Office of the Vice President
01 August 2017
Message at the PHILAM Foundation 20th Anniversary, Tower Club, Paseo de Roxas,Makati City, 31 July 2017
Mr. Aibee Cantos, President and CEO of Philam Life; Mr. Max Ventura, President of the Philam Foundation; Ambassador Jose Cusia; Insurance Commissioner Dennis Funa; the Philam Group CEOs, executive committee and management committee; Philam Paaralan partners; fellow workers in government, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen: Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.
I am more than happy to be addressing all of you today, to tell you the stories of hope that we have found in the far-flung and poor communities where Philam Foundation have helped us build schools.
But this is not the first time that I have been to your anniversary celebration. In fact, I was telling Aibee and Ambassador Cusia that I accompanied my husband twice when he graced two Philam life events: one in Baguio and one in Clark.
The one in Clark was where we met a bad accident. That was where I got my permanent neck injury. We were on our way to Clark and there was an eight or nine car pile up. We were riding a Starex van—kami lang ang van—at lahat ng involved, mga truck, because it was 4:30 in the morning. Kinuwento ko na nang mahaba kay Aibee saka kay Amb. Cusia kung ano ang nangyari sa amin, but we arrived at the Philam venue in Clark na barely running na ang aming vehicle. Wasak na wasak. We had to get another vehicle from Naga to pick us up, because the vehicle cannot be used anymore.
We would like to believe that angels were with us that day, because I am in front of you today to share with you the results of your organization’s generosity to the Filipino people.
Jobert is a Grade 6 student in Damilag, Elementary School in Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon. At the age of 12, Jobert is already fond of planting flowering plants in his home and in school. He is trying to learn everything about them, because he dreams of becoming an agriculturist like his father.
The problem is that Damilag Elementary School is only up to Grade 6. The nearest high school — Alae National High School — is nine kilometers away, or a one-hour walk for most children in the area. The jeepney fare of seven to eight pesos may be affordable for some, but very few jeepneys pass that route. The habal-habal costs 50 pesos per way, too expensive for most of the children. Hence, most children drop out after Grade 6.
This year, we are happy that this is going to change. Pati si Jobert, masaya. Pati ang ibang mga bata doon who go to Damilag Elementary School are also very happy. The school is beng turned into an integrated school, thanks to the classrooms being donated by your foundation. An integrated school is one where elementary and high school are already merged.
This has been a long-time dream for the community. Since August 2016, the local government unit, the barangay council, and the PTA have been laying the groundwork for the transformation of the school. Once done, Damilag Integrated School will also be able to service the nearby barangays Mampayag and Campo Juan.
Education is key to disrupting the cycle of poverty in Barangay Damilag, as well as the thousands of other communities around the country just like it. But while the budget for education has been improving, especially in recent years, it is hard for government to keep up with the growing population. When I served in Congress as Representative of the Third District of Camarines Sur, one of my priorities was to make sure that there were enough classrooms in all the schools in my district. Until now, I visit regularly and inspect the schools, and in fact, Philam Foundation has helped me in that area of responsibility.
Education is also critical in reducing security problems, especially in very poor areas in the country. Ignorance renders people vulnerable to radicalization and extremism. Poverty and deep frustrations push people over the brink in hating government and establishments.
These are why providing quality public education can no longer be just be the concern of the government. It should be everyone’s concern. And the private sector—through foundations such as yours—can change the future for education in the coming years.
You can look at public-private partnerships—including ours under Angat Buhay—as soft and hard infrastructure projects. You can measure their strength by the amounts of concrete we pour on foundations, the steel bars we use for construction, the tables and chairs we furnish classrooms for little feet and hands and big, hungry minds.
Or, you can look at its effectivity by counting the number of lives and futures changed, and the way we are able to bring communities together to collaborate in building these schools. You see, classrooms should not just be a construction project, but an effort to enrich the minds of future generations of leaders, innovators, and changemakers.
What do I mean? An Ateneo de Manila study has shown that children are best educated when they benefit from three things: a caring principal, concerned parents, and well-trained teachers. And that is not all. From experience, we know that when the barangay captain and other local government unit leaders are involved— in fact when the entire community is engaged—any project succeeds and innovation fits the community better.
This is why, at the Office of the Vice President, we don’t just swoop down on a community with solutions. We recognize that the people who are in need of help often have the better ideas.
Involvement and participation empower, too. They build confidence, dignity, and build bridges of understanding within the community as well as with the outside world. Citizen participation may take more time and they are messier, but they allow public-private partnerships to create a stronger nation rather than just provide infrastructure.
I am pleased to note that Philam Foundation is helping us build classrooms right now in four Angat Buhay areas so far: Lantapan, Bukidnon; Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; Sumilao, Bukidnon; and Bato, Catanduanes, which was recently devasted by Typhoon Nina.
These are nine typhoon-resilient and fully-furnished classrooms with WASH facilities amounting to a total value of P9 million. When finished, these will benefit over 360 students. With the help of other partners, specifically LBC Foundation, Dole Stanfilco, and Kasilak Foundation, the beautiful classrooms will be instrumental in the emancipation from ignorance of future generations as well.
The classrooms that you have helped us build also in Severo High School in Barangay Burabod in Calabanga, Camarines Sur, which benefits hundreds of students, are situated in a secluded area at the foot of Mt. Isarog. They save students from a 5 to 7 kilometer walk to get to the nearest school. Truly, every stone, every pillar and beam, every bag of concrete, and every man-hour invested in these structures yield massive returns in the lives of our children and youth.
I don’t know if I told Max about it, but before I asked Philam Foundation to help us with the high school in Burabod, we actually asked help from several other partners to give classrooms—but all of them backed off when they learned that this will be in the mountains.
Mahirap pong pumunta. Max has been there. It’s a beautiful site, but it is very difficult to go. And you know, when you’re donating classrooms, it would require so much more amount to bring all that you will need for the construction to the mountains. I think it was last year that we inaugurated the classroom already, and it has changed so many lives. Not just in one barangay but in five barangays because most of the children there do not study anymore after grade school graduation, because the next high school is very far away. ‘Yong mga nagtatiyaga po, they walk five to seven kilometers going to the nearest high school. Those who can afford, they live near the schools, but spend for board and lodging. But this time that we have the Severo High School already in Barangay Burabod, courtesy of Philam Foundation, nakakapag-aral na ang mga bata doon. So, thank you to the Philam Foundation.
Since education is close to my heart, I wish that as the years go by, we can bring in even more innovation in the way we enrich the minds of our young. Aside from building classrooms, we can train teachers, we can bring in technology and multimedia, and show children what the world looks like outside of their communities—and that they have a special place in it.
The other week, we were inspired by this young girl who teaches computer language coding in other schools and put up her own Girls Who Code company. The future belongs to the children we can inspire, not just put inside a classroom.
So, I am looking forward to many more years of partnership with you. The work of nationbuilding is a lot more fulfilling when you are working with like-minded individuals whose passion for giving back is even bigger than ours.
Before I close, I would like to introduce Georgina Hernandez, who heads our Angat Buhay program. Siya po ang kumukulit kay Max all the time. But you know, Max has been terrific. Even when I was still in Congress, he would go to our district and inspect the sites himself. Kaya saludo, Max.
Thank you for listening to me today and congratulations for the past 20 years of meaningful service to the Filipino people, and we look forward to the next 20 years and more for Philam Life Foundation.