Youth Rocks! The 2003 TAYO Awardees

TAYO, or the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations, is an annual search that aims to recognize, reward, and encourage youth efforts in nation building. The first TAYO search was held in 2002, and culminated in an awarding ceremony on April 2003, in Malacañang Palace. 

Over 100 organizations sent in their entries, which evaluated exemplary projects or programs that benefited their respective communities. Of these, the TAYO were chosen based on the following criteria: innovation, social mobilization, and impact on the community. A valisation team made the rounds in the different cities and provinces to verify the project entries and to learn from the community itself about the project's impact. 

Below is a showcase of the individuals and organizations who are fighting for their respective causes and advocacies around the country. 











Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City


“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” – Aristotle 

Aristotle couldn’t have said it many better. Jose Rizal said it, too, when he said that “the youth is the hope of the nation”.

Indeed, much is expected of the youth today, particularly because many have already been disillusioned by the foolishness of our elders. They have called upon us to lead change, to voice out strong opinions, and to topple corrupt governments. The Filipino youth is so passionate and determined to make a difference that it will do anything to further its causes.

Passion and determination, however, must be tempered by a mind that is educated, open, and analytical. Recent events in our country’s history have shown how those with less-than-pure agenda can easily corrupt young and brilliant minds, so it is imperative that young, impressionable minds be taught to dissect issues and analyze options for action.

Enter the Ateneo Debate Society.

For 10 years now, Ateneo Debate Society (ADS) has built a tradition and reputation for debate excellence, not only in the Philippines, but also in the international scene. Just recently it made history when two of its teams reached the Final Four of the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championship – the first time in the competition’s 28-year history for two Asian teams to reach this level. Ateneo Team 1 and Ateneo Team 3 bested over 60 other teams from Asia and Australia to accomplish this feat.

However, it is not what they do the debating floor that makes them extraordinary.

The young men and women who have traveled all over the world, dissecting social, political, and economic issues and toppling arguments, are now traveling all over the country to share the gift of intellectual gab to high school and college students.

“Most people feel that debate is all talk, and ‘talk’ is less important than action,” says Bobby Benedicto, ADS President and a member of the team that won the All – Asian Intervarsity Debate Championship last year. “On the contrary, right action requires proper discussion; they’re two sides of the same coin. We feel that the unimportance given to discourse and to speech, and the way with which it is often referred to, is one of the greatest sources of misunderstanding, and that’s a real problem which we feel isn’t being addressed by anyone, formally or informally.”

“We want to address the problem of having a youth community which isn’t equipped with skills necessary to critically analyze policies and issues. Most of the time, young people instinctively recognized social problems; what we want to do is help our peers dissect these problems and identify concrete areas, which need to be improved. Democracy will remain meaningless unless we are able to articulate our problems and discuss our options.” 


In just a short period of time, the ADS has already gone a long way in teaching their peers about the values of intellectual discourse and deliberated action.

In 2002 it created the Philippine Debate Development Program, a nationwide program designed to “develop excellence in Philippine debating and inculcate a culture of critical thinking among the Filipino youth.” It is composed of four sub – programs: the Debate Education Program, the Philippine School Debate Championship, the Debate Development Fund, and the Member Development Program.

The Debate Education Program (DEP) was designed to teach debate to other institutions around the Philippines, and just recently, all over Asia. Through the DEP, the ADS have fielded its members to provinces around the country to hold official seminars, lectures, and workshops and distribute instructional materials on the art of debating.

In just one year the DEP has trained over 1000 students and faculty members different universities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. It has also conducted seminars for the Interscholastic Debaters’ Association (IDeA) and the Southern School Consortium, and has adjudicated for the Mindanao Parliamentary Debate Championship.

The Philippine School Debate Championship (PSDC) was another pioneering endeavor by the ADS, with the first - ever national high school debate tournament in November 2002. According to the ADS, the PSDC was “the largest, most impressive gathering of high school student ever attempted in the country.” It had almost 300 participants from all over the Philippines, and was televised nationally.

From this event, ADS has selected 16 teams to try out for the Philippine team, which it has trained, and will send to the World School Debate Championship (WSDC) in Lima, Peru, in 2003. Aside from having a pool of university – level delegates, the ADS hopes to create opportunities for high school students to participate in this global debate competition. 

However exciting debating can be, as it opens up young minds to a world of ideas, knowledge, and cultures, it often entails expenses that the ordinary young Filipino cannot shoulder. As such, the ADS created the Debate Development Fund, a competitive scholarship to the Society’s most promising speakers. Last year, five students benefited from the Fund, with one recipient – Katrina Camille Ng – going on to be part of the first Asian team that reached the Final Four of the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championship.

The Ateneo Debate Society would not have reached great heights were it not for a rock – solid foundation and commitment to continued growth. Its Member Development Program is a rigorous training and mentorship program that hones its members on the various debating skills. It is entirely merit – based and blind to seniority, and has already earned a reputation of being Asia’s most intensive and merit – based mentorship system.

The program has already produced two freshmen National Champions; the two youngest Asians ever have the Final Series of the World Universities Debating Championships, and the youngest judge in the Grand Finals of the All – Asian Intervarsity Championship. 


These achievements have earned for the Ateneo Debate Society the honor of being judged TAYO awardees. With this distinction under its belt, the ADS is fired up and gearing for faster growth in the coming year, Bobby Benedicto shares:

“We’ve created a lot of new innovations for the PDDP and built on the foundation the existing components. The Debate Education Program is expected to reach record numbers this year, with international seminars (in) the works, and a new focus on putting debate in the English programs of second schools. PSDC, now on its second year, is going to be even larger. We’re launching a new university – level championship called the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (FAF) – Ateneo Intervarsity Championship, a one – of a – kind tournament centered on developing young speakers. We’ve also inaugurated the ADS Issue Awareness and Education Program, a comprehensive lecture series on contemporary social issues. We’re also in the process of developing a debate textbook.”

