I realized that the internet is an extremely vast universe where everyone can create a comfortable niche for himself. Many netizens are brilliant enough to write highly informative and helpful articles, and generous enough to share those articles with others. Thus, the advent of blogging.
I, myself, love reading and learning from blog posts. It’s reassuring to know that my plight is not unique – that there are others out there who also go through what I am going through on a daily basis. And since I am fairly good at writing and can come up with decent articles, I decided to put this up. My very own blog. Yay, finally!
In this little corner of the Blogosphere, you will meet a mother who loves sharing with everyone who would care to read all her random musings, dignified rantings, profound thoughts about family, love, parenthood, home and life, personal advocacies, dreams and experiences, observations, opinions and impressions, everyday exploits, confessions, and innermost desires. I would also like to connect with all of you so do not hesitate to leave me a message (I am an active Facebooker, and as soon as I get the hang of all these, I will also be a familiar face and voice in Instagram and Twitter!) or a comment at the end of my every blog entry.
It’s the start of another year! But before we jump headlong into 2020, let’s take another look at the past year.
2019 proved to be a very busy and challenging year for all of us, Team Pilipinas volunteers. The following are its highlights.
During the first five months, we became occupied with campaigning for Otso Diretso. All sorts of campaign activities, you name it, we had tried it – flyering, stickering, postering, saturation drives, Project Makinig, voters’ ed, fund-raising, caravans, Trompa project, Honesty runs, etc.
After the elections, when we experienced a painfully dismal loss, we threw a party. Our Otso Diretso candidates, not yet done licking their own wounds, attended the Thanksgiving party and put up a brave front for all of us.
We held regular General Assemblies to update our volunteers on all TP’s activities and projects. We also used those gatherings to discuss and exchange opinions and ideas on various socio-political issues hounding the country. I think, I’ve counted a total of 5 post-election GAs if I’m not mistaken.
In July, we had our first fundraising activities called Sagwan ng Pag-asa and Salamat Pho. Both were for the benefit of the Recto Bank 22, the fishermen whose boat was rammed, sunk and abandoned at sea by a Chinese vessel.
Also in July, we launched an online petition for the dismissal of the sedition and other charges filed against the opposition leaders led by VP Leni. We submitted that petition to the DOJ. Today, close to 68,000 people have already signed the petition.
In August, we went to Occidental Mindoro to personally hand over to the fishermen of Gem-Ver 1 the cash donation that we managed to raise. We were there with VP Leni, who donated a substantial amount to the fishermen and listened to their stories of woes in the hands of the Chinese bullies.
In September, in line with our observance of National Teachers’ Month, we launched another online fundraising campaign to help the public school teachers in Calbayog, Samar who are assigned to far-flung communities. Some of those teachers have to travel for as long as 11 hours across rivers, mountains and rice fields just to get to their students. Some have to live through the horrors and the constant threat of armed conflicts among feuding politicians or between the military and insurgents. Some have to starve during the habagat season because food in the island becomes scarce and no boat would dare venture into the tempestuous waters. And some have to witness their 10-year-old female students being married off to any man who can afford to pay P30,000 (even by installment) just to rid the family of another mouth to feed.
By the end of September, we were in Samar for the turnover of the teacher’s kits. This project gave rise to another outreach initiative conducted by KAISA, a non-profit organization of some Tsinoy businessmen. So, two months after, we went back to Samar to distribute boxes and sacks of donations, not just for the teachers, but also for their students and communities.
Also in September, before the anniversary of Marcos’ Martial Law, we sponsored a forum called A Re-Membering of the Essential Truths About Martial Law. The afternoon became emotionally charged when one of the speakers, Mr. Haroun Al-Rashid Alonto Lucman, Jr., presented a lengthy, harrowing and gut-wrenching narrative of what his people in Mindanao were made to endure and suffer during those very dark years in our nation’s history.
