For the last seven years, the Jollibee Foundation has been celebrating Filipino families that embody virtues and continue living them through their words and actions.
This year, the board of judges, which I took great pleasure in being a part of, chose another five exemplary families to receive the Jollibee Family Values Awards for 2017.
Doctors Ramon and Auditha Dickson of Bangued, Abra, did not plan on becoming a family of doctors for others. But in 1993, Auditha, a dentist, and a group of businessmen set up a foundation to provide medical, dental and social services to an adopted town in Abra.
The foundation did not last, but this did not stop the Dickson couple from continuing to help this town, and eventually, many more towns and barangay in their province.
Since then, the couple, together with their two children, Ramarie and Ramon, who are also becoming doctors, have conducted over 140 free medical and dental missions. They have also given several barangay medical equipment sets and supplies. On top of this, Dr. Ramon holds free clinic at the Abra Provincial Hospital every Friday for indigent patients.
These expenses have long become a part of the family budget. But it is not just money that the family has given, but their lives, as well. After 23 years, they continue to hold an average of six missions a year, for which they go wherever they are needed, even crossing rivers on foot to reach far-flung areas.
Simeon and Agnes Felix, together with their children, Paula and Hannah, immediately won hearts with their cheerful and humble interview, and even had the board commenting to the
Jollibee officers that this family should be in their advertisements.
In 2009, Simeon, a Philippine Air Force military officer, and Agnes, an optometrist, were inspired by the book, “A Purpose Driven Life.” Together with their children, they decided to find a way to give back to their community. They began offering free eye check-ups and prescription glasses to PAF personnel and families to improve their quality of life with better vision.
Simeon had since noticed a trend of failing eyesight among PAF personnel who could not afford an eye exam or prescription glasses. The family committed to providing 2,020 pairs of eyeglasses by the year 2020, using 10 percent of their income together with the 10 percent of their daughters’ allowances. They have also partnered with other organizations to raise the necessary funds.
In just eight years of hosting eye tests and vision missions, they have already given away over 1,700 pairs of eyeglasses in various communities, from Pasay City to Baguio in the north and Zamboanga in the south. They are now in the process of revisiting and updating their plan, as Paula is on her way to becoming an optometrist, as well.
The story of James and Mylene Matti’s foster son, Romnick Blanco, has been making the rounds for a while now, as it is not every day that a Filipino receives a full scholarship from Harvard University. It is a story of the Matti couple’s determination to help a community, which changed not just the lives of the beneficiaries, but theirs, as well.
Turning things around
In 2009, the Matti couple received a donation of a sizable piece of farmland in the foothills of the Sierra Madre in San Miguel, Bulacan. Most people would have just sold the property for a profit, but James and Mylene were inspired to turn things around and provide the logging community with another source of livelihood while bringing the land back to life.
They formed the Green Earth Heritage Foundation, and undertook reforestation projects, introduced sustainable and organic practices to the farmers, and set up a multi-product processing facility. The couple extended their help to needy children by conducting basic skills tutorials and eventually arranging for scholarships by finding donors.
In the process of getting to know the children, one stood out for his industry, skills and ability to learn quickly: Romnick Blanco. So impressed were the Mattis with Rom’s abilities that they applied for a scholarship for the child at the International School Manila, where he was quickly accepted. The school required its scholars to have a family in Manila as legal guardians. The Mattis stepped up and took him in as their foster son.
There are now 45 families benefiting from the various agricultural projects in the farm, including several farmers’ wives who work in the processing facility. The foundation has added 25,000 trees to the farmland, and a total of 121 children from the community have been sponsored, with 20 studying in various colleges in Manila.
Many obstacles stand in the way of Filipino students, poverty being the biggest. Public schoolteachers Alvin and Rina Macalintal of Victoria, Mindoro have watched students drop out from classes due to the 18-25 km that many of their Mangyan students must travel in order to make it to class every day.
In 2009, the couple, together with their children, Hanna Angelica, Lorenzo, Josh and Hanna Vianney, decided to build a simple home on their property, using their own funds with some donated materials. The Balay-Lako Project began with just seven residents in 2009, and has since housed 19 students in just a few years. The house was further expanded to accommodate more, and now houses a total of 59 students.
Despite the fact that the Macalintal family does not earn much from their job as teachers, all students stay for free, though they must provide for their own food. The family only accepts students who have no way to pay for their lodging, and those who live far from school. They have taken on the noble task of educating the youth, not just in the academics but also in values.
Arcie Mallari always loved education, as well as serving others. In 2007, he and his wife Hazel put the two passions together and formed Silid Aralan Inc. (SAI), an organization that aims to help underprivileged students through three different programs, each one aimed at a different age level, in order to help discover their potential, purpose and love for learning.
From the first “hub” of SAI in Rizal, which welcomed 40 students, they have since opened five more and trained over 3,570 students, allowing them to be at par for their grade and age level. From being “underperformers,” receiving grades of 70 and below, many of them have gone on to be admitted into the country’s top universities.
The foundation is supported by individual and corporate sponsors. Arcie and Hazel manage the foundation and programs full time, while their children Joshua and David interact with the students on weekends. The Mallari couple has devoted their lives to teaching other parents and students the value of education and its role in helping them break free of the cycle of poverty.
In addition to the five families awarded by Jollibee, Juvenal and Erin Castro of San Jose, California, were also awarded the overseas Filipino family of the year through their efforts to bring educational materials and books to Filipino children by collecting books all over the US. To date, the couple has shipped about four containers worth of books to the Philippines, using their own finances or finding sponsors to defray the costs.
Juvenal’s wife, Erin, jokingly tells us that she lives “in a space among books,” as her house and garage are filled with books they regularly send to public schools in the Philippines.
Special citations were also conferred to families with specific advocacies. Recipients of the Special Citation for Education are Rey Dennis and Janice Caballero and family of Negros Oriental. Arnel and Alma Borela and family of General Santos City received the Special Citation for Children, while Leopoldo and Fe Acula and family of Taguig City received the Special Citation for Persons with Disabilities.
Indeed, there is goodness all around us. We only have to look and allow ourselves to be inspired, so that we too may bring kindness and hope to those around us.