Last week we had the pleasure of writing about two of the winning families in this year’s Jollibee Family Values Awards (JFVA). It’s an honor to be invited to return to the JFVA board of judges. In these times when values are fast disappearing, it is refreshing to see virtues of exemplary people being recognized.
During the last awards session we had the privilege of meeting Dante Tiosan and his family. Their journey began with the end of Dante’s dreams, or so he thought. One semester away from fulfilling his dream to become a CPA lawyer, Dante suffered from high fever which led to blindness.
Initially devastated, after a few years he realized that life is too short to be frustrated by one dream. Dante and wife Elna decided to pursue other opportunities for the visually impaired.
He took and passed the civil service examination of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and went on to become a massage trainer, teaching fellow blind persons under the government’s free training programs.
Unfortunately he noticed that his students, in spite of being qualified, still could not find employment.
Determined to create a dignified livelihood program for the blind, Dante set up a Christmas carol group and raised P8,000 to establish VIBES, or Visually Impaired Brotherhood for Excellent Services.
Dante and Elna applied for business loans; in 1993 they opened the first VIBES massage clinic in Guadalupe, Makati. Today, 22 years later, there are 53 VIBES branches in Metro Manila employing 520 blind masseurs.
What makes VIBES unique, aside from being composed of visually impaired masseurs, is the business profit structure. Each masseuse is considered a part owner and, therefore, shares in the growth and profits of the clinic.
Paul and Dianne, children of Dante and Elna, are also part of their parents’ advocacy and participate in the operation and management of VIBES. Together they work to uplift the lives of the visually impaired.
As Dante said, “Let the blind see a promising future ahead.”
The advocacy of the next family we are writing about could not come at a better time. The relationship between Muslims and Christian Filipinos has suffered a number of setbacks. It’s an issue we cannot afford to ignore, but there is, unfortunately, a lack of attention on this matter.
It is precisely for this reason that Nathaniel Mambuay and wife Aminah, with their children Lara, Sarah and Farrah, have made it their family’s mission to create a harmonious relationship between Christians and Muslims in local communities and, hopefully, on the national level. They work to promote nonviolent communication and peace between the two faiths.
Message of peace
They started 11 years ago, in 2004, by holding weekly workshops to erase prejudice among Muslims and Christians in local barangays in Lanao del Norte.
Eventually, in 2011, they were invited to work with the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation organization of the Society of the Divine Word religious congregation. The aim is to reach out to student leaders and teachers to help bring the message of peace to the youth.
By training and providing modules to different public school teachers, the Mambuay family is teaching students of this generation to learn to live peacefully with one another.
The family enjoys working with young people because they are still open to learning and accepting the beliefs of others. Aminah stresses that the goal is not try to convert anyone, but rather, to teach people of both faiths to see the beauty and uniqueness of being Muslims and Christians. The Mambuay family members continue to conduct formation seminars on a regular basis all over Lanao del Norte and in other parts of the country where they are invited.
In 2013, the family decided to establish their own nongovernment organization (NGO), Kalilintad Pilipinas, Inc. It is focused on training, workshops and seminars on peace and nonviolent communication to different groups in various areas.
Through the NGO, the family has extended help in various ways to different people. Educational support is given to less fortunate children through school supplies and scholarships.
Currently there are 17 children receiving educational assistance, nine of whom are residing in a house owned by the Mambuays. The children visit jail inmates and give workshops on values formation. They participate in typhoon relief operations and conflict situations, such as during the Zamboanga siege, as well as medical missions.
In each of the stories of the families, we noticed that their respective advocacies were almost always born from the challenges they encountered.
Dealing with autism
The Peña family is no different. Alfredo and Janette Peña’s second child, Angelico Amir, has autism; lack of support and understanding in the local community led Janette to create the Bacoor chapter of Autism Society Philippines (ASP).
From the beginning, everyone in the family has been involved. The two other children, Anthea Carmeli and Jan Amille, are always present in the activities.
They cover topics such as capacity building, workshops for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their families, and awareness seminars on how to handle PWDs. Janette also leads a regular support group and workshop for parents.
They also have an annual siblings workshop that aims to empower siblings in dealing with their loved one’s autism. Their eldest daughter, Anthea, acts as co-facilitator of these workshops. They also hold summer camps for families.
Initially, Janette’s projects were limited to Bacoor, Cavite, but in the last few years, they have expanded to include Metro Manila as well as Bulacan, La Union, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon. They have reached and helped more than 10,000 families and PWDs.
More importantly, in order for the projects to have lasting effect, Janette also organizes local communities and chapters to support one another.
Janette is the recognized prime mover of her family’s advocacy and is also a recognized face in ASP, having been president and founder of the Bacoor chapter for six years, a member of the board of trustees also for six years, and immediate past national president for the last two years.
She has organized 13 ASP chapters in Cavite, the largest such group in the country.
Recently, the JFVA also decided to open the awards to Filipino families abroad. This year, in addition to the five local winners, is the Gange family—George, wife Melinda, and their children Michael and George Jr.
Despite being based in California, US, the Gange family has never forgotten its roots and continues to honor its Filipino heritage through the Rondalla Lending Program. As a child, George was mentored by a very special teacher named Mr. Santiago, who taught and encouraged him to play the rondalla.
Through his musical talent, George was able to get a scholarship and learn life skills, such as discipline and leadership, which led to a successful life in the US for him and his family.
He never forgot the kindness of Mr. Santiago and vowed to pay it forward. The Gange family established the Rondalla Group in San Jose, California, to propagate the tradition all over the US.
But more than just keeping a tradition alive, the Gange family members use these musical events as an opportunity to raise awareness on the plight of many Filipino families, especially during disasters. Through their musical concerts, they are able to raise funds to help Filipino victims of calamities such the Bohol earthquake, the Zamboanga siege, and typhoons “Yolanda,” “Ondoy,” among others, as well as less fortunate Filipino communities. They likewise raise funds for the needs of Filipino war veterans.
George founded the Pagyamanin Likas Musika Foundation, which loans brand-new rondalla to chosen communities or schools serving underprivileged children. He stresses that this is a partnership and not a dole-out, seeking to help children and the community by giving them a shared goal and keeping the bayanihan spirit alive.
His goal is to see the children stand on their own and develop their self-esteem, like he did many years ago. To date, the foundation has more than 70 beneficiary groups all over the Philippines.