In October, in time for the observance of the World Mental Health Day, we held another forum. Called Breaking Myths About Mental Health, the forum aimed to address three important concerns surrounding mental health: the grim statistics (1 in 5 Filipinos has a mental illness), the urgent need to break the stigma (mental illness is often suffered in silence due to the massive amount of stigma surrounding it), and the necessity for awareness (to be of better help to someone who may be showing signs and symptoms of mental illness).
Due to the crippling effects of the Rice Tariffication Law to our farmers, we decided to sponsor a fundraising concert in November for the benefit of our rice farmers in Talavera, Nueva Ecija. With a parallel online fundraising campaign with the same name, the Maagang Pamasko Para sa Magsasakang Pilipino (MP4MP), the project’s initial goal was simple: to provide a Noche Buena package for the families of 100 farmers in Talavera.
But when we managed to have our interview with one of the farmers published in Rappler and Inquirer.net, we received an overwhelming support from you and our other kababayans. So, in December, we trooped to Talavera not just to deliver Noche Buena packages, but to surprise the farmers with a Christmas party!
Thanks to the Office of the Talavera Mayor, aside from the grocery items, blankets, canned goods, health kits, rice, and organic fertilizers that we brought for the farmers, they were also treated to a sumptuous boodle-fight lunch and raffle prizes and were given Christmas gifts. Mayor Vi also announced during the party the availability of rice seeds and cash assistance in her office.
During the last quarter of the year, we heeded the call for help of our kababayans from Cotabato who were adversely affected by the series of strong earthquakes that struck the province. We ordered bags of rice from Session Groceries, an online grocery store that allowed donors to help the earthquake victims by selling and distributing rice which they purchased directly from the farmers of Cotabato.
Finally, to celebrate the upcoming birthday of Jesus Christ, to welcome the holiday break, and to cap off the year, we held our Christmas Party in mid-December. And we decided to do it with no less than the happiest bee on earth, Jollibee!
We are hoping that, with your continued support, mga ka-TP, 2020 will be another productive year for Team Pilipinas. TP Core Group, let’s do this!
Maraming salamat at Manigong Bagong Taon sa ating lahat!
Barely a week after VP Leni accepted Duterte’s appointment to an ICAD co-chair post, she has been bombarded — relentlessly, maliciously, callously, and systematically — by hateful remarks coming from this administration’s fanatics, bullies, sycophants, and trolls.
Bong Go said na “ibi-baby” lang ni VP Leni ang mga drug lords.
Sir, ilang beses bang kailangang ulitin ni VP na ang gusto niya talagang habulin ay ang mga drug lords pati na ang kanilang coddlers/protectors, at hindi lang ang mga small-time pushers sa kanto? Gusto niyang papanagutin sa batas ang mga kagaya nina kumpareng Peter Lim, ang mga beshies na sina Charlie Tan at Kenneth Dong, sina Albayalde at ang mga ninja cops, at sina Faeldon at ang mga tiwali sa BOC na nagpapasok ng tone-toneladang shabu mula sa China. If she gets lucky, baka malaman din nating lahat kung sinu-sino, in the president’s circle, ang involved sa Chinese drug triad at ang may mga itinatagong yaman na katas ng illegal drug trade sa bansa.
According to Bato Dela Rosa, hindi pwedeng “magpacute-cute” lang si VP Leni sa giyerang ito. Dapat daw, nasa “forefront” siya; that she should join in the anti-drug raids and operations.
Although sinabi na ni VP that she is willing to join kung hindi makakasagabal sa mga operasyon ang kanyang presensya, hindi ba ironic, Sen. Bato, na sa iyo pa ito manggagaling? Sino ba ang mahilig magpa-cute? Sino ba ang mahilig umiyak at magpaawa? Sino ba ang, sa pag-usok lang ng firecracker, ay kumaripas na ng takbo like a dog with its tail between its legs? Sino ba ang, kahit minsan, ay hindi naman sumama sa Tokhang operations when he was still the PNP chief? (Huwag pong mapipikon, Sir. I’m just asking.)