It seems like there’s no stopping these men and women from achieving more.

“There leaps and bounds made by Filipino debaters over the ten years made us realize what kind of skills needed to be developed and what young Filipinos are capable of achieving,” Benedicto says. “We want to build a future with young people who are not apathetic, who have views which are derived from a critical examination of social issues, and who are capable of speaking up for their communities and convincing decision – makers about the need for change to address key problems.”

He continues: “We fear the possibility of massive political violence. A year ago it didn’t seem possible, but now it looks as if there are forces, which are willing to sacrifice democracy and its institutions for other goals. It’s really sad when you’re working to prepare the youth for democracy only to have all of it threatened by forces beyond your control.”

Indeed, it will take much work for our country to overcome its political and economic paralysis. With the dreams and goals of youth organizations such as the Ateneo Debate Society, however, we can move slowly and surely towards developing a critical mass of youth who will open their minds to the possibility of real and sustained change. Change that is not driven purely by passion, fear, or anger, but that which comes from critical thinking and intelligent, deliberate action.

Who knows? In a matter of years, we just may be able to turn the country around!

“Getting young people interested in social issues is an important, often neglected, first step. Seeing the small differences (in our participants’ character and way of thinking) really makes our efforts worthwhile,” Benedicto concludes. 


Cagayan de Oro City


“We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Haida Indian saying

At no other time has change come faster, and become more apparent, than now. It been said that the world has changed more rapidly over these past 30 years than in the past 1,000 years before it. That’s ten centuries worth of technological innovations, wars, and waste crammed into just three decades.

Indeed, waste management is a burgeoning problem for many of the country’s metropolitan areas. Manila has been known to be the second most polluted city in the world, but even provincial capitals are following suit. In Mindanao, the entry of multinational fast-food chains has aggravated the waste problem by promoting the use of plastics and non-biodegradable in its outlets. Here, and in many other suburban centers around the country, life has moved at an almost frantic pace that everything is pre-packaged, pre-processed, and “instant”.

In Cagayan de Oro City, a group of young professionals from the country’s foremost financial institution refused to swallow the garbage that was being thrown at them. The tragedy that befell the residents of the Payatas dumpsite in Metro Manila-where entire families were buried under garbage after a massive landslide in the dumpsite itself-was still in the minds, and they wanted to keep it from happening elsewhere.

Thus, the Bank of the Philippine Islands-Save Mother Earth Club (BPI-SMEC) was born from an intense desire of its members to prevent further ecological damage by educating the youth about environment protection and conservation.


Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, was passed into law by the country’s legislators to solve the growing problem on proper waste disposal. It required everyone in the country to segregate wastes at source by separating biodegradables/compostables, non-biodegradables/recyclables, and special waste/hazardous waste.

However, there was a need to teach proper waste segregation.

To address this issue, BPI-SMEC launched an educational campaign on Solid Management in ten elementary and secondary school in Cagayan de Oro City. The campaign involves seminar-lectures, hands-on application of solid waste management techniques, as well as a field trip to an existing dumpsite.


The first Educational Exposure on Urban Solid Waste, held in 2001, was dubbed the Basura (on Garbage) Tour. Here, students from the ten pilot schools were brought to dumpsites to interact with scavenger children and their families. They were brought to three demonstration barangays (Lapasan, Gusa, and Bugo), to learn first-hand about recycling and composting. They were also shown videos, slides, and other materials that would help them learn more about solid waste management processes.

“We realized that a truly effective Solid Waste Management Program should start with school children, and should focus on the inculcation of right values and the proper attitude,” says Heartie Abellanosa, Managing Director of BPI-SMEC.

“For this realization I have to thank Dr. Seishiro Taimiok, a JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) expert on the Solid Waste Management Program,” she reveals. “He pointed to us that Filipino children, proper education and values formation, can be the long-term solution to the garbage problem of our country.

“According to Dr. Tamoika, Japan also had a garbage problem about half a century ago. But because of Japanese leaders who had great concern for the environment, and because of strong political will, the Japanese today are only reaping the fruits of the hard labor and concern of their forefathers who lived a generation before them.”

Just as they had expected, the first run of the Basura Tour was a success. Children learned on the spot about composting and recycling, and even participated in the tree-planting activities. Because of this warm response to the campaign, BPI-SMEC has expanded the program’s scope to include 12 schools. It has been institutionalized as an annual event.

In 2002, the Educational Exposure on Urban Solid Waste reached 732 teachers and 32,613 students. Each student, after through training and educational on solid waste management, was expected to bring to his or her home this information and initiate the practice. 

Multiplying the number of students by five, the average household size, the number of people reached by BPI – SMEC can estimated at over 150,000 – spread over different barangays in Cagayan de Oro City.


Knowing how to segregate trash, however, is very different from actually doing it. 

Heartie realized this as he was going about her work. “There were a lot of times when I was tempted to give up the whole idea of implementing waste segregation at school and the household, and just be content with information dissemination and advocacy. But I realized that knowing how to segregate is not enough when not coupled with the actual practice of waste segregation. The process was also decidedly difficult because our local government did not have garbage segregation systems in place.

“What drove us forward, despite a lot of adversities, was the fact that, if we don’t move now, then sooner or later we will suffer the consequences of our neglect. The people in Manila felt this when the Payatas Dumpsite collapsed. We don’t want the same thing happening here,” Heartie says empathically. 

