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    Becoming a Force for Positive Change

    Message at the Ideas Positive Run 8 Boot Camp Graduation Ceremony

    Camp Allen, Sta. Cruz, Laguna

    delivered on 17 February 2018

    Ms. Lilibeth Aristorenas, the Executive Director of Unilab Foundation; I don’t know if Ms. Jophie Contreras is here… Ms. Jophie Contreras, Operations Director; Mr. Alfred Dicto and Mr. Mikee dela Peña, Project Leads for the Ideas Positive Boot Camp; Police Supt. Gerson Bisayas, our Deputy Provincial Director for Administration, Laguna Provincial Police Office; Police Supt. Eliseo Bernales, Chief of Police of Sta. Cruz, Laguna; of course, Ms. Kristine Millete, Executive Director of Sun Life Foundation; the 17 Ideas Positive Run 8 national finalists; Unilab Foundation team; Ideas Positive alumni community; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat! [applause]

    I didn’t really know what to expect before coming over. I just came from another speaking engagement in UST earlier this morning. In UST, I was talking to a group of senior high school students. Doon ko lang nalaman na iyong UST pala iyong pinakamalaking population ng senior high—ang senior high sa kanila, 9,000 students. More than 100 sections iyong Grades 11 and 12.

    Sabi ko, parang… parang iyong tadhana ko yata ngayon, parati akong napapaligiran ng mga kabataan. Yesterday, I just arrived from Zamboanga del Norte for another engagement in Siayan, a small… small municipality there. I was also in a public high school. Mamaya ikukuwento ko nang kaunti.

    I have a speech prepared, pero while I was waiting outside, I was talking to Lilibeth and ini-interview ko siya: Sino ba iyong participants nito? Ano ba iyong age range? Sabi niya, 18 to 30. Sabi ko parang mga anak ko.

    You know, I have three daughters, ages 18 to 30. My eldest is 30. My eldest has been—I don’t have a son. Tinatanong ni Lilibeth. Sabi ko I have three daughters. My eldest has been working for, I think, 14 years already. She’s 30, but now she’s away, finishing her Master’s.

    Iyong second [daughter] ko naman is 24. My second [daughter] is 24, she’s [in] 3rd year Medicine. But my youngest is turning 18 in a few days. She’s [in] senior high. Nandito yata iyong teacher niya… Ayan. Si Sir Arnold Lapus, teacher niya sa Philippine Science [High School]. Magga-graduate na din iyong anak ko sa May 31.

    So iyon iyong age range ng mga anak ko: 18 to 30, just like you. And I decided I will do away with my speech already, because as I was listening to you, I saw a lot of parallelisms with what we’re doing at the Office of the Vice President.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with the nature of our office, but we are… we are kind of different from all the office of the vice presidents elsewhere in the world. Sa ibang… sa ibang countries, ang Office of the Vice President has a… has a mandate of its own. Gustong sabihin, mayroong gagawin. Sa atin, under our Constitution, there is no clear mandate of what the Vice President is expected to do other than be ready just in case something happens to the President. So wala tayong masyadong mandato.

    When I… After my inauguration into the office, I was looking at the budget of our office. Nakita ko, most of the budget is for salaries of personnel, operations, ceremonial work, but none for programs. So sinasabi ko sa staff ko na we can’t do six years just doing ceremonial work, because it’s like doing nothing at all.

    And it was deliberate on my part, I have a very young staff. Nakita niyo iyong mga nauna sa akin, lahat bata iyong aking staff. Ako lang yata iyong matanda sa aking opisina. My chief of staff is 33; I think the average age in my staff is 26… 26 ba, Raffy? Iyon iyong average age. So lahat bata. And it was deliberate.

    It was deliberate because I know very young people have the passion, have the initiative, have the energy to do a lot of things. And iyong… ako, hindi ako naniniwala na ito iyong—and I was proven right. Sabi kasi sa akin noong una, “Naku, kapag bata, hindi mo iyan maaasahan, kasi marami iyang gimmick, maraming—” Hindi. Hindi totoo. Iyong staff ko sa opisina, hindi kumukuwenta ng oras. Wala kaming oras sa opisina. Kahit weekends. Ngayon, long weekend, nagtatrabaho sila. And I was proven right, that they really have the energy, the initiative, and creativity to do a lot of things.

