Happy Heights: Here we go again!

Aaaand, we’re doing it again 🙂

Trail Adventours and I are doing another installation of the Happy Heights project, this time with the Shepherd of the Hills organization (SOTH). We’re bringing 10 of their kids to Mt. Gulugud-Baboy!

I found out about SOTH after volunteering at their center with U! Happy Events.  SOTH is a family run childcare organization that shelters children who are abandoned, neglected, and orphaned. Anne, one of the people who runs it, says it was really a fruit of her parents’ big hearts and immense trust. As with most NGOs that start from scratch, funds were low and the needs were high, but things came through in the end each time. I’m looking forward to hearing more about their story as we go along 🙂

For everyone’s information, Happy Heights is an outreach program to give underprivileged children a free day hike. A private initiative in cooperation with Trail Adventours, it’s meant to be an alternative source of fun and confidence – bringing these kids to a new environment and showing them a different way to learn and enjoy themselves. The hike comes with environmental and confidence modules 🙂

It’s funded through crowdfunding so, if you’re interested in sponsoring a kid, please let me know 🙂 You can contact me at 0917-564-8917. We’ll be releasing the details soon too!

Happy climbing 🙂

Healthy Saturday with U! Happy

Last Saturday, I had the blessing of being free for the afternoon and luckily, I had the presence of mind to spend it wisely.


I volunteered with U! Happy Events at Shepherd of the Hills Children’s Foundation Inc. – SOTH for short 🙂 SOTH is a childcare organization that shelters children, specifically kids who are abandoned, neglected, and orphaned. They’re a developmental group, so their programs push for growth and healing through learning. It’s really beautiful – the kids are taught to draw, paint, play the guitar, and the violin.


Picture from their site


When I walked into their gate, you could already tell that there were artists brooding about 🙂

They had tins of paint in their garage, and some paint brushes that looked like they’d been around for a while.

Right in front of their door, there was a colourful painting of kids, the alphabet, sports, etc. And here’s Harvard of U! Happy Events giving a briefing to the rest of the volunteers.

Inside their home and there were more 🙂


And it really is their home. I was able to talk to one of the teenagers who lived there. His name was Emil and he was 16 – he and his brother have lived with SOTH for 9 years. I asked who did the paintings, it was another teenager who was sitting right across from us 🙂 Emil didn’t draw – he played the violin, but he liked playing the drums better. It was him who told me it was their home. I asked if they were all friends, magkabarkada. He said sorta, but clarified, it’s more like we’re family.

Kids from Shepherd of the Hill.


The activity of the day was a lesson in eating healthy. U! Happy brought in chef Carmen to do a cooking demo and basically teach the kids to love vegetables 🙂

Chef Carmen



I was paired up with this cute kid named Coco who didn’t need to be taught anymore. His favorite veggie was broccoli and he didn’t like chips. Haha!

After the cooking demo, we were one of the lucky few called onstage to make fruit smoothies. His choice of ingredients – strawberry, mango & MALUNGGAY. Whatup 🙂

The outreach was completely different from anything I’d been to before, mostly because of the subject matter. Teaching kids how to eat healthy isn’t exactly the easiest of things, nor is it something that would immediately be thought of as fun. But the kids enjoyed themselves enough – especially when it was time to start eating!

This kid might have enjoyed his malunggay shake too much?

After that there were a few games (because with kids, you can never lose the games) and the SOTH teens performed a violin piece 🙂 So inspiring. It was a really great way to spend a Saturday.

The music and arts program at Shepherd of the Hill is just one of the things they integrate into the kids’ lives. They also have programs for sports, leadership, practical skills, etc. If you want to help, you can volunteer with them directly!

I’m actually thinking of having the next Happy Heights there 🙂 Hopefully I get to arrange it soon.

Teach for the Philippines: Baby steps

I’m nearing my third month in Rappler and already, I’m staring to feel an itch to go out into the field.

As an Associate Producer, I love what I do and I still have a lot to learn – but that doesn’t help the fact that I’d like to tell stories too 🙂 I haven’t really told anyone (and hopefully no one from Rappler sees this) because I don’t want to get pressured. I can freak myself out enough for everybody, thanks very much. And so I’ve decided to take baby steps.

One of them was covering the Teach for the Philippines Summer Institute graduation. An additional perk was that I could blog about it :))


Here’s the resulting article by David Lozada, and it was included in the June 3 newscast too!

Being there brought me back to about 6 months ago when I was considering applying. Seeing the TFP fellows made me think to myself, “Girl, you really wouldn’t have cut it.”

