The type of ‘gwapo’ the Philippines needs today

His heart made him more handsome than his face ever could.

Redefining the meaning of gwapo, Rainier is successful in doing so. I first met him two years ago during their live screening for Ideas Positive Run 8. He was shy back then, unable to speak without a pause, but at first blush, I knew he was a vessel of something more than his face value.

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Looking at my score sheets,  I realized the team would not make the cut. The project was promising but lacked the required oomph. The judges were sure to let go of the team. Exchanges of heated arguments started to fill the room, endless negotiations and hostile presentation of what ifs,and what nots. I was sure that time, that while their idea was not ripe, Rainier’s heart was. When I saw him, I was so sure, he was the one, the Philippines is longing for.

I introduced a new precedent, a new interpretation of the text, advancing a theory that we should take full consideration of not only the quality of the idea, but the holder of these ideas. I was gaining attention that time, I finished the blow by saying “There is no alternative in this case, to rule against the team, is to choose a blind eye and disregard the humanity which is central to this competition.”

I was anxious that time. Did I push too hard on the basis of gut feeling? I prepared my resignation letter in case the project will fail. With God’s grace, they succeeded.

Rainier or Dochi at 23, redefines the concept ‘genuinely handsome’. His appearance if taken as a whole does not only commands attention, but more so, it inspires action.

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His persona if you only take it as whole, opens not only the mind, but captures the heart.

Take Dochi as a whole, and your life will change. This is his power. Rainier is more than the sum total of his parts, he is a miracle waiting to be beatified.

And this is what I will do today. With the power vested in me by the Division Superintendent, (NO!) by the Mutya of all ages, the unlimited, the breaker of chains, the all beauty, I declare Dochi as the living symbol of beauty and purpose in one body, more than the physical aspect, his inner beauty shines to uplift the lives of others. This makes him special.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
#Mutya

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Liberate yourselves from pain, use dreams.

My lola is still very clever. At 92, she is the master of symbolism. She gave me a book for my birthday. The title is ‘The Dream’ by Harry Bernstein. This is about a young boy named Harry’s incredible pursuit of his dream that one day they might escape the grinding poverty for the paradise of America.

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My lola’s prodigy is my mother. When I was young she told me that pain is necessary for me to grow. For the past 26 years, I have carried this theory that every time I experience tremendous amount of pain, my tendency is to rationalize.

My ruling is to always uphold what my mother had implanted in my mind; that pain is the twin brother of mine. That according to her, life is unfair and people will always inflict pain, and I cannot prevent this from happening. In my mind, where did she get this hasty conclusion? Is this a form of wisdom or did she read the book on Human Nature? Or is it really the reality that the world is inherently cruel?

Living inside the house with an atrocious father for me is the very definition of pain. Not until, that same house of cards over a decade ago, while I was competing for our school quiz bee, where I won the 1st place, fell to the ground– shattered to pieces.  It was an emotional roller coaster of sorts, seeing your family broke apart. For me it was the endgame, when Thanos snapped his fingers where all the values and the aspirations evaporated.

Not until my lola used the power of dreams. According to her dreams are important part of our lives. She painted a picture of me in black robes, like a judge. Now, I understand that she invented this vision for me to make up for all the things I lacked and to give me some hope for a better future. Perhaps, also to envelope me against grief and misery.

Since today is the Philippine Independence Day, I will not delve on how the Philippines acquired independence, but more so, I will try to present how we can liberate ourselves from pain by pointing out three truths. While I do not have the monopoly to experience pain, I think, I have a unique experience worthy of at least, my own simple documentation.

Most of the time we asked ourselves if pain is necessary. Why can’t men live with pure joy and contentment. Our theological beginnings tell us that the world and its accompanying obstacles are tests before we reach the paradise– a place free from pain and suffering. Whether or not we take this as a sugar-coated belief, there are certain universal truths that we humans should consider.

The first step to independence is knowing that we are alive. We experience pain because we need a reminder that we are alive, and in return we learn the value of joy and the beauty of this world. This is always what my best friend Alfred tells me every time I feel depressed. He is not a good counselor but an excellent positivist in his own sphere.

Second, I have realized that silence exacerbates pain. Pain needs to be verbalized, it needs to be expressed. We need to be courageous enough to confront pain head on. Having an understanding circle of friends would help in addressing this. Sometimes, their active listening and their warm presence save the day. In short, liberation needs expression. 

Lastly, dreams are powerful than pain. Whenever pain creeps into the picture, one must immediately go back to his dreams, imagine that this is real, hold it in his hands and like a handful of colorful dust, sprinkle it on the dark canvass of life. While people can hurt us every day, in whatever unimaginable or imaginable ways, we have to acknowledge that pain is inevitable in our daily lives and we have a more powerful tool to combat this.