“Our vision is for all children in all schools all over the nation to grow up together having the same values and discipline towards proper garbage management,” she shares. “Ultimately, we just want to make Cagayan de Oro City a cleaner and safer place to live in for our kids,” she adds. 

Becoming a TAYO awardee convinced BPI – SMEC that, in one way or another, its members were contributing to nation building. Although they admit their work is far from over – in fact, it has only just begun – their achievements over the past two years attest to their passion and commitment to make sustainable in their community.


Alaminos, Pangasinan


Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan is a well-known tourist destination among Filipinos and foreigners alike. It is composed of 123 islands of lush, green foliage, crystal clear water, and rocky caves holding secrets to the islands’ past. It is a sanctuary, a place of respite for wildlife anf humans alike.


In recent years, increased tourist activity in the Islands has led Philippine Tourist Authority to grapple with a host of issues, such as pollution from tourist and neighboring villages, reclamation and the building of resorts, dynamite fishing, and the proliferation of illegal fish pens.

In 1991, some fitness and outdoor enthusiasts organized themselves and decided to put their passions to good use. The Hundred Islands Cycling (HICC) is a civic and youth – serving organization with a “self – paced outdoor appreciation program” that rides by the motto, “Moving together towards the road less traveled.” Its members are bound by their passions for the environment, their love of mountain biking, and their desire to clean up their town’s natural wonders. 

Since its inception HICC has launched programs dealing with: cave protection and exploration, forest rehabilitation, literacy and outdoor appreciation, and coastal clean – ups.

“There have been a host environmental crisis,” relates Emmanuel Hernaiz, HICC Secretary. “Sadly, not everyone sees it that way. These problems have been the least of the [government’s] social priorities. Several environmental acts and ordinances have already been brought out in the open, but they’re still not fully implemented. 

“We believe that the youth is now called to action, to address this domestic concern. It is the youth’s responsibility to implement, as well as sustain, these actions.”


The enthusiasm and passion exhibited by HICC ‘s members have rallied others to their cause.

They conduct regular free orientation sessions to explain their objectives and goals to members of their community. The youth of Alaminos have responded positively to this call, as have institutions. They are current allied with the AMA Computer Learning Center of Alaminos City (AMA – CLC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR – CENRO). The support of the organizations, as well as the dedication of their members – who donate time and money to get the programs running – have enable HICC to conduct at least four projects a year. Of these, it is their Green Trek 2003 project that has earned for them the TAYO plum. This project includes: Bike Wave para sa Kalikasan, nature appreciation and mountain trail, cave spelunking, and the Regional Mangrove Rehabilitation Environment Congress (slated for October 2003).


“There have been many challenges along the way,” Emmanuel admits. “There is always a lack of support and funding. Almost all expenses come from our pockets.”

Aside form this, he lists a litany of events, which have rocked the organization’s foundation and have, at times, made him think of turning back.

“When our volunteers quit due to the rigid demands of the outdoors and project itself… When school administrators do not support our outdoor activities, because they hate the sun, are not fit to hike, and, most of all, dislike picking – up someone else’s litter… When one of our mangrove sites was degraded and cut down by some unscrupulous people to make firewood out to it… When public officials took for granted that one of our favorite caves was dug up indiscriminately for treasure hunting schemes… When some ‘very significant’ personalities in our locality look at our effort with ridicule… These are the moments that have tried us greatly. But we are not letting them affect us.”


If anything, it is the appreciation and support of some groups that have kept HICC from abandoning their cause. 

Emmanuel shares: “The people in the communities where we have been have learned to appreciate our effort… Sometimes they even offer snacks or local seasonal fruits, or tubo (sugarcane) just to show to use their appreciation of and fondness for our tired but smiling volunteers.

“The authorities in Hundred Islands National Park have also supported us with the use of their kayaks and motorized speed boats.

In June 2001, the IBC 13 News and Public Affairs Office featured Hundred Islands and its community volunteers for [the islands’] protection and preservation. HICC efforts were featured in the segment.”

The TAYO award was followed by a Likas Yaman Award for being the Most Outstanding NGO-Youth Environmental Partner in Region 1, In June 2003, one of their volunteers, Reabelle Damasco, 18, was awarded a special citation for being the Best Youth Model for Environment Service.

Indeed, HICC’s efforts are worth applauding and fighting for. And they intend to forge on with the fight.

“What next?” Emmanuel muses, “We are inclined to sustain Green Trek in the years to come. This multi-environment campaign brought us the recognition and we are looking forward to inspire more youth to join the environment service. HICC may have won some battles, but this war is far from over. We remain humble and steadfast; we will go back to the sites and show the world that this noble work could really make a difference.

“Moreover, HICC believes that, somehow out there, are still many unsung youth leaders and groups who may have contributed even more than HICC to achieve these aims. When we won the TAYO, we offered this as tribute to all Filipino youth and environment volunteers out there.”

Iloilo City


It cannot be denied that the fast and glaring effects of modernization have taken its toll on the youth, especially on those who are marginalized. The influx of the Internet, ultra high technology, and global trends (be it fashion, music, art, and business) has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots, leaving those at the bottom to sink deeper into destitution.

While many of our youth have tried to keep up with sophisticated lifestyle of the new millennium, we can’t deny that modernization can be too hot to handle.

The economic boom in many cities around the country has allowed prostitution to rear its ugly head and prey on the youth, who have seen no other choice for economic survival than to bear their flesh. Worse, the proliferation of sexy films and songs in mass media has, to certain extent, glamorized the sex trade.


