A friend from Nigeria sent me this article by Willy Arcilla. Maganda ang dating ng article na ito sa akin...specially now that our Reunion is fast approaching. My mind has also been thinking...ano nga ba ang magandang mairegalo sa bayan ko. This article could inspire you with a dose of reality as it did for me. I have removed the fotos for brevity as I know you will be familiar with the places he mentioned. This is a long read....but worthwhile..... Happy reading!
BUILD YOUR NATION ON YOUR VACATION
By Willy E. Arcilla
After 16 years of living around the Asia-Pacific region, my family and I returned to the Philippines in the middle of last year. So to enkindle the family's love for country, I proposed going to Bicol during the recent long holiday. In this way, they would get a glimpse of the natural beauty of our land and feel the warmth of our people, and at the same time, contribute modestly to income redistribution by spending on local tourism.
Nov 1, Thursday
We left Manila at 4 AM en route to Legazpi, Albay, the heartland of Bicol. On the way, we passed through the Quezon National Park where we admired the rainforest cover, but at the same time lamented the women and children directing traffic along the winding roads of Bitukang Manok and begging for donations from passing motorists. Upon our descent, we were greeted by the refreshing view of the sea as we drove along the Quezon coastal road. The rest of Quezon was a tour through coconut country â?" with endless rows of coconut trees standing proudly at attention â?" the "tree of life" which has sustained the province and helped earn for the country the distinction of being the world's largest exporter of coconut oil -- once vilified for health reasons but now experiencing a resurgence with the newfound benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil, and hopefully, in its usage as biofuel to replace imported, costly and harmful fossil fuels.
We finally arrived at Legazpi, Albay province at 2 PM. Ramil, our family driver and certified MacGyver drove 11 hours non-stop. We marveled at the majestic beauty of Mt. Mayon and its near-perfect cone, but at the same time, were saddened by the devastation wrought by the lahar flows caused by last year's Supertyphoon Reming specially in Bgy. Daraga. High school children on their semestral break offered their services as informal tour guides, relating milestones in the history of the world-renowned Mayon, such as the 1814 eruption that buried the Cagsawa Church, killing 1,200 parishioners who sought refuge within its seemingly impregnable walls. We bought 3 sets of 4 photos they sell for P100@. Perhaps the Legazpi or Albay LGUs can undertake measures to improve the tourism facilities at the site, e.g., neat surroundings, clean bathrooms, directional signs.
We had a late lunch at the popular Graceland fastfood restaurant where we enjoyed authentic Bicol express, pinangat and the best halo-halo I've tasted for less than P70. Afterwards we backtracked to Camarines Sur, where we had booked ourselves at the famous CWC cable wakeboarding facility recently built by the enterprising Camarines Sur Governor Lray Villafuerte. Dinner was at Geewan (other outlets in the chain are called Geetwo, Geethree) where we had even more laing and local recipes at low prices.
Nov 2, Friday
After a quick breakfast of flavored bread and chocolate milk we bought at the local convenience store, we rushed off to the CWC for registration. The kids, who have been blessed with the opportunity to enjoy amusement parks overseas were visibly impressed with the facilities and professionalism of CWC. After going through the basic coaching, my 4 kids easily maneuvered their kneeboards around the circuit, while I had to suffer the humility of getting wiped out thrice before finally making the full round. I always lost control and got caught off-guard at bends when the cable slackens and jerks. Nearing exasperation (it's not an easy swim to shore from the middle of the water), I was then told this will not happen if I maneuvered myself between the buoys â?" which were far too small to see for a visually-impaired guy with a grade of 600. While the kids graduated onto the professional board, I tried skis, and this time, got farther than them.
I met the governor who beamed that the facility enjoyed payback in an incredible 9 months and now projects as much as P200M in revenues for the local government in 2008. He also enthused about the new and upcoming attractions in Naga and around Camarines Sur which are guaranteed to delight tourists -- local and foreign alike -- but contained himself from revealing more details until the appropriate time. Best of all, he expressed support for a proposal to leverage the phenomenal success of Naga and Camarines Sur to help its twin province Camarines Norte in a joint tourism drive in the future. We agreed on taking his popular slogan "Cam South, Cam Sur" to the next level and encompass the entire Camarines with "Cam Sur, Cam North. Cam One (One Camarines), Cam All!" This can promote the attractions of both provinces â?" Naga's Penafrancia Festival, CWC Competitions, Caramoan Island, Dolphin Watching and the new sites in the future which can be complemented by Camarines Norte's offerings such as the Pinyasan Festival originally introduced by Mayor Tito Sarion as a tribute to the sweet Formosa variety, Pacific ocean surfing on Bagasbas beach, the Apuao Grande island (with its own airstrip, executive golf course, mangrove swamps and wild boars) which is presently on sale for interested foreign investors, the Calaguas Group of islands that boast of white sandy beaches allegedly even purer than Boracay. Locals swear if Boracay's powdery white sand is like talcum powder, Calaguas is like powdered milk.