Ayon kay House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, VP Leni is starting “on the wrong mouth,” na ang Operation Tokhang daw ay naging Operation All-Talk based sa dalas na laman si VP ng mga balita.
Si Sir naman, threatened kaagad. Lagi ka rin naming nasa news nang nakasilip ng bilyon-bilyong insertions sa proposed national budget si Sen. Lacson, di ba? Gayun din when the House asked for additional P1.6 billion budget for your additional deputy speakers and additional vice chairpersons. And, for your information po, Sir, sa iilang araw pa lang ni VP Leni sa kanyang bagong position, she was already able to meet with her ICAD colleagues. Nakipag-usap na rin siya sa mga miyembro ng Community-based Drug Rehabilitation Alliance (COBRA), at nakipag-coordinate sa United Nations. Nakabuo na rin siya ng mga concrete plans involving the anti-illegal drug campaign. (Read Pinoy Ako Blog’s Mga Plano ni VP Leni Robredo Bilang Anti-Drug Czar.)
Si Jay Sonza naman, walang tigil sa kanyang efforts na magpapansin sa administrasyong Duterte. Ang sabi niya, co-chair lang daw si VP Leni. Saling-pusa lang at dakilang alalay.
Alam mo, Mr. Sonza, iyan yata ang dahilan why, up to now, sa kabila ng pagtalikod mo sa kagandahang-asal and making a career out of peddling fake news and promoting hate just so you’ll get noticed, ay hindi ka pa rin nabibigyan ng pwesto sa gobyerno. Hindi ka kasi aligned sa kanila. Nagpahayag na ng suporta ang Malacanang kay VP Leni at sa kanyang mga plano as the ICAD co-chair. May access na rin daw siya sa drug war documents at intel. Most importantly, Spox Panelo said that the VP should be given enough space to do her job. You were not listening, ha, Mr. Sonza.
Isa pa itong si Mocha Uson. Sanay daw kasi sa meryenda si VP kaya mas inuuna pa ang presscon kaysa sa trabaho. Honestly, hindi ko gets ang relation between the two. If she was insinuating that the VP is just after the free meals during presscons, I dare say that she has absolutely no idea how our Vice President is so conscientious in spending the meager budget allotted to her office. She is aware na every centavo entrusted to her by the Filipino people ay katumabas ng pawis, mahabang oras sa trabaho at traffic, at matinding stress at pagod ng bawat isang tax payer. Hindi katulad niya na sanay maging free-rider sa mga junkets ni Tatay nya. Na ang P155,000 per month na sweldo nya ay sinusuklian niya lang ng mga blog (aka propaganda) articles na hango sa kasinungalingan at half-truths.
Hindi sila nakuntento that VP Leni was forced to quit her cabinet post in 2016 dahil sa kanyang matatag na paninindigan against EJKs. That VP Leni has to rely heavily on her partners from the private sector just to implement her anti-poverty programs dahil nga sa maliit na budget na nakukuha ng kaniyang tanggapan. That VP Leni is continuously maligned with fake news about her personal life. That VP Leni has to simultaneously face sedition charges and BBM’s electoral protest – all in an insidious attempt to get rid of her.
VP Leni is the only hindrance to a Duterte-Marcos evil tandem. And as long as she remains the Vice President, they would always see her as a great threat. That’s why they would do anything and everything para tuluyan siyang mawala sa kanilang landas – even offer her a position that may be riddled with traps that they can use to impeach her.
Malaki talaga ang galit at takot mo of powerful, assertive and smart women, ano po? From Sen. Leila, former CJ Sereno, Maria Ressa, and Ombudsman Carpio-Morales to Sen. Risa, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, pati na rin si Sister Patricia Fox — all of them experienced being on the receiving end of your infamous misogynistic and sexist remarks.
