Room Salle Toulouse – Avignon, Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle, Manila
delivered on 26 September 2018
Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for having us here this afternoon and thank you also for agreeing to be our partner—as one of our partners in Istorya ng Pag-asa. But before I proceed, let me first greet Bro. Michael, Bro. Manny, Mr. Neil Pariñas, Ms. Fritzie de Vera—pangatlo na akong Vice President na tinawag, [laughter] parang iyong first two, tatayo na sana ako [laughter]; to the other teachers and administrators who are here; dear students; some of our filmmakers—our filmmakers, some of them joined our first Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival; the other officials of La Salle; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen; magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.
Just to give you a context of how Istorya ng Pag-asa came to be. I think most of you are aware of how the Office of the Vice President in the Philippines is compared to the other Offices of the Vice President elsewhere in the world. If you look at our Constitution and our laws, our office almost does not have any mandate. The only thing that the Constitution says is the vice president should be ready to step in just in case something happens to the President. So that was our motivation even before the inauguration. I was telling my staff that, you know, we cannot spend six years doing nothing. We have to reinvent the office and make it more relevant, make it more advocacy-heavy. So we were trying to look into opportunities where, you know, we can advocate for things we are passionate about. But the main problem of the office is, I think, we have the smallest budget in the entire bureaucracy. If you look at our budget, most of—a huge part of it goes to operations and salaries of employees but nothing for programs.
So we tried to conceptualize, bringing in mind the limitations of the office. We were able to craft an advocacy program called Angat Buhay. It’s an anti-poverty program where we have successfully positioned our office to be a sort of conduit. Para po kaming tulay—tulay between communities needing help and individuals and organizations wanting to help. So in the past two years that we have been in office, that was what occupied most of our time. We started with the 50 of the poorest communities. We chose these poorest communities from the top 20 poorest provinces all over the Philippines. So, two or three times a week we’re in those communities.
Iyong Istorya ng Pag-asa actually aksidente. Sometime November of 2016, i was invited to an event at the Ayala Museum. The event was called Araw ng Pagbasa, Araw ng Pag-asa. Pumunta lang ako doon to attend. I was one of those featured as one of those heavily-inspiring stories so I was there.
But when I was there, I met two people who were also being featured with me. One of them was Nanay Lorna. Si Nanay Lorna, ano siya, turon vendor from Quezon City. Na-struck ako sa kaniya kasi noong tinatawag siya, hindi namin siya mahanap. Pinapatayo namin siya pero hindi namin siya mahanap. Nandoon siya sa dulo, napakaliit na babae. Pero when she was being introduced, her story is: almost all her life, turon vendor siya pero grabe iyong hinirap ng buhay nila because her husband got very sick and he was sick for quite sometime. So siya iyong only breadwinner in a family of four children yata—four children. Sobrang ginapang niya iyong pagpapagamot sa asawa niya until he finally died. Pero iyong mga anak, very, very successful—mayroong nurse, mayroong teacher, one is studying to be a lawyer—working student siya—tapos iyong bunso, kasama niya noong araw na iyon—Intarmed student sa UP. ‘Di ba alam naman nating napakahirap pumasok doon. And I was talking to her, naglalako siya. Naglalako ng… naglalako siya ng turon. Pero sabi ko, “Uy, iyong picture parang nasa sari-sari store ka,” kasi may picture parang nasa sari-sari store. Sabi niya, “Hindi, Ma’am, for a while nagkaroon ako ng sari-sari store pero na-demolish din kami so naglalako ulit ako.” So I was very struck and the one who spoke in our behalf was Hidilyn Diaz.
