Mama Diaries

Wanted: Families with values

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HOST Julius Babao, Jollibee Philippines president José Miñana, Grace Tan-Caktiong, Maribel Sison-Dionisio, Adel Tamano, Audrey Tan-Zubiri, Theresa Jotie, Fr. Allan Abuan, host Tintin Babao and Albert Cuadrante

Last month, I was invited to be among the judges in a very interesting program. Initially, I thought it would be a talent or beauty search. After all, beauty competitions are a dime a dozen, while talent shows air almost every night.

But a “values” search? Now that was something new.

And the twist: It was not just about finding a single person who embodies the values worthy of rewarding. It was about finding a whole family that lives the values beyond the home and into the local community.

In good company

I said yes in a heartbeat and a few weeks later found myself meeting my co-judges in the second Jollibee Family Values Awards (JFVA). To my left was Tita Maribel Sison-Dionisio, a marriage and family counselor. What a bonus! Sitting beside her was like getting a crash course in parenting and marriage relationships!

Next to her was Fr. Allan Abuan from Center for Family Ministries, with whom I was able to practice my Ilocano as we are both GIs—Genuine Ilocanos. Social Welfare Undersecretary Alicia Bala was also around to supplement the facts and figures on our table’s lively storytelling.

Media personality and lawyer Adel Tamano shared his joy and excitement to be part of something where families were being celebrated rather than torn apart.

Albert Cuadrante, Jollibee VP for marketing, had us all laughing with his jokes and anecdotes.

I was looking forward to meeting the famous academician and Inquirer columnist, Dr. Queena Lee-Chua, but unfortunately, she couldn’t join that day. Jollibee VP for human resources Theresa Jotie joined us later that afternoon.

I also had the pleasure of meeting the chairman of the board of judges, Jollibee Foundation president Grace Tan-Caktiong. She was a very nice lady and we were amazed by the work and projects her foundation had managed to quietly accomplish the last few years.

But the real gem of the day was learning more about the project. Albert explained the Jollibee Family Values Award with its noble goal of “aspiring to further strengthen the foundations of the family by recognizing those who serve as inspiration to others through their joy, unity, optimism and generosity.”

Then he dropped the bomb on us by casually mentioning that last year, they received over 1,300 entries nationwide. This year, they expect it to double as they open the contest to overseas Filipino workers and their families. We all looked at each other. We definitely had our work cut out for us.

Inspiring families

To inspire us, Albert shared the stories of the five families that won the first JFVA last year. From General Santos, Rey and Marjorie Cartojano and family won the Mindanao award with their family motto, “No to mediocrity.”

This motto spurs them to push themselves to excel in whatever they are involved in, be it their studies or work.

This drive to excellence goes all the way to their community—they are all active in civic groups. They are also part of the Red Cross.

The Visayas award went to the family of Ernesto and Remedios Suplido in Silay City, Negros Occidental. This family believes “Family First” in everything they do and in sharing their God-given talents.

They give inspirational talks and seminars. They do Discovery weekends and marriage encounters while their children are inspirational speakers for “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” and Youth Aid’s Kids for Peace workshops.

I was especially touched by the story of Santa Maria, Bulacan’s Ireneo and Flordeliza Depla who won the North Luzon award. Many think that you have to be rich to be able to help others. What is important is to be rich in spirit, as proven by the story of Mrs. Depla, a professional midwife who has delivered countless babies for free in her community. She helps women who would have no access to medical and professional assistance. Her family assists her in her deliveries and they, too, have their own ways of giving back to their community.

The South Luzon winners, Edonis and Christina Francisco and their family, are determined to feed every Filipino child, beginning with those in the public schools in their hometown, Lucena. The family started with one site and today, they have expanded to 43 sites. To ensure the efficacy of their program, they also make an effort to monitor the effects on the children.

From Quezon City for Mega Manila division is the family of Emmanuel and Mila Mercado. Mila suffered a brain injury after child birth. For the Mercados, this only served to strengthen their bond and love for one another. The family continues to share their story and inspire others.

New theme

This year, the JFVA’s theme is “The Filipino Family in the Digital Age.”  I am so excited to see the families who will be nominated and look forward to being inspired by their stories. I am tired of bad news. It’s about time we started recognizing good news.

All around the country and the world are amazing Filipino families that have been quietly but effectively restoring the foundation of our society through their sense of values. If you know of such a story, let us know. Look around. Maybe it’s your family.

To join the search, nominators must accomplish the nomination form (available for free in all Jollibee branches nationwide or may be downloaded at Jollibee’s corporate website, www.jollibee.com.ph) and answer the questionnaire on the nominated family’s suitability and eligibility. Deadline of submission of entries is on or before Aug. 31.

Five winning families will each receive a cash prize of P100,000, a trophy designed by renowned brass sculptor Michael Cacnio, round-trip airfare tickets to any local destination from Airphil Express, whole-day passes to Manila Ocean Park, and P10,000 worth of Jollibee gift certificates.

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