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    Message at the launch of Istorya ng Pag-asa in Iloilo City

    15 November 2017

    Assumption Iloilo, Iloilo City

    [Iloilo] Governor Art Defensor, Sr; Sister Mary Joseph Concepcion, Mother Superior of Assumption Iloilo; Sister Aremar Grantos, School Directress of Assumption Iloilo; Msgr. Dodong Oso, Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center; Mr. Dominador Co, Representative of Mayor Jose Espinosa III; Mr. Gerard Peñaranda, President of the Alliance of Concerned Ilonggos and the members of ACI; members of the Knights of Democracy; Assumption family, faculty, staff, alumni and students; beloved guests: Maayong aga sa inyong tanan.

    When I arrived a few minutes ago, I was telling the sisters that Iloilo is a favorite city [of mine]. I think this is my favorite, next to my native Naga. I was relating to the sisters that I have been to Iloilo so many times in the past, when I was not yet connected with government. Almost all of my children had trainings or competitions where they participated in Iloilo. I was staying here one time for eight days for Palarong Pambansa. Another time for five days for the math competition of my youngest daughter. Another for seven days for another math competition of the same daughter. So I have lived in Iloilo, and know all its nooks and crannies already, pati lahat ng kainan.

    One of the things, aside from the very good food, I was telling the sisters that, in my experience, people from Iloilo are really kind people. From tricycle drivers to taxi drivers, to everyone. Everyone would really make you feel at home.

    And you know, after the elections, I don’t know if you noticed, but Iloilo was the one who gave me one of the highest margin. I would like to thank the good governor for his help, and of course every one of you. But unfortunately, that is also the reason why… I am sure you have heard about the election protest against me, and one of the pilot cities being protested is Iloilo. I have been charged that I cheated in Iloilo, and of course, you know that is not true.

    Anyway. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation to join us today. This is actually the launch in Iloilo of one of the core advocacy projects of the Office of the Vice President called Istorya ng Pag-asa. I will introduce to you the program a little later.

    But before I do, I would like to thank the Assumption sisters, the entire Assumption family, for accepting our invitation to host us this morning. Sabi nga ni Sister [Jo], hindi naman kami magkakilalang personal, but thank you very much, Sister, for agreeing to host this launch. Thank you also to the Alliance of Concerned Ilonggos for spearheading the activity. Iyong lahat ng dugo, pawis at pagod nasa inyo, kaya maraming-maraming salamat.

    Anyway, what is Istorya ng Pag-asa? Ang Istorya ng Pag-asa is really one of our core advocacy programs. This is our Office’s answer to the prevailing darkness that seems to be enveloping the entire country now.

    Napapansin niyo ba iyon? I think one of the biggest manifestations is Facebook. I am sure, most of you are on Facebook. I am also there. But I remember that the first time I joined, it was such a happy place to be in. You are there to share important milestones with your friends. You are there to make new friends. You are there to solidify old friendships. You are there to find long lost friends. Everything on Facebook before was really a source of joy to all of us.

    [But then] we woke up one day, Facebook is different already. Facebook was different already, and people were angrier, people were fighting already. Former friends are unfriending each other already. Generally, Filipino people seemed to be very polarized.

    Medyo matanda na rin ako, pero I do not remember any other episode in our history that we are like this. Hindi ko lang po alam sa inyo, pero parang for the first time in our lives, parang we woke up one day… Siguro iyong mga bata, hindi pa masyadong napapansin, pero kaming mga medyo matatanda na, parang, di ‘ba Sister, we woke up one day and you ask yourself, What is happening to us? Ano ba iyong dumaan na umiba ang lahat? When it was starting to happen, I was one of those people who kept on complaining but was doing nothing.

    Ito, this launch is actually our second in your region. The first launch in Region 6 was last October in Bacolod. We were also fortunate that the University of St. La Salle of Bacolod also agreed to host our launch. As I have said, this is the second.

    Going back to my reason, I was very happy with the prayer earlier. Di ba? Hope. Hope is really a very powerful thing. Hope is our answer to the darkness that is consuming all of us now. Gaya po ng sabi ko, when we were starting to realize that this is a different Philippines, this is a different world, I was one of the people who was guilty of not doing anything.

