NBA wager produces new slippers for poor kidsBy Jofel Joyce Lancion
Inquirer Southern Luzon
GASAN, Marinduque—For at least 1,000 public elementary school pupils from some of the poorest villages of Marinduque, a wager is not such a bad thing.
Thanks to a bet made on the recently concluded seven-game series between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the children will have new pairs of slippers.
Floro “Boyet” Villamin Jr., a Marinduque-based photographer and graphic designer, started this friendly wager among his friends which earned for his charity work at least 1,000 pairs of slippers that his group is now distributing to the children, an effort which they called simply “Tsinelas Project.”
Villamin said the idea started during the NBA Finals when a Filipino friend of his based in Australia, Elmer Sager, bet that if the Spurs won a game in the seven-game series against the Heat, he would bankroll a project for Villamin’s group.
Villamin could not remember exactly which game it was, but he recalled that even if he and his other friends were for the Heat, they started rooting for the Spurs just so the Samahang Bonifacio at Rizal (Saboril), the name that Villamin and his friends gave their group, “could get those pairs of slippers.”
“The NBA Finals built new friendships. Our Miami-follower friends prayed for Spurs winning the game for more slippers,” he said.
Villamin founded Saboril with his childhood friends and neighbors in Gasan, Marinduque and began doing community projects since 1999, the year Saboril was formed.
The group’s name was derived from their usual hangout, the intersection of Bonifacio and Rizal Streets in Poblacion, Gasan, which served as their playground during their childhood days.
Villamin said the group had just finished a “Balik-Eskwela Project” that gave away school supplies to children in Gasan when he noticed that many of the children who received the supplies were without slippers.
After winning the bet for the Spurs, Saber, Villamin’s Australia-based friend, bankrolled the purchase of 500 pairs of slippers.
Had the Spurs won the championship, Saber would have paid for 200 more pairs of slippers. The Heat won in seven games, though.
Despite the Spurs’ defeat, however, Saboril continued to collect slippers from its other friends here and abroad, Villamin said, until the group was able to collect 1,000 pairs.
Saboril started distributing the slippers on July 1 in Gasan in four schools—Bahi Ilaya Elementary School, Quatis Elementary School, Pangi Elementary School and Matandang Gasan Elementary School.
On July 6, they went to Gaspar Island in Gasan to again distribute slippers to children there.
Today, Villamin’s group is expected to be in Maniwaya Island in Sta. Cruz town also to distribute slippers.
The project is a result of collaboration between Saboril and Maulag (Mga Ulirang Anak ng Gasan), another group that Villamin helped found.
With help from some government agencies and private individuals, Villamin said his two groups are able to pursue community projects and environmental work in Marinduque.
Villamin has been leading charity work in Gasan since 2007 ranging from Christmas gift-giving projects to the distribution of school supplies to children.
“I’m doing it little by little,” Villamin said. “I hope everyone would help each other and see what Marinduque and its children need,” he said.