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.

3 Places to Volunteer Today #5: Hands on Manila

Things have been on the bright side recently 🙂

Just a couple of weeks ago, Hands on Manila (HOM) picked me and 6 others to become official HOM bloggers for social change. Applying was something I had no choice but to do on the fly because of how busy work’s been making me, so their acceptance really came as a much-welcomed surprise.

I had known about them for a while already after seeing their booth at the VSO Bahaginan Volunteering Fair. They had a tarp with a huge red hand on it and a catchy name – I was immediately curious.

Hands On Manila has been around since 2001. Similar to iVolunteer, Hands on Manila connects people who want to help with partner communities and groups that need an extra hand. What makes them different is that HOM does its very best to make sure the volunteering opportunities they offer are diverse and flexible enough so that service can become integrated into your everyday grind.

It’s true that there are so many individuals who can still be tapped to help out. HOM’s “roadblock-free path to service” could maximize the potential of volunteering as a tool for creating change. That is, if we volunteer 🙂

Here are a few of their partners who are a bit more specialized than the usual:

  1.  AIDS Society of the Philippines – AIDS Society of the Philippines is a group aiming to use education programs and community service to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. Their main locations are Caloocan, Pasay, Quezon City, and Manila. Contact Angelo Esperezante at (02) 376-2541 or (0917) 812-0424.

    From their website.

  2. Mission: Katutubo Village (MKV) – MKV’s goal is to connect society to  their fellow Filipinos – specifically, the Aytas in Planas, Porac Pampaga. Over the past two years, MKV has worked with over 300 UP student-volunteers, 500 Aytas, and other groups and individuals to develop self-sufficient livelihood programs in the community. Other activities include leadership trainings, health and hygiene workshops, medical and dental missions. Contact Jarryd Bello at (0927) 981-8851 or Pauline Paguia (0917) 341 – 6016. You can also email them at missionkatutubovillage@gmail.com.

    From their Facebook.

  3. Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) – Their main cry is technology for sustaibility. SIBAT endeavors to enable poor communities to use science and technology to achieve self-reliance. They need skilled volunteers, such as: agroforesters, water engineers, water and sanitation experts, watershed specialists, project managers, web designers, and policy researchers. Their main office is in Matalino street, Quezon City Contact SIBAT at (02) 926-8971, or sibat@sibat.org. 

    From their Facebook. In 2010, SIBAT and CABIOKID farm installeda 1kW wind and solar system in Sta. Rita, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.

They have a lot more activities on their list: some include singing, sports etc. They also have activities with kids, and the elderly. You can download the full calendar here 🙂

You can also contact Hands on Manila’s program manager Toni Zuniga for help in coordinating with the partners, inquiries, and even arranging customized outreaches for your company or family. Contact him at toni.zuniga@handsonmanila.org or at (02) 843-7044, (02) 478-7044.

Hands on Manila is actually something I really need. More and more, I’m finding I have less time to reach out – it’s a situation I’m trying to figure out.

And I’m very grateful I get the chance to write for HOM in the months ahead 🙂

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

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.  ❤

Volunteering: A Saving Grace

At the time of the writing of this post, the Philippines is only a few days away from its 2013 midterm senatorial elections. The airwaves are bombarded with commercials, candidates slam each other left and right, violence looms heavy, and voters are expected to parse through all of that and make a good decision.


A graphic by Rappler. Go to #PHvote for all you need to know about candidates, local races, and partylist races.


On average, the political scene in the Philippines is messy. Agendas, long-ingrained corruption, and the power hungry can make a joke out of what we call government.

In spite of all this, democracy is still something we aspire to. We still believe that if anything can save us, it’s a clean vote that will do the trick. By remaining a democratic state, we’re saying that participation and contribution of the electorate are things we still hold as golden.

Call me optimistic but I think the same can be said for volunteerism 🙂



In the heights of election fever, to talk about volunteerism as a concrete step towards change  might seem naive. But ask the special children that Special Olympics  volunteers train every week, ask the kids from the orphanages who have learned to write and read thanks to ates and kuyas who’ve given them their time, ask the Aeta families who Initiatives for Social Action is helping develop a decent water system. They’ll probably think otherwise.



Most of the people who need the help of volunteers are people who live day to day. And day to day, it isn’t the presence of government officials they see – it’s volunteers.

