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IAMRAFI: The Fearless Steward

The Story of Norlan Pagal, Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual Finalist, RAFI Triennial Awards

By Joy Emma Masapequeña,  Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 29, 2019

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When adversity came into Norlan Pagal’s life, instead of cowering to the challenges of his injury, he rose up and found his life’s purpose. 

His efforts garnered him a nomination that led him to become one of the finalists of the RAFI Triennial Awards, under the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual Category last August 31, 2018. 

This is the story of how he became the fearless steward of San Remigio, Cebu, who protects its marine life against elements that threaten to destroy it.

 

Like Father, Like Son

Norlan Pagal’s devotion to the seas started when he was young. His father was also a fisherman who went to sea day in and day out, working hard to put food on the table.

“Nakita nako nga ang dagat diin mao’y gipanginabuhian sa akong amahan, mao gyuy gikuhaan niya ug daghang makaon ug pagpaeskwela sa amoa (I realized that the sea provided livelihood to my father, it’s where he got money to feed us and to send us to school),”

Fishing provided his father the means to send them to school, to help the family survive.

“Maong sakit jud para nako nga mapasagdan ang dagat kay diha baya mi gipa-kaon sa akong ginikanan (That’s why I can’t leave the seas alone because it gave us the means to eat),”

He remembered being encouraged by his father’s insistence to stick to the safe methods of fishing. Norlan learned early on that you should never destroy what gives you life, and as much as possible, to protect it. 

 

Not Just the Seas, It Is All Connected

Inspired by his father’s teachings, he followed the practice of not resorting to illegal fishing to catch fish. All the time he spent at sea also made him see how everything is connected. 

“Nakita man gud nako nga nagkaanam na gyud ug ka-nihit ang kuha dinha sa isda (I noticed that catching fishes was harder),”

He saw that there were a lot of factors as to why this was happening, one of which was the improper disposal of garbage from the mountain areas of San Remigio. Another was the illegal logging that the residents practiced.

“… kung sigehan nilang putol ang mga kakahuyan, ang mahitabo, wala na’y mupugong sa yuta nga gibanlas sa tubig kung magbaha (if they continue cutting trees, there won’t be anything to hold the soil during floods and it will then go to the oceans),”

These soil deposits, he said, would eventually suffocate and kill the corals in the sea. 

 

Educating People, Saving Seas

Norlan plays a big role in educating people in the mountain areas of San Remigio, Cebu on the proper disposal of their garbage.

“Kay inig agi sa tubig ang ilang pagtuo kay limpyo na ang ilahang area, pero wala sila kahibaw nga sumpay diay na (They think that as long as the water flows, their area is clean, but they don’t know that it’s all connected),”

This drove him to start a program where he facilitates former drug surrenderees to participate in community service. In this program, the surrenderees were encouraged to participate in tree planting. 

Through his efforts, he said that awareness was raised on the proper disposal of garbage and on how to properly take care of the environment.

“Ang mga naa sa bukid, dili na pud sila magpataka ug labay sa ilang mga basura unya aware man sila nga ang mga native gyud nga mga tanom (the people in the mountains know how to properly dispose their garbage now, and they are aware that they have to plant native trees),”

He reported that the effects were astounding. He talked fondly about how uplifting it was to see everyone cooperating to achieve a shared goal. 

“Ako mang gipasabot na kung pananglit munihit jud ug maayo ang isda nato, maapektuhan man gihapon sila kay mumahal man (I made them understand that the scarcity of fishes will affect them since it will increase the price),”

 

He Lost His Limbs, but Never His Hope

As an officer of local law enforcement in San Remigio, Cebu, he needed to be unbending and uncompromising, which explains why some illegal fisher folks despise him.

Norlan currently serves as the chairperson of the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) and is a resilient adversary of illegal fisher folks and commercial fishing operators, which made him a constant subject of death threats. 

In December 2010, eight suspected illegal fishermen threw improvised dynamite at his boat while he was trying to arrest them. He had another incident in November 2013 where two fisher folks attacked him with their fishing oars.

It was in 2015, however, when a shot from an unknown gunman paralyzed him from the waist down.

“Gi-pusil ko nila. Gi-igo nila akong spinal cord, so bisan pa man ang akong hunahuna, mintras buhi pa ko di gyud ko pwede mu-urong (They shot me. They hit my spinal cord but not my mind, so as long as I’m alive, I cannot stop),”

Despite this hiccup, he continued to persevere in his job as a coastal law enforcer. If anything, it even pushed him to try harder.

 

The Steward’s Redemption

The shooting of Norlan shook the other members of Anapog Municipal Fisherfolk’s Association. At one point, he was even forced to leave town to protect himself and his family. 

Norlan, however, remained faithful to his advocacy, “Basta ako, padayon ra jud ko sa akong adbokasiya (For me, I will just continue with my advocacy),” 

Bisan pa man sa akong sitwasyon, padayon ko ug paghatag ug mga pagpahibalo sa uban aron nga mapalig-on pa gyud nako ang akong adbokasiya (Even in my situation, I will still continue to give information to the people, and convince them to rally for my advocacy),”

He went on to facilitate tree planting initiatives in San Remigio, Cebu.

“Sobra na sa 300 ka-puno (planted) sa eskwelahan. Kanang mga endangered na sila nga tanom. Sa mangrove, sobra na sa 10,000 (More than 300 trees have been planted in schools; those are endangered species. For the mangroves, we have planted more than 10,000),”

To this day, he keeps watch of the Anapog Marine Sanctuary with a pair of binoculars, two mobile phones, and a wireless radio in case he needs to call the Municipal Bantay Dagat Team. He was not alone in achieving all that he has achieved so far. 

 

Realizing He’s Not Alone

Norlan might have gained some enemies along the way, but there were still those who stood by him and offered support when he needed it. Local radio stations assisted him in spreading his advocacy, thereby instilling more awareness to more people. 

“Ila kong gitabangan sa radio, pwede ko musulod didto para mapaabot ang akong adbokasiya’ (The radio stations helped me, I could just go and talk about my advocacy),”

The San Remigio Municipal Government was also instrumental in materializing Norlan’s vision. Together, they helped pass the Municipal Fisheries Code in 2003. This provided for the registration of municipal fisher folk and their fishing gear. It also prohibited the use of active and destructive fishing methods, in support of Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

“Kaluoy sa Ginoo, ang mga kabataan gyud ang nangusog (By the grace of God, the youth really advocated for it too),”

“Naa man mi eskwelahan nga gipasalidahan kabahin sa marine protected areas. So after amo silang gipakita, among gipasabot unsa man jud ang problema (We go to schools and we show films regarding the marine protected areas. After that, we hold an orientation telling them about the problem),”

 

On Life’s Greatest Lessons

When asked about the greatest lessons he has learned so far, he said that consciousness of the world around us would push us to become better people.

To him, “Kinahanglan tan-awn nimo dili lang ang imong kaugalingon, kung dili ang tibuok komunidad (You need to look not only within yourself, but you also have to consider the whole community),”

“Mao na akong prinsipyo nga gitawag na pasensya, konsensya, sentensya (My principles are patience, conscience, sentence),”

He elaborated that patience refers to the forgiveness you give at the first offense. Conscience is what you inflict for a repeated offense. Finally, sentence those who have been warned once and twice, yet still chose to do it a third time. 

“Para makahibaw sila ba nga ang balaod, naa pa diay (At least they know that the law is still existing),” he added firmly.

Being righteous, he said, requires strength to not bend down to anyone and stay true to your principles.

 

Standpoint: Change Is Within You

Norlan has learned early on that everything in this world is connected; like a ripple, one small movement could shake the whole surface. Norlan is the fearless steward that rippled the seas of San Remigio, Cebu.

It may have caused other people to put up their defenses, resist him, and even try to stop him, yet that never brought Norlan down. The light that he cast upon the marine life of San Remigio in Cebu has inspired those who have supported him — the government, his fellow coastal law enforcers, and most especially, the youth. 

His story has not ended, and shall continue so long as there are people who will take up the torch that he has ignited.

Norlan’s story reminds us that the power to change the world is within ourselves. Brave the stormy seas, and taste the sunshine at the end of it, even if it means offering your life to achieve it. #IAMRAFI

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IAMRAFI: A Sustainable Source of Hope

The Story of PROCESS-Bohol, Inc., Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Finalist, RAFI Triennial Awards

By Joy Emma Masapequeña,  Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 28, 2019

The Participatory Research, Organization of Communities and Education towards Struggle for Self-reliance (PROCESS-Bohol, Inc.) have spent a longtime operating in the shadows, unrecognized.

And on August 31, 2018, during the last run of the RAFI Triennial Awards, under the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Category, they finally got the recognition that they deserved.

This chronicles their journey on how they helped shape the lives of many Boholanos, like a lighthouse of sustainability — a beacon of hope. 

 

On How PROCESS-Bohol, Inc. Gained Independence

The Participatory Research, Organization of Communities and Education towards Struggle for Self-Reliance – Bohol (PROCESS-Bohol, Inc.) was born out of a vision to support People’s Organizations (POs) that needed it. They have been operating since 1985, but was never truly independent from its Manila headquarters until 1996. 

“In 1996 we were given the full autonomy to become independent. So that by 1998, we were able to register ourselves as PROCESS-Bohol, Inc.,” said the Executive Director of PROCESS-Bohol, Inc., Emilia M. Roslinda.

From then on, they were able to operate on their own and propelled into doing numerous community projects in collaboration with various POs in Bohol — they became unstoppable. 

“We serve to organize and empower People’s Organizations (POs) to claim and protect their sector’s rights, advance their interest, and enhance their participation in society and governance,” she added.

 

A Different Approach to Service

What makes PROCESS-Bohol, Inc. different from other nonprofit organizations is their approach towards community organizing.

“Before we enter the community, we do participatory action research to determine and identify what are the needs, what are the concerns of the community that we need to respond to,”

This helps them identify the community’s needs and concerns. Their programs are uniquely designed to address the apparent issues existing in a community, a process that not a lot of nonprofit organizations (NGOs) go through.