Iloilo City is no exemption for modernization’s curse. The dark alleys of M. H. Del Pilar in Molo are witness to the sorry plight of some Iloilo youth, bear the guilt, stigma, and pain of their work in exchange for some money in the pocket.

While they want the change to escape poverty, in employing illicit means of doing so, they have bound themselves to a life of despair. Society has shunned them away, and has given them no respite from the hostility and lack of sympathy that they experience everyday.

“Every time we open up the issue of child prostitution or sexual abuse of children in forums and conferences, they are more likely to be taken for granted and not [considered] an issue,” John Piermont Montilla of the Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay (KGPP) laments. 

He goes on to describe how, instead of helping the youth cope with their sordid situation, some health-serving agencies even turn them away and lay all the blame on them.

Piermont recounts, “It is very sad – imagine a 9-year-old boy positive of gonorrhea.

These victims of child prostitution and sexual abuse have nobody else to turn to – except for the youth very much like themselves.


KGPP was established in 1999, from among the leaders of the Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines (PYAP). The latter is a community-based organization of out-of-school youth (OSY) who are clients of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Although KGPP now focuses on issues relating to child and sexual abuse, its program actually encompasses economic productivity, personality enhancement, and leadership training and social responsibility enrichment.

Its TAYO award-winning project is the HIV/AIDS Youth Advocacy Package (HAYAP), which aims to reach out the youth and communicate, “the HIV/AIDS message in a child-friendly and appropriate way.” It provides peer-to-peer training on STDs, HIV, and AIDS, and seeks to restore the youth’s faith and trust in their community. The small group interaction component of HAYAP, on the other hand, provides children and their families with accurate and correct information concerning STDs, HIV, and AIDS.

“We do not condone prostitution, and instead frown at the elements that cause it to proliferate,” Piermont clarified. “And our programs do not actually aim to take [sex workers] out the streets, lest we alienate them. Instead, we educated them on the danger and hazards of STDs, including AIDS”.

KGPP is composed of youth volunteers who undergo peer-counseling seminars that enable them to interact effectively with their target clientele. These peer counselors are also involved in various youth-related activities geared towards creating a youth-friendly community.

“It is important that we earn their trust to fully understand their conditions and to reach them equip them with information’s on ways to avoid acquiring STDs,” Piermont added.


KGPP members regard some groups’ opposition to their biggest stumbling block. The Church, for instance, has frowned on the idea of promoting the use of condoms and contraceptive pills, citing biblical grounds.

“There are radical organization attacking our values, our families, and our children. [They promote] child pornography, abortion, pedophilia or child-adult sex, the advancement of free sex among the youth; in short, they are pursuing the age of sexual revolution.

“To smokescreen their real agenda they introduce condoms, emergency contraception, abortion, and even homosexuality, among children in the name of choice, and deny our young people spirituality and values as an integral part of their development. 

“Our organization also provides information and services in sexual and reproductive health, but this is coupled with values formation and spirituality that radical agencies had taken for granted,” Piermont says empathically. 


Despite the opposition and challenge, KGPP has remained firm on its stead, eventually earning the respect and support of the people in their community.

Young sex workers look up to KGPP members as older brothers and sisters on whom they can rely, and with whom they can open up without fear of discrimination. 

“Our government cannot see and feel the needs of children and young people – especially of those at risk,” Piermont asserts. “We, the children and young people ourselves, will face these challenges together. We will fight for our rights, and will open the eyes of society about thing that affect our well-being,”

Piermont Montilla and his have taken on an advocacy that most people refuse to accept, or even acknowledge. The TAYO award is certainly a well-deserved recognition for them. But perhaps, the greatest recognition will come when other sectors of society come forward and support their role of rebuilding young, shattered lives.


Davao City


It was in 2000 when Michael Velilla, while undergoing his Master’s Degree in Community Health, decided to give back to the community.

A licensed physical therapist from Davao Doctor’s College, Michael Velilla together with fellow physical therapy graduates, linked with the San Lorenzo Ruiz Foundation and got the approval of the parish priest to set up the Kapansanan ay Akibat sa Kaunlaran ng Bayan (KAAKBAY) and house it in the church’s garage.


“In a study made by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1997, only 2 –3% of the country’s population has access to the service of a rehabilitation team,” Michael shares. “With the high cost of health care services, particularly that of physical therapy KAAKBAY Rehabilitation Center was born, to address this scenario, albeit only at the community level.”

After a short time, other licensed Physical Therapists volunteered their services, followed by interns from Cagayan Capitol College and the Davao Doctor’s College. 

“Being physical therapists in the in the first place, we have this undying passion for our profession,” Michael admits. “Despite the low demand for our profession abroad, we still want to broaden our clinical skills and, at the same time, promote the value of physical therapy in a society where it is only beginning to evolve.”

With the mission of giving the disable in their community access to physical therapy services, Michael Velilla has given to his community an organization that is proving to be of real valuable service to the people.


“The formation of the KAAKBAY Rehabilitation Center is both an evolution and a revolution,” Michael recounts.

“Before this volunteer organization was incorporated, most of the members were into private practice and were managing their own clinics. Having evolved from various stages, the present KAAKBAY Rehabilitation Center is actually a product of both inspiration and perspiration.

“Our primary vision is to provide marginalized sectors access to our services. As such, we are trying to revolutionize face of physical therapy in the Philippine.”

Other groups have caught on to this vision as well, and have begun supporting KAAKBAY’s efforts. These include KAAKBAY’s former mother-NGO, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Socio-Economic Development (SALORSED) Foundation; the New Zealand Embassy; as well as various physical therapy and caregiver schools.” 