There’s wanting to help out, and then there’s offering two years of your life to entering a disorganized, daunting public school system just for the chance of making a slight difference.

All 53 of them seemed happy enough to be there. The two I was actually able to speak with were worried. If I was in their place, I would be freaking out. So to settle at worry really is a courageous thing – to go with their courageous choice.

I have nothing but respect and well wishes for them. And hope too.

Their choice also set me to thinking about my own choices so far.

I’m at a fork in the road right now, and depending on which way I go, a different version of me will be actualized. I refuse to say, “Bahala na.”

Here’s to hoping we all figure out which paths to take at the correct time 🙂 To have different choices to make and different goals to chase after is a blessing in itself.

3 Places to Volunteer Today #4: Weekend after Elections

Elections are finally over.

I literally feel like I took a long “vacation” and I’m only now returning to my real life. Haha!

I know I’m making it sound really intense but that’s honestly what it felt like to me. Rappler’s 5-day election coverage and everything that led up to it was consuming, tiring, and overall, incredibly inspiring 🙂 Just as we were wrapping up our last top-of-the-hour newscast, the word “service” popped up in my head.

But it’s been a week past D-day and it’s time to snap back to reality. Thankfully, the life I’m going back to is a good one. I’ve received so many invitations to volunteer for this coming weekend (May 25-26), and I’m going to share some of them with you.

  1. Paint Some Happy – Paint-Some-Happy project wants to transform public spaces through art and painting, so that they become dream scapes that encourage children to hope. They’re painting some walls at Toro Hills elementary school this weekend! Details are below 🙂 It should be fun. I’m going on Saturday or Sunday – or both!
  2. Balik Eskwela 2013 by Initiatives for Social Action (ISA) –  Balik Eskwela aims to prep the indigent children from Capas, Tarlac for the coming school year by providing school supplies to indigent students in Sitio Cawayan and Sitio Flora. ISA supports “under-resourced communities” with schools that aren’t registered with the Department of Education. Balik Eskwela is an overnight immersion on May 25-26. Aside from distributing the school supplies, as volunteers you’ll also participate in games, art sessions and story telling with the kids 🙂 Below are some more details, from their Facebook page – you can contact them there! The orientation is tomorrow (Tuesday).
  3. Save Philippine Seas’ Seatizen’s Festival – REVISION: Seatizen’s Festival is moved to September. (See their announcement here). Technically, it’s still after elections so I’m keeping it here as a reminder 😀 This isn’t exactly a volunteering event but your presence would still be a huge help anyway 🙂 Save Philippine Seas is turning 2 and to celebrate another year of championing Philippine marine life, they’re holding a fundraiser with a fun run, a Sunday market, and a concert at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center on Sunday, May 26. I’m most interested in the fun run. It’s called Run for Change and participants are encouraged to come in costume made from recyclable materials. Fun, right? 🙂

    MOVED. To September 🙂

It’s definitely a packed, exciting weekend ahead if you want it to be.

Take some of the time to help out. It’ll be good for your heart 🙂

To see more places you can volunteer at, click here.  ❤

3 Places to Volunteer Today #3: Balyena, CISV, Operation Smile

Long-term, larger scale issues need patience, a steady hand, and follow through that can span years. We all know that.

It follows that there are volunteering gigs out there that are going to need more from you than just a day of your time and your wholehearted willingness. For this edition of 3 Places to Volunteer TodayI’m listing down NGO’s that need skilled volunteers for a month at the least. Who knows? You might just be that person they’re looking for 🙂


  1. Balyena.org – Balyena.org is a non-profit society that does research work on whales and dolphins in the Philippines. They aim to provide baseline data for the management and care of these marine animals, hoping that the information enlightens and encourages the locals and the general public alike to be active participants in their conservation. Balyena.org started out as a group of friends who shared a passion for learning about marine animals. Luckily, it’s a passion that’s been shared and experienced by their past volunteers. Every summer, from March to May, they invite volunteers to take part in research surveys on the field (read: at sea). They have a few volunteering opportunities, but the one that most interests me is the Humpback Whale research in the Babuyan islands. The Babuyan islands is the only known breeding ground for humpback whales in the Philippines yet there’s still a lot to be discovered about them (e.g. distribution, abundance, migratory patterns). Mainly, volunteers will have to photo ID the whales, requiring being comfortable and competent in the water. A concrete, important way that the research helps is that it informs plans for coastal resources management and marine ecotourism.