    And we tried to conceptualize a program. We tried to conceptualize an anti-poverty program because we thought that it was what we needed now. In the past years, in the past five years or so, our growth rate has been soaring in the sense that our growth rate is one of the highest in the region, but our poverty incidence has also remained very high. Meaning to say that it has not trickled down—the growth that we have been experiencing… we have been experiencing… we have been experiencing has not trickled down to the poorest.

    So we conceptualized a program where we will adopt… we will adopt the poorest communities in our country. Pero iyong problema namin, wala naman kaming pondo para doon. So again, we conceptualized a program where our office will be a sort of a conduit between communities needing help and private organizations wanting to help. So kami iyong ahente. Kami iyong nagbebenta ng communities sa aming partners. At iyon Unilab Foundation has been a very good partner, Sun Life Foundation has been a very good partner. Partner namin sila sa aming mga ginagawa.

    So in October of 2016, we launched Angat Buhay. Angat Buhay is the core advocacy program of the Office of the Vice President. And we decided to choose—sabi namin, realistic, 50 of the poorest communities muna. So during the launch, we invited the officials of the 50 poorest communities for them to pitch… to pitch their programs before our private partners. Nandoon iyong Unilab, nandoon iyong Sun Life, nandoon iyong 600 other organizations. So parang speed dating siya—speed dating siya kasi kulang sa oras, so kailangang ma-pitch nila iyong programs nila in two minutes. So they were pitching their programs and all our partners were going around, trying to listen to what they were pitching. After… after the day, we were able to gather more than 300… 300 partnerships between the communities needing help and our private partners.

    So we started with that, and we were able to visit communities which have inspired us, communities which have parang a treasure trove of stories. And one of these communities is Agutaya. I don’t know if you have heard of Agutaya. Is anyone from Palawan here? Wala bang taga-Palawan dito?

    Agutaya is in Northern Palawan. I’m sure you have heard of Coron. ‘Di ba? You have heard of Coron. You can reach Agutaya by boat from Coron, but it’s a 10-hour boat ride from Coron. Pumunta po kami doon. Pumunta kami sa Agutaya.

    And when we went, ang una naming napansin, people were crying—from the mayor, from the… from the village… village leaders, pati mga bata. Umiiyak sila. Sabi namin, bakit kaya sila umiiyak? And then when we started talking, iyon pala ay tears of joy kasi hindi sila nabibisita. And we were one of the very few who have reached their shores. Feeling nila, “Hindi naman pala kami abandoned.”

    So we… we had parang… we had a community discussion, and then we were brought to the only elementary school in that particular barangay—Barangay Diit. Iyong papunta na kami, excited na sila, they asked all the kids to line up. Pero iyong kalye kasi sa kanila, parang ano lang, parang… ano ito? Parang pathwalk lang, ganoon siya kaliit. They asked all the kids to line up left and right. May mga flaglets pa sila. So ini-introduce noong mayor saka noong principal, “Ito iyong Kinder, ito iyong Grade 1,” and so forth and so on, “Ito iyong Grade—” Noong Grade 5 na, may napansin ako. Sabi ko, “Parang iyong Grade 5 yata kasing laki din noong Grade 1.” So I was asking them, “Bakit ganoon? Bakit Grade 5 na, ang liliit pa din?”

    Sabi nila, because most of the kids here are stunted. Most of the kids there are stunted. And you know, stunting is… iyong sinasabi nating bansot. Parang bansot. Pero stunting does not only affect the height, but also the mental faculties of the child. And the sad thing about it is it’s irreversible after the age of five.

    So ‘di ba, parang pagpunta mo pa lang bumibigat na iyong… bumibigat na iyong dibdib mo. When we went to the only elementary school there, walang bubong. So tinatanong namin, “Bakit wala siyang bubong?” Sabi noong principal, “Ay, Ma’am, nasira siya noong Yolanda.” And [supertyphoon] Yolanda was four years ago. Sabi namin, “Four years ago na iyong Yolanda, bakit hindi pa siya naaayos?” Sabi, “Kasi Ma’am, baka hindi pa nababalitaan sa Manila na ganiyan iyong aming bubong.”

    And they seemed to be okay about it. When I say they seem to be okay about it, parang ano lang, chill lang, ‘di ba? Sira iyong bubong, eh ‘di sira. Kung umulan, eh ‘di sorry.