Ngayon, it’s VP Leni’s turn. For the nth time.
If you don’t really trust her, like what you said, bakit ninyo siya in-appoint to that sensitive position, in the first place? Ah, oo nga pala, you just did so dahil napikon ka sa kanya for calling your drug war a failure. And because you didn’t expect that she would accept your offer/challenge/bait.
Una po, Tatay Digs, VP Leni only mimicked your early statement about the failure of your much-touted drug war. So why did you take offense when the VP said that it is obviously not working?
Pangalawa po, prior to her appointment, you said, and I quote, “The moment she accepts…Anything that has to do with drugs and criminality, you ask her. I will appoint. Let’s see. I won’t interfere anymore.”
So, ano ang tawag sa ginagawa mo ngayon if that is not interfering? Full cooperation?
Pangatlo, ano po ang masama sa paghingi ni VP Leni ng list of High-Value Targets if she deems it necessary to ensure the arrest of the big-time drug personalities and drug lords? Unfair nga naman po kasi kung puro small-time drug peddlers at users lang ang mapaparusahan through tokhang, di ba?
Spox Panelo said before that Malacañang has no problem giving VP Leni access to intelligence reports on the drug war because those records are “open.” Na wala naman daw itinatago ang pamahalaan. He also said that, as ICAD co-chair, VP Leni will become the “boss” of the law enforcement agencies tasked to curb the drug menace. “She can do what she wants, and she will have the support of the entire members of the Cabinet, as well as the agencies under her.” Talaga lang po, ha?
Pang-apat, bakit masyado yata kayong triggered sa pagri-request ni VP Leni for that list? May gusto po ba kayong protektahan? Kayo nga dati, kahit unverified, inilalabas mo sa media ang narco lists at drug matrices, di ba?
According to Sen. Lacson, the VP, as the country’s anti-drug czar and the second-highest official of the land, should have access to that controversial list. In fact, she should have the necessary security clearance.
Also, according to EO No. 34, her position as Vice President entitles her to a seat to the National Security Council. Thus, she does not need a Cabinet position or your permission, for that matter, to have access to such information.
Panglima po, you said that you can’t trust VP Leni because she is from the other side of the political fence. Sabagay, you’d rather trust the likes of Faeldon, Albayalde, Lapeña, the Marcoses, the Arroyos, Estrada, Revilla, pati na rin si Quiboloy, at marami pang iba, di po ba?
Pang-anim, you said that you’re afraid that she will use that information to jeopardize the security of the state.
Patawa ka talaga, Tatay Digs.
Di ba, ikaw nga ang tahasang nagbibenta ng bansa natin sa China? You allowed the unrestricted entry of Chinese nationals, businesses, gambling operations, unscrupulous contractors, onerous deals and “friendly” loans, overpaid workers that don’t pay taxes, smuggled goods, tons of shabu, bullying of our fishermen and coastguard, oil and gas explorations of our marine areas, telecom company that is potentially a threat to our security, island-grabbing, black sand mining, giant clam harvesting, at kung ano-ano pang mga illegal activities.
Ikaw ang tunay na traydor sa bayan, Tatay Digs. Licking the ass of Xi Jinping is your favorite pastime nga, di ba? Kaya, sana, don’t you dare point a finger at VP Leni. Psychological projection ang tawag sa ginagawa mong ‘yan.
Lastly, when you issued VP Leni a threat in case her mouth misbehaves, I almost fell off my chair and rolled on the floor laughing. Nahiya po ako bigla sa iyong filthy, lying and uncontrollable mouth, Tatay Digs. Talagang ikaw pa ang pupuna sa bibig ng iba? Ibang klase ka talaga!
Next time you go AWOL again, try to reflect din po, ha? At, paminsan-minsan, makikinig ka rin sa pamangkin mo. 😉
When VP Leni critized his fake drug war, and certain that she will not accept his offer, Duterte appointed her to be a drug czar. It was a challenge which was meant to mock her.