 

Tubigon: Where Change Began

They started in Tubigon where illegal fishing methods like dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, and many others were rampant. Roslinda and the others in their organization realized early on that they could not do it alone.

“We work with the government, because we cannot work alone. So ang approach natin is partnership and collaboration,”

PROCESS-Bohol, Inc. consistently lobbied in the provincial government until they were finally able to come up with a provincial ordinance — banning electric shiners. 

“These are commercial fishing boats using big electric lights so mura’g nalupigan ang mga gagmay nga mananagat (they overtook the small fisherfolkss),”

As a result, the small fisherfolkss now have a fighting chance to catch fishes and gain adequate income as well.

 

The Early Adversities

Their journey to inciting change was not without adversities. Along the way, they found that the process to change was a long and slow one. Documents are just passed along, and at times, the programs they proposed became one of the many that were piled up in government offices.

This did not stop them, however. It even inspired them to challenge the system.

“We just kept on lobbying… it took 12 years before the Fisher’s Code of the Philippines got approved. Our fisherfolks went to Congress just to lobby,”

In the process, Roslinda observed that the leaders of the People’s Organizations (POs) that they supported became more empowered.

“From that single organization, nahimo silang provincial federation both sa mga mananagat ug sa mga kababayen-an (they were made into provincial; federation for both fisherfolkss and women),”

Makusganong Kapunongan sa mga Gagmayng Mananagat sa Bohol (MAKAMASA-Bohol), for example, was born because of these collective movements against illegal fishing. MAKAMASA-Bohol campaigned for the rehabilitation of their marine resources, and many other related projects.

 

On Biodiversity and Ecotourism

Roslinda considers the Abatan Watershed and Biodiversity Conservation and Management in Support of Ecotourism Project (AWBCP-SEP) as one of the key projects they have accomplished so far.

“Tourism is one of the economic drivers in Bohol. So we wanted the tourism industry to trickle down in the community and that’s what we did,”

In this project, they reforested a 10-hectare tree plantation in the upland areas of the Abatan River. It also engaged the people’s organization (POs) in ecological restoration of riparian-zone habitats along the mid-section of the ricer to make its banks more stable. 

“PO members serve as tour guides and they also provide catering services para maghatag ug meals sa mga guests nga muanha diha (to give meals to guests who come to visit),”

The locals now have opportunities for locals to display their talents and culture through Abatan Community Life Tour and the Abatan Firefly Watching attractions. 

 

Persevering; Reaching More People

“There were many doubts but we did it with the community,” Roslinda reminisced how many were skeptical about the success of their projects. 

Their efforts also extended to other sectors — fisherfolkss, farmers, urban poor, and women. They have collaborated with 240 POs in the province of Bohol; 91 of which benefitted from the Central Visayas Water and Sanitation Project, 74 are fisherfolks, 56 are women, and 19 are farmer POs. 

“Kadtong mga communities nga na-organize namo nga maayo kaayo ang pag-manage sa ilang environment, amo na silang gi-level up (We leveled-up those communities that we organize that managed their environment well”

They did this by, “training, guiding, providing them with facilities like a boardwalk…”

Aside from the Abatan Community Life Tour, they have also extended help to the people of Ubay, Bohol. 

“Ubay kasi, this is the driest portion sa Bohol. Several attempts gihapon nga magtukod didto ug water system (There were several attempts to set-up a water system there),”

Now, Ubay Water Service Cooperative (UWASCO) has already serviced 72 households of five barangays. UWASCO’s water now flows through to 2,210 households, bringing life and water to families in Ubay.

In time, they were able to prove the skeptics wrong and persevered amidst the doubts.

 

On Sustainability: It Is a Challenge

When asked about the challenges they are currently facing today, Roslinda said that they “have already seen success stories about what (they) are doing, but naa pa’y daghan nga nagkinahanglan namo (there are still a lot of people who need us),”

There are hundreds of people’s organizations (POs) in need in Bohol and there is only one PROCESS-Bohol, Inc. 

People come and go, she added, and there is “the challenge of sustainability both as an NGO and sa community pud (as well),”

Even so, this did not sway Roslinda and all the other people behind PROCESS-Bohol, Inc. to stop. She believes that, “our success gives us an inspiration and encouragement to do more and help those who need our support and assistance,”

For her,murag konsuwelo na sa akoang dapit nga nakasudong ka sa ilahang situation sauna nga wala pa ang intervention sa PROCESS nya karon nga ni-grow na jud sila,”

 

PROCESS-Bohol, Inc.’s Secret to Success

As an organization aimed at assisting other organizations, they have always been reliant on the cooperation of others to ensure the success of their vision. Roslinda admitted that they would not have done it without the help of others, “teamwork is the key to be successful,”

Success relies heavily on its strong monitoring and evaluation measures, and to do this, they had to have, as to Roslinda’s words, “…shared leadership. Share your responsibility with others,”

Even though challenges are still apparent for PROCESS-Bohol, Inc., they are confident that they have the support of others to stand as their pillar in moments of bleakness.

The thing that drives them forward is the mission that, “as long as there are poor in the communities PROCESS will always be there to support to continue and push what they believe in,”

 

Standpoint: The Unsung Heroes of Bohol

Every story has its martyrs — the unsung heroes who fight even if the world around them does not seem to notice their efforts. They are, however, heroes for a reason.

Other than the promise of being written in history books, they fight because they are passionate; serve because it is their purpose; help because they believe; and change the world because they are destined to. 

This recognition for PROCESS-Bohol, Inc. is long overdue.

They deserve to be seen and heard, because not only they have done so much but also because of the empowerment they were able to pass on to their beneficiaries.

They have the making of the heroes we read about in our textbooks. 

Instead, they have always been content in working behind the scenes — orchestrating the success of other organizations without the desire to be in the spotlight.

They proved that real service lies in doing the right thing when nobody is looking, a mark of a true unsung hero. #IAMRAFI

 

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IAMRAFI: The Sightless Visionary

The Story of Mateo Saga Quilas, Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual Finalist, RAFI Triennial Awards

By Joy Emma Masapequeña,  Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 28, 2019

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It has been almost three decades since Mateo “Noy Toting” Saga Quilas lost his eyesight. Instead of succumbing to the adversities of his disability, Noy Toting rose above it and has since been the leading force in enriching the lives of the persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the province of Bohol. 

This is the story of Noy Toting and his journey on becoming one of the finalists of the last run of the RAFI Triennial Awards, under the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Individual Category last August 31, 2018.

 

When Darkness First Came 

Noy Toting, as he is fondly called by family and friends, was only 33 years old when he began to experience seeing black or blurry patches in his vision.

This obscured his sight to the point where some objects appear to be disappearing. Once the symptoms started, his eyesight began deteriorating rapidly. He was later diagnosed with Glaucoma —, which happens when extra fluid increases the pressure in the eyes, damaging the optic nerve. The first two years, for him, were the hardest and lowest points in his life.

Usa ni siya sa akong nasugatan na problema…two years ko nag-adjust sa akong life. Blindness disability is very, very mahirap (This is one of the problems I faced… it took me two years to adjust with my life. Blindness disability is very, very hard),”

He has never known true darkness until the time he became blind. Living every day as a person with visual impairment was already hard enough, feeling self-pity was another challenge he had to hurdle through.  

“Gikapoy na ko’g panglimos’ (I’m tired of begging),” he said with strong indignation. This pushed him to move forward to the next step.

 

Finding A Purpose, Emerging Out of the Darkness

Four years after being diagnosed with Glaucoma, he met fellow PWDs who shared the same sentiments that he had — they deserve a better life than begging.

“Niadto ko’s Cebu para makat-on ug massage therapy, nya balik dinhi para akong itudlo sa uban (I went to Cebu to learn massage therapy, and returned here to teach others),”

With the help of 11 other fellow PWDs, he established the Bohol Federation of Persons with Disability Inc. (BFPDI). The federation advocates gathering support from the government and other private institutions for programs concerning the welfare of PWDs. 

“…advocacy jud namo ang livelihood sa PWD nga anaa sila’y enough na panginabuhian. Sama sa mga trainings para mahimong licensed massage therapists, atong mga schemes sa singing group nga makit-an nato sa pantalan and airport, and mga tourist places dinhi sa Bohol (Our advocacy really is for PWDs to have their own livelihood. We conduct trainings for them to become licensed massage therapists, and we also have schemes like talents in piers, airports, and tourist places in Bohol),”

In Bohol, their livelihood initiatives for Persons with disabilities have already covered one city, 47 municipalities, and 1,109 barangays. From a measly number of 11 members, their federation have now grown to 8,887 members.

 

Noy Toting’s Advocacy: Empowerment and Awareness

The efforts toward a better life for the PWDs in his hometown are closely supervised by Noy Toting. He says he continues doing this so that, “ma-aware sila sa ilang mga rights and privilege (they will be aware of their rights and privilege),”

With the help of different National and Local Government Agencies such as Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Technical Education and Skills Development Agency (TESDA), Nong Toting conducted several training to raise awareness on the right of persons with disabilities.

“Nag-conduct ko’g mga orientation, led by mga mayor, ug ang atong mga national agencies nga nag-cover sa PDW na rights, usa sila sa akong mga partner (I conduct orientations, led by the mayor, and I also partner with national agencies that cover PWD rights. Such as DOLE and TESDA),”

He also spearheaded the efforts for the compliance of the Accessibility Law among the new buildings in Bohol.

He proudly shared that, “we also already have the approval for a barrier-free tourism ordinance where government and private buildings, and tourist places are now accessible to the PWDs),”

Noy Toting also shared one of his advocacies for the Persons with disabilities to apply their skills, and choose which skills they want to home through government programs.

 

Anything worth It Is Worth Fighting For

Noy Toting has the ability to make ushering change look easy, but such is not the case.

Behind the beaming, kind face, is a man who has faced numerous challenges to get to where he is today.

