At Large

Good news amid the gloom

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The news doesn’t look too good as of this writing, with waters rising in various areas of the metropolis and in surrounding provinces like Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and even Bataan, Bulacan and Pampanga to the north.

From our home in Antipolo, we are anxiously monitoring the rising levels of water in the nearby Marikina River, since an overflow could mean a backflow of floodwaters through our drainage systems and into our homes. Memories of “Ondoy” have come flashing back, but I am praying and keeping my fingers crossed. Let not history repeat itself!

Anyway, in the midst of this rush of bad news, here are some “good news” that have come my way and are worth sharing in this season of disasters and controversies.

From Olympia, Washington, my friend Ruffy Ignacio writes of the “inspiring” Softbelles from Iloilo who took part in the recently-concluded World Series Softball in Kirkland. The girls, says Ignacio, easily became the “darlings” of this year’s World Series even after losing to the Kirkland team which in turn fell to the Southeast team from Florida. “The crowd opined that the Asia Pacific team (the girls from Iloilo) could have presented a more exciting and close championship game against Florida,” says Ignacio. In the closing ceremonies, in fact, they “were the most applauded [in] the jam-packed stadium.”

At the reception hosted by the Fil-Am community, Coach Guy Fuentes, who led the team (from Paglaum, Bacolod) that gave the Philippines its only World Series title in 2003, promised to return next year with the team. This especially since 10 of the 12 athletes are still qualified to play, though they have to first gain the Philippine title and then beat competitors for the Asia-Pacific title.

A big hurdle, however, is the amount of money they have to raise to make it all the way to the World Series. It was noted that the Philippines failed to participate in the last two years because the money for airfare could not even be raised.

The girls from Iloilo, says Ignacio, “are returning home to their families with brand-new softball and running shoes, socks, clothing, helmets (their original helmets from Iloilo did not pass the safety test of the World Series as the styrofoam paddings were almost shredded already) and other sophisticated gear that kind Fil-Ams bought for them. The World Series uniforms are for them to keep, and those uniforms, according to them ‘will be hung in our home altars till [we] become grandmothers.’”

* * *

Children as heroes is the theme of a new advocacy program of Tang Philippines, which recently launched the “Tang Galing Club Virtual World.” The Tang Galing Club provides “a real-life ‘gamified’ experience of how kids can go and contribute change to the world,” say organizers.

The Club’s first real-life mission is a recycling drive called Project RecyClass. This project aims to empower children to collect used foil packs, which will be recycled to flood-proof plastic school chairs via a technology that is available in the Philippines. These chairs will then be donated to selected public schools in Metro Manila.

“A true hero, no matter what age, is a person who understands the responsibility that comes with the freedom of using their talents, skills, strengths, and intelligence not just for themselves, but to benefit more people. This is what the Tang Galing Club aims to promote to the younger Filipino society,” said Alex Tacderas, category marketing manager for Tang Philippines.

* * *

Among the young people taking part in the Tang Galing advocacy is Kesz Valdez, who was first recognized as a Tang Galing Kid awardee in 2011. The following year, he was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize, conferred by no less than Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu.

The award was given to Kesz for his advocacy of children’s rights, improving the situation of vulnerable children such as orphans and child laborers. This was made possible by Kesz’s brainchild—Championing Community Children. This is an organization, which he cofounded with adoptive father Harnin Manalaysay, that aims to give hope to street children so that they can transform their own lives and inspire others to do the same.

Kesz had a difficult start in life. At age four, he ran away from home where he was being abused and began living on the streets, finding shelter in a public cemetery together with other street children.

One night, Kesz fell into a pile of burning tires, severely injuring his arm. But from this accident emerged a new life for Kesz. He was adopted by community worker Manalaysay, who made the boy part of his Bible study and outreach group called Club 8586.

Now 14, Kesz has come a long way from scavenging for food in garbage to inspiring others to “pay it forward.” To date, he has helped more than 10,000 underprivileged children, teaching them about hygiene, food, and children’s rights.

* * *

A crusading journalist and the world-famous Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) are this year’s winners of the Titus Brandsma Award-Philippines. Victor Redmond “Red” Batario, a friend from the time we worked together in Veritas newsmagazine, now executive director of the Center for Community Journalism and Development, was cited for Leadership in Journalism. Peta bagged the award for Leadership in Communication and Culture and the Arts.

Given every two years by the Order of Carmelites in the Philippines, the Titus Brandsma Award recognizes individuals and groups who have served as “modern-day prophets and martyrs for freedom of expression and education through the media and other means of social communication.”

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