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Unleashing the power of voice among youth volunteers in Soccsksargen

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where tales of despair and hardship often dominate the headlines, a gleam of hope emerges from the heart in this part of the Philippines—in Soccsksargen Region’s highly urbanized city, General Santos.

In General Santos City, the flame of the ‘Bayanihan’ spirit burns brightly as youth volunteers step up to lend a helping hand. Despite the challenges faced, these seemingly naive individuals have come together to make a difference in their community, demonstrating the power of unity and compassion through the use of their voices.

Using voice in volunteerism

A group of volunteers—voice artists and broadcasters—called Certified Voice Artists Philippines (CVAP Inc.) in collaboration with Voice of the Youth (VOTY) Network take delight in serving their fellow Filipino youth using their voices, not only as a form of entertainment but also to teach voice acting as an art and how the voice can be used as a medium to impact social change.

These voice artists graduated from a voice acting training program called the Certified Voice Artist Program (CVAP), which started in 2020 as an online program and has produced more than a thousand certified voice artists (CVAs) all over the country.

Now, these young artists are paying back, giving back what they have learned, and sharing their talents with other young individuals as a manifestation of gratitude by becoming volunteers themselves under VOTY, a youth-led support group and media organization composed of youth ages 15 to 30 years old, which empowers the youth who are interested as long as they are willing to learn.

John Anthony Cabuga, a certified voice artist (CVA) from Koronadal, South Cotabato, who considers himself a "voicelunteer," said that he enjoys using his voice to mentor the youth in General Santos and in Soccsksargen through a series of voice acting workshops and hosting events.

Cabuga now serves as the head host of CVAP, where he also mentors a new batch of hosts.

“Bilang isang voicelunteer, a volunteer who uses voice in fulfilling the objective of the workshop, ang pagtulong at pagbo-volunteer gamit ang boses ay di hamak na powerful way para maging daan para ma-empower ang iba. Kaya namin ‘to ginagawa. Voice artistry is beyond using your voice in media platforms. It is in the advocacy that we find our voice more useful 'di lang para sa kabataan, PWD, at mamamayan ng Gensan kundi lalo na sa mga boses na may puso na dapat mapakinggan,” he explains.

(As a volunteer, helping and volunteering using your voice is a very powerful tool to empower others. That’s why we are doing this—not just for the youth, PWDs, and constituents of Gensan but also for those individuals who not only have the voice but also put their hearts into it.)

SE Xernavi Garcia, a CVA from Manila and CVAP assistant head trainer, said that although he is not from General Santos City, his love for the arts led him to achieve greater heights in Region 12:

“I'm not from here. I flew to GenSan from Manila with the support of my mentor Pocholo "The Voicemaster" Gonzales, and the vision of helping VOTY and CVAP empower the youth to create positive social change through media and the use of their voices. It hadn't been easy, but it allowed me to see the world from another perspective. I saw that there really is hope for our nation because of our youth. And being able to let my voice out and get my story heard to inform, inspire, involve, and empower the youth of GenSan is an opportunity I will always be grateful for.”

Leo Martin Cellan

Meanwhile, Leo Martin Cellan, a person with disability, or PWD, is a CVA from Gensan and VOTY volunteer broadcaster. He expressed his love for serving others and considers every volunteer opportunity a blessing:

“Volunteerism to me, I think, is already a habit. Pagkukusa (volunteering) follows one’s desire to share a piece of himself. It could be resources, skills, knowledge, or by simply networking or connecting people to solve a problem. In my experience, I met people who love to serve others, and I am one of those people who are blessed to enjoy the things they share out of their passion, they became my inspiration.”

All three of them were recently awarded as among the top certified voice artists of the Philippines by CVAP Inc. because of their undying dedication to sharing their voices and letting other voices be heard through volunteerism.

John Anthony Cabuga
Dadiangas South SK chair Patricia Rose Catapang
SE Xernavi Garcia

On being involved in creating programs

As certified voice artists themselves, Cabuga, Garcia, and Cellan took the initiative to support the different activities of CVAP and VOTY for aspiring voice artists and young broadcasters.

The group has recently launched a face-to-face voice acting workshop in General Santos City dubbed "Voiceworx by CVAP: A Voice Acting Caravan" for the youth of Barangay Dadiangas South and young persons with disabilities (PWD).

Voiceworx by CVAP (VBC) focuses on the basics of voice acting, complete with vocal warm-up exercises and script-reading for voiceover for radio and TV commercials, AVPs, telephone voice prompts, as well as creating character voices for audio drama and dubbing for films, while shaping the mindset of each student that their talents can be used to inspire people to express themselves in a wide array of artistry.