“When the KAAKBAY Rehabilitation Center was conceptualized, the group shared the same vision, mission and goals. Having the same ideals, every members contributed to the building of the institutions. Client-wise, the people in the depressed communities began to realize the important role that physical therapists play in the rehabilitation of people with physical disabilities. Through information dissemination, our patients started pouring in, and since then, more than 3,000 physical therapy treatment services and related medical services have been extended.”

To meet the growing demand of their evolving clientele, KAAKBAY has enlisted the help of 16 licensed Physical Therapy volunteers and five interns, helping indigent persons with disabilities in Davao City.


KAAKBAY is grateful for having been awarded during the TAYO search. For one, the cash award given by the National Youth Commission and the Office of Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan will help the organization find a permanent place to stay – as the parish’s old office (and KAAKBAY’s current home base) is needed for other church activities.

Michael says, “We’d like to put up a permanent center, complete with the supplies we need. And also, to carry out our programs – including livelihood and vocational programs – in different communities”.

Isn’t it part of their dream to earn steady and healthy incomes, as their colleagues have been doing?

“While most of our colleagues are now earning incomes from their non-physical therapy work, what holds us back is our commitment to make a difference in the lives of others through practicing our profession. Although fat bank accounts and stock shares are things that we can never talk about at this moment in our lives, we have always believed that there is a time for everything, and that what matters to us is the joy that “the now” gives”.

“There are times when we just sit back and think of the life that we could have had outside if we were not in KAAKBAY. But every time these moments come, the memories and faces of people whom we have had the chance of serving makes us smile and say to ourselves, ‘Tomorrow will be another fine day’”.

“After being awarded as one of the TAYO, we will still continue with our cause of providing equal access to physical rehabilitation for the poor. With the recent recognition given us, we are inspired to excel in our profession. At the same time, we inspire our other colleagues to make a difference in the lives of others”.

Passion, determination and commitment are evident when Michael Velilla speaks. He and his friends founded KAAKBAY when they could not find employment, but still wanted to pursue their vocation. Now, three years later, the flames of service burn even more brightly in them, even when the prospects of financial security are slim.

He concludes with this quote: “When there is service, there is hope. And when there is hope, there is love, and such love shall walk the miles for us as we continue to be of service to humanity – not only is it the best work for life, but above all, it is life itself.”


Makati City


“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, love only what we understand, and understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

One of the biggest issues that people are now fighting for is the preservation and conservation of our environment and wildlife. Over the past few decades, humankind has pursued technological advancement with fierce passion and stubborn dedication that it has inevitably left in periphery the creatures whom it was made to protect.

Now, we are discovering that we may not have much of nature left to enjoy, and so humankind is again scrambling to save what could be the last of nature’s splendor.


In January 2000, Kathy Chua and Kitty Arce met at the Manila Zoo in the hopes of learning something more about the environmental conservation effort.

Finding Kathy was a way to help the zoo animals, as it had been a year since she first came to the zoo to fulfill a community service requirement in school. For Kitty, it was a personal goal to be more involved in environmental concerns.

They decided to start in the zoo itself, which was then in need of volunteers to care for the animals and educate the tourist students and families. It was there that the MyZoo Volunteer Group Foundation was born, and its primary aim was to help save the environment by educating schoolchildren and the general public.

They soon attracted like-minded individuals, who were passionate about their cause. Lester Lopez, now MyZoo’s treasurer and project coordinator, says, “Our volunteers have one common interest – animals, and this interest is what we invest on to solicit their help. With interest comes love for the animals, and this love can be the foundation for their protection. There are several ways to do this, and Philippine wildlife identification, awareness and education have become our flagship program”.

“Most Filipinos are familiar with African or Australian animals like the lions, tigers, elephants, and kangaroos. What most Filipinos do not know is that we have lots of better-looking animals, albeit not as big as the tigersm but which nevertheless need our help for them to be able to survive”. 


They began their advocacy with the Zoo To You program, educating young zoo-goers on the value of the creatures that they encounter in the zoo. Along with usual viewing and handling of these animals, the young audience learns how to take care of the environment for the next generation. This weekly program is held at the Manila Zoo, but MyZoo also responds to requests from as far away as Rizal and Bulacan. The organization charges nominal fees for the transport of these animals, but usually waives these for certain groups.

Zoo To You is currently focused on educating people about the Philippine wildlife. However, MyZoo volunteers are seeing the need to expand the program to more detailed topics, in order for its audience to fully grasp the idea behind Philippine wildlife conservation. Their proposed expanded topics include the Philippine rainforest, habitats, birds, reptiles and the Philippine wildlife.

MyZoo believes that the key to effective education is a good exhibit. Their first funded project, Portraits of Philippine Wildlife, was a traveling photo exhibit of endemic of endemic Philippine animals. This project was started by members who were avid photographers, and was used as a teaching aid in lieu of live animal exhibits. The Ford Motor Foundation financed the reproduction of 15 copies of the panels, along with the development of the learning aids that teachers and facilitators used in their lectures. Most of the panels were donated to local zoos in other regions, to aid their awareness campaigns. Soon after, a coloring book for their young audience was created, and given free to the participating kids.


MyZoo’s pioneering efforts have earned for them the recognition and support of the private and government sectors, as well as the public at large.

Their having been awarded one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) of 2003 was an affirmation for them to continue working for the cause. The recognition has vindicated them from their parents’ initial skepticism about their volunteer work, and has validated their efforts to protect the environment. 

Moreover, their grant from the TAYO gives them additional resources to expand the Zoo To You program.