Si Hidilyn – I don’t know if you already saw her personally – pero sobrang liit din na bata. And when she was telling us her story, apparently, she comes from a very poor family in Mindanao. But even when she was still young, she wanted to be really good at something. Hindi ko naman alam kung bakit napili niya [ay] weightlifting. But she was telling us that when she was starting to—when she decided to be good at—to study weightlifting pa lang. She was being discouraged by her family. Ang sabi ng family niya, “Mahirap iyan kasi magastos. Magastos mag-training.” Pero desidido siya—desidido siyang mag-training so she got a metal—ang kuwento niya metal pipe, eh. Iyong metal pipe, nilagyan niya ng dalawang—sa both edges of the metal of the pipe—sabi niya lata ng gatas tapos may pinatigas na semento. That was what she was using for her training—backyard lang. So when she entered a public high school, na-discover siya na marunong na siyang mag-weightlifting until she was being sent to public school competitions hanggang nakarating siya sa Palarong Pambansa and then she won gold. So she was recruited to the Philippine National Team and we all know that in 2016, she won for the Philippines the first ever medal won by a Filipina. So naka-bronze medal siya. And two weeks ago, she won for us our first gold Asian games medal.
Iyong sa akin, the story of hope was so powerful, eh. Here were two individuals na nag-struggle all their lives but achieved something. Pero while I was so touched by the stories I heard, I did nothing about them. So I went home, did the usual. And then a few weeks after, I was invited to an event. The event was entitled, “Let Us Change the Conversation.” I did not know what it was about but I went.
When I went, it was a gathering of young people. So curious naman ako tungkol sa ano [siya] and then noong nag-uusap na, sabi noong mga organizers, “You know, Ma’am, we did this event because we’re so tired already of all the fighting we see online, of all the fake news that’s being spread around.” I was sitting in front and parang sobrang guilty ko noon sa sarili ko na, “Talo pa ako nitong mga batang ito.” Sila, they were so tired of it but they were doing something about it. Pero ako, I was even – am – at the end of so much fake news but I was not doing anything about it.
So doon ko naisip ulit iyong event na pinuntahan ko sa Ayala Museum and I asked the organizer if I can adopt the Istorya ng Pag-asa thing. I wanted to capitalize on the hope that, you know, that it can bring to so many people. Iniisip ko, kapag nabasa, kapag napanood ng mga tao iyong mga stories of hope, iyong mga naghihirap, magkakaroon ng pag-asa na once in their lives, itong mga taong ito sobrang hirap din iyong pinagdadaanan but they were able to get out of it. Iyong mga sobrang privileged din ang iyong buhay, ganoon din. Lalo na iyong mga estudyante, ‘di ba, na sobrang privileged ng mga buhay pero walang dahilan para magtama-tamaran. Kasi kung ito ngang sobrang hirap ng pinagdaanan, and yet, they were able to get through all the difficulties.
So we launched – we launched Istorya ng Pag-asa. But we decided to bring it all over the country. So we have been to key cities all over the country already—Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Baguio, my home city in Naga, Quezon City, Puerto Princesa, Dumaguete, Legazpi, Iloilo, Bacolod, and to the different congressional districts in Cavite. We were just there a few days ago. We were at General Trias and Carmona. We’re in five towns in Cavite already.
Tapos, as we went around, talagang the realization is sobrang dami. Sobrang daming stories of hope. So we decided to partner with schools. We decided to partner with schools kasi I was reading some of the inspiring stories from here, talagang treasure trove of very inspiring stories ang mga schools. Aside from La Salle, we already partnered with Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro; Siliman University in Dumaguete, we already had launches there; Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City; Ateneo de Naga University; University of St. La Salle in Bacolod; Ano pa ba? Iyon, that’s about it. We already met with Miriam, with FEU, and some other schools. So, very inspiring. And, iyon nga, sobra talagang every time we would launch Istorya ng Pag-asa in schools and in communities, we’re always so overwhelmed with the stories that we find.
We initially started Istorya ng Pag-asa with 20 Istorya ng Pag-asa champs. Now, we have over a hundred. This is proof that there is really no shortage of hope.
May gusto lang akong i-share na isang story, just to give you an example of the many stories that we come across with. Itong story na ise-share ko sa inyo is the story of Ave. We met Ave because she was featured by our Istorya ng Pag-asa partners in Legazpi. Iyong si Ave, apparently, from Masbate, born to a very poor family. But she lost her Mom at the age of – when she was in third grade. Ano pa lang siya, Grade 3. Marami [silang] magkakapatid—farmer iyong Tatay—pero iyong Tatay could not fend for everyone after they lost her Mom. Itong si Ave, gustong-gustong makapag-aral so she talked to her teacher—iyong adviser niya. Nakikiusap siya kung puwede siyang paaralin. Ang promise niya sa adviser niya, “Tutulong ako sa bahay niyo.” In other words, she was offering herself to be, iyong parang katulong sa bahay. So ganoon, that was what happened.