On to Daet
In mid-afternoon, we drove back to Daet, Camarines Norte, to meet with the local officials of Gawad Kalinga headed by Honor Estrevez. We proceeded to Bgy. Bibirao to meet and greet the Project Director Lito and wife Sheila Pascual, along with some of the beneficiaries and volunteer-workers building the GK-Pinyasan Vietnam Village. The land was procured by the LGU and original plans to convert it into a garbage landfill were averted by newly-elected Mayor Tito Sarion. As Estrevez declared, "What used to be a dumping ground of garbage is now a dumping ground of God's graces." Most of the beneficiaries were scavengers at the landfill or squatters at a nearby cemetery who would enter the tombs when it rained and sleep with remains of the dead to avoid getting soaked. The funds for the construction materials were donated by Filipino expatriates based in Ho Chi Minh City. In the evening, we joined a dinner forum on Gawad Kalinga organized by CFCers Rex and Marisa Bernardo, where we met of Sid Lucero (Butanding fame) and Jeff Eigenmann (both of whose fathers used to be my contemporaries in LSGH). Children from families of CFC members and GK beneficiaries alike dished out their dancing talents together â?" with no distinction between rich and poor; benefactor from beneficiary -- to regale the crowd. Testimonies were shared by mother-child GK beneficiaries on how their values and behavior changed; their lives transformed, hopes and dreams restored and future brightened with the arrival of Gawad Kalinga in Daet.
The author and his two sons, Miguel and Raffy, at the CWC
The writer was then asked to address the crowd consisting of Barangay Chairmen and potential partners and benefactors. The writer shared the beginnings of his relationship with GK in Daet and Camarines Norte. Todate, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the generosity of Filipino expatriates based in Vietnam and Shanghai, we have been able to raise enough resources to finance the construction of 60 houses. The Filipino expatriates in Beijing have also pledged to donate proceeds from their Christmas fund-raising drive. Gerry Paglinawan, Consul-General in Ho Chi Minh City launched an Art Contest among GK beneficiaries which will hopefully nurture the artistic talent in the next Fernando Amorsolo, whose famous works were inspired by the rustic charm of Daet where he spent his childhood. Consul Gerry promised to print the winning entries on Christmas cards for sale in 2008. Even Tony Meloto, moving spirit behind GK, sent a personal text message greeting the officials of the LGU, GK and CFC, "Daet is a priority area for GK, they have a dedicated GK team and a great mayor and LGU and outstanding partners â?" we hope to make Daet a showcase in township development. God bless." This writer then invoked our Lord's message in Matthew 25:41, "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me." Interpreting the passage, the writer surmised, "If we help the poor, we help Jesus Christ, and if we help Jesus Christ, then we ultimately help ourselves."
Todate, Camarines Norte has received enough land donations and financial support for construction materials, but what is needed urgently is a massive outpouring of volunteerism to construct the houses given the intermittent rains that hampered construction. At the end of the dinner forum, 12 Barangay Captains volunteered the services of their constituencies to finish the pending GK villages and complete them in time for a turnover by Christmas 2007. In addition, the office of reelected Governor Jess Typoco pledged to donate even more land in addition to the many he has given before, mobilize more people and request the Provincial Commanders of the Philippine Army and the PNP to undertake a "bayanihan build". Even the Media has pitched in with local broadcaster Deo committing to call for People Power to complete the GK communities.
