Gift of giving | Inquirer Opinion

Gift of giving

/ 03:14 AM July 02, 2017

Filipinos have again made a global mark, this time in terms of philanthropy. Let it not be said that people of the Philippines, though almost always reeling from all manner of disaster, are lacking in compassion for fellow human beings and in forward-looking assistance that will benefit as many as possible.

The international business publication Forbes Asia reminded us that Filipinos have a deep capacity for giving when it announced last week its yearly Heroes of Philanthropy. “Each year since 2008, we’ve scoured the Asia-Pacific region for our list of top philanthropists. We look for men and women who made news with their altruism over the past year, and we also seek to spotlight people who have compiled a record of notable contributions over the years,” said Forbes Magazine’s John Koppisch.

The 2017 Heroes of Philanthropy lists 40 persons from 40 countries, including three Filipinos. Nanette Medved-Po, 46, a former actress, founded and is president of two organizations, Generation Hope and Friends of Hope. The first sells bottled water under the name Hope in a Bottle; the proceeds from those sales go to the second, a nonprofit that builds classrooms all over the Philippines. She has been quietly dedicated to this cause since 2012 and has spent almost $900,000 from the sale of some 9 million bottles of water, enabling the building of 37 classrooms to help over 7,000 students benefit from a better learning environment.

The other two Filipinos on the list are cousins Daniel and David Zuellig, leaders of the Zuellig Family Foundation which provides training to local government officials. Since 2009, the foundation’s good governance program has benefited 640 municipalities (42 percent of the Philippines) in partnership with the Department of Health, the United Nations and the United States. The Zuellig Group has provided a yearly average of $2.3 million to the foundation in the last five years.


They are, of course, sterling examples of how those with the means can give much. But the capacity to give can be seen in other sectors of society.

Recall 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida, who conceptualized his “Kariton Klasrum” (pushcart classroom) to bring education literally to the kids on the streets. From humble beginnings, his Dynamic Team Company has spread the pushcart gospel nationwide, raising funds and receiving donations to empower Filipino students and preaching that you can go to school—regardless of who or where you are.

Peñaflorida’s example is reflected in projects inspired by his idea. In 2015, 10 college students won the project proposal contest at the fourth ARC Refreshment Corp. Young Leaders Camp with “Project Ahon,” a water-based teaching program. The winning students promised to allocate the prize money to build a “paaralang balangay,” which would travel to underprivileged river communities to help schoolchildren.

Sometimes, the giving is born of needs foreseen. When Supertyphoon “Yolanda” struck the Visayas in 2013, many evacuees were airlifted from Tacloban City to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City—and to an uncertain future. A group of private citizens put together “Oplan Hatid,” in which volunteer drivers waited at Villamor, ready to take the evacuees to family or friend anywhere in Metro Manila (or even, as in one case, all the way to Baguio). They kept driving as long as the evacuees kept arriving, seeking no recognition or monetary compensation, only wanting to help in a way they could.


It doesn’t have to be a big, bold feat; it can be a small, everyday step. Yet there are those who taint the gesture by doing it for the press mileage, giving only so that others will call them “heroes” or “philanthropists.” In fact they are neither, and are merely politicians or opportunists.

Said Forbes Asia: “The goal is to pick only true philanthropists—people who are giving their own money, not their company’s (unless they own most of the company), because we don’t consider donating shareholder funds as charity. And we also don’t list people who work in philanthropy solely as foundation heads, volunteers or fundraisers. We want to focus on the people supplying the financing and sketching the broad vision. If our effort in compiling this roster encourages more people to support worthy causes, then we’ll consider it a good deed.”


Be they celebrities or everyday Joes, Filipinos are no stranger to the gift of giving.

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TAGS: Giving, Inquirer editorial, Inquirer Opinion

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