From Grade 3 until she finished high school, it was the teacher—the Grade 3 adviser who sent her to school. Public school lang naman, pero tumutulong siya sa bahay. Ang kuwento niya, ang una niyang assignment, weeding the garden. Hanggang noong malaki-laki na siya, naghuhugas na siya ng mga plato, naglilinis ng bahay. She graduated valedictorian of a public high school in Masbate.
Pero the teacher who sent her to grade school and high school talked to her after graduation and told her that she could not afford to send her to college anymore. So she was heartbroken. Until the teacher told her, “Pero valedictorian ka naman. Hanap ka ng mga schools na nag-o-offer ng scholarships for valedictorians.” May nahanap siyang isang school sa Legazpi, ang pangalan ng school Ago Foundation College. So sabi niya, “Sige, makakapag-aral ako kung pupunta ako doon.” Ang kuwento niya, she only had 50 pesos in her pocket. Pero iyong Masbate kasi, to go to Legazpi, you have to take the boat, eh. You have to take the boat to Sorsogon then take the bus to Legazpi. That was what she did. Sabi niya, nakarating siya sa Legazpi coins na lang yata iyong natira. Tapos dumating daw siya madilim pa, tapos very early in the morning, the school was still closed. So naghintay siya sa labas ng gate until the school opened. Noong nag-open na iyong Registrar, pinapasok siya. Sinabi sa kaniya, “Talagang nag-o-offer kami ng scholarships for valedictorians but the scholarship is limited to tuition fees only. It would not include miscellaneous and other expenses.” So she was again heartbroken kasi wala talaga siyang kapera-pera. Wala siyang pera for miscellaneous, wala siyang pera for board and lodging, etcetara, etcetera. Hanggang naisip niya, “Mag-a-apply ulit ako ng trabaho.” Nag-apply siya doon mismo sa school. Kinuha siya bilang janitress, pero full time.
So ang ginawa niya, janitress siya during the day, estudyante siya at night. Ang course niya secretarial management. So she was able to finish and she finished summa cum laude. [Audience: Wow!] So noong nag-graduate siya, nakahanap siya ng trabaho as, ano ito, court stenographer in a Regional Trial Court also in Legazpi. So nagtrabaho siya doon for many years. While working as a court stenographer, nag-asawa siya. Iyong asawa niya was also a working student in the same school. Pero iyong asawa niya, sa kitchen—sa canteen—naka-assign. So, nag-asawa sila. And because she was in the midst of lawyers and judges, na-inspire siya to take up law. She took up law, she was working as a stenographer during the day and took up—she was in law school at night, hanggang natapos siya. When she finished law, she took a break from work to review for the Bar exams. Took the Bar, passed, became a lawyer. She became a very good lawyer—practiced law for a few years. In fact, naging lawyer pa siya ng Philippine National Police doon sa amin until alam niyo kung ano na siya ngayon? Judge. She’s the Municipal Trial Court judge of Daraga, Albay. So, ‘di ba, very inspiring?
And the reason why I keep on telling stories like the story of Judge Ave is really to inspire hope. Iyon iyon talaga, eh. Kasi kapag naririnig mo, parang there’s no reason why mawawalan ka ng pag-asa kahit naghihirap ka. And kahit binibigay na sa iyo—kung binibigay na sa iyo lahat, wala ding dahilan para hindi ka magsumikap kasi going through struggles like Judge Ave did, talagang nakakaantig ng damdamin.
And we celebrated our first year. The first anniversary of the Istorya ng Pag-asa last November of 2017. But we wanted to bring it a step further. Dati kasi during our first year, it was just a roving photo gallery. Parati siyang parang photo exhibit with the stories of our champs. So we were bringing it to malls, to schools, to places where human traffic is abundant. But we wanted to take it a step further and we thought of launching an Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival.
