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Families that learn together


It was my pleasure to be one of the judges in the recent second Jollibee Family Values Awards.

From more than a thousand entries from around the country, five families stood out. They have one thing in common: A love of learning that they impart to other people.

Needy children

The Cardente family of Zamboanga Sibugay aims to ensure that underprivileged students can dream of a better future.  Raised by a loving grandmother, father Jason worked as a janitor, a waiter and  a rag seller. He experienced so many trials that when he started his own family, he decided to help others.

When Jason posted on Facebook a photo of a girl suffering from cerebral palsy to help raise funds for her care, he met Dr. Anton Lim, who directed him to Tzu Chi Foundation and the group Yellow Boat of Hope that Lim cofounded with Jay Jaboneta.

Lim says, “Jason is selfless.  For a rich person, it would be normal to give; but for him, it is above normal.”

Jason and wife Jennifer, a teacher in Siay National High School, started the organization Sibugay Funds for Little Kids to help poor but deserving children.  They started by giving slippers to needy children, then, with the support of  Ipil District Rotary Club, they were able to provide books and school supplies.

The Cardentes also go on medical and dental missions with children Esther Joy and Joshua James, who are in high school,  documenting and taking photos.  The youngest, Nick Jay, inspires the family to continue doing what they do.  Now the family is working to build housing for deserving female students, to be called The Yellow Dorm of Hope.

Family friend Caroline Lim says, “The love they exhibit is extraordinary.”

The environment

The Banzuela family of Dagupan City is committed to protecting the environment.  As student government officers in Boquic National High School, children Romy Carlo and Rain Clara are active in the Youth for Environment in Schools’ Organization.  Father Romeo and mother Clarivel (who works for the Department of Social Welfare and Development) are officers of the parents’ association and support their children’s work.

With grade schooler Rae Cyril, the family does mangrove planting, waste segregation and recycling, community cleaning and greening.  The Banzuelas know that preserving the earth is essential to prevent calamities and also to provide people livelihood.

The family lives by the motto:  “In everything you do, make the most of it.”  Mylene Cabanban, a family friend, admires the Banzuelas’ readiness to help others, despite financial difficulties.  Maricel Caleja, Clarivel’s officemate, says, “The family has integrity.  They do not wait for [anything in return for] their advocacies.”

Juliet Castanares, another family friend, says volunteering is bonding time for the family.  Best of all, “they influence, inspire and encourage a lot of other people to save the environment.”

Indigenous people

The Butic family owns a farm in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.  Father Alex has Ifugao roots, while mother Anna Marcia comes from Bukidnon’s indigenous people.  Alex did not finish his studies, as he supported his siblings to complete theirs.

Alex and Anna Marcia honor their ethnic origins. During family reunions, they reenact ancestral rituals, complete with costumes and dance. He is active in the Ifugao Lumad organization and she, in the Bukidnon Indigenous group. For 15 years, they have worked with both groups to recruit ethnic peoples to farm their land.

Pacita Tacatane, Anna Marcia’s aunt, says, “The family constantly promotes unity and cooperation among indigenous people.” People from various tribes work in harmony. Every harvest, with grade school children Nathalie, Aldrian and Alexies Mar, the Butics share their blessings with the farmers.

The family is generous, open-hearted and well-loved.  Imelda Agnes Tubeo, another relative, says, “Whether or not they have a good harvest, they share whatever they have with the community.”

Aside from providing much-needed jobs, financial aid and resources to farmers, the Butics also share their produce with Four Square Gospel Church and the people around them.  Church pastor Elmer Tejero extols the family’s faith and community involvement, which he says are “very visible.”

Tacatane says, “The family is strongly knitted in love because of their deep faith in the Lord.  A strong family builds a strong nation.”

Other winners

The Guzman family of Tondo, Manila, makes cancer more bearable for children of poor families.  For more than 15 years, they have done storytelling, art therapy and gift-giving to kids in Payatas and Tondo.  Father Emiliano and mother Anicia encourage work colleagues to join their cause. Teenage daughters Anne Gabrielle and Anne Mimille use their talents in dancing and writing to entertain the children and raise funds for them.

The Ramos family of Bacolod City helps the community in various ways.  Rey, a college professor, designs and creates eco-friendly products to help people affected by disasters.  His wife, Mae, counsels those in need.  With children Clarine Mae, Catherine Ann, Christian Michael and Christian Rey, the family has opened their home for Sunday school.

Each family received a cash prize of P100,000,  P10,000 worth of Jollibee gift certificates and a trophy by Michael Cacnio, among others.  The board of judges was chaired by Grace Tan-Caktiong, Jollibee Foundation president.

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

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