Nowadays, there are so many pressing issues in our country, such that the importance of families is overlooked. But as Pope John Paul II said, as quoted by Jollibee Foundation president Grace Tan Caktiong, “As family goes, so goes the nation. As nations goes, so goes the world in which we live all.”
It was for this reason that the foundation chose to celebrate the family through the recently concluded Jollibee Foundation Family Values Award. At the start of the deliberations, we all agreed that instead of insisting that one winner be chosen from each geographical category (Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Northern Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao), we would choose winners based simply on merit, regardless of where they were from.
But as we finalized the winners’ circle, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we had managed to choose winners from more or less every category! We had a Jollibee Family Values Award winner from Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and two very deserving winners from Mindanao.
Living their heritage
Alex Butic was born to a family of Ifugao lumad farmers in the Mountain Province. Being the eldest child in his family, he was raised to be hardworking and responsible. He managed to finish high school but stopped studying in order to work and help his younger siblings finish their education.
Meanwhile, his wife, Anna Marcia, hails from the Bukidnon people’s tribe. Both husband and wife are proud of their heritage and live it by continuing their practices and traditions.
They have also taken on the responsibility of providing livelihood for members of their own respective indigenous communities by hiring them to work as farmers together with the couple in their farm in Bukidnon. Their farm hands not only receive what is due them, but much more, out of the generosity of the Butic family.
During harvest season, they automatically set aside a portion of their crops and profits to share with the community. This is done regardless of whether the season’s yield is abundant or lean. Aside from this, the family is busy with their monthly gift-giving within the community and regular feeding programs.
The Butic couple has three children, Nathale, Aldrian and Alexies Mar, who are all studying. The family believes in the value of education, and it is their top priority. Despite their busy academic schedule, the children are actively involved in community service with their parents.
The feeding programs are considered a family-bonding activity, with everyone having their own role to play. During the monthly gift-giving, the responsibility of funding the gifts falls on the shoulders of Alex and Anna Marcia, while the children pack the items and participate in the distribution.
The children are also especially involved in the preparations for the reunions that the Butic family regularly host. It is during these reunions that they are able to display and pass on the traditions of their ancestors through the traditional dances, rituals and wearing of the native costumes.
Alex and Anna Marcia are ensuring not only that their communities prosper by providing jobs, livelihood and assistance, but that their tribe will continue to find pride in who they are and hold on to their identity in the middle of this fast and changing world.
The power of love
“Simple kindness can make a big difference.”
These were the starting words that caught our attention when it was time to read the story of the Cardente family from Zamboanga Sibugay. As we discussed the community service background of Jason and his wife, Jennifer, someone made the joke that this family was like a “one-man marching band” if you consider all the things they are involved with.
Jason, the patriarch, is the first to say that service to others was not always his priority in life. Growing up without his parents made Jason an angry and bitter young man. Fortunately, his grandmother showered him with the love he needed. Eventually, he met Jennifer and through her kindness and patience, Jason found himself wanting to be a better person.
It was then that he realized the saving power of a person’s love for others, and vowed that he would do the same for those who need it, just as he once did.
Today, Jason, Jennifer and their children, Joy, Joshua and Jay, are actively involved in as many endeavors as they can handle. Not everyone has the capacity to put up a foundation but everyone is capable of giving their time and effort to volunteer and make sure that there is someone on the ground to carry out the work. After all, volunteers are the heart of every service-oriented foundation.
Jason and his family are part of the Tzu Chi Foundation, which gives immediate medical assistance to the less fortunate. They are also active volunteers for the Yellow Boat of Hope which provides boats for children who have to swim across rivers and open water just to get to school.
During one trip that Jason made to check on the status of the beneficiary students in a particularly dangerous area, he actually got hit by a bullet, a wound which, fortunately, was not fatal.
The family is involved in the efforts to build the Yellow Dorm of Hope, a female dormitory for students who would like to study but live too far away from any school.
Recently, the Cardente family also initiated the building of a “school home” at the Kabasalan National High School. The high school is in a remote location, causing many students to drop out. They were able to solicit enough funds to build a home which houses 17 male students who now have the opportunity to have a better future.
Recently, Jason’s dream of establishing his own foundation came to fruition when he put up “Sibugay Funds for Little Kids,” which aims to help less-fortunate students in the community get a proper education by raising funds for their school supplies and other needs.
Their first project was the purchase and distribution of slippers for the children who usually walk barefoot across kilometers of dirt roads. For this, Jennifer and the children approached everyone they could to help them buy the needed slippers.
People have many needs, but we don’t always have to address the biggest ones, which may immobilize us with their immensity. We start with needs that we can efficiently address.
As 12-year-old Joshua said, “Kahit isang lapis lang ang kaya kong ibigay, masaya na ako basta nakatulong ako.”
Winners are not made overnight. They are products of hard work, determination and sacrifice. What all these families had in common was a sincere devotion to the Lord, which they successfully translated into overwhelming love and compassion for their neighbor and, of course, for one another.
As in anything worth doing in life, it is not always easy for these families to continue with what they have started and to honor their commitments. They, too, have their own pressing needs and problems, but through a lifetime of loving service, this has become their life, and they would not have it any other way. Bravo.