When asked about the challenges he faced, he said, “Usahay kanang mamisita ko sa mga mayor, usahay di ta tagdon, usahay dili ta matagad tungod sa ka-busy (When I visit the mayor, sometimes they could not attend to me because they are so busy),”

These challenges did not stop him from trying repeatedly.

“Dapat dili ka muundang. Ang akoa, kailangan jud nimo ug fighting spirit, strong determination, dapat strategic sa networking ug pag-lobby sa mga agency (You should not stop. For me, the key is to have a fighting spirit, strong determination, strategic networking and lobbying in the agencies),”

Noy Toting also said that advocating the rights of Persons with disabilities is difficult and regardless of how many times he was disregarded, he still goes on because for him, this is not personal, this is for the disability sector.

“The cities that refuse me, those are the ones that I always go back to because this is not personal. This is for the sector. Thank God because today those hard-to-tap cities are okay now. They have given support to us already,” Noy Toting said.

 

Changes That Happened Since Becoming President

His efforts are all worth it as the changes that occurred ever since he took the helm of PDAO Bohol as its president are astounding. One of which is the inclusion of their sector in the government’s annual budget.

“Ang mga PDW man gud sa unang panahon kay di gyud i-apil sa budget pero karon, may budget na… meron nang mga ordinansa, sa province, cities, down to municipalities, and barangays,”

“And ang 1% sa ating mga barangay nagbigay ng mga kapital na nagamit na sa mga PWD (the PWDs before are not included in the budget, but that is not the case anymore… there is already an ordinance. The barangays give 1% and we have used that as capital),”

He also ensured remain self-sustaining by training them on massage therapy, caroling, and other means of earning an honest and dignified living.

“Naghatag tabang ko nila ug livelihood pinaagi sa tabang sa DOLE, kanang Tulong Alalay sa May Kapansanan sa DOLE na naka-capital sila’ (I was able to help them have a livelihood through DOLE’s ‘Tulong Alalay sa May Kapansanan’),”

 

Procuring Assistive Devices for PWDs

Additionally, Noy Toting has collaborated with other foundations like Tzu Chi Foundation in Zamboanga and Cebu to provide prosthetic limbs and other assistive devices to PWDs in Bohol.

“Sila ang nagtabang sa atong mga advocacy na mga PWDs na gusto pa sila makatrabaho, makalakaw sila. Tzu Chi na akong partner na every year nag-grant mi ug mga tiil sa mga PWDs na nagkinahanglan (They helped the PWDs who still want to work by making them walk again. Tzu Chi is my partner every year when we grant assistive devices to the PWDs who need them),”

 

New Homes, New Hopes

Noy Toting shares how happy he was when the housing village for PWDs in Panglao was finally built. Thanks to the help of the many LGUs in the province, as well as the Habitat for Humanity Foundation. He, along with the other members of the federation, were able to convince the National Housing Authority (NHA) to allocate P12M for the construction of 45 units in the said village

“Ang atong mga PWD kay naa na sad SSS, PhilHealth, naa an sad sila’y housing’ (Our PWDs now also have SSS, Philhealth, and housing),”

With all these changes, Noy Toting believes that, “PWDs are now empowered, they now have access to quality education… they are now recognized by the government. They are included in everything),” 

“Wala na’y nabiyaan’ (No one is left behind),” he said.

 

The Sightless Visionary’s Plans for the Future

When asked about his next steps, Noy Toting said that, “in time, our country would be barrier-free. There are no PWDs left behind, they are included in all of the government’s programs. That is one of my mission and vision,”

Aside from replicating what he did to Bohol to the entire country, he also aims to help the other underserved groups of Bohol – the mentally challenged. He reports that he has already been making the arrangements necessary to make this possible. 

 

Noy Toting on His Life’s Greatest Lessons

Noy Toting said that what he learned is the importance of prayer in our life and well-being.

Usa sa akong nakatunan sa kinabuhi nga kinahanglan mahinangpuon ta, mapailobon, survive ta sa atong mga ikatabang sa mga tawo diri sa mga Persons with disabilities’ (One of the lessons I learned from life is that we have to pray, to persevere, and to survive so that we can continue to give to the PWDs),”

He also shared his life mission on advocating the lives of Persons with disabilities, praying that all his efforts will continue to make a difference.

“One of my life missions is for my advocacy to continue; that what I am doing now will continue,”

“If there’s more that Persons with disabilities need then I will help, I will continue as long as I’m alive. No retreat, no surrender,”

“I will bring the voice of the Persons with disabilities. All the things I have done in Bohol, I want to replicate it to the whole Philippines as well,”

 

Standpoint: Sightless But Never Hopeless

Noy Toting have faced many adversities in the past, blindness being one that almost impaired him of hope.

Yet he remained steadfast in his efforts for the pursuit of betterment and change.

He may have lost his sight, but he was still able to make a huge impact because he speaks in a language that even the hearing impaired can hear and the visually impaired can see — kindness and compassion.

People like Noy Toting showed us that our impediments should never hinder us from having a vision.

His story is a testament that even in our bleakest moments; we can emerge as the light that illuminates the darkness.

We write our own story, we shape our own dreams, and for Noy Toting, we see through our very own vision. We may become sightless, but never hopeless. #IAMRAFI 

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IAMRAFI: Faith That Feeds

The Story of Community-Based Health Program of the Diocese of Ipil, Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Finalist, RAFI Triennial Awards

By Joy Emma Masapequeña,  Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 28, 2019

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The run of the RAFI Triennial Awards had a notable array of individuals and institutions who inspired the lives that they have touched. They had different advocacies, but all of them shared stories that were worth sharing.

One of the finalists under the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Category was the community-based health program of the Diocese of Ipil. 

This is the story of their journey as an organization — in using faith as an anchor of hope. Changing the lives of many people in Zamboanga, one community at a time.

 

The Faith That Started It All

It started with Fr. Federico O. Escaler, SJ, and his mission to establish a special ministry called the Community-Based Health Program or CBHP of the Diocese of Ipil. Together with the Medical Mission Sisters, they began training the pioneer Community Health Workers in 1981.

“They were the ones who trained us,” said Jocelyn O. Teves, Program Coordinator of CBHP. 

The pioneer volunteers were taught basic information on good hygiene practices or herbal medication to alleviate maladies, which they later passed on to the communities they were serving. Early on, their focus has always been on health.

Teves recalled that “as early as the 1980s we already had various health programs but the partnerships were very loose, it was in 2008 when everything was formalized,” 

CBHP’s initiatives were not only limited to health interventions. They recognized that aside from addressing the people’s physical well-being, they had moral obligations to fulfill as well. 

“Back in 2008, we have this memorandum of agreement with the provincial health were we will commit our volunteers to help. We agreed that we will help in case detection through education and advocacy and then referral of cases (to the government treatment facility),” Teves added. 

 

Strengthening Faith, Touching More Lives

In its early years, CBHP of the Diocese of Ipil focused on providing preventive and curative health care and reinforcements like feeding programs for malnourished children.

After more than three decades of service, they have expanded to providing livelihood projects designed to arm Community Health Workers with the right skill set to serve the people.

“Our intervention is to empower men and women in the communities through a series of training; we call it the basic health training…” Teves explained. 

“Once na marami na kaming na-train na mga volunteers coming from the communities, we also teach them how to engage with the government (Once we’ve trained a lot of volunteers coming from the communities, we also teach them how to engage with the government),”

To date, they have more than 1,000 volunteers — mostly mothers and youths from the church. Each of them acts as the ambassadors of change, influencing the government to act by doing it themselves first.

 

‘We are here to fill in the gap’

Teves mentioned that their presence is simply to influence the local health board and, “fill in the gap… and start a dialogue in whatever issues that the community might be facing now,”

She considers it important to stay organized and to keep everyone in the know, especially the government, to ensure that the problems they have identified are handled accordingly. They know that they cannot change the system of the government in a very short period of time. 

Now, they believe in the hopes that as long as they continue working on both the community side and the government side, they will succeed.

To her, it starts, “in the community –– to change the perspective of the people and on the other hand, these people can help to influence the system of the government according to their needs,”

 

The Progress Thus Far: Then and Now

Through their efforts, they have now organized a coalition of civil society organizations in Zamboanga, called the Zamboanga Sibugay Civil Society Organization for Good Governance. 

“When I say good governance, we are not engaged only to the health issue but to the entire problem of the government,” she emphasized.

Since they work with the government a lot, they needed to identify the solution to the problem of poor implementation of some projects that they had lined up. 

“During our meeting, one of their problems is the lack of manpower to implement their different programs and services,”

For instance, in their TB Prevention Health Program, medicines are available and ready, “but the problem is (the government) does not have the manpower to carry out these throughout until such a time that the patient will recover,”

As a response, CBHP of the Diocese of Ipil recruited more people into the cause and now have enough volunteers to augment and to help the government’s projects.

 

Challenges: How They Broke Through

Teves shared that working, as a Program Coordinator, for a non-profit organization is not as smooth sailing as some would think. There is a sense of fulfillment in knowing that you have given back to the community, however,

“We cannot disregard their other needs –– economic, sociopolitical, sociocultural,” she said.

It gets frustrating whenever they think that they have covered a lot, only to look back and realize that there is still a lot more ground to cover. 

There is also the factor of being cautious so as not to be taken advantage of.

“We have to collaborate with them but we have to be critical na hindi ka rin magamit (not to be used) for their personal interest so challenge din siya,”

 

On Sustaining Committed Volunteers

They were able to break through those hurdles with the help of their volunteers who are committed to the cause of their organization. When asked how they were able to sustain such dedicated volunteers, Teves said that “it’s also a miracle because when they work on the church, the blessing is also flowing both material and manpower,”

“We have to live our life according to the faith that we have,”

They believe that “whatever we give, it is heartily served without any expectations in return. That is very clear to us, even to our volunteers,”

The volunteers, to her, are simply guided by their faith and there is nothing much to do but to act on it. Otherwise, there would be little to no point in living.

