Golden State Warriors donates jerseys to The Bridge Program 2014!

by Ron Carino

Our good friend, Quinn Evans, who works for the marketing team at Golden State Warriors was able to get the franchise to donate hundreds of official GSW jerseys and wristbands to The Bridge Program. Philippines is well-known for being a huge fan of basketball. We’ve seen kids playing basketball with slippers, barefoot, and even tape around their feet. They have much skills and enthusiasm for the game regardless of the lack of equipment. So these jerseys were truly appreciated by these kids. 

The photo above is of school children at the Paraway Mangyan Elementary School on the island of Mindoro, Philippines wearing their GSW jerseys. These children are of the Mangyan tribe, which are the natives of this island. 

Being in the Philippines for the First Time: A Filipino-American Perspective
Written by Brian Rapaido   Soulciety’s Bridge Program has given me the chance to experience many different emotions. Prior to the trip, I knew I was going to create unforgettable relationships with the children and strengthen the bonds with the other mentors. Now that we’re here, those expectations happened, but there was one thing that hit me that I didn’t see coming. We were so busy collecting donation supplies and prepping for the journey that I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was going “home” for the first time. The thing that I didn’t expect was gaining a very strong sense of cultural identity.    I’ve been to many countries, but this is my first time in the Philippines. Being a Filipino-American, my values, moral boundaries, and interests have been heavily influenced by my Filipino mother who grew up in an American society. There are certain habits that I learned from her that I always wondered why they occur. For example, always offering food. I thought it was just because my mom was really nice, but it’s a very big part of the Filipino culture. Food offering is like a gesture of showing gratitude, and the people here show that they’re thankful for many things.    Another thing I noticed is that the passion for music and dance is very strong here. Back in the states I would hear jokes and comments about how all Filipinos can sing and dance, and now I see why these jokes and comments exist. It’s very humbling to see such passionate people pursue in what they love to do, even if they don’t have the greatest quality equipment to do so. They don’t have the best guitars or sound systems here, but that doesn’t stop them. They continue to play. They also don’t have many dance studios; actually, the only dance studio we saw didn’t have any mirrors. But they continue to dance.     My trip here has given me so much understanding of why I am the person I am. The culture runs deep in the Filipino veins that even if I’ve never been here before I’ve seen the Filipino way through my family and friends. The ultimate message I get from being here is that the people love what they have.     To me, our good friend Lorenzo represents the Filipino culture. He is one of our two bodyguards and also a deaf mute. Though limited through verbal verbal speech, his body language expresses so much, and he expresses happiness all the time. It’s funny that whenever we lose something, Lorenzo knows exactly where it is. He understands whats going on and has the biggest smile all the time. He reminds me that we should embrace who we are and reach our potential. Lorenzo and many of the Filipinos here don’t have much, but are genuinely happy, so I’ll go back to the states knowing that simplicity is beautiful. 
Cultural Enlightment

By Jeannette Duong

It has been interesting and exciting learning about the history and culture of the Philippines. As one of the few mentors who is not of Filipino descent, I have found that the Filipino culture is not so different from my own. All of the experiences here are all new and familiar at the same time. The land is lush with coconut trees, banana trees, rice paddies, the ocean and jungle.
Picking a banana from the banana tree.

Fresh coconut! Trying our hand at cracking it open.

Delicious! The students and teachers brought us fresh coconuts.

Rice fields!

Drying rice on the streets! Many houses had these mats in front.

Chickens cross the road, goats take the crosswalk and carabaos hang out in their muddy swamps. I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful it is because everywhere you turn, there is a sight to see.

Carabao kickin’ it.

Mighty rooster standing tall in a fighting rooster farm.

Spent the evening at a resort, where you could swim to a tiny private island.

The river in Bohol, photo taken on a river boat.

Waterfall just down the street from Paraway Mangyan ES in Oriental Mindoro.

A mini beach we stopped by in Bohol.

Gorgeous view from our first meal in Manila.