    From their Facebook. Gotta admit, part of the reason why I’d want to volunteer is cause I wanna see dolphins and hear whale song 🙂


  2. CISV International – CISV International is a global organization that’s been around since 1950. Their advocacy is peace and their method is friendship. Their programmes span all ages and all have one goal in common: building inter-cultural friendship, cooperation, and understanding. According to their site, their programmes are as follows:

    As a volunteer, you can opt to be a member of the staff in different programmes (e.g. Step Up, Village, Youth Meeting), or more specifically, you can apply for positions like being a Leader for an interchange. Needless to say, it would be great if you had experience with caring for and teaching children as you’ll be responsible for these kids while they’re in another country. But if you really want to go for it, they provide training too, so you won’t be completely in the dark 🙂

    Picture from their site.


  3. Operation Smile – Operation Smile Philippines is a non-stock, non-profit organization that seeks to provide free-life changing reconstructive surgeries to children born with facial deformities, like cleft lips and cleft palates. They’ve been around for 30 years – imagine how many kids with new smiles that comes to 🙂 Because of the nature of the work, Operation Smile is always on the lookout for medical volunteers who, of course, will have to go through a credentialing process. The role you’re given will depend greatly on your specialty (e.g.Plastic Surgeon , Anesthesiologist , Pediatrician, Pediatric Intensivist, Biomedical Technician, Speech Pathologist, Child Life Specialist, Dentist, Nursing). Once accepted, as I understand, you’ll be going on local or international missions to these children, as far as you’re willing to go.

For those of you entertaining a sustained love affair with volunteer work, I hope this helped somewhat!

I’ve never volunteered for a long-term project but, from what I hear from my friends who have, it’s a life-changing experience. None of them regret being away for long, and most of them feel the calling to go back and continue their work 🙂

It’s something that’s definitely on my bucket list.

To see more places you can volunteer at, click here.  ❤

Yoga For Life

I’ve started practicing yoga again recently at Beyond Yoga thanks to this coupon I managed to get for 12 days straight of classes. I’m glad for the 12-days-straight condition cause it obligates me to keep on keeping at it.

And also cause it landed me in a yoga class on a Sunday at 8am with Yoga for Life 🙂

On the schedule it said “Community Class” and for a brief crazy moment I thought it would be students talking to other students about what they’ve learned so far. Haha! Contrary to my assumptions it was a regular yoga class, but with a cause.



Yoga for Life is a community-based NGO that uses yoga to help people affected by HIV and AIDS. It’s a first. Their classes are especially “designed for the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.” We did poses borrowed from different kinds of yoga (vinyasa, yin, etc.) and from what I gathered, these are things specifically chosen and directed towards easing the fear and the stress that living with HIV and AIDS come with.


Picture from their album “Yoga For Life 108 Surya Namaskar 2012 Year End Practice” on Facebook.


The classes are open to everyone else as well because they’ve included spreading awareness of HIV and AIDS to their mission 🙂 They’ve even gone as far as partnering up with Polecats Manila for Pole for Love.




I’m looking forward to doing more yoga and practicing with Yoga for Life 🙂 I’m not exactly equipped to explain how yoga works with physiology and all that but I can say, after just four days of getting back into it, that I’ve already seen two great things that can come of the practice: deeper sleep and more energy.

If you want to try yoga, it’s a good place to start. Their April schedule is below. They accept donations after classes and any amount is welcome 🙂




I’ll leave you with this video I found on  YouTube about a cancer survivor and how yoga helped her through the sickness.

She says,

I can’t explain it intellectually but it was like a light coming through and entering my… heart, my mind. And feeling cleansed and purified.

I really credit yoga and meditation for why I’m alive today.



 Also leaving you with this popular saying among yogis that I love 🙂

Kite-flying with U! Happy Events

Lucky me – the week of Happy Heights, when nervousness had settled at the back of my brain because it was my first time to ever do something like it, I met U! Happy Events at VSO’s Volunteering Expo. By the look of their booth (a tarp with pictures full of children, a cute hand-drawn type logo, and a Karen O song from the soundtrack of Where the Wild Things Are playing), I had a gut feeling they could help me. And I was right.

U! Happy Events is a non-government organization whose core competency is events for underprivileged children. They seek to serve both the children and the people who want to help these children. For their partner NGO’s and groups, they provide the valuable services of:

  • giving donations to supplement their partners’ outreach events
  • providing volunteers who will participate in their partners’ outreach events
  • event management and facilitation

All of these things are fairly straightforward, but they’re of immense value to people who want to mount an event. Personally, their help is something that would have made my  project go much faster and much more efficiently.

Their #1 battle cry explains the U in U! Happy Events. “We believe the change starts with U!” Since 2006 they’ve been doing their collective best to activate volunteerism. At the same time,  matching volunteers with kids’ organizations is one of the ways they give support to these NGO’s, foundations, and private individuals and companies.