“Okay, you have many ideas I’ll appoint you to be the drug czar.”
When VP Leni unexpectedly accepted the appointment, and to show everyone that he is a good appointing officer, Duterte promised her a Cabinet seat and his full support. But before the VP could even start, Duterte’s minions and sycophants bombarded her with hateful remarks and statements undermining her capabilities.
“I will swear her in as a Cabinet member so that she will have the authority.”
Bong Go: Ibi-baby lang ni VP Leni ang mga drug lords.
Bato dela Rosa: Hindi pwedeng magpacute-cute lang si VP Leni sa giyerang ito.
Alan Peter Cayetano: VP Leni is starting on the wrong mouth. She has turned Operation Tokhang into Operation All-Talk.
When VP Leni started to work with utmost diligence that her sensitive position required, even recommending to other ICAD members to rethink their campaign to avoid the senseless killings, and meeting with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the US Embassy officers, the Church, and other institutions and groups that have been critical of the drug-related killings, Duterte said that he didnt trust the VP. Said statement was apparently triggered by the erroneous info he received that VP Leni invited UN to investigate the drug war.
“And I am sorry because I said you only realize that it is false news when the news comes out.”
When VP Leni asked for the list of the High-Value Targets, all hell broke loose. Duterte and his minions panicked.
“Vice President Leni Robredo is a ‘scatterbrain’ with ‘kneejerk’ impulses whom I would not appoint to the Cabinet and entrust with sensitive information about the state. She might use that information to jeopardize the security of the state”
No need for VP Leni to have access to high-value target list. – PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino, PNP OIC Archie Gamboa, House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chair Robert Ace Barbers, Senate Pres. Tito Sotto
When VP Leni remained unaffected by all the bullying that she had been relentlessly subjected to, and it was apparent that she was getting all the attention and praises over the re-directed drug war, Duterte, like a petulant child, fired her.
“I have yet to see the Vice President working as an ICAD or ICAD chair, co-chair, and there is a product of their discussion.”
Spox Salvador Panelo is now weaving all kinds of lies to justify his master’s unjustifiable decision to give VP Leni the ax.
VP Leni is allegedly incompetent. Apparently, the Palace has a different definition of the word. Competence for them defines the likes of Faeldon, Lapeña, Uson, Albayalde and, now, the two “rising stars in Philippine politics,” Bong Go and Phisgoc’s Alan Peter Cayetano.
VP Leni allegedly committed missteps. If redirecting the drug war down the path devoid of senseless killings, and demanding for the list of drug lords who she wished to run after are considered missteps, then so be it.
VP Leni was allegedly grandstanding. The Palace should have realized that the position they gave the VP and the circumstances surrounding it were virtually magnets for attention. It was hardly VP Leni’s fault that the media were constantly tailing her, curious as to how far she’d be allowed to run the show.
She was allegedly weighed but found wanting. This may be true because the qualities they are looking for in their appointees –obedience, docility, and the ability to look the other way– can never be found in VP Leni.
Everyone knows that VP Leni was not fired due to any of those reasons.
She was fired –and appointed– for one reason, and one reason alone. Politics.
There are only two places that people like you should belong to – a tightly-guarded mental facility and the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison.
Reading online articles about you, the first thing that I asked myself was, “Is this man really serious or is he just saying things in jest?” Apparently, you are dead serious. Which led me to my second question. “Why do people believe him and would do anything to please him?” If we are to believe your claim, your church, the “Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC), The Name Above Every Name” has a total of 6 million followers now.
Among your many claims, what I find most outrageous are your matter-of-fact statements that you are the Appointed Son of God, that you are the owner of the souls of the people, that you are the God of the universe, that you are the owner of the world, and that Catriona Gray won the 2018 Miss Universe title due to your intervention. And, of course, your recent statement that you were the one responsible for stopping the devastating earthquakes in Mindanao.