More than these, it is the government’s seal of approval which makes MyZoo a truly effective advocate of Philippine wildlife conservation. The organization is currently affiliated with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) and its Wildlife Resource Center. Some of its volunteers are deputized by the DENR, and have been instrumental in rescuing endangered animals that were kept as domestic pets.


MyZoo’s achievements have emboldened its founders and members togo conduct their programs on an even larger scale.

Lester reveals: “In the coming years, we are looking at bigger projects, those with a wider scope such as on the national level. We want to go into wildlife hotspots around the country and elicit local volunteer support to spread our programs and projects, especially from the youth sector. There’s a lot we can do.” 

“We want to come up with an activity book and reference materials that would focus on Philippine wildlife for schools and institutions. We want to support the people who conduct studies on wildlife by providing them with materials or grants. We also want to solicit the support of the media to be able to come up with campaign materials against illegal wildlife trade. As we are advocates of R.A. 9147, or the Philippine Wildlife Act, we want the people to be familiar with this legislation.”

Theirs is a lofty goal, but their vision and their passion are genuine and inspiring. 

Lester concludes: “our vision for the future is all about ‘zootopia’. It is when all animals can live freely and without any danger of being captured to become pets, or food, or sources of raw materials. That is basically the idea. We want to see a time when people and nature can live harmoniously. It’s called sustainable development, when we don’t exhaust our resources and use only what we need, and replace what we took from nature.”


La Trinidad, Benguet


Filipinos are animal lovers by nature; in many communities around the country, domestic and farm animals, such as dogs, cats, fishes, chickens and pigs, are kept either as pets or sources of livelihood.

However, proper animal care seems to be the last in their owners’ agenda, as the Philippines post an alarming number of animal bites and rabies-related deaths per year.

According to data published in the Department of Health (DOH) website ( the Philippines ranked third worldwide in rabies cases in 2000. While other countries had a zero incidence of rabies cases, the Philippines reported an annual rabies death toll of 300 to 600 deaths per million, or approximately 48,000 Filipinos, per year. The incidence of dog bites is also staggering, at approximately 280,000 annually.

What’s even sadder is that 53% of the cases involve children aged 5-14, with the culprits being mostly pet – not stray – dogs.


While the government has been rather delayed in reacting to this issue, one organization has proactively identified responsible animal ownership as one of its main advocacies.

The Rodeo Club of Benguet State University (Rodeo Club-BSU) was established in 1991 by student clinicians who wanted to promote livestock and poultry industries in the country, as well as instill in its members “a deep sense of humanity in the treatment of all animals”. Its main goals have been to: “Totally eradicate” the rabies outbreak, teach farmers new technology about livestock management, promote environmental awareness among children, and campaign for the humanitarian treatment of all living creatures. 

In 2002, the organization implemented the Rodeo Community Extension Clinic, the project that earned for them a spot among the TAYO awardees.


The flagship project of the Rodeo Community Extension Clinic was the anti-rabies awareness and vaccination program.

Through this, the dog owners in three Benguet barangays – Balili in La Trinindad, Tadiangan in Tuba, and Lomon in Kapangan – were offered free dog vaccination from August to November.

The community’s response to the project was encouraging, as dog owners from different communities lined up on several weekends to have their dogs vaccinated. 

The project was also proven to be sustainable and replicable with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer donating vaccines. With this, the Rodeo Club of BSU hopes to institutionalize the activity as an annual event.


Dogs aren’t the only animals that need and deserve proper care. With communities in Benguet relying mainly on agriculture and livestock development as their main sources of income, the Rodeo Club-BSU deemed it necessary to also equip farmers with the latest information and technology about livestock management.

For one year, the organization traveled regularly to nearby Anda, Pangasinan, to teach farmers about cattle and goat deworming, branding, treatment, handling, and restraining. The project sought contributions and logistical support from its members, and enjoyed a positive response from farmers in Anda’s communities.

Then, in January 2003, Rodeo Club-BSU embarked on yet another project – a swine dispersal program to help the townsfolk develop an income source from hog raising.

Many of the community members from Barangay Tawang, La Trinidad, were willing to raise swine and later on sell these for profit. However, they did not have the means with which to purchase their pigs and give them the proper care.

With Rodeo Club-BSU’s swine dispersal program, each farmer beneficiary was given piglets and all the vitamins these needed to raise them. Once they had grown and reproduced, two piglets would be taken from each hog raiser and given away to another farmer beneficiary. This practice would ensure the program’s sustainability, and assure its availability to as many farmer beneficiaries as possible.


Certainly, its cause is unique and one for which it is admittedly more difficult to raise funds. Rodeo Club-BSU has found reliable partners in the Rotary Club of La Trinidad and Pfizer.

With this, the award and prize money offered by the TAYO organizers certainly boosted the team’s morale. According to club adviser Dr. Anatalia Castrence, “The award didn’t just boost these student’s egos, but because of this, they are now looked up to by all organizations inside and outside BSU.”

Being a TAYO awardee affirmed the team’s efforts, and has encouraged them to even expand the scope of their efforts. According to Rodeo Club-BSU president Freddie Vir Dulay, “We will pursue these projects and activities and reach out to people and show them that we are animal lovers and keepers who are fighting against animal cruelty.

“Animals are living things with behaviors and feelings, and they deserve a proper place to live in and to be cared for,” he concludes.

Putatan, Muntinlupa City


Imagine this: You live in a place where the sun shines brightly, but does not harm your skin; where the rain falls lightly to water the plants and the trees, and does not erode the rocks; and where the wind blows, without the stench of garbage or polluted waters.

In this place, people coexist peacefully with nature: they do not need laws or penalties to do what is right because they have assumed their roles as stewards of the earth. Everything is balanced, everything is in order.