On our journey, I’ve learned that the Jeepneys and tricycles that roam the streets are leftover Jeeps that were used in World War II that have since transformed into personal works of art and a mode of public transportation.

First day, riding through Batangas in our tricycles.

Mario and JayR in their tricycle.

One of our Jeepneys in Bohol, driven by Malio and Earl.

Our Jeepney in Dumaguete City.

We visited the Escaya tribe, the very first inhabitants of the island of Bohol. The tribe lives high in the mountains secluded from the rest of Bohol, have their very own written and spoken language and formerly lived in caves.

The Escaya alphabet.

A tablet for practicing the Escaya language.

The Escaya children running up the hill to greet us again.

Brian and Tommy playing with the children.

We witnessed a couple of the traditional folk dances - Tinikling, a dance where bamboo poles are beat against the ground and dancers must coordinate their feet with the timing of the poles, and the Sayaw as Bangko, a couple dance performed on top of narrow benches.

The students of Camaya-an National High School performed for us in celebration of Viva Pit Senyor.

W e walked through sugar cane fields and sampled the sugar canes right then and there. The entire experience was surreal. By immersing ourselves into the Filipino culture, I learned more about the Philippines and its people than I ever would have by watching videos or reading about it.

Salsa dancing in the sugar cane field with one of my students.

Making our way to the sugar canes. I don’t know what Rowena is doing…

The lady mentors of the trip - Me, Ariane, Charito and Rowena.

Ron and Grand Master, GM, cutting up some sugar cane.

Being here and learning about the Filipino culture has made me realize how little I know about my own culture. My parents have told me many stories about their childhood and leaving Vietnam. But I never really asked that many questions about Vietnam itself. After spending time here in the Philippines, I am now more curious than ever to really understand the Vietnamese culture. I want to know what the cultural dances are, what main agriculture is grown and exported, the historical landmarks, the local animals and wildlife and to see the dynamic between the people. This trip has ignited a curiosity in me that I didn’t know I had. I’ve loved every minute of this journey and want to continue growing as an individual in my adventures.


Written by Brian Rapaido

When all the mentors were asked to describe our trip in one word, I chose the word “empower.” Coincidentally, it is the name of Soulciety’s theatrical show and the best word I could think of to describe this journey.  With all the donating, teaching, and bonding we’ve been doing, I’m sure that the children are feeling empowered. On the other hand, I know that the mentors are empowered as well. 

I came on this trip knowing that we would inspire kids, and no words can explain the humbling experiences, but I feel that every mentor will go back feeling empowered. Even more so, our group as a whole has built a strong bond that gets stronger with every school we visit. The camaraderie we have here is so tight that we never want to be split apart. When we were at the airport going to Negros, Ron was stuck behind trying to check-in JayR’s drum and the plane was getting ready to leave. As a family would do, we refused to board unless we were all together. So we waited on the bridge connector, spaced out so that when Ariane, who was the closest to the terminal, saw Ron we would be able to walk inside the plane. I was in the middle of the chain we created and asked myself, “Is this really happening right now!?! This is so dope."  We also didn’t want to be split apart when at one of the places we were staying at. The girls were in one building and the guys in another, but we made it so that we all fit in one area. 

No clashes, no ego’s, just here to fulfill Soulciety’s mission and have a good time. So many inside jokes and national geographic moments were also made on this trip. When we slept in the tree house, we had pet bats, spiders, lizards, and more. The first spider we caught was huge! Everyone behind each other watching the spider, scared and curious at the same time.  We finally caught him, and declared him Peter, our first tree house pet. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are going back home with stronger relationships and with positive attitudes. We’ll go throughout our lives back home with a more focused demeanor, thanks to our experiences here in the Philippines. 

(Photos by Tommy Ly)

Reflections: Photographs of Bridge Mentor's Journey

By Rowena Conlu

Today is our last night here in Bohol and want to share some photos in reflection of my journey from Batangas to Mindoro, Mindoro to Negros, Negros to Bohol. Wow! My life is forever transformed as I had the time of my life with my Soulciety brothers and sisters. This has been a magical journey! Hope you enjoy the photos! 