    Iyong mga bata, nakita namin iyong nilalaruan nila, iyong alam niyo iyong crabs, crabs… live crabs. Tinatalian nila iyon. Parang iyon iyong kotse-kotse nila. Iyong iyong nilalaro nila.

    Walang kuryente buong island. Walang potable water; bumibili sila from another island. Etcetera, etcetera. So we left with very heavy hearts. Sabi namin, parang hindi kami mapakali na hindi… hindi matulungan.

    And you know, help came. And it came very, very fast. First, we found… we found a partner, Andres Soriano Foundation, who was willing to put up a water supply, so that they would have… they would have electricity already. And we have a partner, Philippine Toy Library, they put up a toy library. Ito iyong may mga Little Tykes, maraming laruan. And you know they said— hindi ako kasama, kinukuwento lang ng staff ko—parang it was the first time that the children there were able to hold real toys, kasi ang toys lang nila dati iyong kanilang crab. At noong inilagay daw nila iyong toy library, ayaw na daw umalis ng mga bata, ayaw na daw umuwi.

    And then we found a partner who started a feeding program for the malnourished children already, Negros (Negrense) Volunteers for Change. And then we found a program—we found a partner—St. Theresa’s [College] Alumni Association, they provided boats for the fishermen, kasi naghihiraman lang ng kakaunting boats doon, kasi nasira din daw iyong boats nila from Yolanda.

    And then we found another partner, ASA Philippines saka Team Energy. Naglagay sila ng ano… solar panels sa more than 300 households. So more than 300 households have electricity now. And the first time that they were putting up those solar panels, tuwang tuwa sila kasi makakapanood na daw sila ng Ang Probinsyano. [laughter] Iyon iyong naiinggit sila doon sa mga isla na mayroong kuryente, kinukuwentuhan lang nila ng Ang Probinsyano.

    And yet that was not the only benefit given to them. Iyong benefit noon, iyong kababaihan nakakapagtrabaho na tuwing gabi. Mangingisda sila saka mga farmers during the day, pero kapag gabi nakakatrabaho na iyong mga kababaihan; mayroon sila doong… mayroon silang livelihood na iyong buri hats. Gumagawa sila ng buri hats. And I don’t know if you’ve heard of Amanpulo. Amanpulo is a parang five-star resort. It’s nearby. And noong nakakagawa na sila ng buri hats… ni-link natin sila with Andres Soriano Foundation, na kasali ay may-ari ng Amanpulo. Bumibili na sa kanila ng buri hats. And now, they’re supplying buri hats and buri mats, not only to Amanpulo, but also to other Aman resorts around the world. Dahil lang nakakatrabaho na sila tuwing gabi.

    So you see what partnerships can do. Sa amin, wala naman kaming—ang tulong lang namin, pagod, kasi kami naghahanap ng partners. Pero we have so many partners. Not just big corporations, but also simple organizations. May partners kami, mga friends lang sila – simple groups of people who really want to help.

    So sabi namin, one realization is that there are just too many people who want to help, but do not know how. And sometimes, we can be their conduit. Hindi lang iyong opisina namin; pati kayo puwedeng maging conduit.

    So all of these stories have been very inspiring. I was telling you earlier that I just arrived from Zamboanga del Norte. We flew to Dipolog and took a two-and-a-half-[hour] ride to Siayan. You know, Siayan was one—was the poorest municipality in all of the Philippines from 2003 until 2009. And if you look up their poverty incidence [rate] in 2009, 97.5 percent. So iyon… 97.5 percent ng mga tao doon, poor. Ang kuwento nila, hindi sila nakakapag-three meals a day. Ang biro nga, “Hindi nga namin alam kung anong gustong sabihin ng ‘snacks,’ kasi wala naman kami noon. Hindi kami nakaka-three meals a day.”

    But you know, in 2010, a mayor was elected—a lady mayor was elected— Mayor Flora Villarosa. Very, very proactive. Mayor Flora Villarosa started selling Siayan. That’s how we met. That’s how we knew about Siayan. Because she was all over the place, namamalimos for Siayan. So we learned about Siayan.