Some of us will fall, some will rise and defeat this foe, but at the end of the day, pain is always essential and we need to do our best to shape it to support our existence and in furtherance of our individual purpose in life, for liberation.

#Mutya

How a 20 year old led the movement against measles outbreak in the Philippines

“Baby Robert” was Lolo Roger’s first grandson from his only daughter Nena. He could never be more than happy becoming a grandfather for the first time and more excited to take care of the little boy. But months after Robert was born, the child showed symptoms of measles, which became the cause of the untimely death of the four-month-old child. The complications killed him.

It was a sudden loss for the family of Lolo Roger, and it could not have happened only if the children in their neighborhood received complete doses of measles-containing vaccine. Robert’s record was the fourth in the barangay where there was a low compliance of only 11%.
This is only one of the many devastating stories arising in the Philippines, as more and more parents refuse to have their children vaccinated. behavior causes the vaccination compliance rate to decrease. This also rips off herd immunity or the capacity of a community to not spread measles virus if the children has at least 85% vaccination compliance.

Heeding the call for health
It was in February 2019 when 21-year-old John Carlo Borja or simply “Borj” to his peers, was on his way home when a post in his social media news feed caught his attention.
The post made Borj stop, and carefully read through the news article. Department of Health had just declared the first outbreaks of measles in five regions of the country namely National Capital Region, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas on February 7, 2019.
According to the article, from 1 January to 27 April 2019, there have been 33,559 recorded cases of measles, a 440% increase from last year.In 2018, there were a total of 21,812 measles cases reported.
With higher number of cases comes the bigger possibilities of fatality. In comparison to 199 deaths from January to December 2018, there was 234% increase in fatalities with 466 deaths recorded from January to April 27, 2019.
The said data reflects a Case Fatality Ratio of 1.39%. While this may seem to be likely a small number, it is considered high by the World Health Organization and UNICEF as measles is supposed to be a vaccine-preventable disease that the country aims to eradicate by 2025.
This issue being a series of lack of accountability and mistrust on the broken public health system has stoked fear to many parents and children. Data showed that Dengvaxia implementing regions had the highest number of individuals infected with measles as 6,010 cases were recorded in Calabarzon and 6,075 in Metro Manila (as of April 13, 2019).
With all these numbers brought by the current measles outbreak, Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore warned about ‘alarmingly high levels’ of measles cases worldwide will have ‘disastrous consequences’ for children if not enough is done to strengthen immunization campaigns.
At one point, Borj tried to think of ways on how a young person like him can help solve this issue. As a Marketing graduate with no background in health, he had doubts.
“Maraming beses na kasi akong nasabihan na kapag wala akong alam, dapat tumahimik na lang ako. Anong alam ko sa measles? Sa outbreak? Tama naman sila, wala.” (I have been told many times that I should just keep my mouth shut when it’s none of my business.. What do I know about measles? Or about the outbreak? Yes, they were right, I know nothing.)
But as days passed, Borj found himself trapped in the idealism that he was not meant to just sit and wait. That maybe, as a youth, and together with his fellow youth, they can make contribute in their unique way and help the government in addressing this health concern.
“As youth leaders for healthier communities, we cannot just be spectators of this alarming realities – we need to act and do our part.”
The story of Baby Robert and Borj’s realization sparked the launching of the YOUth for #VaccinesSaveLives Movement or VSLM, a nationwide campaign that mobilizes the youth as the government’s partner in the promotion of vaccination and conduct of Rapid Coverage Assessment in communities.

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Re-activating the youth
It wasn’t a sweet start, as Borj narrates, that the VSLM had only thirteen youth volunteers who first believed that the youth can participate in this nationwide health issue. “Lahat tayo ay may kakayahang tumulong, pero kaunti lang yung nais tumulong (Everyone has the capacity to help, but only a few chooses to do so),” said Borj.
The National Youth Assessment Study (NYAS) 2015 revealed that only seven out of every ten of the respondents were involved in an organization while only 42% attended programs or activities by different organizations.
For most of the youth whom Borj tapped for this campaign, all he got were shrugs and smirks, and some even told him that he was ambitious and that the movement could go not go farther from its conception. But that didn’t stop Borj. It just made him more determined than ever.
With the help of the Ideas Positive Alumni Community, Borj started the movement in Oriental Mindoro and Marikina City with 65 youth and student leaders.
And to further back up the power of the youth, VSLM took over changing the landscape and entering possibilities for legislative actions through the training of Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Councils) Officials.

