By Deedee Siytangco
‘My faith demands that I do
whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.’
—Jimmy Carter, former US President
We add our belated congratulations to Robert “Bobby” Lim Joseph, recently installed as commodore of the Manila Yacht Club (MYC). MYC is a venerable institution that offers yacht owners a docking place in Manila Bay just outside their modest clubhouse. We watched out friend Bobby go through the simple yet impressive ceremony, with guest of honor senator Tito Sotto, making him officially the head of the MYC for the next two years.
But we couldn’t help but gag over the morning sun stench of the Manila Bay. Whew! It’s a big issue that Bobby has not neglected. One of his priorities in being commodore is to make at least their part of the bay pleasant and garbage-free.
You see, our city mayor has blithely abandoned his duties to clean up Manila Bay and our city bay walk. Its stench is disgusting and the baywalk is dirty now. Makeshift stalls line the once beautiful bay walk. As a resident of Manila, I weep for my old city, once the center of tourism, economy, and historical spots.
Back to Bobby. He plans to enlist the MMDA’s help in cleaning up the bay portion of the MYC. Hurrah! A small but very difficult promise! In the meantime, congrats Bob! This new mission jives well with your tourism advocacies!
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Now, who has not heard of UNICEF?
This UN agency has been in the country for the past 70 years now, helping improve the lives of millions of Filipino children. So it was but fitting that the people in UNICEF recently celebrated this milestone with a “looking back” dinner.
With the theme “Bata Pa Rin” (Still Young), the UN’s children agency, celebrated years of service, while staying young and passionate as ever. Joining the anniversary gala were over 400 children’s rights advocates and supporters—from the government, the United Nations, NGOs, CSOs, corporate partners, children and youth, celebrity ambassadors, and eminent citizens—who made a joint pledge to support the full realization of the rights of every Filipino child.
“UNICEF has had an eventful and meaningful presence in the Philippines,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF country representative in the Philippines. “On this day, Nov. 20, 1948, UNICEF signed the first Basic Cooperation Agreement with the Philippine government to provide humanitarian assistance to children. Manila was among the most heavily bombed cities during the Second World War, so UNICEF’s first Asia operations was set up in the Philippines. Working with national partners, we have made significant progress over the years in supporting and implementing humanitarian, development, and peace-building programs. Given the remaining and especially current challenges from the UNICEF Situation Analysis of Filipino children, our work with our partners remain ever more important and relevant,” she added.
The day also marked the global celebration of World Children’s Day through the global campaign “Go Blue” to support children’s rights. Young speakers from Trumpets Playshop led the “Go Blue” inspiration at the anniversary gala.
Retired UNICEF Philippines staff Bituin Gonzalez and Pol Moselina narrated a journey of seven decades through key milestones, achievements, and challenges in UNICEF’s work to ensure children survive, develop, and thrive in a protective, enabling environment.
Guests present at the event shared their stories on how they overcame dire circumstances, representing some of the groups of people that UNICEF has been reaching out to through its various programs.
Particularly touching was the story of Muslim youth Aliah Adam. She narrowly escaped the bombing of Marawi City following the May 2017 siege and she continues to live with relatives away from the city. Aliah shared her poignant experience growing up in conflict, the loss of her home, the life she knew growing up, and the dire impact of the destruction of Marawi City. She expressed her strong faith and hope for recovery, reconciliation, and lasting peace for the children and the communities of Mindanao.
She concluded, “Let me end my speech by asking you a question, will you just be a listener to our story? Or do you want to be part of our story?”
Kiana Gualberto, who was then 13 years old when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013, shared her harrowing experience of survival with her family and of her empowering journey to recovery, strength, and hope. “We, the children of Tacloban, who lost all our belongings, could also have lost hope. But we didn’t! Thanks to all those who helped us, especially UNICEF. You made us realize we were special. Even if vulnerable, we are capable. And most importantly, you believed in us. Now, we believe in ourselves too!”
A special speaker for the evening was SPO4 Bill Felisan, once a juvenile delinquent running away from men in uniform who has now become a police officer and a law enforcer. “I was given a second chance in life. I consider it my duty to help children in conflict with the law because I know where they’re coming from,” he said. “Salamat, UNICEF for supporting our work.” He now works with a youth center supported by UNICEF to care for children in conflict with the law.
Also at the event was Mely Apang, a midwife who spent her life serving indigenous Aeta communities in Zambales. In 1978, she received a UNICEF scholarship for a training program that reached out to marginalized communities and indigenous groups all over the country. “I am grateful to UNICEF and the training, which became a turning point for me to help my own community with maternal and child health care,” she shared.
The gala event ended with inspiring songs sung by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors Gary Valenciano and the Mandaluyong Children’s Choir.