Nov 3, Saturday
After breakfast, we drove out to the famous Bagasbas beach facing the vast Pacific Ocean. Despite a cloudy sky and a moderate drizzle, the crowd could not be turned away. Everybody must have thought today will be a special day despite (or because of ) the weather. Unfazed by the dark clouds, Ed Dames, President of Creative Management Enterprises Group (CMEG) and the prime mover of Dodgeball in the Philippines led his team in setting up the nets and poles for the Dodgeball Arena on the fine gray sand of Bagasbas. We never realized a professional group existed in the country until Ed explained dodgeball originated in the Philippines and was popularized in America. Now, with Ed's efforts, Dodgeball is poised to make a comeback on local soil â?" and sand. After some jaw-dropping demonstrations by Ed's group of acrobatic dodgeball â?" cartwheels, backflips, and somersaults to avoid bullet pitches from opposing sides, it was the turn for the amateurs â?" us. But surprisingly, our 4 kids took to the game naturally and were soon dodging and throwing like pros themselves. Regina and Nikka, members of the Ateneo Varsity Track & Field Team, were fast and agile in defense, while Raffy and Miguel, members of the LSGH Baseball Teams, were best in offense -- catching the ball (to eliminate opponents) and throwing with precision. The kids won their first 2 matches, but eventually lost to a local all-male adult team in the semifinals. Nevertheless, their spirited performance was enough to gain the locals' respect and their parents' admiration, capped by a special award from Mayor Tito Sarion for the whole family's long journey and participation in the First Bagasbas Dodgeball Competition.
Then, it was time to enjoy the true natural wonder of Bagasbas â?" the Pacific surf, which occasionally rose to 6 foot waves on this windswept day. We watched a professional from Australia ride and tame the waves with his kite. We then hired a couple of surfers â?" Karen a 16-year old native of Daet and Chot, from Manila, to teach the kids the basics of surfing. Since the kids already had some experience from Bali, they relearned it fairly quickly, succeeding in just their first few attempts. You could tell they were having the time of their lives â?" so much fun in fact they lost track of the time, and we ended up paying for twice the duration I contracted â?" time and money all well-spent nevertheless. I asked Chot which area in the country offered the best surfing experience, and without hesitation, "Bagasbas â?" not because of the waves alone, but because of the people."
A sumptuous dinner with my favorite "sinantolan" was hosted by the gracious Robert and Cathy Torres, Daetenos who built a thriving business in various sectors and industries, but more importantly, they have also been the biggest donors to GK as a solid CFC family. All their 7 kids are members of Singles for Christ, Youth for Christ or Kids for Christ. Says the successful and humble Robert, "God pays us back more than ten-fold for the time, talent and treasures we devote for serving the poor of Camarines Norte."
Nov 4, SundayAs we were about to leave the Pineapple Island resort in the early morning, I was greeted by the soft voice of a woman from above our room, asking "Are you Willy Arcilla?" I looked up and saw a young lady who just moved into the upper floor of our cottage. After introducing myself, I learned she was Ms. Yoying Pimentel, the daughter of the former provincial governor and sister of popular actress Bing Pimentel. She arrived with her team of agricultural engineers also on the invitation of Mayor Tito Sarion to help enhance the fortunes of the local pineapple industry, renowned for its sweet Formosa variety. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Tito Sarion arrived, and in the conversation that ensued, Yoying decides to donate part of the family's landholdings to GK and volunteer her people for the build. She recounted that she arrived at Bagasbas the previous day after we had left, and armed with a microphone and powerful speakers, dance music and lights, she introduced a novel idea and whipped up the local crowd to do a "Surf Dance" on Bagasbas beach â?" inspired by the inmates of Cebu who were featured on YouTube. Pretty soon, the kids themselves were innovating with a "Fish Dance".
In just 4 days, we had a lot of fun, bonded as a family, met new friends, aroused national pride and fostered patriotic fervor in our "expat kids" who were educated in international schools but are now in a position to help promote the Best of Bicol to their own friends, and most of all, contributed in our own modest way to increasing incomes via the spending "multiplier effect" â?" from local meals to pili nut delicacies; from native souvenirs to local lodging; and in showing the poorest of the poor in GK that yes, "bayanihan" lives. Imagine if more of our people did the same vs. spending their money overseas or exclusively in shopping malls? We will all be helping to "build our nation on our vacation", for in fact, nation-(re)building is a 24/7 occupation for all 88 M Filipinos â?" at work or on leave. Indeed, we do have a beautiful country and people who deserve the best. Let's all join hands to bring out the best in our people to enable them to bring out the best in our country. Our next stop in helping to "build our nation on our vacation" you might ask? The Ilocos region during the Christmas holidays!
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Video Clips of the Years Spent in Daet Parochial School
- DPS Elementary Years - Part I
- DPS Elementary Years - Part II
- DPS Elementary Years - Part III
- DPS High School Years - Part I
- DPS High School Years - Part II
- DPS High School Years - Part III
- DPS High School Years - Part IV
- DPS High School Years - Part V
- DPS High School Years - Part VI
- DPS High School Years - Part VII