by Jay Jaboneta
Last April 1, 2011, I wrote about concept of the Little Fund. It was a simple concept. I wanted to share the story of theZamboanga Funds for Little Kids, a little project that started on Facebook among my friends. It was a story about kids who swim to school. And with the encouragement of Josiah Go and other friends, we launched a mini-fundraising campaign to buy them a boat – it later on turned out that we needed to build them a boat because it needed to be customized to the mangrove area. (You can read the whole story here).
And as I shared then, what started as a simple Facebook post (click to learn more about the Facebook story) and a campaign to build them a boat turned out to become a little movement in Zamboanga to help the entire village of Layag-Layag. Over the last four months, I have travelled to Zamboanga, to the village of Layag-Layag at least 4 times. The first time was last March 27 when we turned over the first ever Bagong Pag-asa (New Hope) yellow boat. It was a symbol of how social media tools can be harnessed for social good.
The second time was when I accompanied my good friend and soon-to-be popular film-maker, Luke Perez together with Tempest Films’ Zap Berenguer and Lester Castor, to shoot a video about our story. (See their photos here).
The third time was when I accompanied a team from Facebook, who also shot a video about the story of the Layag-Layag kids who swim to school.
The fourth time was to accompany a writer and photographer of a popular magazine who also wanted to feature our story.
Over these last 4 months, almost all the major news organizations have visited Zamboanga City particularly our little village of Layag-Layag namely: SkyCable Zamboanga, ABS-CBN, Al-Jazeera, and a host of other individuals and organizations. And with that we are truly grateful, it has allowed our group, the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids, to continue helping the people of Layag-Layag.
It has allowed us together with Tzu Chi Foundation – Zamboanga, Rotary Club of Zamboanga, the city government of Zamboanga City and a host of other organizations to provide school supplies, plastic bottle bulbs, medical assistance, and scholarships to the students and people of Layag-Layag. We have also began to engage with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to evaluate whether they can help the seaweed farmers of Layag-Layag in improving their operations.
As of today, August 4, 2011, 12 scholars from Layag-Layag are enrolled in the Zamboanga City State College of Marine Science and Technology. Our story has brought confidence to the students of Layag-Layag. They are now in a better position to pursue their dreams for their families and they have gotten the attention they rightly deserve.
It is my belief our country does not lack the heroes it needs. We only need to empower them. There is Abs Mawadi, the boat-maker who waived his labor fees for the succeeding boats that we are building. There is Anton Lim, the veterinary doctor, who has fallen in love with Layag-Layag and continues to mobilize funds and people to help the community. There is Luke Perez, a good friend, who volunteered to create a short film out of our story. There is Winston Almendraswho raised funds for his birthday so that we can buy the kids of Layag-Layag some school supplies. There are so many of them, it might fill this page, and lastly, our donors who continue to support us in our efforts.
The US trip
Last April 28, I flew to the US to share the story of the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids to around 300 Filipino-Americans (you can watch my speech here), who were attending the first WeAreOneFilipino (WAOF) Summit in Las Vegas. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring our story to the US and share how Filipinos in the US can help communities back home.
On May 16, I also participated in a panel discussion about Facebook Groups in Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California (see the discussion here). It was another wonderful opportunity to share our story of Bayanihan in the age of Social Media.
How Zamboanga gave birth to Masbate
Upon my return from the US, another friend, Dr. Ofelia Sy from Legaspi City, Albay, shared to me another story, also about kids who swim to school in Monreal, Masbate. An employee of the regional office of the Department of Education shared to her about the plight of the kids in Sitio Mababoy, Brgy. Guinhadap, Monreal, Masbate and asked her if we could also do something about it like how we helped the community of Layag-Layag in Zamboanga City.
I thought about it for a few days because we are still helping Layag-Layag and I feared we might not be able to help the kids in Mababoy Island. Fortunately, a researcher from the show Brigada on GMA News TV called me and asked if we had another story of kids swimming to school. I shared with her the story about the kids in Mababoy. Within 2 days, they dispatched a team to Masbate and on June 13, 2011, we watched the kids of Mababoy on Brigada, who came to be called “Batang Lukso,” a documentary by JP Soriano.