 

On Faith and Lessons

The Community-Based Health Program of the Diocese of Ipil has always operated with faith at its core. With faith, they were able to bring in people to support what they believe in, as Teves puts it, “this is not my program, but of the whole community which is why each and every one of them is very important,”

“The situation of a community lies not within other people, but within the community members itself,”

Aside from faith, for a program to survive, its members should also have the commitment, “madali lang sabihin na ganyan, pero kung wala kang commitment, wala sad mahitabo (It is so easy to say, but with no commitment, nothing will ever happen),”

“You have to realize that this is part of your life. This is your way of witnessing your faith. So you want to transform the community but you also have to follow the process. 

Most importantly, as with anything else worth fighting for, “hindi siya magic (It is not magic), it takes time,”

 

Standpoint: Push Forward in Faith, Not Fear

The world oftentimes presents itself as a scary place. It takes an indestructible trust and an unwavering faith to push through every hurdle the world throws our way. CBHP of the Diocese of Ipil is an organization that serves as the anchor of hope among its beneficiaries, an anchor that reminds us to be strong amidst the challenges. 

They have been vigorous advocates of faith and of change, hopeful that in their ceaseless efforts to reach out and help people, the people would be able to help themselves too. What is even more amazing is they are able to do this regardless of who you are. 

We might not worship under one religion, but faith is a universal conception that binds all of us together. They never considered religion as a wall that kept them from extending their love to other people. They were never selfish nor prideful, for their eyes are set on one goal – faith that heals all. #IAMRAFI

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IAMRAFI: The Mission Remains, the Work Continues

The Story of Evelyn Nacario-Castro

Vice President, RAFI Governance & Linkages

Executive Director, RAFI Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center

Director, Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board – Research, Program and Organization Development – PMO

27 Years in Service (RAFI)

By Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 28, 2019

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On September 1992, Evelyn Nacario-Castro, or Nacc to those of us who personally know her, began working with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. as the Executive Director of the RAFI Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center (RAFI-EADSC).

Even before she took this leadership position in the foundation, Nacc was already involved in development work through her various engagements in policy and governance (as Philippine Congressional Fellow of the House of Representatives), project development and implementation (as Manager of the Central Cebu Hillyland Development Project) and research & development (as Researcher with the UP Marine Science Institute in Diliman and as Graduate Student at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand). 

Nacc finished her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology at the University of San Carlos, Magna Cum Laude, and completed her Master’s degree in Bangkok, Thailand under a scholarship of the Government of Australia. She was chosen as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow under the Fulbright Exchange Program of the U.S. Government and placed at Cornell University in New York.

This year, after 27 years of service with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc., Nacc is retiring as the Vice President for Governance and Linkages and Executive Director of RAFI-EADSC.

 

From the City Government of Cebu to RAFI-EADSC

A couple of years before joining RAFI, Nacc worked with the City Government of Cebu, leading the Central Cebu Hillyland Development Project – Central Visayas Regional Projects I (CCHDP – CVRP), under the Office of the Mayor. It was her work with CCHDP where her relationship with RAFI was initiated. She was introduced to then RAFI President, the late Roberto “Bobby” Aboitiz during a meeting, between the latter and Cebu City Mayor Tomas “Tommy” R. Osmeña, for RAFI and the City Government to work together on a rural development project. 

While working with CCHDP, she also learned more about RAFI and its various programs and got to know other RAFI officials like Mr. Leonardo “Nards” Chiu and other RAFI personnel. With this linkage, she heard about a new RAFI program – the Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center, and subsequently, expressed interest in working with the foundation. 

EADSC is a program established under a partnership between RAFI and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the purpose of transforming non-government organizations, private volunteer groups, and people’s organizations into a sector capable of exercising leadership in the social, economic and political enterprise of the communities. Over the years, the Center recognized that the equation for sustainable development should be ‘tri-partite’, thus requiring the engagement of the other realms like the government (for polity), the private sector (for the economy), and other players in civil society (for culture). 

The mandate and process of transformation necessitated that RAFI-EADSC assume multiple roles and functions and serve multiple sectors: (i) as a platform for discussion and interaction among different sectors — aiding policy and program development; (ii) as an enabler — training, equipping, and capacitating stakeholders in different themes and competencies; (iii) as a convenor — defining the development agenda, and building constituencies and coalitions; (iv) as researcher-mobilizer — providing information and bringing together partners and resources for shared objectives.

It was also timely during the early years of RAFI-EADSC that the Local Government Code was passed into law, which provides a framework for the government to engage civil society in local development.

“It is not enough to build the capacity of people, as there is a need to collaborate with others to address different issues,” Nacc said.

The Year 1994: Saving the Watersheds of Cebu, the Long-Term Source of Water

There was a lot of discussion in 1994 and 1995 in relation to the sustainability of Cebu’s water and its watersheds. It was at this time that RAFI through EADSC ─ with the strong leadership and involvement of Mrs. Marian Aboitiz, Mr. Nards Chiu, and Ms. Dominica Chua ─ in partnership with key convenors like Kaabag sa Sugbu and a few others, that the Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water (CUSW) was established. CUSW was born out of the need to protect the Central Cebu watersheds ─ the long-term source of water and habitat of indigenous flora and fauna ─ from commercial development. Nacc also headed CUSW as Executive Director in concurrent capacity with her responsibilities at RAFI-EADSC.

The birth of CUSW was triggered by plans of a major real estate developer to build a golf course, and residential subdivision in the Central Cebu watershed.

“That’s when the seed of CUSW was planted… it was the first-time for Cebu to have a coalition for sustainable development; we had groups from the public and the private sector involved in education and advocacy, watershed and protected area management, among others,” Nacc said.

After years of research, advocacy, discussions, and clamor from the community, the planned golf course and residential development were halted and the law (Republic Act) creating the Central Cebu Protected Landscape was passed by Congress.

Later it was found that some parts of the watershed area were not stable for land development and Nacc considers this “a blessing in disguise.”

“At that time, the concept of a watershed was not fully understood… some personalities were even telling concerned mountain residents not to worry (i.e., about the policy protecting the watersheds) as they said, “we could transfer the watershed”. You cannot transfer a watershed! It is a physical (natural) feature of an area! We all live in a watershed,” Nacc strongly reiterated.

Through this immense responsibility, Nacc was able to learn about conflict management, protected area management, coalition building, policy-making, advocacy and lobbying, and community relationship building that would eventually be helpful to her future obligation.

 

The Birth of a New Coalition: Coalition for Better Education

Calling Nacc from his Senate office in Manila, Senator Sergio Osmeña III asked her, “Are you interested in having the Central Cebu Protected Landscape law passed?” To which Nacc answered a firm, “Yes.”

Establishing the boundaries of the protected area is crucial, especially when it comes to enacting it into law. With the help of her staff, Annabelle Abalorio and others, and support from USC Water Resources Center, they reviewed the technical description of the area (checking the map vis-à-vis technical description outlined in the bill) which took them a while to finish.

With the concerted push from key stakeholders, the bill was enacted into law as Republic Act 9486: The Central Cebu Protected Landscape Act of 2007.

As research and policy development and advocacy formed part of the work of RAFI-EADSC and with her experience in coalition building, the late RAFI President Roberto “Bobby” Aboitiz, and now RAFI President Dominica B. Chua, said, “let’s do it (i.e., build a coalition) for education.”

Thus 2001 ushered the birth of the Coalition for Better Education (CBE), created with the goal of addressing the declining quality of education. CBE is an SEC-registered multi-sectoral and membership-based non-stock, non-profit organization committed to initiate and support education development interventions in the Philippines.

CBE was organized through the collaborative efforts of RAFI, the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), and the Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. Through a Future Search process designed and facilitated by RAFI-EADSC, key stakeholders from the academe, government, private sector and civil society were brought together to discuss issues and concerns, trends and milestones, as well as develop and implement a plan of action concerning the sector.

“The role of RAFI is to bring key stakeholders together to look at particular thematic concerns and facilitate the process where key stakeholders define the problem and identify and act on solutions,” Nacc said.

Both the Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water Foundation, Inc. (CUSWF) and the Coalition for Better Education (CBE) are still in operation today as independent organizations.

The Ford Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) took notice of the work that RAFI-EADSC has done in facilitating and strengthening these coalitions. Thus, CUSW was given a grant by the Ford Foundation in support of its projects and institutional development.

In the case of USAID, RAFI-EADSC was supported in the convening of another coalition focused on the Mactan Channel. With this support, the Mactan Channel Multi-Sectoral Management Council was formed.

“I see that in almost everything that affects the community, “big” or “small”, you need a champion. It can be a single individual or a core group of individuals committed to a vision, a common vision. Resources are needed ─ not just money, and most importantly, a reason and purpose to pursue,” Nacc said.

Making Waves and a New Partnership: The Birth of Mega Cebu

In 2011, a new opportunity to help promote the growth of Cebu came as a new responsibility to Nacc.

“With Mega Cebu, it was really Sir Bobby who initiated it. He said, ‘let’s do something about this,’ in the context of Cebu’s declining competitiveness and particularly in consideration of Cebu’s young population and the need for employment after graduation. He was concerned that if Cebu is unable to attract investments, there will be no jobs. And investments will only come if the area is attractive for investments,” Nacc added.

RAFI was designated as the convenor and operations group (RPOD PMO – Research, Program and Organization Development – Program Management Office) for Mega Cebu. This after having taken initial steps in working with select groups like the Cebu Business Club, Cebu Leads Foundation, and the chambers in convening small group discussions on traffic management and inter-local cooperation.

It was timely that in 2012, officials from the City of Yokohama and JICA visited Cebu. The City of Cebu hosted the delegation and introduced Mega Cebu/RAFI to the visitors. In a meeting with Ms. Dominica Chua and Nacc, the JICA and Yokohama officials were presented with the rationale and intent of Mega Cebu and its aspirations for sustainable urban development. At that time, Mega Cebu used Metro Vancouver and other metropolitan areas in North America as the reference for metropolitan cooperation and planning. During this meeting, the interest of the City of Yokohama and JICA was piqued, noting that they (Yokohama) share a similar rationale and beginnings.