    And then, I was invited to an event at the Ayala Museum. Iyong event was called Istorya ng Pag-(b)asa. It was actually a reading campaign, but the second part of the event was a feature of stories of hope.

    One of those featured was Nanay Lorna. Nanay Lorna was there; a frail lady, middle-aged, single mom, a turon vendor. Ordinaryong turon vendor siya, single mom with four kids. Her children were there during the event. Iyong mga anak niya, one was a teacher already, one was a nurse. One was a law student who was also working; a working student. Her youngest was a boy, and he was an intarmed medical student at UP PGH. I am not sure if you are familiar with the intarmed program of PGH, but it is very difficult to get in. Kaunting-kaunti lang po ang [nakakapasok], and the youngest son of Nanay Lorna is a student of UP.

    After the event, I talked to Nanay Lorna. Kinukumusta ko siya, how she was able to raise successful children. Kinukuwento niya na she took care of her ailing husband for many, many years. Nawala ang lahat ng pag-aari nila, because her husband was sick until he died. She single-handedly took care of the four kids. Pero just out of vending turon, napatapos niya ang lahat.

    One other person who was featured there was Hidilyn Diaz. Do you remember her? Si Hidilyn, we knew of her because she was the first Filipino who brought home an Olympic medal. Siya ang pinakauna for the country na Pilipina. I knew of her, I was in awe of her. Pero when she was there during the [event], she spoke.

    Sobrang liit niya lang. I don’t know if you have seen personally already, but she is a very small lady. And she was talking about her journey. Sabi niya, she came from a very poor family in Mindanao, but she was one of those people who wanted to be someone, and do something that will set her apart from the rest. Sabi niya, “Ang liit-liit ko…” Hindi naman ako… she did not have talents at that time that was extraordinary, but she was determined to find her place under the sun. So she tried weightlifting.

    The entire family was discouraging her. Sabi ng kaniyang pamilya, “Mahirap iyan. Magastos. Wala tayong pampa-training. Kailangan mong mag-train, wala tayong pampa-gym,” because they were very poor. But she was very determined.

    What she did was used the back portion of their house. Naghanap lang siya ng wood, [then] on both ends of the wood, nilagyan niya ng milk cans. Then the milk cans, she filled with hardened cement. Iyon ang kaniyang weights. She grew up doing that. Talagang gusto niyang maging mahusay.

    And then she started going to public high schools, and started competing in the Palaro. That was where she was discovered by the Philippine team, and the PH team took her in.

    Kinukuwento niya kung gaano kahirap because she was competing with most other players who really trained formally. Siya, sarili. Pero because of her determination, nanalo siya. She was the first Filipina to bring home a medal.

    Back home, I was touched in the most profound way by the stories of Nanay Lorna and Hidilyn. I wanted to do something like that, but did not know how. I set it [aside] muna, diyan ka lang muna. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang gagawin ko, pero I liked the idea.

    And then, a few months after, I was invited to an event. The event was called “Let Us Change the Conversation.” I went to the event not knowing what it was all about, but when I went there, it was an event organized by very young people. I was already there, and the organizers were telling us that, “We thought of doing this event because we wanted to do something already, because there is so much negativity around us.” “Gusto na naming may gawin,” sabi nila. “We want to change the conversation.”

    After that, it hit me. Sabi ko, talo ako ng mga kabataan. Sila, may ginagawa na; ako, nagrereklamo, pero wala akong ginagawa. Alam niyo naman siguro, I was at the receiving end of so much hate, but I was doing nothing. Ayaw ko namang makipagsagutan, kasi I think, more hate will just breed more hate. Noong nandoon ako sa event, sabi ko, mabuti pa itong mga bata ‘to, may ginagawa na.

    So when I went home, I thought of doing Istorya ng Pag-asa. Kinausap ko ang organizers ng Istorya ng Pag-(b)asa, and I asked their permission: Can I adopt the Istorya ng Pag-asa part, and then make it a program of the Office of the Vice President. And then we were given permission to do that.

    We started launching it already in many key cities all over the country.