    The first time we went in 2016, it was not as poor as it was before. Siayan was on the rise, but we have been helping them out. Alam niyo kung ano iyong pinunta namin noong Thursday

    Marami iyong dropout rates niya, iyong high school dropout rates niya, ang taas taas, and we tried to find out why the school dropout rate was very, very high. Sobrang lalayo pala ng inuuwian ng mga high school students. So naghanap kami ng partner na puwedeng maglagay ng dormitory, and mayroon kaming nahanap na partner, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation—I’m sure you’ve heard of that. Iyong Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, dati ang ginagawa niya, sa mga lugar na mga isla, pini-pick up niya iyong mga estudyante. May boat sila—dati kasi may mga estudyante who would swim going to school. Halimbawa, in Masbate, mayroon diyang paaralan na iyong mga estudyante niya would swim two islands para makarating sa paaralan. And Yellow Boat [of Hope] Foundation was providing boats. Mayroon siyang boats na umiikot, para siyang school bus; iniikot niya, nagpi-pick up siya ng mga estudyante para dalhin sa school. And ngayon, nasa dormitory na siya. Partner namin siya. We first put up two in Zamboanga Sibugay, and now in Siayan.

    And last Thursday, we inaugurated the dorm. The dorm would house 25 people and we decided to open it to boys only, kasi iyong mga boys ang napakataas ng dropout rate. And noong pagpunta ko, I talked to those 25 boys. They were Grade 7 to Grade 10, pero may Grade 10 na 22 years old na; ilang beses na siyang nag-dropout kasi mahihirap sila, malalayo iyong pinupuntahan. And the boys who would be staying in the dorm for free, ang nilalakad nila 6 to 8 kilometers. Ang 6 to 8 kilometers would… would take them about two hours one way. Mayroon silang kino-cross na mga rivers, and itong two hours na ito, hindi siya patag. Ito iyong dumadaan ka sa mga bukid.

    Iyong kuwento nila, they would wake up around 3 a.m.—3 or 4 a.m.—and would start walking to school already. They would reach school mga alas-siyete ng umaga. Mag-aaral. Pag-uwian na naman ng 4:30 [p.m.], maglalakad na naman. Darating sila sa bahay, madilim na ulit. And many of them do not persist. Nagda-dropout sila sa school. And the dorm will be a big, big help.

    So bakit ko ito sinasabi sa inyo? Kasi there are lot of communities that really need help—naghahanap lang ng makakadiskubre sa kanila. So after we launched Angat Buhay in 2016, we decided to partner with schools. We’re partners with some schools now. Ang mga ka-partner namin Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, Unibersidad de Sta. Isabel in Naga, Assumption College in San Lorenzo… ano pa? UP Visayas, who’s doing our Bridging Leadership program. May partner kami—

    And then parang kulang pa din, so gumawa kami ng Angat Buhay Youth. And iyong Angat Buhay Youth namin, 50 youth organizations participated, parehong-pareho nito. Ang kaibahan lang we were not limited to health programs, but they also pitch projects. And I’m going to mention two of them, kasi parang may similarity doon sa isa.

    One of the participants in our Angat Buhay Youth Summit was a medical student named Jon Sergei Aclan. Iyong dream ni Jon Sergei Aclan was simple: he wanted to teach kids to play the violin. Pero ito, this later on became a part of his project. He formed a project named Project Gifted. Iyong Project Gifted, dinamay niya iyong kaniyang mga friends in a youth organization with a passion to use their talents to help and inspire children to develop their talents. When the Office of the Vice President made a call for youth organizations to pitch projects for the Angat Buhay Youth Summit, Project Gifted proposed to put up a Lipa City Youth Orchestra, to help children with drug and mental health problems through music therapy. Project Gifted was awarded as the best among the 10 finalists, 10 winning proposals, and they had a chance to go to a youth congress in Hanyang University in South Korea to make their pitch. And sa South Korea, binigyan din sila ng pera, ano, pang-finance ng kanilang project.

    Another organization—very similar ito doon sa project ng ARMM—another organization to receive a grant was the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, with its entry project… ang pangalan ng project niya, “SPROUT,” ano? “Speak Out, Reach Out,” which aims to provide psychological and mental health interventions in conflict-afflicted, geographically-isolated, and marginalized areas in the country. The Mental Health Mission had already its first run in Marawi to address the needs of the evacuees in the area.