Mega Cebu/RAFI then collaborated with JICA and the City of Yokohama in various processes, commencing with a study trip to Japan as part of the Cebu delegation. Subsequently, JICA and Yokohama supported Mega Cebu in the Visioning (Mega Cebu Vision 2050) and Strategy Development process and in the formulation of the Roadmap for Sustainable Urban Development.

The 2050 Vision and 3 + 1 Development Strategy as well as the Roadmap, are now being used as key reference in pursuing completed and current programs and projects on urban structure and land use, road and highway network development, traffic and transport management, water supply and disposal (including stormwater and flood control), septage and waste management, among others.

“In a way, you could see that RAFI is an important magnet – bringing key stakeholders together; serving like a fulcrum and hub, with all the links to different sectors; in mobilizing people and resources to address key issues — facilitating the provision of expertise and evidence; promoting understanding and cooperation through education and advocacy — all these are really crucial in moving the Mega Cebu aspiration forward,” Nacc said.

 

Building the Successor Generation

In 2005, Nacc recognized the need to start building the successor generation to carry on community and nation building, and in particular, continue the work of civil society – but there was a challenge.

“Working in an NGO is not the first option for fresh graduates,” Nacc said.

Having this in mind, Nacc and team developed a program targeting the youth ages 12 to 30 years old, engaging them in discussions about social issues and building their competence in critical and creative thinking, project development and implementation, leadership and citizenship, community development, among others.

This was the birth of the Young Minds Academy (YMA), aimed at capacitating young people through the 3Cs framework (building Competence, strengthening Character, and inspiring active Citizenship) of leadership and citizenship development.

With YMA as the basic structure of youth engagement, complementary programs such as the Pinoy-Dutch eXplore (PiDex; and later Multi-City Youth eXchange) and Young Minds on eXplore were developed and implemented in partnership with the City Government of Cebu, Vereniging Haarlemmermeer Cebu (VHC, now Vriendschapsband Haarlemmermeer Cebu) and the City of Kortrijkt where, on an annual basis, there was an opportunity for either or both the Dutch and Belgian youth delegates to visit and immerse in Cebu, and conversely, the Filipino (Cebuano) youth to visit and immerse in one or two of the sister-cities of Cebu (i.e., Haarlemmermeer, The Netherlands and Kortrijt, Belgium).

“There is no success if there is no successor, and the best way to prepare for that is to build young people to take on leadership for this kind of work,” Nacc said.

This program was an opportunity for RAFI to collaborate and further expand its network to more non-government organizations such as Gawad Kalinga, Batang Pinangga, FORGE, Habitat for Humanity, Cebu Technological University – Barili Campus and many more, for these delegates to be immersed.

Over the last four or five years, the RAFI-EADSC Team studied and looked carefully into how the framework and ‘curriculum’ of YMA can be integrated and mainstreamed in an academic setting. After studying various options, including exploring partnerships with schools, it was identified that the most strategic would be to embed and integrate YMA in the National Service Training Program (NSTP), in particular, the Civic Welfare and Training Service (CWTS) track. This would provide NSTP-CWTS a more programmatic and purposive approach in citizenship and leadership development among students.

Noting their readiness to adopt and integrate YMA in their NSTP-CWTS program, the University of San Jose – Recoletos and RAFI-EADSC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue this joint undertaking. After joint curriculum and module development, volunteer-facilitators’ training, and pilot program implementation, the maiden run of YMA-CWTS was completed recently, with 500 selected students finishing the 1-year course, with 50 projects developed and implemented.

Beyond program outputs, the YMA program – with its allied and complementary programs – has produced results at the outcome and impact levels, with YMA alumni and YMX or MYX/PiDeX program participants developing and implementing programs and projects on their own or in partnership with RAFI-EADSC or other organizations. This includes the “replication or adaptation of YMA and YMX/MYX” in community programs and Leadership Academies established by alumni in various universities, localities, organizations thereby expanding the reach to campus, community, and organization beneficiaries.

And for Nacc, these outcomes and impacts are the ripple effects, with youth citizenship development as focal entry points.

“I hope they will continue this, it will be to their and the community’s advantage if they do,” Nacc said.

 

Initiatives Supported by Passion, Volunteerism, and Hard Work

Something that Nacc is proud of is the fact that Mega Cebu is supported by people and organizations who want to contribute and want to see change; people who are helping without asking anything in return.

“In all of these, I see the role of RAFI-EADSC – providing a democratic space where social issues and concerns are discussed, and serving, at the same time, as a platform for solutions and action – aided by data and evidence, supported by experts and analysts, and fueled by passion and volunteerism,” Nacc said.

The Vice President for Governance & Linkages also highlights the importance of the people behind Mega Cebu.

“There is a need for a core group to push for particular advocacies, ‘kay kung wala mu-tutok ana, (if nobody will focus on that), those issues and critical agenda that people consider as really important, dili na siya matagaan ug attention (it will not be given any attention),” 

“The fuel of Mega Cebu is really the people behind it and those who support it – those who just want to make a difference, those who want to see change, so they contribute their time, talent, resources in making a difference. We are not paying people – those who work in the different committees and technical working groups – they are volunteers who support Mega Cebu,” she added.

Seeing the importance of engaging the grassroots in taking action, one of the initiatives of Mega Cebu is the organization, strengthening, and institutionalization of the “Purok” System.

In partnership with Metro Cebu LGUs, there are now 2,120 “puroks” in 11 LGUs reaching an estimated 424,000 residents. The “purok” is the smallest unit of neighborhood organizing and has become the launch pad for community action with regards to waste management, livelihood development, vegetable gardening, beautification and cleanliness, health and sanitation, among others.

“We saw the importance of the “purok” because if we want the vision to be owned by the community we have to go to the grassroots. Now, many local leaders are seeing the value of organizing and institutionalizing the “puroks”, because it is an effective way of engaging their constituents,” she said.

Prior to promoting the Purok System, Mega Cebu reached out to the youth, noting that this sector comprises about 24% of the population and the fact that Mega Cebu’s vision and roadmap is future-oriented. Guided by the saying that, “the best way to predict the future, is to create it”, Mega Cebu organized Club Mega – a youth-focused platform intended to promote the vision and engage young people in working towards the same.

“With young people — you catch them at a certain point, when they are in school or early on in their careers, and what we would like to happen is that at this point of convergence with them, we are able to sow a seed that they could then nurture as they grow up,” she added.

 

Evelyn and Her 27 Years of ‘Beyond Work’

She considers her job with RAFI as something that is beyond work. In fact, Nacc said that it has been and will continue to be a vocation: it is, to her, a calling and life’s work where one’s energies, talents, and abilities are utilized and dedicated to serving and building people and communities.

“I didn’t realize that I have been with RAFI for the past 27 years, roughly half of my golden and productive years of life. I actually did not bother to count and it seemed as if I have been here only yesterday… as each day is a new day of learning, growing, and extending,” Nacc said.

“Learning, growing and extending oneself through the challenges, measures, and interventions for the self, the team, the organization, the community and society at large,” she added.

Meaningful. A word that she said best describes and sums her 27 years in RAFI.

She also acknowledged the people who have been part of her career, a career that she considers truly significant as it gave her fulfillment, meaning, and purpose. In a message she gave during her recognition for her 25 years of service, she recognized and thanked the following:

“First is a team of leaders and colleagues who share the same passion for service, the Quest for excellence, and the pursuit of a vision of ‘Touching People and Shaping the  Future’;

Second is the circle of partners who share the same thirst for change, of changing the biophysical, socioeconomic, politico-cultural-spiritual landscape of living, playing, working, investing;

Third is a network of linkages who share the same mission of serving others, of making  People’s lives better.”

 

She summed up her life mission by sharing the following:

• Imparting the 3 Cs (Character, Competence, Citizenship) and 3 Hs (Head, Heart, and Hands) for God and others

• Sharing the good news: John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”).

 

A Privilege: On Being RAFInian

“To be a RAFInian is a privilege because of the institutional capital, being a RAFInian opens avenues for influence, an influence that is directed, of course, in making our society and communities better,” Nacc said.

 “A RAFInian is a purpose-driven, service-oriented, and collaborative social activist; we carry with us who we are,” she added.

Nacc also said that it is hard to pinpoint and isolate one single example or experience, as everything is meaningful — the process, programs, people, platforms. 

To her, working with the foundation is “beyond products”, what is most meaningful in these engagements are: (i) the purpose and the essence; (ii) the process of creation and co-creation; (iii) the results, outcome, impact; and (iv) the relationships that you build over time.

“The kind of work that we do is very strategic; you are not only able to influence different sectors, but you are involved in helping lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow,”

Nacc also shared that with research showing that many of the “new” generation of employees, or the millennials, move from one job to another in a period of only one (1) to three (3) years; it may be opportune to highlight the value of loyalty — of serving the organization for a longer period of time.

She also said that this loyalty, moreover, can be cultivated and strengthened as we bring “purpose and meaning” front and center — noting that people are more inclined to work for a cause, a purpose.

 

On Her Biggest Career and Life Motivation

Guided by her strong faith in God, Nacc shared that “the reason I am here is that I saw it was aligned with what I wanted, I want to serve God by serving mankind, serving humanity,”

She shared that “the convergence of my life goals: that of serving God by serving humanity — with that of RAFI’s vision and mission of elevating lives — is my motivation,”

“This alignment of meaning and purpose with that of “work” is a continuing source of inspiration and energy. It is beyond work, it is an act and expression of worship,”

“Someone said that the “purpose of life is to give it away” and that the “puzzle of life is to find one’s gift” — my biggest career and life motivation, hence is to somehow “live my life using God’s gifts for others,” she added.

 

More Challenges, More Solutions

Diversity can be an asset; it could also be a source of misunderstanding and conflict.

“It’s both a joy – working with people coming from different sectors and with different perspectives – but it is also where you see that when people are too preoccupied with their own views and interests, then it could be where conflict happens,” Nacc said.