The scene described here could very well be from a fantasy book, or a lofty and unreachable dream. But this is the very idea that the Rotaract of Muntinlupa Peacemaker Youth Club is striving for. A world of peace, balance and harmony.


The Rotaract Muntinlupa Peacemaker Youth Club (RMPYC) was established in 1994 as the Peacemaker Youth Organization, which aimed to develop the Filipino youth by providing and expanding opportunities for them to acquire useful knowledge, talents, skills and positive values. It sought to develop citizens ho would be productive members of their families and communities.

In recent years, it shifted its focus to environmental care and ecological balance, as its members saw how efforts of various environmental had lost steam before even making much progress.

The group’s entry to the TAYO awards was a waste management project dubbed “Kalinisan ng Kapaligiran, Kasiyahan ng Buong Pamayanan”. It was implemented in five phases – preparation, waste segregation and disposal, health and sanitation education, values formation and self-regulation, and livelihood enhancement – and targeted 280 families from Sitio Ilaya, Muntinlupa City. The project’s three-month goal was to “convert” Sitio Ilaya resident into responsible citizens who properly segregated and disposed of their waste.

In the preparation phase, RMPYC coordinated and consulted with government agencies, barangay officials, and community leaders. It brought together its partners for a “bottom-up” planning session, and oriented them on tasks that needed to be done. For the waste segregation and disposal phase, the community was oriented on the segregation and tagging process, and then later brought to a dry run before actual implementation. The health and sanitation education phase coincided with the organization’s Oplan: Alis Dengue, and involved “larvaeciding” and water sampling. The values formation phase involved a series of seminars on spirituality, anti-drugs, environmental care, and health and sanitation. The last phase taught community members how to turn recyclable materials into marketable products. 

By the end of the engagement, 143 out of the 280 families successfully went through the different phases, and were noted to have developed the daily habit of proper waste segregation and disposal.


It wasn’t an easy task for the Rotaracters. Members of the Sitio Ilaya community were resistant at first, which made the young group feel like turning back.

Editha Versoza, RMPYC president, shares: “At first, it seemed to be a waste of time trying to educate people who didn’t like to be educated. It seemed to be a futile effort, but the [members of the RMPYC] refused to be affected.”

With persistence and determination, the group saw a glimmer of hope that later paved the way fro their project’s success. 

“One day, our group was cleaning some backyards,” Editha recalls. “Some of the neighbors saw us, and, one by one, some mothers, followed by some fathers, and then some children, went out. They came out of their respective houses and joined us in cleaning their surroundings.”

She beams, “From that time on, they have always allocated some time to attend our scheduled activities even without rewards. This outpouring of concern and support almost put us all in tears.”


RMPYC wouldn’t have gotten this far without some inspiration from their own “angel” and hero, the late Percival Nad, a former RMPYC president who died at the age of 17.

Editha becomes more solemn as she shares: “All of us in the organization draw our inspiration from our local hero, the late Percival Nad, who died saving his neighbor.” Percival’s neighbor was electrocuted on a live wire on the house roof. “The other boy survived, but our “millennium hero” died!”

“He was really an inspiration to us,” she continues. “He was really great, flexible and very… alive. Everyone at RMPYC felt his presence. We just wanted to be like him.”

“We hope that, in our lives, we can all be heroes regardless of our circumstances in life – not just by saving a life, but by being responsible citizens.”

Indeed, the Rotaract of Muntinlupa Peacemaker Youth Club has dome heroic deeds simply by taking up a cause that nobody in their community seemed to believe in anymore. They persisted amidst the opposition of the very people whom they wanted to help, and they achieved milestones that other youth of their age would not have been able to accomplish.

Perhaps, with their youthful zeal and passion, the ideal society won’t be so impossible after all.

San Mateo, Rizal


It has often been said that sustainable environmental and the youth’s role in it, constitute the defining agenda of the 21st century. It is no wonder then that most, if not all, of community-based youth NGOs have adopted environmental conservation as their primary advocacy. The establishment of Students’ Actions Vital to the Environment and Mother Earth (SAVE ME) attests to this.

Two regional conferences focusing on environmental education and youth development, and attended by representatives of 35 countries, were held in Taiwan, Republic of China on May 20, 1995 and in the Philippines on August 9, 1995. In both of these, Mr. Edwin Monares, then executive vice-president of National 4-H Club of the Philippines, presented a proposal involving the youth in environmental and ecological issues in Southeast Asia.

The courses of action contained in this proposal formed the guiding principles that ultimately led to the establishment of SAVE ME. Among other principles, its mission statement focuses on educating the hearts and minds of the people to instill greater awareness of, concern for, and responsibility to the imperative of sustainable life on earth. Based on these principles and bottom lines, it is the institutional mission of SAVE ME to inculcate and promote environmental ethics to ensure that people, specifically the youth, regardless ot race, creed, ethno-linguistic background, socio-economic status nad gender, will observe an environmentally-sound way of life while preaching a global environmental culture based on truth and respect for the laws of nature.

Since its formal establishment in 1995 at the PUP Sta. Mesa, SAVE ME has expanded to become a national organization with nine existing local chapters in – National Capital Region, Bataan, Cagayan, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Marinduque, Mindoro, Northern Samar, Palawan, Rizal, Tacloban and Quezon Province.