As you might guess, their whole framework in doing so starts with a U too…

Images from their site.


Funnily enough, I volunteered with them without knowing it. Someone from iVolunteer Philippines invited me to try volunteering in one of the events on their site. Kite-flying, she said. For sure, i said. 🙂 Lo and behold, it was a U! Happy event!

Here are some pictures from a fun, well-spent Saturday (March 23rd) with U! Happy Events wherein I met some awesome kids from Payatas and learned how to fly a kite. It was their 199th event.

The event was at the UP Diliman Science Ampitheater. Perfect venue, perfect weather.


Before any of the games and all the kite-flying, we were all treated to a little bubble show 🙂


My kid Carl (who likes to be called Carla), having his time in the sun. Or, in the bubble to be exact :))


Another cutie being a bubble boy.


Kite 101 with Kuya Danny, a kite-flyer who can often be seen in UP Diliman’s Sunken Garden.


Carla and Ate Aya (my partner) with our lovely kite 🙂


So, if you have any event you’d like to push for, you know who you gonna call. Want to help, but having problems looking for a community to sponsor? Finding it difficult to look for resources and manpower for your great outreach idea? U! Happy is right here. On their page, you can even Create Your Own Event:

They tie up with more than 50 kids organizations. Their main thrusts are: Nourishment, Scholarship, Cancer Treatment, Outdoor Recreation & Happy Birthdays.


Try it!

Hopefully, I get to partner with them as well for a second leg of Happy Heights 🙂

3rd Volunteering Expo: The Future Starts With You

Tomorrow’s the day that you get to create the future you want for volunteering.

Lucky for you and I, VSO Bahaginan‘s 3rd Volunteering Expo at Gateway Suites, Araneta Center is still open for registration 🙂 As a participant of the conference, you will get to join more than 250 delegates from different sectors all over the Philippines who are gathering to talk about how volunteerism can work best for the country.

Because without a doubt, it can. We’ve seen it. Ondoy, Habagat – these are instances where people have freely offered to devote themselves to tasks and causes bigger than themselves, instances that have been proven effective. As a development organization, VSO Bahaginan believes that our individual choices to help has great power and potency. As such, imagine if all of us made that choice 🙂

The only conference of its kind, the 3rd Volunteering Expo aims to discuss the possibility of mobilizing a revolution of consistent citizen action and participation. Broken down, the goals are to find ways to imprint volunteerism on to the national consciousness and to help different groups learn how to improve their volunteer programs and practices.

In numbers, the conference will have:

  • 15 sessions on the vital topics of volunteering (e.g. defining development challenges on the horizon for the Philippines and the Asia Pacific, the volunteering process – the situations  and conditions wherein volunteers can contribute the most impact),
  • 3 breakout sessions to complement the general sessions by discussing specific topics (e.g. the link between happiness and volunteering, making a business case for volunteering programs),
  • 30 speakers from the public and private sectors, such as

NEDA Deputy Director General Emmanuel Esguerra, National Youth Commission Chair Leon Flores, Volunteer Act of 2007 main author Representative Benjamin Asilo, Local Government Academy’s Marivel Sacendoncillo, Gawad Kalinga’s Tony Meloto, Koleen Palaganas of Habitat for Humanity, Junie del Mundo of Hands On Manila, Cristalle Henares of Jesuit Volunteers of the Philippines and Pancho Lara of International Alert, Dr. Grace Aguiling Dalisay and Dean Edna Co of UP Diliman and Jody Aked of the UK Institute of Development Studies, and corporate responsibility influencers such as Petron Foundation’s Malou Erni, Pixie Gutierrez of JP Morgan Chase, Marla Alvarez of Thomson Reuters, Max Ventura of Philam Foundation, Joseph Quesada of Ayala Foundation, Charie Villa of ABS CBN and Dr. Susan Roth from the Asian Development Bank

On the same day, VSO Bahaginan will also be holding a complementary and complimentary Volunteer Fair. It’s free!!! 🙂

Starting after lunch, the fair is going to be a marketplace of volunteering opportunities and projects, working with the hopes of connecting around 30 volunteer-involving organizations with eager Filipino youths, professionals, and citizens. If you wanna know more about what’s going to be happening, check out their poster below.

I am very much excited for this 🙂

The Volunteering Expo and the Volunteering Fair is going to be fun and, just like volunteering, it’s going to be a good, helpful use of time. Go if you can, and tell your friends!

