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Families reaching beyond family

IN A talk before the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last month (coinciding with the visit of Pope Francis to the United States), Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila, offered a reflection on the family as “a home, a refuge, a ‘safe place’ for wounded hearts.”

At the close of his talk, the cardinal reminded his audience that the faithful could “provide the sense of family and home even in the affairs of daily life,” reminding them to be “courteous, sensitive and loving” because one never knows “the wound of the person before you.”

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The cardinal then told the story of how, in a meeting with young people, he was besieged by a crowd of girls and boys who presented T-shirts, books and other souvenirs for him to sign. One boy had nothing to present him but told the cardinal that he already had a T-shirt that had been signed by his eminence and which he kept under his pillow each night. The boy told Cardinal Tagle that he had not seen his own father, who was working in the Middle East, in years, but that “with that shirt I know I have a father… I belong to a family, a community.” This led the cardinal to reflect that “we could build a home for a wounded heart through a song and an autograph on a T-shirt.”

It certainly took a lot more than these for a few outstanding Filipino families to build a home and a sanctuary for themselves. But at the recent ceremonies honoring them for being among the exemplary family recipients of the Fifth Jollibee Family Values Awards (JFVA), it was shown how these families built on the love and compassion they shared to reach out to others, pursuing advocacies “that made a significant impact in the lives of their fellowmen.”

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RECENTLY, from among hundreds of nominees, six families emerged as winners, while six other families were given special citations for their advocacies and efforts to improve the lives of Filipinos in need.

The Domulot family of Zambales, composed of husband-and-wife Carlito and Iril, and their children Christopher, Carol, Noel, Karen, Catherine, Carmen, Cora and Carlito Jr., were cited for their work in uplifting the lives of their fellow Aetas, with Carlito being the chieftain of the Lubos ng Alyansa ng mga Katutubong Ayta sa Zambales (Alliance of Indigenous Ayta in Zambales). With his family, Carlito worked to put up schools for Aeta children in Botolan and elsewhere, and established programs to preserve Aeta traditions and lore.

The Tiosan family of Rizal was cited for their work in providing employment to their fellow sight-impaired with a network of “Vibes” massage therapy centers in Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Lucena, Laguna, Zambales, Iloilo, Cavite, Batangas and Palawan. The network has enabled them and the blind community to establish their own independent and self-sufficient businesses.

Also working with the disabled while taking part in national antismoking advocacy work is the Rojas family of Quezon City. The father, Emerito, is a throat cancer survivor who lost his power of speech when his voice box was removed but who embarked on advocacy work for his fellow survivors with the help of an electronic larynx and the support of his family. With wife Violeta and children Elaine, Rose, Erika, Anne, Einstein and Edward, he works with international advocacy groups to provide free electronic larynx and free esophageal speech training to members of New Vois, the advocacy group they put up in 2007. They also engage in self-help forums for the families of survivors and those facing health problems due to smoking, while seeking support for livelihood programs for survivors.

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THE advocacy of the Mambuay family of Misamis Oriental is seeking peaceful ways to inculcate unity among Christian and Muslim communities. But father Nathaniel, mother Amina, and children Lara Angelie, Sarah Adrianne and Farrah Asleigh go way beyond their organizing work for nonviolent communication and peace modules and Muslim-Christian relations in public schools. The family has been involved as well in relief operations for survivors of natural calamities while raising funds for school supplies and slippers for schoolchildren in impoverished communities.

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For the Peña family of Cavite, their particular advocacy is raising awareness and capacity-building for persons with autism and their families, their son Angelico Amir himself being a person with autism. In their talks and workshops, daughters Anthea Carmeli and Jan Anille take active part. So far, the family has reached almost 10,000 families and people with disabilities.

The “Jollibee-Coca Cola Global Pinoy Family of the Year” is the Gange family of San Jose, California, with father George, mother Melinda and sons Micahel and George raising money from “busking” (asking strangers for donations), yard sales, recycling of cans and bottles for cash and “outright asking friends and relatives for donations” to buy traditional musical instruments for use by school rondallas  around the country. They have also been involved in fund raising for survivors of disasters.

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THESE families and the six others cited for similar work and advocacy are proof that when it comes to raising the necessary wherewithal to reach out to the less fortunate, Filipino families can be endlessly creative, amazingly committed, and endlessly energized.

The awardee families received cash awards, aside from the Michael Cacnio trophies and other gift packages; but I’m sure the recognition and honor is more than enough to spur them to continue making their families a “home, a refuge” for those in need and in pain.

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TAGS: archbishop of Manila, Family, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, outstanding Filipino family, World Meeting of Families
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