So we launched the Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival during our first year anniversary, November of 2017. Noong launch, we announced that we were accepting entries [of] three to five-minute films—short films—of stories of hope. Very inspiring, we were able to get more than 80 entries. Sabi namin, pipili kami ng—the gala night was [on] June 12 of 2018—sabi namin pipili kami ng 10 finalists. Pero our board of judges had a hard time compressing the shortlist to 10. We decided to make it 15 instead.
And the good news about it is of the 15, five of the filmmakers were from La Salle. [applause] I don’t know if we invited them over. I don’t know if the five of them are here. Let me just call each one of them. Gian? Gian Arre. Nandito ba si Gian? Gian Arre was the filmmaker of a film entitled, “Mclaine.” He’s not here now; the second is entitled, “Liham Pagmamahal Para sa Kasalukuyan,” and the filmmaker is Jocelyn Frago. Jocelyn is also not here. The third film, this film I think made it to the top—or may special awards yata ito—“Pamilyang Bernardo,” the filmmaker is Anna Mikaela Quizon; is she here? Wala din. Ah, nandiyan. Bakit ka nandiyan? [applause] Ayan, nandito si Anna Mikaela Quizon. [applause] Very… ano nga iyong award ng Pamilya Bernardo? [Anna: Best Director po.] Best Director, ayon. [applause]Ano iyan, La Salle-trained. And then the fourth film is “Overdrive,” by Matthew James Pelayo [applause]. The fifth film is entitled, “Ang Gahum Sang Daku Nga Handum,” by Demy Cruz. I’m not sure if Demy is from La Salle but the subject is. Iyong film na “Ang Gahum Sang Daku Nga Handum,” the translation is “The Power of Big Dreams.” The film is about Vejiel Velez. Tama ba iyong pag-pronounce ko? Vejiel Velez.
Vejiel is a member of the Ata Tribe in Negros. She shares the struggles and challenges she had to face to selflessly pursue a dream, not only for herself, but for her people. Si Vejiel was a scholar of La Salle Bacolod and she graduated cum laude. Ngayon, si Vejiel is a volunteer teacher. Nakalimutan ko, Brother, iyong pangalan ng program niyo. I think I told you about this already. May program kayo where they— Ngayon, si Vejiel is in Bataan, doing work for your program but she hopes to be a full-fledged teacher after she does her work. We want to show you the film because Vejiel is one of your own. Hindi namin kaya i-show iyong lima kasi makukulangan tayo ng oras but this is also one of the awards— actually, tinitingnan ko nga iyong Mclaine, iyong Liham Pagmamahal Para sa Kasalukuyan, Overdrive, Pamilyang Bernardo – all [are] very good films. Pero ito, we want to show this to you because it also highlights the program of La Salle.
[“Ang Gahum Sang Daku Nga Handum” by Demy Cruz plays]
Okay, ‘di ba very inspiring iyong story ni Vejiel? And she’s thanking De La Salle Philippines for her education. I think we still have more time. I was asking my staff if we brought the films of Matthew James and Anna Mikaela, and they said yes. So if you will indulge us, I am sure you’ll be very interested. Anyway, five minutes each. We’ll show you first the film “Overdrive,” which is [Matthew] James’ film, to be followed right after by “Pamilyang Bernardo.”
[“Overdrive” by Matthew James Pelayo and “Pamilyang Bernardo” by Anna Mikaela Quizon play]
Ayan, may we have the lights on again. ‘Di ba, ang ganda? Products of La Salle iyan lahat. But I’m sorry I forgot to mention that Anna Mikaela’s co-director pala is also here, Alda Dalisay. Where’s Alda? [applause] Nasaan si Alda? Ah, ikaw pala si Alda! Okay, I invited Alda already and Matthew to participate again in the second run of Istorya ng Pag-asa [Film Festival]. We’ll be launching the second year of Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival on our second year anniversary also on November 27 of 2018. So we would also like to extend this invitation to the other film students who are here. Not just film students, but film enthusiasts, ‘di ba? Sana na-inspire kayo ng mga films nila. Iyong subject ni Matthew is not with Uber anymore. Nasa Grab na siya. Si Aling Imelda. [laughter]
But you know, as I was telling you earlier, as we were going around the country, we had one realization: that the story of every Filipino family is really a story of hope. Anywhere we went, talagang umaapaw iyong mga kuwento. And even here in CSB, we’re not hungry for more stories as we have a lot of inspiring stories also in our midst. We’re going to share with you some of the stories that we were able to gather here at CSB.