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In a span of one month, they were able to train 163 SK Officials from 27 different barangays or villages lobbying their local ordinances from the localities of Rizal Province, Oriental Mindoro, Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Tacloban City.
“Maybe I was wrong when I said only a few want to help. Because the reality is many of the youth want to engage themselves in something meaningful, they just lack the avenue on how they can turn their ideas into actions,” Borj explained.
Also serving as a Sangguniang Kabataan Chairperson in Barangay Calumpang, Binangonan, Rizal, Borj also found himself conducting the same campaign to his own community, re-educating almost 125 households and 190 children on the importance of vaccination.
For him, it was one of his best times when he was able to revisit the areas of his barangay to spread awareness, debunk the stigma and misconception on immunization, and save more children children from measles.

Making differences together
Since then, the VSLM became a nationwide campaign, from up north in Tuguegarao to Capiz, to down south in Maguindanao,Davao del Norte, and even reaching Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.
With more youth groups geared to implement the VSLM campaign in their own communities, the movement has reached almost 3,408 households, mobilized 261 youth volunteers all over the country, profiled 33 communities, which all led to the vaccination of about 1,105 children.

Forging ties with right partners
It was UNICEF Philippines who first believed that the youth can do much more to address this timely issue. With their support, the movement gained more credibility that led to the Department of Health’s official endorsement of VSLM to its regional offices. Thereafter, it was also recognized as one of the #VaccineHeroes, a strong partner promoting vaccination and ensuring that every child is saved from vaccine-preventable diseases.
“We needed to prove to these big institutions na kaya din ng kabataan. Na sa usapang health, mayroon din tayong ibubuga at nararapat tayong paniwalaan at pagkatiwalaan.”(We needed to prove to these big institutions that the youth can. That when it comes to health, the youth can contribute a lot and they must be trusted for it.)
As of writing, UNICEF and DOH are partnering with the VSLM in conducting and assessing the routine immunization program of the government, in an effort to reach more households and save more children.
Through collaborative partnerships and efforts of the government and organizations, 93% of the target population have been vaccinated already. With the ongoing initiatives and the engagement of the youth through VSLM, Borj is hopeful that sooner or later, the measles outbreak will be halted and declared over by the department, and measles cases will start decreasing.
For Borj, traveling the road less taken and defying the status quo inspired him to start the movement. He thought he could do more, and so he did. What was once his initial goal of making a change led to improving and saving other people’s’ lives. In the end, the experience also changed his life.
Throughout the hardships he encountered, the smiles of the children and their hopeful parents saying ‘salamat po’ (thank you) were all worth it.
For Borj, he vows to continue enabling and inspiring more youth like him to become agents of change for nation-building. And as long as there are children who are left behind in this health issue, the youth will continue to heed the call of building a healthier Philippines, one community at a time.
And as how Borj always loved to write on his social media posts, “Lagi’t lagi, para sa bata at para sa bayan. (Always in the service of the children and the country).”

#ThankYouSirPipp trends in Western Visayas

To measly call him a mentor or a coach is an insult, in Ideas Positive Community, we call him the ‘Great One.’

Dr. Philip Ian Padilla or Sir Pipp is considered as one of the most instrumental pillars of Ideas Positive. Known as the father of youth engagement on public health in Western Visayas, he was able to produce hundreds of youth leaders for health, improving the health landscape of the country. His steady efforts in molding young minds to create innovative solutions to crack public health issues had led to tremendous positive outcomes in the region.

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For some, Sir Pipp is a strict professor, while others coin him as a thought-provoking mentor. He is unpredictable, his ideas are sometimes curious but always grounded on reality. His teaching methods are not purely traditional whilst colorful yet effective. He is well-respected as a professor at the University of the Philippines in Miag-ao and even in whole country.

Aside from being a professor, a handful of his students consider him as an inspirational leader. He has an eye for talent, for intelligence, for assets. He always sees the best in every person. He looks at every person like a malleable alloy—capable of molding to its best possible form. He is not a guidance counselor but his insights when confronted with student problems had saved depressed souls. In fact, some became physicians, some medical technologists, some became actors. One thing is for sure, he is excellent in leading a person to take the right direction.

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If and only if we have as many as Dr. Pipp in this archipelago, it is possible that this nation will rise for good. If we have good, inspiring, reflective, and loving mentors, it is possible that we will have a strong youth force: aware, nationalistic, committed, and humble.

For me personally, Sir Pipp embodies the basic precept that teachers must not only teach students by the book, but more importantly, teachers must strive to teach students how to become better citizens, how to live a beautiful, and happy life. To do this will not entail additional budget from the national government. This will not take the Congressional Authorization; this will only take revolutionary leadership to making sure we cultivate the right teachers for our students.

Whenever I see sir Pipp, it brings me too much joy and inspiration, seeing in flesh and in spirit the ideal embodiment of what teachers should be.