I have to ask you, though. If you really believe that you are that all-powerful, why did you wait for properties to be destroyed, people to be injured, and lives to be taken before you felt the need to stop the earthquakes? Why did you even allow it, or all the other natural and man-made calamities to happen, in the first place?
Because you’re a fake, that’s why.
You’re a fake prophet who twists the Scripture and uses it to your advantage. Case in point? You repeatedly say, “If you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, see the Son. I am the only gateway to Heaven.” You are, of course, referring to yourself. Apparently, it’s a twisted version of John 14:6, wherein Jesus Himself says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
You also force your followers to stringently observe tithing, “a command that is vital to the salvation of the soul.” In the Bible, tithing is used to support the poor, widows and orphans. In your case, it is used to buy a private jet, a chopper, a mansion, and an 8-hectare compound where “piped-in centralized music is played 24 hours a day;” to finance your global television channel, 17 radio stations, 2 newspapers, and magazines; and to buy expensive gifts for your friends like the former mayor of Davao.
If you don’t consider your church a business venture, why then do you have to employ a business manager? You, Pastor Quiboloy, only reinforce my belief that the fastest ways to be rich in this country are illegal drugs, politics, and religion!
Finally, how do you manage to evade the long arm of the law this long? Do you force your followers to concoct perjured testimonies against complainants? Do you buy your way out? Do you use your influence over all the politicians that you’ve showered with lavish gifts? Or do you hire armed men to do the dirty work for you?
One of these days, karma, if not the law, will finally catch up with you. You would be made to pay for any of the numerous sins and crimes that people have been accusing you of – brainwashing, bribery, holding young girls against their will, sexual harassment, operating a child sex ring, land-grabbing, human trafficking, smuggling, and having IPs killed. Soon.
For now, though, suffice it to say that a handful of Filipinos, who have not been afflicted with the Duterte virus, see you for what you really are – a terrible disgrace to the real prophets who sacrificed their lives in the name of their faith to the Lord and their humble service to their flock.
Congratulations! With just the perfect combination of wit and sarcasm, you were able to effectively burn Bongbong Marcos up!
Of all people nga naman kasi, why would he have the audacity to talk about cheating, and to claim that he has been robbed of the vice presidency? Sino ba ang may mahabang history ng panloloko at pagnanakaw? Sino ba ang may reputation of producing fake diplomas and of instigating historical revisionism and the spread of fake news? Sino ba ang nagmula sa pamilya ng unrepentant liars, plunderers and cheaters?
We are sure na hindi ikaw ‘yun, VP Leni.
With a seemingly innocent question, you also managed to reveal for everyone to see his utter stupidity.
“Why didn’t he pick those (Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan) for his pilot provinces, in the first place?” Apparently po, VP Leni, nobody explained to him the significance of choosing the right pilot provinces –that those are supposed to best exemplify the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition; that the result of the recount on those pilot provinces would determine if PET would proceed with or dismiss his protest.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t have picked Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
But since he did, mas lalo niya lang napatunayan sa sambayanan ang kanyang pagkatalo when, after the recount, revision and re-appreciation proceedings, your lead even grew by as much as 15,000 votes! More importantly, he failed to ensure a significant vote recovery.
On September 9, Justice Caguioa submitted to the en banc his report on the concluded recount. More than a month has already passed but the SC has yet to act on that report.
Itong issue ng unresolved electoral protest na ito ang ginagamit ni Bongbong to further sow and propagate lies, and to cast doubt in our people’s minds about the legitimacy of your vice presidency. This is precisely the reason why the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, should already resolve the issue of Bongbong’s electoral protest with finality. And, if they are to issue a decision in accordance with their own rule, specifically PET’s Rule 65, our honorable Magistrates should have already issued an outright dismissal of that said protest after they received Justice Caguioa’s report.