    We first launched it Cagayan de Oro, in partnership with Xavier University. After that, we launched it in Cebu. We had two launches [there], kasi ang City of Cebu, gusto nila separate from the province of Cebu. So we have a launch in the city, and another in the province. After Cebu, we went to Baguio. Our partner in Baguio was the University of the Cordilleras, and we also partnered with organizations like ACI who spearheaded the event, [while] the University of the Cordilleras was the one who hosted the event. Dalawang beses na kaming pumunta; the first time was the launch, and the second was the actual exhibit. Then, we also launched in Naga, because that was where I came from. We also launched in Quezon City. Because Quezon City is very big, it was decided by the Quezon City officials na, why don’t we… we had a citywide launch already, but why don’t we have Istorya ng Pag-asa in every legislative district of Quezon City. So we had six Istorya ng Pag-asas in Quezon City. We already had a launch in District 5 last July; in District 2 and 1 last September; and I think next week, we will be launching in District 3. So marami-rami na sa Quezon City. And then, we went to Negros Oriental, we also had two launches [there]: one in Dumaguete, in partnership with Silliman University, they already an exhibit, and then another in Manjuyod. We also went to Palawan to have a launch in Puerto Prinsesa. During the launch, we already met some of the Istorya ng Pag-asa champs. And then, just two weeks ago, we had consecutive launches in Legazpi [Albay] and in Sorsogon. After that we went to Bacolod, and now we are here in Iloilo.

    Aside from those launches, we also had a social media launching in Pasay. We held it at Cuneta Astrodome. We thought that it would be good because social media is now the avenue of so much anger and hate. It would be good to introduce this, and to have Istorya ng Pag-asa also in social media.

    During the launch of Istorya ng Pag-asa on social media, if you look at the picture, that is Francis. Francis is a 12 year old boy from Taysan, Batangas. He attended our launch, but his story is also a story of hope. We accidentally met Francis when we visited a very poor public school in Taysan. We went there with some of our private partners who were willing to donate school buildings. Sinama namin iyong mga private partners, tiningnan iyong site ng Taysan Elementary School, and then we decided to visit each classroom. We started with Kindergarten, then Grade 1, and then when we were visiting the Grade 6 classroom already, the mayor and the vice mayor who were with me, kilala nila iyong isang bata. That peaked my curiosity: Bakit nila kilala iyong batang iyan? Sabi nila, “Si Francis iyan, kilala iyan ng buong Taysan, kasi pagkakalabas niyan sa school, nagtitinda siya.” Ang tinda niya, hotcake saka turon. Nagtitinda siya, each and every afternoon.

    We got curious. We interviewed Francis. I think we were there June or July this year, katatapos lang ng summer break. He was very proud. Sabi niya, “Opo, ma’am, nagtitinda po ako hapon-hapon para matulungan ko ang nanay ko. Nakaipon po ako noong summer, kasi nakabuwelo po ako magtinda.” Hindi lang hotcake saka turon, but he was also selling viands or mga ulam, saka nagka-carwash rin daw siya.

    We featured him, and we are helping him now, kasi naaawa kami sa kaniya kasi he should not be working. He is just 12 years old, and he should not be working, but he wants to work. The teachers were saying na hindi niya napapabayaan ang kaniyang pag-aaral, but we want to make things easier for him, so we are trying to help him.

    When I went home, I was telling my children about Francis. Sabi ko, “Kayo, kaunti lang, may reklamo na kayo. Itong batang ito, naghahanapbuhay na para sa pamilya.” The reason why I wanted to feature him is to inspire young people, na there are children like Francis, who took it upon himself already, the responsibility of being a co-parent in the family. So malaking bagay.

    Then, we thought, since we were partnering with Xavier, with Silliman, why don’t we invite the schools also. So we went to Ateneo de Manila University. Our team presented the concept of Istorya ng Pag-asa. And then, Father Jett [Villarin], the President of Ateneo, suddenly had a bright idea: Sabi ni Father Jett, this is project is perfect because we have a course for freshmen college students called INTACT, or Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Tradition, [where] students are made to immerse themselves into communities that Ateneo has been helping. Father Jett was saying that after immersion, they do not really have an output. So [they] will include Istorya ng Pag-asa as a requirement already, as a part of INTACT, because the output will be the stories that they will get from the ground. So we had the launch in Ateneo, and next semester, this will already be a part of their INTACT.