    So marami talagang puwedeng gawin. Very inspiring. I attended the graduation also of Angat Buhay Youth, and it was very inspiring to listen to the proposals of the very young people.

    At isa pa, talagang kung gugustuhin lang nating tumulong, nandiyan talaga iyong tulong. For example, some of you might have read in the news, there was a group of loosely-associated people na gustong tumulong sa aking protest case. Ang tawag nila sa sarili nila, “Piso Para Kay Leni.” Nag-ambagan, nag-ambagan, magre-raise ng money to help me in my protest case, because I needed to deposit 7.5 million [pesos], may kulang pa ako— 15 million [pesos] iyon lahat—7.5 million [pesos] sa Supreme Court. Nabasa yata nila na hindi pa ako nakakabayad; kailangan ko nang magbayad. They raised money, pero iyong pag-raise ng money nila, nagulat sila kasi akala nila iyong mag-aambag lang iyong mga mayayaman, pero may mga drivers na nag-aambag, nagpapadala 100 pesos. Mayroon pang nagso-sorry, mayroon pang nagso-sorry kasi hindi niya nakuhang buo iyong suweldo niya, so sabi niya 50 pesos muna ngayon, sa katapusan 50 pesos ulit. Mga ganoong klaseng tao. And about 25,000 people contributed. They were able to raise 7 million [pesos].

    But when they raised the 7 million [pesos], I could not accept it because under the law, as Vice President, I cannot accept donations. So what they did was they filed a petition before the Supreme Court, for the Supreme Court to accept… to accept the 7 million [pesos] in my behalf. Unfortunately, hindi pumayag iyong Supreme Court. Hindi pumayag iyong Supreme Court na tanggapin kasi sabi ng Supreme Court, it’s the same thing as me receiving donations.

    So they went to the office, they had the 7 million [pesos] with them, and they were already donating it to our Angat Buhay program.

    I was telling my staff—ayan si Raffy, siya iyong head ng aming team—sabi ko kina Raffy, dapat iyong project na gawin natin, iyong mga drivers, iyong mga kasambahay na nagko-contribute, mafi-feel niya na mahalaga iyong kaniyang contribution. So we thought of using the 7 million [pesos] to build a village in Marawi. So now we’re building an Angat Buhay Village in Marawi, out of the money given by Piso Para Kay Leni. Our target is to be able to build 100 houses, and we’re going there on the 7th of March, March 7, for the groundbreaking ceremonies.

    Kaya ko ito kinukuwento kasi every bit of help goes a long, long way, as long as you have the passion, as long as you have the drive, you have the commitment to do it. Hindi puwedeng iyong sa umpisa lang excited; dapat hanggang sa huli excited pa din. Kasi sometimes marami iyong excited sa umpisa, hindi nasu-sustain hanggang sa huli.

    And also, sometimes young people, parang masyado niyong dine-deflate iyong value niyo, sinasabi, “Bata pa kami, ito lang iyong kaya namin.” Pero the example in our office, our office is being run by very, very young people— lahat talaga sila bata—and they have, you know… Angat Buhay, after its first year, has helped 83,900 families. They were able to… they were able to handle P170 million in help, coming from the private sector. From 50 communities, we are now in 173 communities. And these are very young people running it.

    So ngayong hapon, you started with a project that you pitched. And this is just a seed. This is just a seed of what you will be doing for the rest of your lives. So talagang itong boot camp, life-changing ito, pero life-changing in a way that I am sure this boot camp affected you na because of this, you were able to realize your full potential. Paminsan parati tayong feeling inferior, pero ngayon… I was listening to the three testimonies, ano? Iyong testimony noong taga-Marawi, sinasabi ko kay Ma’am Lilibeth, tama iyong hugot na iyon, kasi we have stationed ourselves in Marawi since Day One, and we are fully aware of what the people of Marawi have been going through. And they really need our help.

    Pero the entire country needs our help, and I always say this: The future is already yours. Kami na iyong aasa sa inyo, not the other way around. So congratulations to all the boot campers! [applause]

    Thank you to Unilab Foundation, Sun Life Foundation, and everyone else who pitched in in making Ideas Positive Run a success.

    Magandang hapon, at maraming salamat muli sa inyong lahat!

    Posted in Speeches on Feb 20, 2018