As an environmentally-focused NGO, SAVE ME takes pride in the conduct of its major programs and activities that include the following: the Student Encounter and Lecture Series, with focus group discussions on ways and means to help prevent environmental destruction; Kampo Kalikasan (environmental camp), where participants and the youth of host communities conduct tree planting and reforestation programs, coastal or community clean-ups, and other community servicessuch as garbage collection; leadership training deliverd to elementary and high school students by SAVE ME officers; capability building and training; and Lakbay Aral, Sanay at Gabay sa Barangay, a flagship program that synergizes all of SAVE ME’s major programs and projects. As a matter of organizational policy and practice, this program is where the SAVE ME forges partnership with local and national institutions and other community stakeholders to maximize resources and ensure maximum public impact.

According to Hector Villegas, Jr., president of SAVE ME, “Citizenship development and volunteerism should be emphasized through direct sharing of experiences. Appreciating the way of life in the country’s rural areas would certainly lead to a deeper understanding of their various needs, which would serve as the basis for designing workable interventions.”

Effective leadership is important for the successful implementation of any organization’s activities. For a cause like environmental protection, which requires sustained efforts across different fronts – the government, academe, the business sector, private individuals – a thorough understanding of each sector’s needs, roles, and responsibilities with regard to the effort becomes even more crucial.

It becomes even more evident why Lakbay Aral is the crux upon which lasting relationships are formed and cemented. Now on its seventh year, the program is still evolving, but members from different chapters are already making significant changes in their respective communities. While they each have their own environmental concerns to grapple with, they are staying true to the principles of the movement, and are using the power of synergy to effect positive change. As the program continues to gather more young leaders who are passionate about the country and its environment, it will eventually mold a critical mass of environmental advocates who will then become a major force in policy-making and program planning. 

It will only be a matter of time, and heart. It’s a good thing these young people have both.

University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City


Out of ten Filipino children who go to elementary school, seven will graduate. Of this seven, only four will finish high school. 
Only one out of ten Filipino children will go on to earn a college degree.

These are the dismal statistics that our country has been posting with regard to our educational system. With this, it is hardly any wonder why over 80% of our population lives in abject conditions, and why many of our youth don’t see any bright prospects for their future.

Having seen the numbers, and having been products of the country’s premier state university, members of the University of the Philippines Industrial Engineering Club (UP IE Club) decided to give back to the community that has blessed them, and share their gifts with underprivileged youth.


Traveling along Katipunan Road in Quezon City, Ronald Po and some of his friends from UP IE noticed the proliferation of banners and billboards advertising review classes for UP, Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle. Apparently, many high school students regarded these as their universities of choice, thus the extra effort needed to pass their college entrance exams.

Upon checking out the rates of the top review centers, Ronald discovered that review rates went up as high as Php 5,000 per course. This meant that only students from well-to-do families would be able to afford to take review classes, and thus have a chance at passing the entrance exams of these top tier schools.

This bothered the group. If only the affluent could get into these universities, and if employers preferred graduates from these institutions, then it meant that students from the lower social strata would hardly have access to good employment opportunities later on. They would be forced to take on menial jobs with no purpose of career advancement, and the cycle of poverty would be perpetuated.

“When we saw the advertisements, we sympathized with those high school students who could not afford to take such reviews,” Ronald recalls. “This triggered us to hold free college entrance exam reviews and provide equal opportunities for public high school students to at least try and eventually qualify for good universities and programs. As IE Club members would put it, our task is to level the playing field.


The project was dubbed College Jump-Starter Seminar (CJSS), and was composed of review classes in Math, English and Science; a mock entrance exam similar to the ones being given out by universities; and talks on college life, degree options, and college scholarships. It was conducted throughout July 2002, to 95 students from all over Quezon

Sixteen schools sent participants to the CJSS, with the Don Alejandro Roces, Jr. Science and Technology High School hosting the event. Individuals and corporations, such as Ramcar Incorporated/Kentucky Fired Chicken, Del Monte Foods, Inc. and Mayor Feliciano Belmonte of Quezon City contributed financial and in-kind resources for the successful conduct of its activities.

Aside from hosting their meals and snacks for the duration of the course, the UP IE Club also distributed academic materials, and a comprehensive 45-page review booklet in Math, Science and English.

The activity was a success. Student participants raved about hteir facilitators, saying that they were happy to have at least been given this chance to prepare for a better life. They found the lessons to be valuable, and even just the experience of being helped was gratifying enough.

Ronald shares, “We have interviewed the students who participated in last year’s CJSS, and we were surprised that our simple act meant so much to them. Every time the review participants take an entrance examination (not only UP entrance exams, but also entrance exams of other colleges), they would use the reviewers and notes that we handed out to them to review for that exam.”

One student-participant beamed while he said, “I got a scholarship from FEU, thanks to CJSS.” Another was grateful for the time that was spent in coaching her. “Even if one is slow in understanding the lessons, they’re still there to help you,” she relates in Filipino.

The results speak for themselves. After the CJSS, 27 out of the 95 review participants passed in different University of the Philippines Campuses. Twenty-one of them were qualified to enroll in UP Diliman, two enrolled in UP Baguio, three in Up Los Baños, and one in UP Manila. A handful qualified for other good universities, such as Far Eastern University (FEU) and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).


The success of the first CJSS compelled the UP IE Club to institutionalize the activity, and make it a yearly event.

“’Improvement’, ‘expansion’, and ‘involvement’ are the keywords which describe our mid-term plans,” Ronald reveals. “We are looking to improve the quality of our projects, to give more to the participants. We also aim to expand our projects laterally to be able to reach out to more people. And to be able to achieve the first two, we must be able to rally a greater sense of involvement in our organization as well as our community.”

It has been acknowledged many times over that good education is the key to combating poverty. What the UP IE Club has made is a small step towards helping young people realize their dreams for a better future. It’s a ripple in a small pond, that’s for sure, but to the people whom they’ve helped, this small effort will go a long way.

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