3 Places to Volunteer Today #1: Books for a Cause, Virlanie Foundation, Gawad Kalinga

This year, as part of my Big 25, I told myself that I would volunteer in 5 places before my 25th birthday. It’s already February and sadly, I can’t say I’ve volunteered anywhere :O This has been my first free weekend in a while and if I had good foresight, I would’ve used it to help out. To make up for my lack of planning ahead, I am going to use this Saturday to blog about 3 places to volunteer that may not be so heard of – and hopefully it continues on to become a series 🙂

So here goes, 3 Places to Volunteer Today (The 1st Edition):

  1. Books For A Cause Philippines – Books For A Cause is an advocacy group that wants to bring knowledge and literacy to the kids who need it most. Through continuously showing kids the importance of education and providing them what learning tools they can, Books For A Cause wants to  “inculcate in their minds that POVERTY is not a hindrance to a better future but a CHALLENGE, and that WHAT THEY THINK IS WHAT THEY BECOME!” Their first big project was the Baloy Community Library, opened last January 19, 2012, stocked with donated books from all around. You can donate those extra books, volunteer, or even hold your own fundraiser in your own community. You can check them out on Facebook too 🙂

    picture from their site

  2. Virlanie Foundation – Virlanie Foundation’s advocacy is focused on children who haven’t had the chance to have much of a childhood. They care for the “abandoned, abused, exploited, neglected, orphaned poor.” One of the largest private, non-sectarian child-caring institutions in Manila, they have several outreach programs and support programs. Among some of the programs are Sibuhi (where kids are provided a safe environment to express their emotions and experiences) and Balik Probinsiya (where families are encouraged and assisted to relocate from Manila to the provinces). You can join them and you can also donate.

    picture from their site

  3. GK Bayani Challenge 2013 – For the adventurous, the GK Bayani Challenge is a 5-day event from March 23-27 where thousands of volunteers are gathered and deployed to 34 different provinces – volunteers are assembled into groups of 15 people and are tasked to perform different duties such as cleaning up, building houses, etc. It’s not too late! Register in the link above 🙂

I hope those references helped 🙂 Just checking them out and telling your friends about them is already a big help.

And I truly, truly hope to get to volunteer in one of these places soon.

To see more places you can volunteer at, click here.  ❤

PAKISAMA: My Ideal Project

Since October of 2012, I’ve been producing a mini-documentary for PAKISAMA, an NGO that’s been around since Marcos.

I say “since” because we’re still in production 🙂 It’s almoooost there, just a few more revisions and we’re done. I can’t really complain though – the process has taught me a lot about producing, about how NGO’s work and how to work with an NGO, and it’s been a pleasure to collaborate with the people of PAKISAMA. Not to mention, I’ve gotten the chance to speak with farmers, fishermen and IP’s, and try to see what they see. It’s a producer’s dream, or, mine at least.

PAKISAMA, simply put, is an organization of organizations. They help groups and NGO’s of farmers, fishermen, women, and indigenous people map out their problems, take non-violent action, become self-sufficient, and understand the plights they are in. A huge issue that illustrates what they do is Sumilao and its 144 hectares of farm land.

PAKISAMA helped the Sumilao farmers parse through legislation, organize their 60-day march to Manila, and make themselves heard. Other cases are those of Banasi and Pecuaria. Today, they’re doing the same thing for the Casiguran farmers who are still fighting for their land and fighting against APECO.

A favorite quote of mine from one of our interviews was said by Ka Rene, a past president, “Maituturing ko siyang guro ng kasaysayan at unibersidad ng karanasan.” (I consider it a teacher of history, and a university of experience.)

For a little over 25 years, they’ve continued to struggle alongside the sectors who’ve got the least going for them. In the process of making this video, a young man from an indigenous group cried to me over injustice and I was told of recent deaths that sounded as if they happened often.

My job is just to tell people who they are. They’re out there everyday – facing the fire, confronting politicians and private individuals about their decisions and their actions.

They give me hope.

“Kapag narating namin o ng aming mga kasapi na sila na ang masusunod, sila na ang magbibigay ng presyo, sila na ang kumikita sa pamayanan, sila na ang kinikilala ng pamayanan… ibigsabihin matagumpay na ang PAKISAMA at ang mga kasapi.”  

(When the time comes that our members are the one’s who are listened to, that they dictate their prices, that they justly earn a living, that society fully recognizes them… then we can say that PAKISAMA and it’s members have succeeded.) – Vic Faber

P.S. The pictures are screencaps! I’ll post the video, with PAKISAMA’s permission, once it’s done. There’s so much more to learn, things that would have made this post damn loooong. Haha 🙂