Wrist bands were given to the children, saying, “FOLLOW YOUR HEART!”

Charito giving some food and snacks to a mother and her kids looking from the outside in at a school on a hill at Puerto Gallera, Mindoro. (Paraway Mangyan Elementary School.)

On our way back to Batangas from Mindoro Island. (Photo by Tommy Guns Ly)

(1) Bridge Mentors home for 5 days at Bacong. (2) Mosquito net fortress. (3) Eskrima training early morning with Grand Master. (Photo by Jeanette Duong) -Bacong, Negros Oriental.

Jeepney fun! Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. (Photo by Tommy Guns Ly)

Mario getting down at Robinsons Mall in Negros Oriental that exposed us to perform and mentor our first college for the Bridge at Negros Oriental State University. 

San Jose Elementary School, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

Bridge Mentors: Above (l-r): JayR DeGuzman, Ariane Padaong, Brian Rapiado. Bottome (l-r): Jeanette Duong, Rowenalyn Conlu at San Jose Elementary School, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

At ‘Atty. Maximo C. Lasco Memorial’ Elementary school in Bohol working on pictures for the Soulciety Blogsite. This was the first sponsored school for the REBUILD project from the earthquake that happened last year 2013. I was actually feeling sick that day, but these kids surrounded me with their togetherness that was very healing. I did feel a lot better. =)

Chocolate Hills in Bohol. Phoenix clouds.

Shy Eskaya children from an Elementary School up on a hill. (Photo by Tommy Guns Ly)

Bridge mentors shy away with the Eskaya children in Bohol. These kids were so cute. (Photo by Tommy Guns Ly)

Last day on the beach in Bohol. Random canoe find. 

I am forever grateful and touched by the lives I have encountered throughout our journey in the Philippines. I feel forever blessed to have the opportunity to travel and mentor for Soulciety’s 'Bridge’ Program.

In reflection of these photos, Philippines has changed the way I view/see the world around me. In their worlds, they struggle, they thrive, they love, they survive, and they preservere all. Our Filipino people are warriors of the light. Peace and magical blessings all!

~Rowena aka. FunkCH3N from AstraLogik.

A Perspective Journey: Kids and Mentors.
Written by Rowena Conlu As an observer and mentor throughout this journey, the kids out here are without an iPad, without an iPhone, without much, and no complaints. They just knew how to be kids. I see the hard work in their eyes, their hands, their feet, and endurance throughout the day with the time we spent with them. They stick together, always laughing, smiling, playing, and very excited to work with us.

Bridge mentors have performed and taught workshops for the youth here in the Visayas. Every mentor had their individual unique style to teach and the kids were so enthusiastic and so eager to learn. They pick up any type of movement or voice commands by Kuya Brian, like, “We are fast! We are STRONG! We are cute! Grrrrrrrrr!” They continued to open our hearts and minds to their natural abilities and showed us all how adaptable they are with any kind of fun command. 

As free as we should be; As fearless as can be is how I see all the children from schools we have attended thus far. It has been a adventuring journey for all the mentors to see the actions and reactions of the children we all encountered here in the Central Visayas. All children from the schools were different. As if they were children from ancient pasts of the world. Well, maybe we all are.   

Eating sugar cane.

(First school visit in Mindoro.) This was my first time teaching/mentoring overseas. The experience working with youth has taught me so much with life processes. Our students loved music so much, all they needed is a little guidance, and then it was all ears. I’m so grateful to be a part of this cohesive, productive, and loving group. My observation of all presence for all walks of life in this land has forever transformed my minds eye.  There’s a quote that stuck throughout my journey out here and I forgot who quoted it but it goes, “It is not how much strength you have, nor how much knowledge you’ve gained, but how adaptable you are to survive in this world.” -Anonymous.

Philippines here we come!!! On a quest to empower through Love & Art!!! - THANKS to ALL the family and friends that supported this…. You are the ones who made this possible for us!!!! #soulcietybridge2014

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