“And because of these varying views, this is where the tension arises; the challenge is how do you bridge conflicting views and address potential tension or misunderstanding, and this is where we at RAFI-EADSC try to build that bridge,”

“We reach out to key stakeholders to provide the platform where differing perspectives are discussed – with the hope that by providing that platform, a common ground is identified and becomes the impetus to transcend those differences and move towards a shared solution and collective action,” she said.

 

On Her Greatest Lesson

For Nacc, ‘it takes a community to bring lasting change and significant impact.’

“We build communities by building people and relationships, cultivating partnerships and friendships towards shared goals,”

Nacc also mentioned an excerpt of the poem attributed to Bishop Oscar Romero, ‘Prophets of a Future Not Our Own’:

“We cannot do everything,

and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something,

and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,

a step along the way,

an opportunity for

the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,

but that is the difference between the

master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders;

ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.”

 

She added that “there is an enabling that comes from God, but there must be a recognition that we cannot do everything on our own,”

 

Nacc on Life Fulfilment, Most Difficult Question Asked to Her

When asked about her life fulfillment, this is what Nacc had to say.

“Perhaps no one reaches a level of ‘fulfillment,’ there is no end point,”

“How do I define fulfillment? Is it when I see my kids finish school and practice their respective professions? Maybe, but that’s only a part of it, right?”

“Is it to see that what we planned is accomplished? To some extent, yes.”

“I view fulfillment as a process, and there are varying aspects,”

She explained her thoughts through a metaphor of a bamboo plant, where each bamboo stem has its own level of ‘content,’ each stem representing a different aspect of her life. Some stems are overflowing, some still wanting, and some are just filled with the right amount.

And when asked on the most difficult question ever asked to her, Nacc paused and has this to say:

“Maybe it’s not so much about ‘having the difficulty to answer,’ but I think it’s more of when people doubt your intention or sincerity — when in fact wala kang tinatago (you are not hiding anything), what you see is what you get,” Nacc said. (Nacc shared later that this ‘doubting’ came to fore in the early part of organizing Mega Cebu and other coalitions as RAFI is then associated with the possible corporate interest of the Aboitiz Company).

 

On Happiness, People That Matters

“For me, happiness is when other people are happy,”

“And on the spiritual side, happiness for me is when I know my friends, family, colleagues and other contacts are reconciled with God and are assured of life eternal,”

In her message during the 51st Founders Day, Nacc said that “As I mark my 25 years in RAFI, I look back with joy and gratitude to all the blessings I received from God through the leaders, colleagues, and partners (past and present) of the Foundation. I thank God for the vision, the heart, and the passion of our founders and leaders: 

• Don Ramon and Don Eddie — they laid the path for us, laying the stones and building the mainstay upon which we are now standing on.

• Sir Bobby, his life, and model of leadership — he encouraged me to be always on the lookout for opportunities of helping others. I am and will always be his student at the University of Magis and Primus Inter Pares. His life is an inspiration, his memory – a continuing motivation.

• Sir Jon, Sir Mikel, Ma’am Marian, Ma’am Domi, Atty. Go, Fr. Javier and the other members of the Board, the Aboitiz family, Amaya, and the 5th generation — you are my compass and pillars of support. I am and will always be ready to serve and help in bringing about happy and livable communities.

• I also thank God for colleagues, teammates, and partners of RAFI (my apologies, I will not be naming each one), together, we have and are contributing to our shared aspiration of promoting the well-being of people, planet, and society as a whole. 

You all have and are providing the inspiration, environment, and support in making my life’s work and journey in RAFI truly meaningful.

And not to forget, I thank God for my family: my husband (Manny), my three kids (Vashti, Mikee, and Keza), my mother and siblings and our big clan. I thank them for their understanding and support for the work that we do and the mission that we have placed upon ourselves.

Finally, to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who first loved us, unto Him, be all glory, honor, and praise.”

 

Standpoint: The Mission Remains, the Work Continues

Each one of us has influence; an influence that can create a ripple effect to change an entire community, or better, an entire province or region — and that is exactly what Evelyn Nacario-Castro did and continues to do.

With over 30 years of dedicated service to the community, this woman of grit, passion, and faith has proven herself that one could make a difference in the lives of others: from helping protect Cebu’s watersheds, to equipping young people with the 3Cs, to working with others in building coalitions for water, education, and sustainable urban development, to bringing support and partnering with experts and resource institutions in the formulation of master plans that envision a Wholesome, Advanced, Vibrant, Equitable and Sustainable Cebu in the year 2050.

The life and career of Evelyn, one that is dedicated to public service, can be a good reminder to use one’s influence in community and nation building — an inspiring feat, but one that may be difficult to match.

With your retirement soon, may you remain steadfast in making waves — not only in the province of Cebu — and continue the Foundation’s legacy of ‘touching people, shaping the future.’

You may be leaving a big shoe to fill, but one thing is for sure, your steps would definitely be worth following. Daghang salamat, Ms. Nacc! #IAMRAFI

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IAMRAFI: A Springboard for Women’s Voices

The Story of Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc., Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Finalist, RAFI Triennial Awards

By Emma Masapequeña,  Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 15, 2019

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The Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. has been tirelessly initiating projects for the women of Negros Oriental since 2007. 

All of these efforts have earned them a well-deserved nomination and became one of the finalists of the last run of the RAFI Triennial Awards, under the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Category last August 31, 2018. 

This is the story of how an organization became a powerhouse of change, making waves in empowering the women in the islands of Negros Oriental. 

 

‘Women’s Rights as Human Rights’ 

They say that the greatest inventions were made out of a need. 

Similarly, the story of the birth of Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. as an organization came out of a need for a women’s group in the province focusing on empowerment of rural women. 

Nancy Estolloso, the Executive Director of the organization, recalled that they did not have women’s organization in their province at all, saying that, “in rural areas, there’s nothing at all. There are organizations like micro-finance, but there was no organization talking about women’s rights as human rights,” 

The Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. saw a pattern of domestic violence in rural households; some cases were reported, but most were not. Women would rather suffer in silence than report abuses and violence. 

“They don’t recognize it as [a form of] violence. Mura’g normal lang nga you are violated (it seems normal for them that you are violated),” she said. 

 

Powerful Intentions: We Need to Do Something 

For Nancy, the culture of violence is not a distinct Filipino trait. 

“Before, we even had babaylan(s) — women as community leaders; these women take on the highest leadership position and everyone in the community respects them,” she stated. 

Through the years, however, western influences changed our culture and the equitable social roles and relationship between Filipino men and women. 

And in order to do this, both men and women have to work together to break the cycle.  

The women needed to be aware of their rights, not just merely accept their situation but to fight for a better life free from violence, and Nancy emulates this perfectly when she said, “we need women who are aware of their rights and are not afraid to act on it,” 

For Nancy, men are doers and victims at the same time; they are victims in a sense that the culture imposed on them, the ‘macho image’; serves as model of a Filipino man. 

This is where changing their mindset comes in. As of date, Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. have been holding orientations and awareness raisings that aims to encourage men to advocate protection against violence towards women.  

 

Quick Response Team, First Responders Against Violence 

The Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. is working in the three municipalities of Mabinay, Jimalalud, and Bindoy, of which they have 17 barangay associations out of 83 barangays.  

Changing people’s mindsets cannot be achieved merely through orientations and Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. made sure that the women in these areas know that there is a way to end the violence.  

“It starts with the women themselves,” said Nancy.  

The Quick Response Team (QRT) was established as a violence against women (VAW) mechanism in very remote sitios. It is a first line VAW responder at the barangay level. 

Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. helped the operationalization of VAW, and at the municipal level, Tuburan complemented the LGU in establishing a Women and Children Protection Unit (WCPU) and the use of a gender sensitive and child-friendly protocol for intervention on VAW and sexually abused children. 

“We have created protocols on what to do, and where to bring the violated women and children in these situations,” she added. 

 

A Safe House for Survivors 

They noticed that before, women who reported domestic abuse were passed around from one shelter to another; no concrete system probed them out of the trauma. Learning about this, Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. have decided to revise the cycle. 

“Before, ipasa-pasa pa na, but now we have a dedicated Crisis Center (Before they were just passed around, but now we have a dedicated Crisis Center),” 

This new Women and Children Crisis Center and Protection Unit is equipped with forensic doctors, police officers, and social workers that work closely with women and children that were victims of violence. It now serves as a safe house for all the violence against women and children (VAWC) survivors.  

The MDT is like a one-stop shop intervention for abused women and children, making sure that they are not exposed to harsher environment through separate and or redundant interviews by some government agencies. 

The entire VAW referral system is the QRT, the VAW desk and WCPU (MDT). 

This was important for Nancy saying, “Kay kung di man gud nimo i-institutionalize, kung mailisan ang mayor e di mawala nasad ang system that we worked for (If the administration changes, then the system that we worked hard for will be gone if we don’t institutionalize it),” 

 

Preserving Nature, Enriching Livelihood  

One of the major projects that their organization have accomplished thus far are the water system projects that they have initiated in their beneficiary or collaborating municipalities. 

Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. helped build and develop pocket rainforests, consisting mainly of indigenous trees, in the communities, “so the women would now have sources of water to support their livelihood in farming,” 

For many years, lack of access to water has been a problem for the remote barangays of Mansehe, Bindoy; Old Namangka, Mabinay; Tamao and Aglahug, Jimalalug. However, with the pocket rainforests, it is now easier for them to fetch water, in turn making their livelihoods better.  

 

Challenges Encountered, Resolutions 

Any story worth sharing would not be without its fair share of trials and tribulations. The Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc., for example, experienced hindrances in the beginning since, as to their experience, working with local government units (LGUs) was not always as smooth as they wanted it to be.  

“Para nila, nakiki-alam ta (they think that we are interfering with their system),” she said, which made it hard for them to cooperate.  

Nancy remembered a time when some of the barangay captains even had their workers locked up temporarily for being mistaken as propagandists. Instances like these did not stop them.  

