Thursday, August 25, 2011


Papa after visiting Mama at the Bais Public Cemetery, October, 2004. It is in both their memories that we dedicate the Avenir Foundation.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gwendolyn, Vernice, and Victorino

The Avenir Foundation is very pleased to sponsor these 3 siblings for the upcoming school year. Gwendolyn will be in Grade 6, Vernice wil be in Grade 1, and Victorino wil be in 3rd year High School. They have to maintain excellent attendance  and are expected to give their best efforts in school.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On being smug and judgmental...

"You've probably already had this thought: You've worked hard to get where you are now, so haven't you earned a right to enjoy it? This seems both fair and reflective of our basic economic values. Yet when thinking about fairness, you might also consider that if you are a middle-class person in a developed country, you were fortunate to be born into social and economic circumstances that make it possible for you to live comfortably if you work hard and have the right abilities. In other places, you might have ended up poor, no matter how hard you worked."
Such is the state of most of the poor in Bais. They work exceedingly hard for so little return, in conditions that would kill me, that would be considered inhumane by Western standards.
"Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest people, acknowledged as much when he said: "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru, you'll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil".
" Prize-winning economist and social scientist Herbert Simon estimated that "social capital" is responsible for at least 90 percent of what people earn in wealthy societies. Simon was talking about living in a society with good institutions, such as an efficient banking system, a police force that will protect you from criminals, and courts to which you can turn to with reasonable hope of a just decision if someone breaches a contract with you. Infrastructure in the form of roads, communications, and a reliable power supply is also part of our social capital.
Without these, you will struggle to escape poverty, no matter how hard you work." 
Let's call those of us living in the West, lucky sperms.
 - text in italics are excerpts from Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save",  Random House 2009.
 - text in bold are my own comments.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bishop Scott and Brett Stacy

Brett is 7, in Grade 2 and Bishop is 8, in Grade 3. Both attend the Bais City Pilot (Public Elementary) School. Their school fees are paid for by the Avenir Foundation.

Baisanons of the World (BOW)

Conceived less than a year ago by Vivian Villanueva and Elvie Abilla-Kaelin (both relatives of ours). Baisanons of the World (BOW) had its first tapok-tapok in Las Vegas last week. It was a success on two levels: first and foremost, it raised awareness ( a long with a lot of funds), of the need for expat Baisanons to help Baisanons in Bais; and second and perhaps just as important, it united Baisanons from all across the USA.
In the words of Elvie:
Hello Baisanons of the World!!! It has been a hectic week for me and I finally got a time to sit down and open my mind for all of you. The "Tapok Baisanons" was a success! Praise the Lord! This is because of you guys. You all did this for me and for Vivian for the Baisanons. It took us a year to get this reunion going and finally it went through with lots of fun, ang kasadya sa aning adlawa wala joy makalupig. Everybody was all smile and help get things together with fun. I was still receiving calls from Califonia that day, that's not too late to come!!! And they showed up at the door. I felt the wamness of being in Bais during piesta..."Sulod, panulod mo!!!ahhhh what a great feeling! For those of you that missed...make sure you will join us. It's gonna be during Memorial Weekend, Las Vegas as always. The Entertainment Capital of the World, unless someone out there will volunteer to have our "Tapok" in your State. Vivian and I will always be there. Thank you so much to all who came and brought school supplies, joined the silent auction and above all the cash donations...God Bless us all!

We need to see more initiatives like BOW. It really does take very little to make a difference!
(You can find BOW on Facebook under Groups: Baisanons of the World)


Marilyn is a 24-year-old who is taking IT courses at La Consolacion College (formerly Sacred Heart Academy). She is a part-time student, attending classes from 4-7; she works as  a housekeeper during the day. Her school fees are paid for by the Avenir Foundation.
The first thing that greets you on arrival at the Dumaguete Airport in late June is the brick-like wall of heat that presses on you like a bouncer denying you entry into an exclusive club. It is always hotter than what you remember it to be.
The scenery on the 45 km stretch from the Airport to Bais City (my hometown) used to be (30_ years ago), a reverie of yellow-green vegetation and turquoise water, punctuated by sleepy barrios and busy towns. These days, the highway is clogged with buses, trucks, motorcycles, and the popular (and practical) "pedicab". The roads are chaotic with no discernable mode of traffic control, made worse by poor road quality. People walk along the edge of the road seemingly oblivious to the speeding vehicles mere inches from them.
The next memorable image that persists in my mind, and one that I am constantly reminded of during moments of reflection, is the sheer number of people one sees everywhere. At around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when the schools discharge their students, a sea of kids, most of them uniformed in white tops, black pants (for the boys), and bright skirts (for the girls), flood the streets.
As a parent of three boys, I am preoccupied with their lives and their future. Just like any other parent, I worry, and I hope that my children will realize their full potential as persons. My wife and I work extremely hard to provide for our children, raising them to be happy and engaged members of society. Fortunately, we live in North America, where even in the worst of economic times, the opportunities for improvement are there for the taking.
What about the children in the Philippines? I cannot help but wonder, and fear, for the future of these multitudes of kids. What is to become of these children, when even my own generation, born in the late 50's and early 60's, my former classmates, are barely getting by with menial jobs, considering themselves supremely lucky if they land a job as one of the millions of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Worker).
It would be a daunting, dare I say impossible, task to make a difference on a national, or even provincial basis. It is not impossible to make a difference on a personal basis, child by child. The needs are many, and require financial inputs.
For a perspective on the current fiscal climate, by one estimate, over 13% of the Philippine GDP comes from the remittances of OFWs. Filipinos can be justifiably proud of their generosity. It is not uncommon for one OFW, perhaps working as a seaman or as a domestic helper, to be the sole earner for an extended family. Families are fed, nieces are sent to college, seed money is invested in a micro-business. All of this with money from abroad!
On my island of Negros (with two provinces: Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental) which is wholly dependent on agriculture (typical), these remittances keep the economy afloat.
However, these remittances are directed mostly towards the immediate family members of the givers. What about the children who have no relatives abroad?
On my last visit to the Philippines, I visited the public elementary school in my hometown. I was stunned by the paucity of educational materials. I recall seeing one decades-old dictionary that occupied a prominent spot on one of the tables and one pre-70's atlas that doesn't reflect the world today. It made me sad to think that the rich potential inherent in the children don't have the slightest chance of even starting to be realized due, for the most part, to the lack of educational materials. Then I think of the used book sales in North America (50 cents for a slightly used paperback, $2 for a used dictionary) and of the books my kids dump in the recycling bins!
So I am issuing a challenge to my fellow expatriates. Pick a sector of society that could benefit from some assistance. Do some research and you'd be surprise at how little it takes to help out.
Personally and speaking on behalf of my siblings, we'll be concentrating on helping out on the education front. We have started a preliminary research of the financials (translated into their equivalent cups of Starbucks and Tim Horton's doughnuts). We absolutely hate asking other people for money and we don't know anything about fund-raising. So we are not asking for donations to fund our initiative(s). Any assistance we extend out will be money from our family enterprises. My siblings and I have personal fund-raising initiatives in the works. The point is that giving doesn't have to hurt!
We hope that our modest efforts will inspire and encourage kindred spirits to extend a helping hand to our fellow Baisanons. Our initiative is a work in progress, and will continue to exist as long as the the realities of the economic climate remain positive  for us.  I hope you will be inspired to consider starting a similar project!