Everywhere, we see the marks of people who have freely given their time, energy, skills and resources to boost causes they feel have been neglected. Livelihood, the environment, arts and culture, sports – in all of these fields, you’ll find citizen-driven initiatives that spark positive change. And all of them started with the question, “What can do?” It’s amazing.



This election season, one might say that a clean vote is a more concrete step towards change than a single day spent volunteering. Yes, volunteering may not be enough to change our country. But it changes the lives of the people in need. To them, volunteers are a saving grace.

And that’s how volunteerism changes the world, by changing the worlds of the people who haven’t been given a chance.

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.  ❤

A Sneak Peek of SneakPick

Contrary to the title of my blog, the world is actually really small. Especially the development world 🙂

At the end of U Happy’s kite-flying outreach, I got to talking to my partner, Aya Dupaya, about my blog. Turns out she’s part of a social enterprise!

The social enterprise is called SneakPick Indie Films and Stage Plays Philippines, and they want to bring culture and the arts to every single Filipino. By their description, they’re a “socially-responsive marketing company” who seek to give “the under-privileged equal access to experience quality Filipino independent films and stage plays.”



Needless to say, I’m all for this. We make films and we stage plays so that they can be seen and shared, so that we can talk about them and maybe learn something, and so that maybe things can change. I made a thesis film two years ago exactly for these reasons, because I believed that if media can make negative stereotypes, then they sure as hell can make positive stereotypes too.

That’s exactly SneakPick’s point: culture can expand a person’s world view. And when it does, it’s with the hope that you act accordingly. Not to mention, these films and these plays have the potential to spark creativity and a collective sense of pride 🙂

SneakPick did their research too. In an entry on their blog entitled “Startling Statistics,” they pose these questions:


Based on recent literature, there are 45,000 public schools in the Philippines with about 20M students each year. To what extent have we taught our students the importance of culture and arts? 

Our functional literacy rate is 58M out of 67M Filipinos. They are expected to read, write and do basic math. How well are we doing in terms of teaching critical thinking, self-sufficiency and creativity? How are we reaching out to the 9M remainder of that ratio?


If you wanna learn more about them, I encourage y’all to go to the launch of their banner program, Bayanihan para sa Kalinangan:


The launch is on April 12, Friday 4pm-7pm, Tanghalang Manuel Conde @ the CCP.
It would be great if you could send an RSVP by April 6th to the SneakPick Secretariat at 0915-3518179.


Bayanihan para sa Kalinangan aims to give under-privileged Filipinos free access to independent local films and plays.

They’re looking for advocates and creative affiliates to make it happen. Anyone’s welcome to collaborate as long as you have HAV: Historical content, Artistic inclination, and Values-based content.

Maybe you’d like to be a partner 🙂 Specifically, they’re on the lookout for:

    • Multi-national companies and private corporations – looking for CSR initiatives
    • Private schools and Civic organizations – for you guys, this can be a curriculum supplement
    • Indie film and Stage Play production houses – self-explanatory, I think 🙂

If you’re interested, email them at sneakpick.phils@gmail.com. There’s more information here too.



And, if you’re not any of the above but you’d still like to help out, they’re looking for volunteers, donors, brand collaborators, and show sponsors as well! Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to watch out for volunteer opportunities. This is a brand new venture and all of us can help 🙂

Personally, I’m bringing out that old thesis film from the recesses of my files. Let’s hope they like it!

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 🙂

3 Places to Volunteer Today #2: iVolunteer Philippines

I am now a proud member of iVolunteer Philippines 🙂 You should be one too.



iVolunteer Philippines is a site that links NGO’s and outreach activities in need of manpower, with willing and able volunteers eager to put themselves to good use. Kinda like matchmaking 🙂 A rebirth of 2001’s ivolunteer.net.ph, the Philippines’ first volunteerism portal, iVolunteer is a platform customized to reach the people today. And they walk their talk – they’re 100% powered by volunteers.

Their site has an extremely simple interface to match an extremely easy process:


  • Look through the different volunteering opportunities. The thumbnail will give you the sector, the dates, and the number of volunteers needed. If you select an event, you get the full description, as well as the number of volunteers still needed and the deadline to sign up.
  • Click on “COUNT ME IN,” and you’re in!
  • Make sure to contact the email in the program description to get all details and for extra secure confirmation.

It’s that easy.


