Monday, July 2, 2012

They came for a "Bag of Hope"

It was a trek that spanned 13 rivers for ten students, their school principal and three teachers. They left their homes as early as 4AM donning their school uniform and slippers to get from their homes in Tanay to Libis where a Pocari Sweat van waited to pick them up.

It was their first ride on an airconditioned vehicle, their first trip seeing high rise buildings and vehicles on a busy road, and their first ride on an elevator. When they arrived at our office building in Makati, the kids were treated to two movies - Ice Age 3 and Up with matching popcorn and loot bags to boot!

This year, Otsuka Philippines Pharmaceuticals, Inc. together with Black Pencil Project had Nayon Elementary School in Tanay, Rizal as its recipient for its Corporate Social Responsibility program. The ten students that initially came to the office were the representative students consisting of Dumagats (natives of Tanay) who traveled from their homes to be given royal treatment.

You could tell the story of their lives with the slippers they wore that bore the hardship of life. Lunch served was a sumptuous one but you could see that they were separating some of the food that was served to them. When you asked them why - they'd coyly reply that the food was too much but really they were bringing the other half home to their siblings or parents. You could see the sparkle in their eyes when they were each given study kits which comprised of back packs with basic school materials (notebooks, papers, pencils, crayons, erasers). [The school was given classroom supplies and reference books for the teachers.]

That was just the beginning. I am sure they were excited to tell their stories of hope when they got back that evening.

The following day, the CSR team of Otsuka Philippines trekked to the mountainous community of Tanay Rizal to deliver the rest of the study kits to all of the 205 students of Nayon Elementary School. The school is a 45 minute travel from Tanay town proper where the community of Dumagats Remontados (returning Dumagats)is found. The villages of Sta. Inez, Sto. Nino, Mamuyao, Cayabo and San Andres share surviving members of the Dumagats Remontado of the Sierra Madre Mountain. During the rainy season, flood waters from overflowing Tanay River make these villages inaccessible and classes are usually suspended because most of the teachers come from Tanay town proper. While Tanay, Rizal is geographically just a few kilometers off Metro Manila, Nayon Elementary School typically exemplifies the irony of it being "so close and yet so far" from civilization.

Jose P. Rizal, our national hero, said that "the future of our nation depends on our youth". Nurturing them, giving them hope, helping them fulfill their dreams.

Last June 16, 2012, it was a sight to see the glimmer in the eyes of these children come together for a "Bag of Hope". It felt like we gave them a "Bag of Dreams" to fulfill...

What's your story?

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