    We also met with several of our universities already. We met with Miriam College and we are launching soon. We met with FEU already, and FEU even volunteered to invite all the other universities located in the university belt. We met with Bro. Armin [Luistro] of La Salle, and Bro. Armin was very interested in the project. Ang nakakagulat doon, kasi di ba, I told you, ang pinagmulan nito ay Istorya ng Pag-(b)asa. When I was presenting the project to Bro. Armin, sabi niya, I know all about that because I adopted the Istorya ng Pagbasa part. So kaming dalawa pala ang naghati. So Bro. Armin will be launching this also in all the La Salle campuses nationwide.

    And you know, going around the country, there was one thing we discovered: That the story of every Filipino is a story of hope. Napakaraming istorya ng pag-asa sa paligid. Kailangan lamang natin hanapin sila.

    Everytime we have a launch, we come out very, very inspired. Maiiyak ka. Stories of joy, stories of triumph, stories of survival. Lahat na. And we were able to gather so many stories, and I hope that you will allow me a short time to share some of the stories that we were able to gather.

    One such story was the story of Rusty. We met Rusty in Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. Si Rusty… kilala nina Sister si Rusty. Si Rusty used to loiter the streets of Cagayan de Oro. He has been exposed to drugs. Hindi lang siya drug addict, pero including petty crimes. Some people had given up on him already. They were saying that Rusty was already a hopeless case.

    But there was one person na hindi nawalan ng pag-asa kay Rusty, and volunteered na siya ang mag-aalaga, na magiging scholar si Rusty. Tinutukan niya si Rusty. And true enough, noong tinutukan niya si Rusty, naging scholar [siya] sa Xavier. Nag-aral siya nang maayos, at natapos. When we went there, he just graduated with a degree in BS in Development Communication. The last time we went, he was already looking for work. Pero siya, very focused. Mayroon siyang klase ng trabaho na gusto, and we have to find out if he was able to get it.

    But when we met him, there was no trace of the Old Rusty anymore. Gusto namin siyang i-feature kasi, parang, this is a season of giving up on individuals na napariwara. Ngayon, kapag nalulong sa drugs o napasama, parang people are already branding them as hopeless cases. And Rusty is a perfect example of someone na, kahit napasama, dapat hindi pa tayo nawawalan ng pag-asa.

    The second story I want to share, we just met her during the launch in Legazpi, [Albay]. Ito, si Ave. Ave was orphaned at a very young age. She was just in grade school when she was orphaned, but she wanted to continue studying. So tinutulungan siya ng mga teachers. Palipat-lipat siya sa mga teachers [niya], until nakiusap siya sa isa na kung puwede maging kasambahay siya.

    So naging kasambahay siya. She worked for the teacher, and the teacher took care of her while Ave was working for her, that was until high school. Noong natapos siya ng high school, she still wanted to go to college, pero hindi na rin siya kayang paaralin noong teacher. So she tried looking for scholarship at first, pero ang nahanap niya, trabaho.

    Naging janitress siya. She was a janitress in the school. She was a full-time janitress during the day, and she would go to college at night. Nag-aral siya ng college, hanggang sa natapos siya.

    Noong natapos siya, she found work as a court stenographer. Sa court siya nakahanap ng work. And when she was already working sa court—ano ‘to, solo siya sa buhay—when she was already working as a court stenographer, she was inspired to take up law. So court stenographer during the day, then law student at night. Then she finished law, took the bar, passed the bar, and she became a lawyer. A few years after, she was appointed judge. So now, Judge Ave is a judge in Daraga, Albay.

    She was there when we met her. When I was relating her story to a crowd like this in Legazpi, Judge Ave was in front and was crying profusely. I was asking her after: Bakit po kayo naiyak? Sabi niya, parang bumalik raw lahat, but in a good way. Sabi niya, bumalik lahat ng sakripisyo. Ang sinasabi niya, “If people don’t give up on you, ma-aachieve mo ang mga pangarap mo.” Sabi ko, lesson rin iyan sa atin na ang pagmamagandang loob natin could really change lives of people. Kasi sometimes, we take a lot of people for granted, pero examples of Rusty and Ave, their lives were changed because one person did not give up on them.

    I still have so many stories, but I was told by my staff na dito mismo sa Iloilo, you have a lot of stories of hope. And I want to share three this morning. Siguro nandito sila, kasama natin.

