Help educate Isla Verde kids about their home in the Coral Triangle

I’m very proud to call myself a member of ISDA 🙂

“ISDA is a community of ocean enthusiasts mostly from the Ateneo, who are skilled and responsible skin-divers instilled with the spirit of environmentalism.”

Despite the sad fact that I haven’t been active for a while and probably don’t even know how to skin dive anymore, this org still holds an important place in my heart. I joined it at a time when I was lost and unmotivated and the sea, the learning, and the people pulled me out of it. I keep in touch with them (and hope to dive again soon) because nothing can jumpstart you like being in the presence of passionate, down-to-earth dreamers who take their goals to real life action.

A recent product of ISDA members’ initiative is the Batang VIP project.

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Filipinos bag 59 medals at 2015 Special Olympics

(This article is also posted on Rappler.)
The victorious football team that participated in Unified Football, where special athletes and regular athletes play together. Photo from Special Olympics Philippines' Facebook page

The victorious football team that participated in Unified Football, where special athletes and regular athletes play together. Photo from Special Olympics Philippines’ Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Ringing in August with victory and high hopes, Filipino athletes from all over the country competed in worldwide Olympic sporting events and bagged 21 gold medals, 14 silver medals and 24 bronze medals.

What makes this celebration all the more sweet is that all our athletes are special.

The Special Olympics World Games for 2015 was held from July 25 to August 1 in Los Angeles with 7,000 athletes coming from 177 countries – all of them with varied intellectual disabilities.

The Philippine delegation brought over 35 athletes, with Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao fully represented.

A participant of the Special Olympics since 1991, the Philippines has been training athletes year in and year out. This year’s set of athletes took two 3 years to get to the sporting grounds, ready and qualified.

Out of the 25 sports hosted this year, the Philippines joined athletics, unified football, bowling, powerlifting, aquatics, gymnastics, and badminton.

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German mom, kid give hope to Bohol cleft palate patients

(This article is also posted on Rappler.)

BABY BOY. Charly was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate. Photo by Ann-Kathrin Lange

BOHOL, Philippines – Early in November of 2009, a little boy named Charly was born in Inabanga, Bohol. He came out with 10 toes, 10 fingers, two eyes, and one split lip. In developing countries, a child with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both, is born every two and a half minutes – Charly was one of them.

His mother Norlita didn’t have a name for whatever it was that happened to the child she had been carrying, but it was enough of a shock for her to leave him untouched for the first few hours of his life.

When she finally came up to the baby who had not uttered a single cry since his birth, she told him, “Kung ano man meron ka, tanggap kita.” (Whatever it is you have, I accept you.) And Charly cried.

Six years down the road, life for Norlita and Charly has been marked by tears.

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Buy yoga clothes for the benefit of Pasay Pups

Times when you’re really glad you’re on Facebook — when you see other people using it as a platform to help.

Here’s something I saw on my feed today:

Ashley Ginger, a woman who by her profile works at PETA Asia-Pacific posted this photo 🙂

They’re selling donated yoga clothes to raise funds for Pasay Pups. All the new tops, bags, pants, and shorts are available for a minimum donation of P200. The proceeds from the sale on May 24th, Sunday, will go to the ligation fund.

Yoga clothes and puppy smiles like this? How can you resist? 🙂

Photo from the Pasay Pups Facebook page

Photo from the Pasay Pups Facebook page

 

Pasay Pups is a community volunteer organization that works in an impoverished area in Pasay to care for the many animals in the area. According to them there are around 200-300 dogs and cats in the city and they need looking after too. Pasay Pups provides basic veterinary care and services like vaccination, ligation, flea and tick prevention, and of course, love.

Aside from going to the sale, you can help them by either donating via PayPal (which you’ll see on their Facebook page), or offering any help which they need and you can offer (i.e. volunteering, funds, supplies, etc.)

Some of the animals they care for, like the lovely dog above, are also up for adoption. So if you’re looking for a pet, maybe think about welcoming one of the Pasay Pups into your home 🙂

Grab this opportunity to make your practice a life-giving one.

 


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On Bahay Kalipay: Be a resident volunteer

My stay here at Bahay Kalipay is slowly coming to a close and I’m not really looking forward to the day when I leave the gates and get on that plane.

The decision to come and volunteer to teach here for a month was definitely a great one and I thank myself for going through with it. Teaching here has given me so much strength and insight for my personal journey and I know there’s more to be known – one month is just way too short 🙂 But no worries, Bahay Kalipay hasn’t seen the last of me yet!

If you’re also interested in volunteering here, please do look into it. There’s absolutely no harm in considering it as a real possibility. Don’t look at it as leaving your life behind, but more as a productive, spiritual means to enrich it 🙂

You don’t have to be a yoga teacher! Below are the two programs for volunteers they have right now

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‘Facebook’ monk crowdsources for goodwill in Palawan

(This article is also posted on Rappler.)

Every morning, just as the sun is rising along Clarkville beach in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, a monk walks down the shore in deep maroon robes with a small black bowl in hand.

He’s on his way to a small village in Barangay San Pedro where he’s to make his rounds among the houses, receiving food and giving blessings.