So, aside from the glaring fact that it is the right, fair and lawful thing to do, why do we need to insist to our Justices to dismiss Bongbong’s electoral protest?
First, because the dismissal is the affirmation of your constitutional mandate – the affirmation that YOU have been robbed of for more than three years now. Ikaw, VP Leni, ang ninakawan ni Bongbong Marcos with his preposterous lies, fishing expedition and grand illusion.
Second, because the dismissal would effectively put a closure to all this time-squandering nonsense, and we can all finally focus our undivided attention, time and energy to more productive and meaningful endeavors such as our fight for the West Philippine Sea and against the gross corruption in government and the fake War on Drugs.
And, third, because, once and for all, our Magistrates would be able to prove that their decision is not for sale, that their integrity remains intact, and that they continue to be the best interpreters and final arbiters of the laws.
So, if we were you, VP Leni, we won’t worry our pretty little heads if the composition of the current Supreme Court is a little, well, worrisome — that 8 of its 14 Justices are Duterte appointees; that Justice Bersamin, a Duterte-appointed Chief Justice, and Justice Peralta, a GMA appointee, have both voted for the hero’s burial for Ferdinand Marcos, the acquittal of GMA for plunder, the arrest and detention of Sen. De Lima, the constitutionality of Martial Law in Mindanao, and the ouster via quo warranto of CJ Sereno; and that Justice Carpio, one of the three remaining Justices that truly deserve the title “Honorable,” is set to retire on October 26 and will be replaced by yet another Duterte appointee.
Yes, the odds may be stacked against us but let us not lose hope.
Let us hope that our Justices will all heed Justice Leonen’s tacit challenge, “Your children and grandchildren will ask you: during the darks days that you have lived, why did you not have the courage to do the right thing?” Let us hope that they will all choose to be on the right side of history. Let us hope that they will fearlessly stand for what is right, fair and lawful.
I and another colleague went to Calbayog City in Samar last weekend ready to turn over the teacher’s kits to the 250 public school teachers that our group, Team Pilipinas, had managed to raise a sufficient fund for. (The recipients were mostly assigned in the remote and far-flung schools either in the islands or the uplands of the province.) We were ready to serve as the bridge between our generous donors and our chosen recipients. We were ready to have a personal encounter with our teachers who are largely overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. We were ready to celebrate with them the National Teachers’ Month and the upcoming International Teacher’ Day on October 5.
What we were not ready for were the stories that they generously shared with us – stories that tugged at our heartstrings and made us realize anew why our teachers should, indeed, be put on a pedestal as our country’s modern-day heroes.
David Refuncion teaches in Mabini I Elementary School, a school situated in one of Calbayog’s farthest mountains. His first assignment, he has been teaching there for three years now.
David, along with seven other teachers from their clustered school, has to travel for eleven hours just to get to his students – two to three hours aboard a multicab, then a habal-habal and, finally, a boat, before he would have to walk across rivers, rice fields and hills for another six to eight hours. Their travel becomes longer, riskier and more challenging when they do it under the pouring rain because the water in the river rises and its current becomes strong, and the mountains and rice fields they navigate become murky and slippery. Armed conflict between members of the NPA and the private armies also poses a serious challenge to them and the entire community.
Adrian Benecario, from Calilihan Elementary School, has to regularly contend with landslides during his 5-6 hours of travel on foot just to reach his students.
Both young teachers are witness to how their students are living in abject poverty.
They have students who walk miles barefoot and are used to attending classes on empty stomachs. There are those who can’t afford to buy something as basic as paper and pencil, and just have to rely on the generosity of their classmates. There are those who use plastic grocery bags for their school bags. (There was this one time when the teacher was cleaning up after his last class. He saw a crumpled plastic bag and, thinking that is was trash, he put it in the trash bin. A few moments later, one of his students went back and asked in their local dialect, “Sir, have you seen my bag?” to which the teacher replied, “I didn’t see any bag here. What does it look like anyway?” “A plastic bag, Sir.”) There are those who have to skip classes because their parents need an extra hand in the farm. And when someone in the village gets sick, the parents automatically turn to the teachers for medicines because the nearest health center is miles away.
