Their projects range from the difficult – medical missions in far-flung communities – to the simple, such as teaching gardening lessons in the backyard or teaching young kids how to count. Volunteers also distribute school supplies; help register children with no birth certificates; hold a Walking Blood Bank; and continually look for donors in hopes of providing more solar panels for the B’laan sitios.

HABI’s Walking Blood Blank project, which seeks blood donors for patients needing blood in hospitals, was recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Community Projects by Smart Communications in 2013.

Much has been said about far-flung barrios or indigenous groups being neglected by the government.

They have little to no electricity; children are prone to suffer from kwashiorkor, or a form of severe protein malnutrition, because it is difficult to obtain animal meat in the forests.

Worse, the ranks of the impoverished continue to burgeon, particularly in Mindanao, and the need for donations and volunteers working pro bono seems unceasing.

At present, HABI is working hand in hand with parents of young B’laan students to build basic shelter where students can stay during weeknights to help ease their burden of walking for hours daily to reach school. Built with corrugated metal roofing and timber posts, which men heave on their shoulders and bring down the mountains, each dorm can accommodate 20 elementary students.

Most of the students, at 10 to 15 years of age, are still in first grade, and are fortunate to be able to go to school with the help of HABI.

The group has already finished construction of the dorm in Sitio Malkahi in Malapatan town, and now plans to build three more – one for each sitio.

“Nais po naming matulungan ‘yung mga bata na gustong mag-aral pero hindi nakakapag-aral dahil malayo ang bahay nila (We want to help those who want to go to school but cannot because they live far away). Gusto naming magkaroon uli ng opportunity ang mga batang ito through our dorm project para makapag-stay sila at makakapag-aral nang buong linggo (We hope through our dorm project they can be in class the whole week),” Tablazon shares.

The project will significantly help the Department of Education in reducing the high dropout rate in the area.

As a volunteer, a smile in the eyes of a child is reward enough for Tablazon and his peers.

***

Editor’s Note: The Philippine STAR’s #28StoriesOfGiving is a campaign that turns the spotlight on 28 inspiring stories of people and organizations who devote their lives to helping themselves or others. Everyone is encouraged to post or “tweet” a message of support with the hashtag, #28StoriesOfGiving. For every post, P5.00 will be added to The STAR’s existing “give back” anniversary fund. For comments and suggestions to #28storiesofgiving, e-mail contactus@philstar.com.ph , follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit The Philippine STAR’s page on Facebook.

 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE