MANILA, Philippines – If every Filipino volunteered an hour every week, what would the Philippines be like?
The concept of volunteerism suggests it's something done outside work or during one's free time. It's something accomplished or done on the side.
But what if volunteering became the profession itself? What happens if the action toward positive change becomes the main occupation?
That’s exactly what these people did. They made volunteerism their main profession. They chose saving lives and serving others as their profession.
Tapat sa kapwa-tao: Gerry Gamez
ARMS WIDE OPEN. Despite losing one arm in an accident, Gerry Gamez has dedicated his life building schools and helping people achieve their dreams. He says no handicap or difficulty can ever stop him from helping. Photo from TBWA.
He is known as “kabayani” in Sampaloc, Manila. This name is suitable for 47-year-old Gerry Gamez since he had been a volunteer all his life.
Gerry said that he felt strongly about serving the country at a very young age. “Mula nang ako’y magkaisip, nandoon na yung aking malasakit para sa bayan at sa kapwa. Naisip ko na kung ano yung magiging ambag ko sa ating bayan,” Gerry added.
(Since the day I had a mind of my own, I already wanted very strongly to serve country and fellowmen. I was already thinking of how I could contribute to nation-building.)
His handicap did not stop Gerry from helping people. Despite losing one arm to an accident when he was 13 years old, Gerry organized various volunteer projects and helped people find jobs.
"I help with what I have and contribute not only in terms of financial and material things, but by listening to people," he said in Filipino.
“Iyong simpleng pakikinig lang ay isang bagay na tapat mong naibibigay sa kanila…ang pagmamahal sa kapwa,” he added. (The simple act of being there and listening to someone hurting is something you faithfully give to them…showing them that you love them.)
Money was never a hindrance for Gerry. Despite not having the financial capability, Gerry was able to organize feeding programs, disaster relief operations, and school-building events, among others. He would solicit money from his friends and colleagues for his projects.
Being a part of the solution
He said he leads people who have the financial capacity to help others. The spirit of volunteerism is something intrinsic to Filipinos anyway. He said that everyone has the ability to be part of the solution.
"We, as individuals, are part of the solution to society’s problems. We have the capacity to serve the country. We have the opportunity to serve others," Gerry added in Filipino.
Poverty, he said, should not be a hindrance for Filipinos to volunteer. "Filipinos can contribute a lot if they are given the opportunity. Our fear often hinders us from doing good acts."
“Being Filipino kailangan mayroon tayong katapatan sa bayan…Sa mga pangarap natin kailangan isama natin ang bayan,” Gerry added. (As Filipinos, we need to be faithful to our country. Let’s include our country in our dreams in life.)
“Nananagana man tayo o nasa kasalatan, maging tapat lamang tayo sa ating layunin sa buhay,” Gerry said. (Whether or not we are prosperous, we should be faithful to our goals in life.)
Gerry does not own a big house or a car. He is not rich but his wealth consists of the people he had helped all these years.
Gerry’s example teaches us to give back more than what we receive. His katapatan shows that no excuse is acceptable for not helping others.
The business of saving lives: Randy Mendoza
MORE THAN BLOOD. Randy Mendoza has a unique career. Instead of working in the corporate world, he chose to live his life serving under the Red Cross. He says if every Filipino volunteered at least one hour a week, the Philippines will become progressive. Photo from TBWA.
Randy Mendoza started his career as a volunteer while striving to be productive. The 27-year-old started volunteering in Red Cross when he was still in 2nd year college.
"I started when I saw some kids walking around volunteering. I joined and attended trainings. I was able to improve myself there. I learned about serving without expecting anything in return," he said in Filipino.
While studying Nursing, Randy would set aside Fridays until Sundays to volunteer. He maintained that he did not need money to help others.
“Nagsimula ako, nagdo-donate lang ako ng dugo…Kahit sa pagbibigay ng dugo nakakarugtong ng maraming buhay…Kapag disaster, nagpa-pack lang ako ng relief goods,” Randy said. (I started by donating my blood. By donating blood, you save lives…During disasters, I help pack relief goods.)
Randy eventually became a rescuer during disasters. He said volunteering pushed himself beyond his limits. His own life was put on the line countless of times during various rescue missions.
