The future of humanity passes through the family.” Through this simple yet profound statement, Pope Francis reminds everyone of the responsibility to strengthen family life.
We are tasked to do more than just rearing children. We must uphold and protect values that the children will carry from within the walls of the home and out into the heart of society, if we want to create a truly humane future.
In line with these objectives is the Jollibee Family Values Awards (JFVA). The JFVA is an annual recognition program that aims to honor exemplary Filipino families. Every year it seeks out deserving families that embody noteworthy Filipino values such as generosity, compassion, bayanihan (service to community), environmental responsibility, while serving as productive members of society.
Three years ago we were invited to join the board of judges; it was a treasurable experience.
It was such a pleasure to be invited to judge once again in this year’s JFVA search. As in the previous years, there was no shortage of nominations and families worthy of the award and citation.
However, in bestowing the award to the winning families, the best part is knowing that the biggest victor of them all is none other than the nameless Filipinos who, whether or not they know it, are continuously raised up on the shoulders of those who love our country as much as their own family.
If we could emulate what these families do, the country would surely rise and fly high and above our levels of hope and expectations.
Importance of education
The first JFVA 2015 award of the night went to the Dumulot family. We don’t even know where to begin when it comes to describing how incredible this family is.
The patriarch, Carlito Dumulot, is a 57-year-old Aeta farmer with no formal education past elementary. With his wife Iril, they have eight children aged 15 to 34.
His lack of opportunity to study beyond grade school has not stopped Carlito to provide his own children the education they deserve.
Two of them, Noel and Karen, have college degrees; Noel is aspiring to be a lawyer and is currently reviewing for the coming bar exams. in
Three of the children, Christopher, Catherine and Carmen, are graduates of vocational school, while Carol and Cora have finished high school.
The youngest, Carlito Jr., is currently in Grade 10.
Rights to ancestral domain
In 1986, after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, about 150 families were displaced. Through the efforts and the help of the Franciscan Missionary of Mary Sisters, the organization Lubos ng Alyansa ng mga Katutubong Ayta sa Sambales (or Lakas) was formed. The sisters conducted seminars on literacy and Tagalog speaking; eventually Carlitos was chosen chieftain in 1999.
As leader of the Aeta tribe in Botolan, Zambales, he spearheaded the fight to retain the rights to their ancestral domain.
He is also dedicated to the preservation of their cultural heritage and is a key figure in the unification of the different Aeta tribes in their community. At the same time, he is aware of the demands of present times and is hard at work finding ways to educate the Aeta youth.
In the beginning, it was even Carlitos and his family who would “teach” the youth in their nonformal schools, in between planting seasons. Fortunately, through the help of the Department of Education, various NGOs and Essie Villavito’s Samahan ng mga Kababaihan sa Manila, they were able to finally put up a four-classroom school with supplies and computers. It is currently a day care and a school for children until grade 10 with 92 students.
Carlito and family have also been actively teaching their community about organic farming. In fact, one of his sons was given a scholarship to Japan to learn more about organic farming. When he returns in 2016, he intends to share his knowledge with his community, which, incidentally, has increased from 150 to 5,000 families.
Despite Carlito’s focus on the rights of the Indigenous People, he is still, first and foremost, a Filipino; and when calamities strike, such as Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” he, wife Iril and some children went to hard-hit Tacloban through the ELP Foundation. There, they shared their experiences and provided livelihood training to the women and wives of the fishermen.
The Dumulots are a shining example of a family that proves one can rise above any calamity, disadvantage, or situation with determination. Their tireless efforts to give not just themselves, but their community, a better future and place in society will live on as their legacy, long after they are gone.
A voice for those with none
The next family to be called on stage was the Rojas family. Just the presence of the patriarch, Emerito Rojas, a stage-4 throat cancer survivor, is more than enough to garner respect for this family who stood together in their father’s fight against the big C.
But even more significant is how they have taken inspiration from their father’s illness and used their experience to give voice to those who literally have none, and to fearlessly fight the big fish.
The family’s ordeal began when 57-year-old Emerito Rojas almost lost his life to throat cancer. From that experience, he says, “I learned the value of life so I started the advocacy of saving other people’s lives.”
Joining his advocacy is his wife Voleta Rojas, and their children Elaine, Erika, Einstein and Edward.
Since then, he has taken on a number of advocacies, all with the intention of saving as many lives as possible and uplifting the dignity of life for Persons With Disabilities (PWD).
Early on, Emerito focused his efforts on the PWD community. This was back in the 1990s. However, he soon realized that doleouts were not sustainable and had no long-term benefits.
He decided to take on the challenge of finding ways to teach PWDs “how to fish.” He strongly believed in empowering PWDs through opportunities to gain economic independence with sustainable livelihood and employment.
Through active collaboration with various government and non-governmental organizations, he pushed for the implementation of Executive Order 417 which “mandates that the government must purchase 10 percent of their procurement needs to PWD goods and services whenever available.”
Since 2007, the Rojas family has embarked on several “capacity-building activities to herald the opportunities that EO 417 has to offer.”
Another way that speech-impaired PWDs can regain use of their vocal chords is through Esophageal Speech Training. The family has taken on the responsibility of holding this weekly training seminar because they know the effect of being able to give a voice to those who have lost theirs.
Eventually, the family realized that their efforts at educating the public had to be raised to the national level. They worked together with the Department of Health, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Civil Service Commission, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Health Justice and Framework Convention Alliance of the Philippines to pass two legislative advocacy campaigns, namely: the Sin Tax Reform Law (RA 10351), and the Graphic Health Warning Law (RA 10643).
As a nonsmoking citizen, we are truly grateful for the family’s efforts in lobbying for these life-saving laws.