After the show, so many well-meaning people including presidential sisters Bally Aquino-Cruz and Pinky Aquino-Abellada donated funds so that we can build the kids of Mababoy some little yellow boats. And again, as the case in Layag-Layag, the help and support poured in. People were donating time, resources and efforts to help the kids of Mababoy.
In just over a month’s time, we were able to build them around 20 little yellow boats (the boats were a lot smaller than the ones we built in Zamboanga), again nicknamed Bagong Pag-asa, and a makeshift school with 4 classrooms for multi-grade learning. The kids were all coming from different parts of the islands in the area that’s why we needed to build a lot of boats.
Masbate Funds for Little Kids
Because of this, the Masbate Funds for Little Kids, was born.
Last July 27, 2011, I went to Legaspi City, Albay despite typhoon “Juaning” so that we can formally inaugurate and have the blessing of the boats and the makeshift school which was scheduled on July 28.
Upon arriving in Legaspi City, Dr. Ofel and her team from Pinoy Power Coalition Inc. - Bicol started to prepare the donated goods which were drinking water, blankets, clothes, school supplies and raincoats for the people of Mababoy.
It was another hour of land trip to Pilar, Sorsogon where we rode a pump-boat to Mababoy. I didn’t imagine that I would be experiencing roller-coaster waves that day. It was a moment of intense prayer. What was usually a one and a half hour boat trip became 3 hours. But we arrived safely in Mababoy.
Beautiful Mababoy Island
The island (or Sitio) of Mababoy is located in Brgy. Guinhadap in the Municipality of Monreal in Masbate. Upon arriving in the area, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the beauty of Mababoy island. Legend has it that there are so many wild pigs in the island when the first settlers came (baboy is Tagalog for pig).
We arrived pretty late, around 6:00PM already. We off-loaded our cargo (donated goods, others) to the island and I went to see some of the kids who used to swim to school. I saw 6 of them, mostly in elementary school. I could see the island where they need to swim to from afar. It didn’t seem that far but I think it was at least 500 meters. I wondered how they could swim that distance, little as they are.
After maybe an hour in the island, we transferred to a smaller boat and proceeded to another island where we were going to sleep the night.
The morning after was even better, when I woke up around 5:30AM, I immediately jumped out of bed and proceeded to the beach. It was a breath-taking view, with the sunrise on my left, I could see so many islands that dot the sea. And to my surprise, I could see baby sharks roaming around free near the bay. It was truly a wonderful island.
After swimming for 2 hours, we got ready to go to the island of Mababoy for the formal inauguration of the extension school.
We arrived shortly 30 minutes after and began the preparations. I got the chance to roam around as people were busy cooking and making some last minute improvements to the school area. This is when I got a sneak peek to what they were cooking for us that day, the last ‘baboy’ (pig) of Mababoy!
People from all over Masbate and Albay were starting to arrive - the priest who was to bless the school and boats, the schools division superintendent of Masbate Mr. Gilbert Sadsad, the schools area supervisor, representatives of the mayor of Monreal, other people from the local office of the Department of Education, and volunteers of Pinoy Power Coalition - Bicol.
Around 10:00AM, my good friend Anton Lim (who came all the way from Zamboanga City), Dr. Jullie Sy (the husband of Masbate Funds for Little Kids prime-mover Dr. Ofelia Sy), and members of the Albay Medical Society arrived. We started the program shortly after and the priest blessed the school and the boats. It was truly a momentous ocassion for the village of Mababoy. I could see the excitement of the parents.
It was truly an inspiring day. After the inauguration in Mababoy, we went to Guinhadap Elementary School, which was were the kids of Mababoy used to go to school to, before their extension school was built. Dr. Jullie Sy also works with AGAPP Foundation wherein they build pre-schools. So he decided to check up on possible sites for pre-schools as well. After that, we went for another possible site in Togoron, Monreal, an hour away from Guinhadap.
The sea was calm on our way back to Pilar, Sorsogon that day. We arrived at the port safely around 7PM.
And so what started as a single Facebook post on October 30, 2010 became a force for social good in the country.
There are now two movements (Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids and Masbate Funds for Little Kids) born out of this simple idea, two little funds that could. And I hear of two more areas joining soon!
Talaga ngang may Bagong Pag-asa na!