“If you persevere in your work, then they realize nga dili jud kompleto (If you persevere in your work, then they realize that it’s really not complete),” 

The second challenge comes with staff retention. As Nancy reflected, “when you work in an NGO, ‘di man na pariha sa mga big corporations na we are highly paid (working in an NGO is really not the same as working in big corporations wherein you are highly paid),” 

“Half of it is love,” she added. 

In an effort to preserve their work, they had to tap young people to pass on their commitments –– young people who could continue what they have started.  

“We did this by partnering with some department(s) of Silliman University,” 

She also mentioned funding as a challenge. They have funding partners in Germany but according to Nancy, “when you try to do so much with so little, you can only go as far as your resources will take you,” 

She is, however optimistic, saying, “there will always be a way,” 

 

Unspoken Reality: Incest 

In this day and age, more and more women are embracing their freedom from violence by being proactive advocates of their rights. 

However, for Nancy, “the fight for women’s rights never stop especially in a country where it is still prevalent,” 

A story reported in the newspapers of an incest case in Palawan… wherein the father(s) would abuse their teenage daughters emotionally, physically, and sexually; the Palawan case mirrors the state of things in rural communities in the country. 

“It’s a concept of ‘property’ man gud sa Papa nga, “ako man ning anak, ako ning property” (Fathers think that their daughters are their ‘property’ so they think can do ‘anything’ to them),” Nancy shared. 

“–– It happens and will still happen if we don’t do anything about it,” 

Abuse is also another topic she delved into since there is a notion that abuse is only physical, but it goes way beyond that. 

Abuse, as she puts it, happens when your rights are violated –– when you are stripped off the freedom to think and express, when you feel like you have lost a voice, and when you are made to think that you are less than a human. 

 

On Being a Woman, the Paradigm Shift 

Ever since the Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. has been established, the women in the rural areas of Negros Oriental were given roles they never had before. 

The more active they were, the more they felt the impact of what they were doing. Eventually, the more empowered they became. 

When asked the proverbial question, ‘what is a woman?’ here is what Nancy has to say. 

“A woman is a person… a person with rights,”  

“It’s not enough to have just a livelihood, but the woman should be empowered enough to make her own decision on what kind of livelihood she wants,” Nancy added. 

For Nancy, the best part about her job is helping women find their own voice. She also shared that the best moment comes whenever there is a story of women whose life was changed for the better. 

“There was a time when a woman farmer tells me that before they have no voice, but now they can stand up for themselves and recognize that the abuse needs to stop,” Nancy shared. 

“To me it’s very touching kay (because) you can change the life of a single woman. Every story of a woman is important. Every single woman is important,” 

Since then, the women have experienced a paradigm shift –– women have rights too.  

“Equality is giving the same amount, but equity is giving what is right for you,” 

“For us, it is about equity –– we can do what the man can do, what the man enjoys. These human rights, women should enjoy as well,” Nancy happily shared. 

 

The Next Chapter: Men Against Violence 

The Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc.’s journey in empowering women throughout the province of Negros Oriental continues, and there is still a lot of chapters left unturned in their book.  

And as for growth, Nancy envisions the organization to “organize a province-wide women’s organization and province-wide men’s organization –– Men Against Violence,” 

The organization also aims to make their referral system more ‘functional and sustainable’ for “it is very important that there’s a mechanism that the women can go to,” 

Empowering women all over the world might take years and years. As Nancy said, “It’s a long process,” 

 

Standpoint: Women, the Backbone of Society 

The purpose of advocating the rights of women is not about the battle of the sexes; it is never about man versus woman, or about who is more dominant or who could do things better, but instead, it is about having equal rights and equal opportunities for both sexes –– making it the norm in a society that thinks otherwise. 

At the end of the day, the fight for the rights of women might take a long way, but with the help of women like Nancy Estolloso; a woman of grit and character, the fight in advocating women’s rights as human rights may be a lot easier for she is not alone, she has collectively built an entire army of men and women who shares the same vision of a better world; free from abuse and violence –– ready to take on new challenges to protect the family and children.  

Outstanding institutions like the Tuburan for Rural Women Empowerment and Development, Inc. will remain tireless in their undying efforts for they are back with a purpose: helping women help themselves, women who are the backbone of society. #IAMRAFI

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IAMRAFI: Delivering Love,

Reviving Hope

The Story of Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc., Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Category Finalist, RAFI Triennial Awards

By Emma Masapequeña,  Marco Paulo Trajano Deligero | March 15, 2019

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The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) pays tribute to all outstanding institutions in the Visayas and Mindanao that have initiated numerous projects that changed not only the communities they have served but the people they have worked with as well.

This is the story of the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc., an organization which emerged out of its founders’ dedication towards building a better community — one that focuses on the nutrition, education, and livelihood of all its beneficiaries; and their journey to becoming one of the finalists of the last run of the RAFI Triennial Awards, under the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution Category last August 31, 2018.

 

NVC Foundation’s First Nine Years: Nutrition, Education, and Livelihood

The Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc., like most success stories, started with humble beginnings.

According to the NVC Founder & President, Millie L. Kilayko, or Millie to her friends and to those who know her well, all they intended to be was to be a foundation that would be of service to their own community. 

Founded in August of 2010, Millie shared that NVC started with the simple belief that, “if a person does little things in his neighborhood, he can help contribute to nation-building,”

Currently, NVC has three focus areas: Nutrition, Education, and Livelihood. The projects in each of these focus areas, more specifically, the Mingo Project have garnered an award for innovation by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

These projects were made possible by the partnerships NVC has forged with several Manila-based organizations, and with its loyal supporters throughout the country.

 

The Mingo Meals: Inspired by a Nine-Year-Old Kindergartener

Their engagement in nutrition programs started when Millie went on the field in one of their Educational campaigns and there saw a nine-year-old boy. 

“I saw a nine-year-old boy in Kindergarten. He was taller than the other kids. So, I asked the teacher ‘why is this nine-year-old boy in kindergarten?’” Millie shared.

The teacher then told her that it was the boy’s first-time in school since the parents could not afford to send him to one. Millie added that the boy has seven other siblings and the parents can only afford to feed one child a day with a good meal.

Millie shared that that exact moment made her realize, ‘that no matter how many classrooms turn-over if a child goes to school hungry, education will not be of help,’

That is when Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc. began collaborating with the Department of Science and Technology, Food, Nutrition, and Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) on making a formula-based complementary food for infants and toddlers.

This partnership gave way to the manufacturing of the Mingo Meals, a nutritious instant complementary food for children. The Mingo meal pack is named after its ingredients consists of rice, mongo, and Moringa oleifera (malunggay). 

This innovative campaign reached even the most remote areas of the country.

“That’s just how we grew… answering calls,” Millie shared.

 

Reaching More Remote Areas in the Philippines

Millie Kilayko shared that one day; she read an online article that talked about children in the mountainous areas of Bukidnon who only eat one piece of cassava a day, and this prompt her and the NVC Foundation to look for these kids. 

It took their team almost six months to locate the mountainous area featured in the online article; Millie shared that getting to the area also posed numerous challenges for them, as they had to travel either by horse or by habal-habal just to reach their destination.

All the hardships were worth it in the end, as Millie put it,

“We fed more than a thousand kids in Bukidnon and that’s how we grew,” 

Their drive to provide nutrition to more of the underserved children did not cease after one successful feeding operation. NVC has been very consistent in the way they implement their advocacy of reviving hope to those who have lost it.

As more in the feeding operations, after hearing about a child who died of malnutrition, they have organized one in Zamboanga del Sur where they quickly responded to the call and answered by delivering not only Mingo Meals, but also the love and care that came with it.

 

From the Bacolod Neighborhood to the Whole Philippines

Even though NVC is Bacolod-based, their campaigns have touched many areas in the Philippines.

And when asked as to how the expansion came about, Millie shared that it was merely by accident and not by design saying “wherever kids are hungry, we just… we cannot afford to let that story go on,”

NVC respond to those who reach out to them. Such was the case of the doctor from a barrio in Dinagat Island who wrote them a letter.

In the letter, the doctor detailed how high the malnutrition rate in the island was. In response, NVC scouted for donors to be able to conduct feeding operations in the area. 

A few months after, the doctor sent them a letter where reporting that, after feeding the kids with Mingo for six months, [there was] a very big change in the children in terms of nutrition. The rate of malnutrition has decreased on a big scale.

Signs of malnutrition include rough skin, falling hair, and shrunken muscles, but with NVC’s Mingo Meals, the children have significantly transformed into beaming and healthy individuals.

 

LoveBag: School Supplies That Came From the Heart

The NVC Foundation is fortunate to be run by people who pay close attention to what is going on around them. While being stationed in Bukidnon, a field officer sent to the NVC head office a photo of a young student named Carl Gonzales. 

“The child was writing with a third of a pencil… the father had to cut up the pencil into three because they can afford to buy only one pencil for the three children,” Millie shared.

While most couples give flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, NVC Foundation, Inc. did something even better and launched the LoveBag Project in 2017.

The photo struck a chord in their hearts and inspired them to provide school supplies to more than 4,000 bags to children like Carl.

As of January 31, 2019, NVC Foundation, Inc. has provided 4,365 LoveBags to schoolchildren.

 

‘Linking Donors to Dreams and Dreams to Donors’

NVC credits the success of the projects that they have carried out throughout the years to the donors who were gracious enough to share what they have.

To NVC, “linking donors to dreams, and dreams to donors,” best describes their core principle. 

They identify themselves as the avenue who helps people (donors) to give back to the community. In return, they get gratitude and a sense of purpose, or simply — the social return of investment.  

“[So] we have to make sure that every donor, whether he donates only one backpack, or he donates just one pencil, he gets a report,” Millie sharing the importance of transparency to donors in a making change to the people.

 

The Peter Project: A Fisherman’s Redemption

The projects of NVC Foundation, Inc. prove that if you teach a man how to fish, you feed him forever. NVC’s goal is not to merely give others the things that they need, but to provide them with the means to help themselves as well — NVC provides sustainable solutions so that their beneficiaries could stand on their own feet.

In early 2013, NVC launched the Peter Project and started gathering fishermen who needed a boat.