One story is the story of Mark Gil Gabo. Mark is here? Ay, nandito pala si Mark. [applause] Si Mark was born in Binangonan, Rizal. His parents got separated when he was still young, and his mother brought him to their hometown in Camarines Sur—mag-kababayan pala tayo, Mark—where he was left with his grandmother. At the young age of five, Mark was already working as a farmer. Sabi nga ni Mark, naiinggit daw siya sa mga bata na nakakapag-aral sila ng elementarya. May balak daw sana siyang mag-aral noon, kaso ang parating pumapasok sa isip niya ay kailangan niyang tulungan iyong kola niya. His mother returned to him when he was already nine years old. It was only during that time when he entered Grade 1. So nag-Grade 1 si Mark, nine na siya. At first, he felt uncomfortable because his classmates were so much younger than he was. But he said, “Hindi ko na lang sila pinapansin.” At lumipas ang anim na taon, nakapasok naman siya, nakapag-aral ng grade school. After graduating from grade school, again, he had to help his mother support his siblings. He worked as a dishwasher in a carinderia, and then, he also worked as a carwash boy.
But through grit and determination, he was able to enter the CSB’s ALS program while juggling his work as a mechanic assistant in an auto-repair shop. After years of hardwork and patience, he eventually graduated from this program. He’s now very happy because according to him, matutupad na rin ang pangarap niyang mag-college. And he also told us, sa buhay na pinagdadaanan niya daw, ang masasabi niya lang: “‘Di baleng maghirap tayo sa una, nasa huli naman ang ginhawa.” Sana naririnig ka, Mark, ng ibang mga kabataan, ano?
Mark’s story is one of hope, that things will get better and we can build yourself from ground up with determination and perseverance. Puwede bang palakpakan natin si Mark? [applause] Mark, tayô ka, Mark. Tayô ka, so people at the back could see you. Very, very inspiring story, grabe. Puwedeng isa-pelikula iyong buhay ni Mark. But really, when I come across stories such as this, parati kong, parati ang pagnanais ko [na’ sana napapanood ito nung mga mas privileged para marunong magpasalamat, na hindi na nila kinailangang pagdaanan iyong kahirapan na pinagdaanan ni Mark. So thank you, Mark for the inspiration.
Another story that we came across with is the story of Kelsey. Nandito ba si Kelsey? Ayan, Kelsey. Tayo pala ang magkatabi. [applause] Si Kelsey is a 20-year-old student from Fairview, Quezon City. Her father passed away when she was just six years old. Her mother, who runs a sari-sari store, is a care provider trainee in their barangay in 2013—care provider trainee pala in their barangay. In 2013, her family faced a big tragedy when their house got demolished. They were forced to live in a temporary shelter made from pieces of wood and yero. After graduating from high school, iyong dream sana ni Kelsey was to take up Consular and Diplomatic Affairs here at the De La Salle College of St. Benilde. Pero dahil hirap na hirap sila, kailangang maghintay iyong kaniyang panaginip.
But she never lost hope and fought with determination. She eventually received a scholarship grant and was accepted at CSB. While she was already here, she faced bigger challenges. She said that when schoolwork would pile up, she felt frustrated because she couldn’t catch up with everyone around her. She did not have her own laptop or computer at home so she would spend hours studying in the university library. When school was closed, she would do her homework in a small computer shop near their house. Getting to school every day also proved to be difficult—sobrang layo ng Fairview from here—she would commute for hours and get very exhausted by the time she reached home. She wanted to live in a dorm pero sabi ng nanay niya, hindi nila kaya. There was one instance when she missed class because she had no allowance. She would also get worried every term because she did not have enough money to pay for miscellaneous fees.
