IN PHOTOS: Finding purpose in helping others
All photos by Rick Rocamora
MANILA, Philippines - Lawyer Angelo Valencia was with a group of divers in the Tubbataha Marine Park two years ago, when his middle ear (not gear, as previously stated) ruptured while underwater.
He immediately lost his sense of balance and experienced vertigo. Eyes closed, he struggled to reach the surface.
In the two days following the incident, he kept on vomiting and was bed-ridden.
"It was 10 hours away from Palawan, where the nearest hospital was, so I had to firm it out," said Valencia, recalling the diving mishap.
The notion that, that day — April 19, 2011 — could have been his last prompted the corporate lawyer to rethink his priorities.
While he still practices law, he is now more focused on what he calls "corporate work with a purpose."
Today, Atty Angelo Valencia a.k.a. Kuya Pultak (bald big brother) spends most of his time building schools in areas not easily accessible by regular transportation due to their geographic location.
During his sabbatical following his April Tubbataha dive, he met with the community found at the highest peak of Luzon, Mt Pulag. He felt that the kids there were in need of a good education, while the parents needed livelihood training.
The initiative dubbed “Klassrum ng Pag-Asa” (Classroom of Hope) started with only a group of 3 volunteers.
In less than two years, the Bayanihan (community-run) efforts initiated by Kuya Pultak have resulted in 17 classrooms and school buildings built in Sulu, 11 in Mt Pulag, Benguet, 5 in Palawan, and another in Batangas.
The team in Mt Pulag now totals 45 volunteers.
Partnerships intensified during Kuya Pultak's journey. The project is now linked with corporate sponsors, government agencies and officials, and civil society organizations (CSOs).
"We just met sa social media and then we hit it off," said Kuya Pultak, explaining how he got in touch with his CSOs and individual partners.
In Sulu, the locals themselves and members of the Philippine Marines have joined in the classroom renovation efforts.
Valencia said there is no heirarchy in their group, and each player brings a unique contribution to the table.
"In the end, it is not only a structure but a symbol of community," he said in an interview.
When the school year opened last June, students from Kuya Pultak's partner-communities were welcomed with newly-constructed classrooms. Other classrooms were newly-renovated, but all were provided with comfort rooms and wash areas.
Valencia said it is the kids who have the desire to learn that inspire most of them to help.
"Wala kaming leader. Yung mga bata ang boss namin," he added. (We don't have a leader. The children are our boss.)
Kuya Pultak feels a sense of urgency to reach out to areas that are typically neglected due to their distance. Education, he said, is crucial for social mobility.
"[The kids] now know how to use computers. There was a time they did not even know the sounds of animals," he said. That is slowly changing. - Rappler.com