The Peter Project is one among their many livelihood projects instigated to provide motorized fishing boats to fishermen who have no boats of their own, and to fishermen who have lost their boats to disasters.

Amidst the long line of sunburnt fishermen was this scrawny little boy who, as Millie remembered, looked a little lost but was determined nonetheless.

“I saw there was this little boy who was standing in line and I said, ‘What are you doing here?’”

The boy replied that he was standing in line for his father because if he does not, his father might lose his chance to have a boat.

Millie asked the boy to take her to their home where she saw the condition that the family is into.

“The boy had to prepare meals for the siblings (because his mother was not around)… he had just rice for the meal and nothing else, [and] just a few pieces of salt, they ate with their hands, they drank water from tin cans from somebody else’s trash,” Millie shared.

The boy’s father, which she later learned was named Fermi, became the first beneficiary of Peter Project.

As of January 31, 2019, NVC has touched the lives of 4,948 fisherfolk who have received motorized Peter Project fishing boats.

 

Reviving Hope After the Super Typhoon Yolanda

When super typhoon Yolanda, with an international name ‘Haiyan’, hit the Visayas last November 8, 2013, one of those who was truly affected by the disastrous calamity were the fishermen who depended on their boats for a living.

“When Typhoon Yolanda came, we first started with feeding [program] but we felt that we had to do something for the people who lost their livelihood. So we launched the Peter Project for the fishermen who lost their boats to the typhoon,”

These are fishermen from the Visayas, Biliran, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Northern Cebu, Panay, and Samar.

NVC quickly responded by using social media as a platform to gather donors all over the world. 

“In less than a day, we were receiving donations from all over the world… then it came to a point that we were already receiving donations of about 800 boats,”

 

More Challenges and More Solutions

However, this worried Millie since making wooden boats in such large numbers would mean that many trees would have to be cut down.

Her worries were resolved when one volunteer from Manila donated fiberglass boats. Though it cost Php 5,000.00 more than the wooden boats, they were willing to pay the extra if it meant conserving trees in the process.

Fearing that the fiberglass boats were much more fragile than their wooden counterparts were, the fishermen were reluctant at first to accept the said boats.

“Kasi natakot sila, kasi akala nila baka madaling masira, mabasag (The fishermen were afraid that the fiberglass boats break easily),” Millie shared.

That is why they took the fishermen to the fiberglass boat factory in Bacolod where they showed the production process of the boats that will be distributed to them. From there they saw that the fiberglass boats are strong and were not as bad as they imagined. 

 

When the Beneficiaries Begun to Be Givers Themselves

To Millie, the biggest joy was not the fact that they were able to deliver 4,948 boats but more of the attitude of giving that they have instilled into their stakeholders and beneficiaries. 

In April 2015, shortly after the earthquake in Nepal, someone from the organization suggested to talk to the fisherman about what happened, for them to realize that they are not alone in their disasters, and so we did.

Millie also shared that one time when they were talking to the fishermen, one fisherman who just lost his wife and infant child to the typhoon stood up and he picked Php 20.00 from his pocket and put it in a bottle, and said, “this is my donation for people in Nepal,”

The donations from all the fishermen summed to a total of Php 100,000.00.

And when asked, Millie said that their indicator for organizational growth is not about the numbers.

“It’s that our beneficiaries have begun to be givers themselves,” Millie proudly shared.

When Millie first met Fermi, the first beneficiary of the Peter Project, she asked him if he had any dreams, to which Fermi answered, “I have no dreams,”

That left Millie with one conclusion, “…when a man is as poor as Fermi was, a man ceases to be a human being, he only lives to eat and sleep and eat and sleep, and not have any dreams,”

But when he received a boat, everything changes in his life.

“His first harvest proceeds went to the church, his second he gave to the school. So he became a giver himself…” Millie proudly shared.

 

The Biggest Challenge: Financial and Physical

Though the foundation has achieved so much, it was not without many hardships. The biggest challenge for them was getting enough funding to support their many pursuits.

Another challenge was the physical hindrances they have to go through to get to the areas where they are conducting their programs.

“To get to the place where those kids are, we had to ride a habal-habal… I was just thinking in my mind are the kids on the other end of the mountain, how they do it,”

Despite these challenges, Millie remains hopeful about the future.

“We don’t look at it really like a real challenge; it’s really the path to growth,”

 

The Next Step for the NVC Foundation, Inc.

The NVC Foundation, Inc. have accomplished numerous milestones in their almost ten years of service — from being a foundation that helps nearby communities, their advocacy has now spread almost in the entire country.

When asked what the next step is for the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc., Millie shared, ‘to support of the government’s program for the first 1,000 days of a child,’

NVC is planning to create a project that aims to develop programs that will allow the organization to be able to help the mothers and their newborn children in the first 1,000 days after birth — the most important days for a newborn child.

They have identified exclusive breastfeeding as one of the ways to ensure proper growth and nutrition. 

“Secondly, what we would like to do is be able to feed more kids all over [the country],”

 

Standpoint: Sparking Joy, More Than the Numbers

All the greatest people in the world have the ability to inspire novelty, deliver love, and revive hope; on a larger scale. Sometimes, however, it takes not one individual but a whole institution to help build a nation

They remain committed to their mission to reduce hunger in the country, provide sustainable livelihood to those in need, and to provide the tools for young learners to have a better education.

At the end of the day, happiness for Millie is, “seeing a child smile after a child is out of hunger,”

As of January 31, 2019, NVC has served a total of 8,064,650 Mingo Meals to children needing nutritional support.

The significance of Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc., lies undeniably in its ability to deliver love, and revive hope.

As one of the donors put it, “because you’ve shown us love, we would like to give love as well,”

All of the successes of the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, Inc., began from the vision of a woman named Millie Kilayko and her friends who share the same dream — an example of Negrenses whose values and dedication exceeds the barriers of poverty, malnourishment, and well-being of children, which as a result, eventually transforms beneficiaries into givers themselves; and now, they envision a better and healthier Philippines. #IAMRAFI

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The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) opens its doors to CNN Philippines for a sit-down interview with the wife of the late RAFI President, Roberto ‘Bobby’ Aboitiz, and the RAFI board member, Mrs. Marian Aboitiz, at the Azotea of the Casa Gorordo Museum, last March 1, 2019.

CNN Philippines anchor, producer, and writer, Mitzi Borromeo covers current and different RAFI initiatives under its different focus areas of Biodiversity Conservation, Leadership & Citizenship, Culture & Heritage, Education Development, and Micro-finance & Entrepreneurship, 

 

‘Lifestyle and History’

Throughout the interview, the rich history and milestones of the Casa Gorordo Museum of the Culture & Heritage Unit of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI-CHU) was also discussed by Mrs. Marian Aboitiz citing the restoration of the museum, motivated by Don Ramon and Eduardo Aboitiz’ ‘desire to preserve a material aspect of Cebu’s rich history.’

“The house (Casa Gorordo Museum) became a symbol that boasts program outside of the city,” Mrs. Aboitiz said.

She also described the house as an establishment that “showcases a lifestyle at a certain point of history.”

 

A Night of Heritage

Florencio Moreno, the curator of the Casa Gorordo Museum, was also asked about the other RAFI-CHU activities; highlighted among these is the Gabii sa Kabilin or the Night of Heritage.

Moreno described the event as an avenue for people to “enjoy… pick up something new,” 

“We want the experience to be transformational,” he stated.

According to Moreno, working for the RAFI-CHU is something he treasures for there is always an opportunity to grow. He also feels that the significance of RAFI’s work lies in its efforts to get the public interested in history and help preserve the culture and heritage of their city.

 

Mitzi Borromeo on RAFI

In a quick interview with Mitzi Borromeo, she shared that her job requires her to think of interesting, fascinating, and inspiring stories, where she revealed that she found RAFI’s advocacies to be exactly what she was looking for.

“I’ve been following RAFI’s work and it’s so important that we look at nation-building especially in times like this,” Borromeo said.

She also emphasized on the importance of starting change within the community, which RAFI has done for more than fifty years.

When asked which aspect of RAFI they (CNN Philippines) are mostly interested in, Borromeo said they were interested in all aspects of RAFI, but since the time is so limited, they can only focus on the initiatives of the Casa Gorordo Museum.

The story feature is expected to air sometime in April only on CNN Philippines.

The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) is a non-stock, non-profit organization with the strategic goal of creating happy and livable communities with high levels of well-being through a comprehensive approach that champions best practices in community development.

The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials from Danao City commit to the iQuest Intensive program values and ideals held at the Kool Adventure Camp of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI-KAC), Center for Leaders at Cansomoroy, Balamban, Cebu. 

Participated by around 43 SK officials from different barangays of Danao City last February 18 to 20, 2019, the activities include participants creating personal mission statement, goal setting and planning, trust series and Challenge Ropes Courses (CRC).

“As alumni of RAFI-KAC, we really didn’t regret that we trained here. We learned a lot, especially trusting myself and the team through the challenges we have experienced,” said Riel “Tigreal” Valdez, SK Treasurer from Brgy. Cahumayan, Danao. 

Valdez also shared the significance of teamwork, which in the instance of being an SK leader, if one sets an objective for his barangay, giving up amid challenges is not an option because he have his team who is willing to help. For him, trust is the most important learning he earned from the activities. 

Sharing his experience, Khleent Calderon, SK Treasurer from Brgy. Quisol, said that his most memorable experience was during the CRCs which made him realize that if he trust his team, he can survive and take the responsibilities of a leader. 

The RAFI-KAC, under its Youth Development program: iQuest Intensive aims to build the SK officials their character as public servants by understanding their strengths and areas to improve as leaders, and develop skills relevant in performing their roles and functions, among others.

The three-day program finished with sharing of the campers’ learning and RAFI-KAC SK Leadership Oath.

The Kool Adventure Camp of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI-KAC) is the first and only fully dedicated Adventure Education Center in the Philippines. RAFI-KAC equips organizations and individuals with the character, competence, and citizenship to be leaders of change through powerful learning experiences.