I’ve always felt that the problems were that the volunteering opportunities were too scattered, hard to find, and that the NGO’s themselves had a hard time looking for volunteers and/or marketing themselves given everything else they have to do. iVolunteer is the 3-in-1 solution 🙂

And since this is part of the 3 Places to Volunteer Today series, here are some volunteering oppprtunities on the site that I found interesting:


  • Bahay Maria Games, Art and Magic! Though we may feel that the children’s parties of our youth were overrated, for the children in the Bahay Maria shelter the games and all the magic are a big thing. You get to make it a memorable Saturday for 35 girls from the shelter, where abandoned and surrendered children from poor communities have found a home. The outreach needs 20 volunteers for March 16, 2:30pm.
  • Livelihood Program in Organic Agriculture. Organized by GreenEarth Heritage Foundation, Inc., this livelihood program is for the locals of Sitio Malapas na Parang in San Miguel, Bulacan. From March 9 to March 15, they need anyone and everyone to give the locals a hand in improving the community’s organic farm. Tasks include vegetable production, seeding and transplanting young plants, landscaping, etc. 50 volunteers are needed.
  • Elections 2013 – Design and CommercializationThe iVolunteer design team itself is looking for graphic designers to come up with collaterals for the National Elections this May 2013. iVolunteer is partnering up ith groups such as the Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance, Task Force 2013, Youth Vote Philippines and NAMFREL to boost voter education, registration and awareness. 15 volunteers are needed!


Their mission is “to promote volunteerism by: Making it known, Making it easy, Making it happen.”

iVolunteer is another one of those sites that I had thought of setting up in passing, and that I wish I had done. They’re living the dream 🙂

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

The EXECUTION 2: Happy Heights

It’s been exactly 52 days since I first thought of the idea of a day hike outreach for underprivileged kids. After approximately 2 months, the project is mounted and it’s happening tomorrow.

Realizing that it’s actually happening is overwhelming, especially because of all the things that have happened along the way. There have been obstacles and adjustments but, it’s nothing that I didn’t expect. Of course, expecting things and dealing with the reality of the situation are kiiiinda different things 🙂

Here are some of the developments since I last wrote about how the execution of the project was coming along:


  • A Facebook page was born! Accompanied by its twin page on my blog where people could learn more about the project. Since I get to monitor the stats on my blog, it was extremely gratifying to see that people were actually looking up Happy Heights on search engines and landing on the project page 🙂 This may have been helped along largely by the beautiful poster that Tippi Sy made for me.
  • All the kids were sponsored in a snap! In this case, snap means a week. Which is still extremely fast and completely unexpected. What I learned here is that, in my own personal network, there are a lot of people who are willing to help out and get on board. 4 of the 6 people who donated were people close to me, and 2 of them were people I’d met on a climb with Trail Adventours. Admittedly, because crowdfunding went by so fast, I didn’t promote the Facebook page as much, which in hindsight is something I think I should have done.
  • Got relevant tips. Particularly from Malds Menzon of Initiatives for Social Action. Through the blessing of social network, Malds was able to gave me a lot of advice re: crowdfunding and how to get people on board, things that are extremely helpful for someone like me who hasn’t had a lot of experience with projects like this 🙂
  • Met the parents! Because of a tragic fieldtrip accident that had happened recently involving a bus, the previously confident parents began to have their doubts – something I completely understand. To reassure them, to make sure that everything that was going to happen during the hike was clear to them, and to address any concerns they might have, Guido and I went to MLQS to have a parents’ orientation. With the kids :)) Most of the softball team girls tagged along and it was cute to see them all giddy and excited. Thankfully, we were able to explain everything clearly to the parents and they were back to being game.
  • Had a preclimb with the girls. Which is basically where we oriented them on what to bring, what to expect, what to do and what not to do 🙂 I also got my friend AJ Villar on board to teach the kids basic Leave No Trace principles, so that they could carry some environmental awareness along with them on the climbs.
  • Dealt with more doubts. Right after our orientation with the parents, another terrible car accident happened to some students on a fieldtrip to Baguio 🙁 It was some very sad news that again had repercussions on what the parents thought about the project. To address it, Guido and I spoke with the principal and the teachers. What we noticed from the recent events were that they all involved transportation, so we gave them all the details of the transportation and routes we’d be using. We also gave this information to the parents themselves and, if they still didn’t feel confident about it, we were ready to move the project to a later date.


Needless to say, the parents were up for it and we are climbing tomorrow!

I’m nervous and excited, but really more of excited. The most important thing is that the kids have fun and that they learn something.

We’re finally here and the mountain should get ready! 🙂