There’s also no electricity in their place so the teachers have to use flashlight or kerosene lamp when they are working on their Daily Lesson Log (DLL).
However, the worst and most heartrending story that they shared is that of some of their female students, the youngest of which are in Grade 3, who have to quit school altogether because their parents are forced to marry them off. They do it for two reasons: to rid themselves of the burden of feeding another mouth, and for the “payment” that they will receive from the man who will be their daughter’s husband. For P30,000 (which is usually given to them in installments) and a small pig or goat, these little girls are given away to any man who has the capacity to pay.
As a mother myself, that is the story that really broke my heart.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane Ebardone and Mariah Kim Oite are co-teachers in Cag-Anahaw Elementary School. Previously, they would reach their school by bamboo rafting for four hours, climbing four mountains, and crossing a treacherous river that snakes around those mountains. But since the river has gotten shallow due to landslides, they now have to walk all the way to the barrio where they teach. They have to be extremely careful, though, as paths can be steep and slippery, and one misstep can cause them to stumble down cliffs.
Cell signal is weak and unpredictable in the village so they attach a string to their mobile phones and hang them to anything that is high enough for them to get a signal.
Last December 28, 2018, the barrio was wiped out by Typhoon Usman.
Their school, that sits atop a plateau, is one of the few structures that survived the catastrophe. The floodwater, though, still managed to reach the roof of the covered court. It was only through the bayanihan of the neighboring communities that Barangay Cag-Anahaw was able to slowly rise back up.
Although it was hard for the two young teachers to accept that their students could not go to school because they had to be with their families in picking up the pieces of their shattered lives, they fully understood the situation. After all, given the choice between education and survival, any one of us will certainly choose the latter hands down.
Another two teachers that we talked to, Ricky Balat and Rhio Amor both teach in an island where illiteracy rate is among the highest in Calbayog. Their barangays also belong to the poorest.
Between the months of August and February, when the most intense monsoon winds blow, the islands get more isolated from the rest of the city because no boat dares to head to the open sea. During that season, there is scarcely any food. People have to make do with wild grass and any available root crops.
Aggravating the teachers’ situation in the islands is the seeming lack of support that they get from the government. They do not have a school so they teach their students inside the church. They do not receive any books, too.
The students’ houses are a long walk from the “school” and the unpaved roads that they tread are typically rough and muddy. Sometimes, there are even snakes slithering about.
My fellow Filipinos, the monthly salary of our entry-level teachers is only Php20,000. Some of them, like Sir Ricky and Rhio, do not receive regular hazard pays or hardship allowances despite the risks that they are made to face on a daily basis just to do their job. They are even required to make cash contribution for unit meets, competitions and other events. And they buy their supplies from their own pockets.
After all the deductions for taxes, GSIS, Pagibig, and all sorts of loans that they have previously availed, the teachers are left with a meager take-home pay. Yet, they still try to help their students in any way that they can.
Asked what they would request for should there be generous souls who would be ready to grant their wish, none of them expressed a desire for themselves.
School supplies for the students.
Slippers for the students.
Playground for the students.
Classrooms for the students.
Books for the students.
Asked why they continue to do what they do, they have a ready answer. They love teaching, they love their students, they love the community.
For them, it is enough that their students greet them with happy faces and toothy grins whenever they reach the village after a very long trek. The fruits and vegetables generously given to them in exchange for the medicines and other supplies that they provide for the parents are more loaded with sincere gratitude than the automatic thank yous that they are used to receiving. But, most of all, it is the realization that, in their own ways, they are making a difference in the lives of the children and their families, that keep them going. Day after day after day.