    The first story is of Junel. Kukuwento ko, kasi first time kong ma-meet si Junel, at first time ko rin ma-come across ang story niya.

    Junel was very poor growing up, and because of [this], he was often bullied. As a way to defend himself, Junel enrolled in a karate club at school. He was very determined, he constantly trained. It came as a surprise to Junel that he was actually pala a very good fighter. He continued to enhance his skills and was eventually discovered by the Philippine Karatedo Foundation. Soon, he was included in the national team, which competed here and abroad.

    But this is only one of Junel’s passions. Now, he is also a member of the police force. Nakikita niyo naman, naka-uniform si Junel. But even if he is already a member of the police force, Junel did not set aside his first love. Junel continues to serve and protect. Now, he has established his own training center, where he teaches those who want to try his sport as well.

    Kaya, ayan. Junel, can you stand up again for everyone to see you. Ayan, a proud member of our police force, pero it’s a way of giving back, paying it forward. Maraming salamat, Junel.

    Our next INP Champ is Nestor. Parang maraming nakakakilala sa ‘yo, Nestor. Si Nestor grew up in very poor family. Dahil po mahirap na mahirap sila, hindi siya nakapag-aral. Noong medyo nagkaroon na siya ng opportunity na mag-aral ulit, sobrang hirap for Nestor, but he persisted. He persisted and endured it all, to fulfill the dying wish of his father. Ito ang pangarap ng tatay ni Nestor, na makapag-aral siya.

    Iyong school ni Nestor, masyadong malayo. Pumupunta si Nestor everyday, pero hirap siya dahil sobrang layo. Wala siyang pamasahe, saka kailangan pa niyang magtrabaho sa bahay. Pumapasok siya kahit hindi siya nakakapag-aral. Naglalakad siya papunta at pabalik ng paaralan, kahit sobrang layo ng paaralan. But he excelled in school. Hindi siya nakakapag-aral, nagtatrabaho sa bahay, naglalakad ng malayo, masyadong mahirap—but he graduated salutatorian.

    Because of this, he got a scholarship for college. But unfortunately, nagkasakit si Nestor, and lost his merits and was forced to drop out of college.

    Nestor went back to his province to help his mother work. Noong tinutulungan niya ang nanay niya, naka-save siya ng kahit kaunti. Noong naka-save na siya, nag-aral ulit siya. Nag-aral siya ng BS Math, because he always dreamed of becoming a teacher. Pero dahil kasyang-kasya lang iyong kaniyang pera pang-aral, sinakripisyo na niya lahat: Damit, libro, school supplies. Wala na iyon kay Nestor. Nakikihiram na lang siya.

    Pero kahit ganoon kahirap ang kaniyang naging buhay, Nestor graduated cum laude. After he graduated cum laude, he was immediately hired by Assumption Iloilo, as a math teacher. Ngayon, iyong dating hindi nakakapag-aral is now pursuing his doctorate degree. Idol na idol si Nestor.

    Our last story—and it is my privilege to meet him for the first time, kasi number one fan niya ako. Alam niyo, siya ang dahilan kung bakit bumabalik-balik ako sa Iloilo. Iyong ating last story is of Tatoy Espinosa.

    In the early or mid 90s, I fell in love with Iloilo for the first time because of Tatoy’s. Pumunta po kami rito, kasama ko ang asawa ko, my eldest then was just a young child. May nag-aya sa amin na kumain sa labas, sa Tatoy’s kami kumain. Parang apat na araw yata kami rito, that was dinner. The succeeding days, lunch and dinner, dito pa rin kami kumakain, kaming mag-asawa. Parang una po akong tumaba noong una kong bisita rito sa Iloilo.

    Tatoy’s is an institution in Iloilo already, but I think not many are familiar with the story of Mang Tatoy.

    As a child, Mang Tatoy has been used to hardwork. He would help his parents in fishing, and would climb coconut trees for them to turn into tuba or lambanog. Iyon ang una nilang negosyo. Nangingisda tapos nagtutuba ng lambanog.

    When he grew older at nagkaroon na siya ng sariling pamilya, sumubok na magsariling hanapbuhay si Mang Tatoy. Iyong unang hanapbuhay niya, nagbebenta siya ng mga native na manok saka bangus, doon lang sa may beach kung saan may mga bisita who can buy food from him. Tatoy and his wife would concoct different dishes for their customers. Kahit iyong mga anak nila helped out in their business, so it became a family thing for them.