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At 21, he chooses the Philippines

Raised in Plaridel Bulacan, a 21 year old young man abandons his career as an engineer and joins Unilab Foundation to champion mental health among young Filipino learners.

It was a difficult decision for him to make but his guiding light was his early realization that young people (the youth) should help in building this nation. For him, it was a wasted life spending almost 8 hours a day, everyday in a job that does not give him the sense of fulfilment.

He started as an Ideas Positive participant back in 2017 representing the vast area of Central Luzon. With his leadership, his team successfully improved the nutritional status of elementary students in a school in Bulacan. His brand of leadership was evident when he served as Governor for the College of Engineering of Bulacsn State University. He is known as a compassionate and progressive leader who is willing to help all the time.

Jefferson Hilario or Jepoy is a symbol of simplicity and excellence fused in one body. His conviction to making things happen is an inspiration especially for a young person like me who sometimes losses confidence and hope for this nation.

The likes of Jepoy is an antidote to our growing decay as a country. It is a shame for us to lose hope (this time) when a young boy from Plaridel chooses to fix the system instead of sitting comfortably on his chair inside an air-conditioned office. Jepoy tells us a clear message– that passion is a powerful thing and it must be translated into action.

In this confusing time, times of great divide, with vested interest as the name of the game, money, fame, power, and greed; seeing a 21 year old young boy, with some funny nails, refusing to accept the ordinary, going the opposite, less travelled direction is something really hard to find. And yet, the country is still blessed to have one, to have him.

#Mutya

What makes this 19 year old volunteer special?

A 19-year old volunteer from Oriental Mindoro joins the Ideas Positive Alumni Community as its first honorary member.

As the growing influence of the organization in the country becomes evident, primarily in partnering with the government accelerate significant health outcomes, it is only but paramount for IPAC to embrace new breed of leaders who can bring the organization to even greater heights.

Paulo Acedera, whom his friends call him “King” does not use his medals nor his certificates of appearance or recognitions as platforms to serving his community. But instead his growing humble prominence in MIMAROPA rest on his heart made of fibers waived from unwavering nationalism, genuine passion, and a new brand of humility.

As a member of the Keep Hope Alive, a youth organization in Mindoro, “King” helped the group co-organized activities to deliver impactful programs for the indigenous cultural communities over the years.

The Honorary Membership is a special mechanism wherein a non-Ideas Positive youth leader or volunteer can be part of the mission in building healthier communities.

“Paulo’s inclusion as the first IPAC honorary member will not only add new and fresh perspectives but also will bolster our strength as an organization. While his competence is undeniably one of his assets, we cannot close our eyes and not acknowledge his heart for service and volunteerism, which I believe, an important linchpin of effective nation building.” – Jerome Cuyos, IPAC President said.

Meanwhile, IPAC regional chapters conduct their own nomination process to select new set of honorary members.

#IPAC #Mutya

Dear mountains of Mindoro

You are extraordinary. Why? Because you have the peculiar power to reveal something which is unknown to me. Your difficult trails tested my strength and exposed my vulnerabilities. For one, you stretched my patience to its breaking point. But I guess, this is your natural way of saying, “you need to be patient”. True indeed, patience shapes the future.

Your challenging trails have shown me new realizations. One, that sometimes, as humans, we must know when to wait and when to take the lead. Life is a competition for survival, for making ourselves more visible, more enlarged, and more relevant. It is normal.

The experience with you is unique because around 30 people left me behind the trail. But I appreciate your presence. When I was about to fall, you offer the roots of your trees to pull me from the ground. When the heat of the sun pierced my skin, you summoned the tall acacia trees to provide me some shade. In life, we learn unconventional insights when we are alone. When our mind is disconnected from the multiverse of dramatic distractions and irrelevant noise, we, humans, tend to miss the point of living. We lose our purpose and in effect we lose the motivation.

You knew that when I started the trek, inside my bag is a difficult question. I prayed very hard, expecting you to provide me with the serenity and peace of mind to finally find the answers. By pushing me hard while in the trail, you did overemphasize my foolishness in believing that you have the answer key. Instead, what you gave me was a set of reviewers of life’s basic concepts.

While time is the currency of love, you successfully impressed to me that love is about shared experience. It is about providing people with experiences that leave an indelible mark in their hearts. The whole point of people living on Earth is not to spend time wisely or to amass wealth, but to passionately provide extraordinary and insightful experiences for the person he or she truly cares about.

Finally, to effect real change using the power of love, it entails a lot of sacrifice. It will not be a never-ending sweet and happy journey. Pain will be always there. Sacrifice is inevitable for a person who truly loves. Like what Jerome Cuyos said, “to love is to accept and to let go”. To gain is to surrender something or someone for the better good. To advance or to move on, sometimes you need to step back, to disappear or to toss the baton to another person.

Love,

Mutya