His name is Bhante Rakkhita. To the Filipinos, he’s Brother Ben.

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3 Places to Volunteer Today #6: A-HA! Learning Center, Fairplay for All Foundation, Meritxell Orphanage

So it’s been over a year since the last time I posted anything related to volunteering. I’m glad to have the time again and I hope somehow, posts like this will still be relevant 🙂

To get straight to it, here are a few places you can spend your time in and specifically, spend it with children who need your care, guidance, and attention.

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The Meritxell Orphanage

Last year, in September, my 94-year old lola (grandmother) died after being sick for a while. Like many Filipino matriarchs, she was the glue that kept our family together, and it was never more true than in her death.

By the time I had my own thoughts and ideas, Lola Ada was already hard to reach. She had suffered a stroke before then and it made it difficult for her to walk and speak. The conditions got worse with time but even beneath that, I could see that she was a strong woman. I could see it in the way my dad and his brothers and sisters doted on her, on the values and responsibilities we were given growing up, and in the constant thank-yous they would shower on her even if they weren’t sure she could understand them.

When they were kids they were poor. My dad had to sell sampaguita, etc. and I often heard stories of how in desperation, he’d sometimes steal clothes from their neighbors’ clotheslines so that they had something to wear. It wasn’t always so bad, mostly thanks to my lola’s hard work. It was probably all the sacrifices she made to take care of them that eventually led them to providing assistance to Meritxell orphanage.

 

In her name, my brother and his 11 siblings helped renovate and supply Meritxell orphanage in Marikina. It’s a home for young girls from infancy to adolescence.

We visited the place one Sunday and it was heartening to see that the place is run by such good people. Older women take care of the kids and they teach the older orphans how to take care of their younger “sisters” too. They may be orphans but they certainly seemed like a family to me. With all they lack in their young lives, companionship isn’t one of them 🙂

 

 

Being realistic though, yes they need food, education, books, clothes, and toys. They also need the care and the experience of interacting with people outside of their orphanage. Most of all, they need homes.

If you can provide any of these, visit them at Peach St., Barangay Conception II, Marikina City.

There are also orphans that eventually end up reaching legal age without being adopted. Talking to one of the founders, he said it’s a big concern where they go afterwards. Some get scholarships to colleges but some aren’t that lucky. If you know of any livelihood/vocational programs the girls can enter, that would help too.

 

This cutie was supposed to be named Lance because he was found in a lanzones box at the LRT. Instead, he’s named Jacob, “like in the Bible.” At Maritxell Children’s Home.

This is Angel. she was found in tall grass near Boracay.

 

Doing quick research for this post, I found a lot of other existing orphanages. You can see all of these on Google but here’s a short list anyway. If you can’t volunteer at Meritxell, maybe you can visit an orphanage nearer you or donate to a foundation 🙂

Volunteering Saturdays

Weekends are precious to me – especially if they’re free 🙂 Often it seems to  be a hit or miss – work could suddenly pop up or, like what usually happens, I’m too busy during the week to think and plan ahead of what I could do.

I try my best though and at this point, I really have to thank social media 🙂 I spent the last two Saturdays volunteering thanks to people getting in touch with me through Facebook.

This Saturday, September 14, was spent at Barangay Sto. Domingo in Quezon City. Gawad Kalinga (GK) and the GK Youth QC hold a monthly event for the community there. Basic activities are holding workshops with kids, a clean-up drive, and painting various facilities that need a little retouching.

I highly recommend it as a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Here are few pictures, mostly of the children. One of my take-aways is, I’m starting to really like children :O

Because there were only three of us volunteers, there was much improvising to be done 🙂 We all had to sing at least one song, something I was totally unprepared for. The kids were all game though. No lack of kids wanting to sing, dance, or rap.

 

Cutest siblings ever. Though if you ask them, they don’t like pink.

 

Resident boy band. Name: Lord, Patawad.

 

 

Cool kid.

 

Fliptop battles. “Ihi ka ba? Kasi pag kasama kita, kinikilig ako.”

 

Fliptop battles. “Baboy ka ba? Kasi pag birthday ko lagi kang andyan.” Also, look at the kids’ reactions. Look at the babies :)) Priceless.

 

Solved a fight between these two siblings partly by asking them to pose for a picture. This 3-year old is smizing. Photo taken by a little girl who kept on insisting practicing taking pictures.

 

Boodle fight for lunch!

Basically it was taking care of children for a whole morning, and cleaning up the streets as a break in between. I wish I could’ve stayed longer though, especially after hearing one of the youth volunteers from the barangay share that some of the residents actually feel a divide between them and the volunteers.

Unexpectedly, the divide was caused by a feeling that the volunteers only come there to help – they don’t come there to get to know them or to build personal relationships. It makes sense, if you’re trying to make a change and there are people trying to help you, wouldn’t you want it to be a two-way street too? This is the part where volunteering should be more than a one-day, weekender thing – which is why I really look up to people from Gawad Kalinga and other NGOs who’ve made helping their living.

I hope I can come back to Barangay Santa Domingo 🙂 Your presence actually means more to them than we think it does.