Catching up!

I hadn’t had the chance to update this space in the last month, for one reason or another. Sadly enough, it does take a torrential downpour to make one pause and take a different writing route. Or a brain break.

So much has happened in the past few weeks, and I always think work should be a matter of thriving, not just surviving. That said, I am sharing the output from my latest trip in Sulu: Pathways to Peace. Quite excited for a couple of projects being cooked under the TEN Moves banner—and we should be able to see it come October or November. Glad to be in a space that allows me to do both profit and non-profit work—is there a graduate degree for this?

Ah, graduate degrees, you are a different plan altogether.

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The new football season has started, and I’m glad my teams secured opening day wins. Liverpool won 1-0 over Stoke, thanks to a Daniel Sturridge goal (I take back everything I said about this guy when he was in Chelsea—he is all red now), but the real opening day hero was Simon Mignolet, who saved a penalty and a rebound to keep Stoke scoreless. I must admit it feels different not to have Pepe Reina on goal anymore, but hey, we need to move forward and upward from a dismal season.

Who do I love watching in red though? Philippe Coutinho. Absolute class during the pre-season, and he just moves silkily. Plus points for not being afraid to take on someone NOT his own size.

coutinho

On another Premier League note, it sucks big time that FOX Sports/Star Sports lost the bid to air the matches here in the Philippines (hello guys, how about trying harder on your bid?!). The network that won the rights to air in the Philippines is beIN Sport, which—ta-da!—is not even carried by any local cable provider. Yeah, that’s so smart.

On the La Liga front, Real Madrid opened their campaign with a 2-1 win over Real Betis, with goals from Karim Benzema and my new favorite, Isco. Kid is just a smart player. Here he is, man-loving with Alvaro Morata:

isco

 

Coutinho, Isco—I am sensing a pattern here.

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Rains still not letting up, which means:

1) We are still inadequately prepared for these calamities.

2) We need to demand from government proper allocation of their funding for public welfare and development.

3) We need to hold accountable all lowest forms of crocodiles and pigs masking as legislators for funds channeled to personal gain.

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Clear Dream Match 2 on Saturday—so, are we letting Fabio Cannavaro play on a lake?!

 

Defiance.

Defiance.

Defiance does not always equate to an armed struggle or to cause destruction to prove a point or rally support for an anti-establishmentarian cause. Defiance does not always equate to a state of conflict and terror.

The opposite is just as true.

In many ways, defiance is found in the quiet smiles of children, which break into gales of laughter when taught a funny dance or when shown what they look like in the LCD display of a camera.

Defiance is the rebuilding of classrooms, which were previously burned down by separatists rebels for no apparent reason (which illustrates a point: how dare they claim to be fighting for ideology when it is the future of their own children that they compromise?).

Defiance is found in the word for “peace” in the vernacular, painted brightly and boldly on the walls of the school. It is the silent roar of every child, that which they yearn for in this remote village.

Defiance is the handprint of each child in the school, pressed firmly on the walls, a sign of ownership on their future—a future marked with possibilities and opportunities, rooted firmly in education.

Defiance is a song of love, one that calls for the world to think of loving each other before anything else. It is the song from the mouths of the children, sang in unison, loudly and clearly.

Defiance is fighting for a life of peace and a future full of promise. These are what we fight for, together with the children of Tuup Elementary School in Patikul, Sulu.

Tuup

The Kids of Sulu

There are travels that leave you richer in your catalogue of reasons why the world is wonderful, and then there are travels that change you.

My trip to Sulu earlier this March fell could be filed under the latter. My purpose for that trip was to witness the turnover of new classrooms in Hadji Hassiman Elementary School in Jolo, Sulu. While I understood that my role for the trip was to share the story of this TEN Moves beneficiary community, little did I know that the kids I met are making me tell more stories about them—and how they have profoundly impacted upon me.

I admit to jumping at the thought of traveling to a place where social conflict is real and tangible. I admit to mentally freaking out upon landing at the Jolo airport (simply an uneven runway and a shack with an arch that welcomes travellers), with the sight of a battalion of Marines waiting. I admit to silently praying the most number of Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes since grade school, while I was sitting on the flatbed of a Marines truck, praying that nothing involving bullets would occur.

Beyond these initial fears and apprehensions, I once again understood what it meant to open up oneself to life experiences—and I had been reminded of this through the kids of Sulu.

My first memorable encounter of these kids was during a medical mission in Indanan, a town next to Jolo, where one had to ride through dense forest areas before reaching Pasil Elementary School (and yes, we were wearing bright yellow shirts—moving targets, anyone?). Since I didn’t really have a role in the medical mission (Lord knows that while I take my medicines liberally, giving them to other people is a different story altogether!), I did what I knew best—take photos of and with the kids, and play with them.

The perspective does change when you see these kids getting curious over commonplace gadgets like a camera, or a tablet, or an iPhone. The simple act of teaching them how to use these devices is quite a magical experience—it was as if you were witnessing their worlds open up. They were very good at framing their subjects. I told one of the girls that was fascinated with the camera to study hard, so she can study Film in UP—and I meant it. I don’t know if I will ever see that little girl again, but I do hope that she could create magic, somehow, someday.

As we were about to leave the school and head back to Camp Bud Datu, I was surprised by the affection that the girls showed, giving me hugs and kisses. I don’t know if I will ever see them again, but if anything, I have hopes and dreams for them. How could one ever forget those smiles?