    Eventually, Tatoy’s Manokan made a name for itself because of its distinct menu and variety of food. Dati, isang maliit na hut with three tables, [now] Tatoy’s Manokan has expanded to eight cottages, four buildings and a swimming pool. Siguro naman lahat tayo nakapunta na doon, hindi ba?

    Now, no trip to Iloilo—for us, who are not from here—no trip is ever complete without a visit to Tatoy’s. Kaya we are fortunate today that we are featuring Mang Tatoy. Palakpakan po ulit natin si Mang Tatoy. Ngayon, si Mang Tatoy, hindi na lang siya sikat sa Iloilo. Kahit mga foreign publications, nafi-feature na siya.

    These three from Iloilo are just some of the inspiring individuals who are true sources of hope for all of us. We are sure that as we go along, we would be able to discover so much more.

    Gaya po ng sabi ko, everytime we would go out, we would discover stories of hope. We are envisioning that if we start looking for stories of hope, start flooding social media with stories of hope… Mayroon po akong radio program, one segment of my radio program is devoted to interviewing our Istorya ng Pag-asa champs. Pero sa akin lang, maraming nagsisiraan online. Alam niyo naman, siguro you have read about everything that has been said about me. Pero hindi po tayo sumasagot, because we think that that is not the way to go.

    Kung papatulan natin ang kasamaan, magiging masama na rin tayo. But if we try to change the conversation, huwag po natin silang pansinin, and instead ang ikukuwento natin ay stories of hope, baka naman, umiba na talaga ang conversation against us.

    Hindi nga po ba, may kasabihan: Iyong darkness, even complete darkness, with a tiny flicker of light, umiiba na ang lahat. And that is our target, that with Istorya ng Pag-asa, gradually, slowly, we would be able to change the conversation, because people will no longer feed on the negatives. Ang hinahanap na lang natin, stories like Junel, Nestor and Mang Tatoy—stories of struggle, stories of triumph. Na tayong lahat, I am sure you agree with me, na kapag nakakabasa tayo ng mga ganito, umiiba ang ating pakiramdam, and we can only thank the Lord for all the blessings given to us.

    Na-discover ko po ang Istorya ng Pag-asa noong November 2016. That was when I was invited to Ayala Museum. Ngayon, mag-oone year na since I discovered it. Ang sabi po namin sa opisina, it is time to up it, to take it a step further.

    Right now, Istorya ng Pag-asa is a moving photo gallery, featuring the stories of hope. Iniikot natin siya sa mga school, sa malls, sinasaturate natin ang social media. But on November 27, one year after, we are also launching another segment of Istorya ng Pag-asa, and it’s Istorya ng Pag-asa Short Film Festival.

    We are opening it to neophyte filmmakers. Partner po natin rito, Ayala Foundation, AyalaLand, Globe Telecoms. Ang idea is for young people who are into making films, kahit—sabi ng Globe, kasi they are very familiar with it—kahit sa cellphone lang. It’s to feature stories of hope on film, three to five minutes if I am not mistaken, and Ayala Foundation has agreed to showcase the best films sa Ayala cinemas nila. Nag-agree po sila na before the main feature, ipapakita nila iyong stories of hope.

    This is our contribution to making our country and our world a happy place to live in again. This is taking responsibility for changing the conversation. Huwag na po tayo magreklamo na masasama na. May gawin na po tayo. Because if we do not do anything, this might persist, and we will wake up one day, hindi na natin alam kung ano ang dumating sa atin, kung ano ang nangyari sa atin.

    This morning is especially significant because you are all here. This morning we will mark our partnership, that we will continue looking for stories of hope in Iloilo, and once we’ve gathered all the stories of hope, we will spread them all over the city. Nandito po si Governor, magpapatulong po tayo kay Governor na isasali rin natin iyong mga cities outside Iloilo, para po buong probinsya ang maikot natin.

    Kaya maraming-maraming salamat po sa Assumption Iloilo for agreeing to host us. Maraming-maraming salamat rin to ACI and Knights of Democracy, for spearheading this event.

    Magandang umaga ulit sa inyong lahat.

    Posted in Speeches on Nov 15, 2017