After graduation, he continued as a volunteer in the institution. Even after passing the Nursing Board exams, Randy continued to spend his time volunteering.
"To be honest, a lot of opportunities have come and gone in my life…offers to work abroad, offers to earn more…but I didn’t see myself there. My principle in life came first," he said in Filipino.
Randy added that the pressure for him to work is great especially because his parents were counting on him to support the family. "I bring home dirty laundry instead of money or food. The challenge is providing for my family while volunteering," he continued in Filipino.
He maintained, however, that his volunteering led him to better opportunities.
“Dahil sa pagvo-volunteer ko, may mga nakakita sa akin at nag-offer sa akin ng magagandang trabaho…Tinanggap ko…until such time na nagvo-volunteer ako habang nagtatrabaho,” he added. (Because of volunteering, some people offered me good jobs. I accepted one until the time when I was working while volunteering.)
Randy admitted that volunteering is hard. Despite the challenges, however, he said it is important to remain true to one’s convictions.
“Ang katapatan…yung pagseserbisyo nang hindi inuuna lagi ang sarili. Kung baga selfless service…ito yung pagsisilbi nang walang hinihintay na kapalit, yung pagsisilbi na walang pinipiling tutulungan…Ito yung pagbibigay ng buong sarili mo,” Randy said.
(Katapatan is serving without thinking of personal gain. It’s selfless service…serving without expecting anything in return, serving without selective choice...It is giving one's self whole-heartedly.)
He also said that every Filipino has the responsibility to help solve the problems of the country. “Kung hindi tayo ang gagawa, sino ang gagawa?” Randy asked. (If not us, then who will act?)
Young people like Randy are living proof that the youth are the hope of the country. His katapatan to his work makes him a role model not only to his peers, but even to those more senior than him.
Tapat sa mahihirap na mag-aaral: Nestor Archival
NO SALARY NEEDED. Unlike other politicians, Nestor Archival did not invest in stocks or houses. Instead, this councilor of Cebu chose to invest in students' lives. He has been using his government salary to fund scholarships for poor children. Photo from TBWA.
Instead of investing in business, he chose to invest in lives. This is the story of Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival who has been supporting scholars for 15 years.
What started as a political platform when he ran as barangay councilor eventually became his lifelong advocacy. In 1998, Nestor pledged to use his salary to support poor students.
“My salary back then was only P9,000. I used all the P9,000 for the scholarship. It was for elementary and high school only,” Nestor said.
In 2001, Nestor won as Cebu City councilor. His salary was raised to P25,000. This was when he started supporting college students.
According to Nestor, students deserved equal education opportunities. “Everyone has a gift…A gift is a resource and…it’s everyone’s responsibility to use that gift so it could be shared with others,” he said.
Growing up in a poor family, Nestor learned early on the value of education. “Education for me is the best you can give…if you have education you can do a lot of things,” he added.
Aside from the financial challenge, Nestor said he also had to instill discipline into the students. “The challenge is managing the kids so that their grades would be good enough and they could continue the next year,” he said.
Nestor served as city councilor from 2001 to 2010. He won as city councilor again in the 2013 midterm elections. He said he’ll continue his advocacy as long as he can.
“What I’m trying to do is katapatan to myself and to the country because I believe that education is one of the most important things for a country to survive and develop,” Nestor said.
“Everyone has a gift…it is very important that you share this gift. If not… it will not give anything that matters most in your life…happiness and fulfillment,” he added.
Nestor broke the politician's stereotype. Instead of using his government salary on extravagance and luxuries, he chose to be tapat to his advocacy of helping urban poor kids get a good education.
He lives to fulfill other people’s dreams. He chose to be a true public servant — serving his constituents even beyond his work.
Volunteering beyond spare time
More than money and time, Gerry Gamez, Randy Mendoza, and Nestor Archival dedicated their lives to serve others. They were ordinary individuals who created ripples of change by following their principles and beliefs.
If they can create so much impact on others by volunteering, what more if every Filipino volunteered a fraction of his time to serve others?
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Be inspired by the dedication of a 71-year-old teacher from Culion, Palawan on July 26.
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