Fortunately, a lot of generous individuals reached out to her. One of her teachers helped her in applying for a student assistant position to earn extra money. The school president, Brother Dennis, supported her monthly dorm expenses and provided her with allowance. He also let her borrow an old school laptop so she can finish her homework on time. Another generous individual gave her free food stubs. Now, she has all the things she needed for school.
According to Kelsey, surviving in college was never an easy road for her. But it is the love and support of the people around her that continue to inspire her to keep on going. Third year na si Kelsey ngayon. Third year na si Kelsey. [applause] And it is Kelsey’s hope that her story would inspire more students to never give up and fight for their dreams. Naku, idol na idol si Kelsey. Palakpakan po natin si Kelsey. [applause] Ayan, ‘di ba, at least hindi ka na umuuwi everyday, ‘no? Kasi mauubos iyong oras mo.
We have another story but I think she is not here with us today because she’s in Samar. But this is the story of Karen. Si Karen is an academic scholar who hails from a Gawad Kalinga community also in Fairview, Quezon City. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, Major in English, magna cum laude. As a student, she was an active volunteer of the Lasallian Pastoral Office, serving as faith formator and a student leader of the College of Education. She is now a volunteer educator for the Lasallian volunteer program. This is the same program, I think, where Vejiel is. She teaches English and Health part-time on a daily basis in a Lasallian-adopted high school in the Municipality of Mondragon in Northern Samar. That’s where she is now.
Under the “Eskwela sa Bukid” program, she teaches Reading and Values Education to elementary students in a remote farming village three times a week. As a volunteer for the “Eskwela sa Dagat” program, she also teaches Math, English, Filipino, and Science to kids living in coastal towns every Sunday. Karen and her fellow volunteers also spearheaded a Save the Pacific Ocean coastal clean-up activity with local high school students. They were able to cover three coastal areas for this project. Sayang, hindi natin kasama si Karen pero, ‘di ba? Mahirap din iyong pinagdaanan pero hindi nag-hesitate to give back this early. She’s not yet—she’s not earning well yet pero ayun, tumutulong na.
Pero, ‘di ba, the stories of Karen, of Kelsey, of Mark, ano ito eh – these are not people who we do not know. But these are people na nakakasalamuha natin on a daily basis. And yet, siguro most of us, hindi alam kung ano iyong pinagdadaanan nila or pinagdaanan nila. And their stories are not just stories of hope, or not just stories that will inspire, but stories of heroism.
Ito iyong… [technical difficulty] May nalo-lowbatt din pala sa La Salle [laughter] Pero, ‘di ba, and this is what the program exactly is all about. Hindi lang for us to feel good, but to speak of hope, each and every day.
Sa mundo nating ginagalawan ngayon, iyong pinag-uusapan namin kanina, Brothers, marami ngayong nangyayari that are already acceptable but many years ago, hindi natin ma-imagine na would be acceptable. Baka we each do our share in bringing back – alam mo iyon – iyong kindness, goodness, decency in everyone as the norm. Tingin ko, we are not being asked of very big things, but just the things—simple things—that matter each and every day. And iyon iyong gusto natin dito: for us to look for more stories of hope, for us to look for more inspiring stories that we can tell over and over again.
Kaya kay Mark, at saka kay Kelsey who are here with us today, and of course, to Matthew and to Alda, maraming salamat sa inyo for inspiring us and for giving us hope.
And I end my talk with a quote from Pope Francis. Ang sabi ni Pope Francis: “A tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist and that individual can be you.” Paminsan kasi iniisip natin, masyado tayong maliit to make a difference. Pero iyong kuwento ni Mark at saka ni Kelsey, hindi ganoon, eh. Kahit nag-iisa ka lang, you can really light up the whole world.
So, this is also an invitation not just to join us in the Istorya ng Pag-asa but to continue looking for stories of hope and being yourselves inspiration and hope to everyone else. To the brothers, to our teachers, to our administrators, maraming, maraming salamat po for partnering with us. Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat! [applause]