Then there were the kids of Hadji Hassiman Elementary School, whose school burned down back in August 2012. Five classrooms were rebuilt through TEN Moves, but this is simply the start of their rebuilding process.

In a town where many adults look at you with suspicion, since they know you are an outsider, it was refreshing to see the kids smile and treat you with so much warmth. It was a Sunday morning, when we were jointly conducting Help-Portrait sessions and having the kids write Thank You notes to the donors. I see them gamely smiling for the camera and taking turns at the limited number of crayons I bought—they were grateful, even if what they have was next to none compared to the schools in Metro Manila.

I spoke with Principal Bakil, and he said that the next thing to be built would be the school library. Even the kids were looking forward to it, as I could read that many of them had asked for books in their Thank You cards.

This is my next project. I don’t know how soon I can go back to Sulu, but I will find a way to get books through to Hadji Hassiman Elementary School. I’ll be collecting books throughout April 2013, so if anyone has anything to share with these kids, please do let me know.

I wrote in my Manila Bulletin article that no child gets left behind, and I sincerely mean it. Let’s not forget these kids who live in a place where there is so much volatility and yes, violence. They deserve so much more.

Coming to Sulu, I had no expectations, just a bit of faith that I’ll be safe and secure. If anything, this trip made me understand that there was so much to the place than just security. There’s so much that needs to be done, to bridge social divides.

Of celebrity encounters and getting over the hump of sorts.

One of the causes closest to my heart is TEN Moves, which aims to raise funds for the construction of 10,000 classrooms all over the Philippines. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit several parts of the country and witness for myself the transformative power that a structure can have to the life of a student and to the community as a whole.

TEN Moves kicked off 2013 with a bang, staging “Run for 10”, a fun run aimed to ramp up the fundraising, especially as Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) devastated a number of classrooms in Mindanao, affecting over 200,000 schoolchildren. I’m glad that we were able to raise a significant amount of funds to contribute, and I look forward to visiting more communities this year.

While I was slightly bummed I wasn’t able to run (hazards of being part of the organizing team), I was lucky enough to get to meet some of TEN Moves’ celebrity advocates (and no, they aren’t earning a single cent from this advocacy work)—Derek Ramsay, Dingdong Dantes, and apl.de.ap. The guys nailed the messages when they went onstage.

Dingdong noticed my Spain NT shirt, and randomly commented, “Nice shirt,” while I was briefing them. And after I has my photo taken with the guys, Derek gets my iPhone, shows off the Union Jack skin to Dingdong and says, “This is so British!” “Between the two of you, I really am pandering to celebrities this morning,” I wryly say. Meanwhile, I got to interview apl.de.ap separately. He said he’s supporting TEN Moves because he wants other kids to be given a better start in their lives, like what was given to him—he definitely wants to inspire more kids.

Here’s a photo of Eunice and myself with the guys. I know some of you will be placing your own watermark on this, and I really don’t care anymore. Just make sure to spread the TEN Moves advocacy!

Runfor10celebs

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I was able to catch the PFF-Smart National Club Championship Quarterfinals at the Rizal Memorial Stadium yesterday. Put it this way—it has been a day of getting over the hump of sorts.

Ceres is fast becoming the giant killers of this tournament. After beating UFL Cup champions Stallion the week earlier, it edged out Global, 1-0, much to my part-Ilongga self’s delight. I missed the early goal, but with what I saw, Ceres was generally stifling on defense. Global had a couple of good chances at the second half, including a shot from Carli de Murga that went just over the bar—seems like lady luck wasn’t on their side? Ceres could have made it 2-0, but they squandered a perfectly good chance to edge Global further.

But really, I was there for the second game between Kaya and Loyola. So they may be two big clubs, Loyola had a psychological advantage, given that Kaya hasn’t been able to beat them since Loyola came from behind to beat Kaya 5-3 in the 2011 edition of the UFL Cup. That said, this was an interesting match for a team that defends generally well (Kaya, albeit without Aly Borromeo and Anton del Rosario) and a high-scoring team.

Loyola was testing Kaya early on, but neither side failed to score in the first half. Loyola experimented with James Younghusband in the center midfield, Phil Younghusband coming from the left, and Chad Gould up front. I thought that while introducing Freddy Gonzalez in the second half added much-needed firepower (and seriously, only Freddy G really tested Saba), his entry came at the expense of Loyola’s defense—and OJ Porteria capitalized on that, from a cross by Jonah Romero—giving Kaya the lone goal of the game, enough to see them through the semifinals against Ceres.

As for me, I was just all too happy to see Chris Greatwich play. He’s doing well in the role of Kaya’s midfield general, and it may be his presence plus the new coach and all, but I haven’t seen Kaya this organized in quite a while. Naysayers can prove me wrong, but I really think this Greatwich may just prove to be all too influential for this club. Gotta appreciate the quality he brings on the pitch.

That said, I just may have had that moment of finally realizing a semblance of emotional investment in a local club. Uh-oh.

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P.S. It’s so awesome we get Henderson, Suarez, Sturridge, and Gerard on the scoresheet versus Norwich City. Now that’s the Liverpool I need to see more of.

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P.P.S. Real Madrid thrashed Valencia 5-0 as well. I’ve been spoiled with this weekend’s football results.