During the first VBC, participants showed active participation and expressed their appreciation towards the trainers for giving them an overview of the CVAP experience. Seventeen-year-old Russ Divinagracia said, "I’ve learned many ways to improve my voice and found more reasons to pursue my passion."

Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairperson Patricia Rose Catapang stated during her closing remarks: “I, myself… interested pud ko mao nang nag-participate pud ko. Sa pagdagan ani nga activity which I saw and I observed, nga worth it siya na activity na pwede paglaanan ug SK fund.”

(I, myself, am interested in this workshop so I also joined as a participant. In the course of the activity, I saw and observed that it is worthy of SK’s allocation of funds).

Catapang added that the goal of this collaborative project is to introduce voice artistry as an art form to the youth and to produce aspiring voice artists who will bring pride to Brgy. Dadiangas South. As their council’s legacy, she disclosed, the participants who attended the workshop may be granted CVAP scholarships to be funded by the SK. She also shared that she did not just experience lessons in voice acting, but also in building relationships and cultivating values.

The second Voiceworx involved the PWDs of General Santos City during the city’s Summer Youth Festival 2023. This was in collaboration with the Youth Affairs and Development Office and the Philippine Information Agency-Sarangani-General Santos (PIA SarGen).

Cellan, the activity coordinator, described the workshop as an excellent opportunity for PWDs to realize the potential of their voices. He emphasized that they can go beyond being voiceovers for TV and radio commercials, anime characters, and dubbed films. He believes that PWDs can also become voices of inspiration for their fellow PWDs and young residents of General Santos City.

As a former student of the Certified Voice Artist Program, Cabuga expressed his commitment to mentoring the next generation of voice artists, including PWDs and those who are struggling with expressing themselves.

Garcia, another Voiceworx trainer and a PWD himself, shared his story of perseverance despite facing psychosocial challenges. He emphasized that with consistent practice and determination, young people and PWDs can become certified voice artists, just like him, and achieve great things.

“When we do something voluntarily, you do it. Kasi alam mong meron itong impact. Para sa akin as a voice artist, malaki ‘yung sakop dahil boses ‘yung gamit, so whoever hears my voice, I want to make sure na ‘yung mga ginagawa kong mga bagay out of volunteerism is magkaroon talaga ng magandang impact,” he says.

(When we do something voluntarily, you do it because you know that there’s an impact. For me as a voice artist, there is much to cover because you are using your voice, so whoever hears my voice, I want to make sure that those things I do out of volunteerism will have a good impact.)

Garcia added that by engaging the youth in creative activities, such as voice acting, it can have therapeutic benefits for individuals dealing with disability and mental health issues since this can provide them with a creative outlet, boost their self-esteem, and offer them a sense of accomplishment, lessening some of the challenges they face.

He then rationalized that his group is helping the youth stay away from the bad influence of drug users and peddlers because they are engaging them in meaningful undertakings, such as imparting knowledge and skills through voice acting, hosting, motivational speaking, and even broadcasting.

Producing advocacy shows for the youth

One of the activities enjoyed by the volunteers of CVAP and VOTY is producing advocacy shows for the youth through their online platforms, two of which are called Voice of the Youth Radio and Mindspeaks.

Both shows serve as tools for informing the youth about the different awareness campaigns of the government by interviewing advocates and subject-matter experts. In its 27th year, VOTY Radio has aired hundreds of shows online and on air.

Cabuga underscored that great voice artists are those who encourage youth to use their voices to tell their stories, helping them ease the stigma surrounding some issues involving them and promoting empathy and understanding in society.

“What makes you a great voice artist is when you understand your own art, ano ba ‘yung vision mo, what is it all about? Bakit mo ginagawa ang mga bagay na gusto mong gawin? Doon siya mag-uumpisa sa when you love what you do, and you do what you love, pag mayroong puso at pagmamahal sa mga bagay na gusto mo, and your purpose is to help other people, I think that will make you a great voice artist,” says Cabuga.

(What makes you a great voice artist is when you understand your own art, what is it all about? Why are you doing the things that you want to do? It starts when you love what you do, and you do what you love. If you have a heart and love for the things that you do, and your purpose is to help other people, I think that will make you a great voice artist.)

Garcia, who produced the show Mindspeaks, said that it is his advocacy, along with that of other CVAs who are health professionals and advocates, to provide an outlet where mental health issues are addressed and mental wellness is promoted.

“This was one of my passion projects noong nagsisimula pa ako sa VG8 Radio and VOTY News Network (VNN). I pushed for Mindspeaks kasi nakaka-relate din ako doon sa advocacy ng Mindspeaks. Kaya napakalaking bagay na may mga nag-volunteer. Kung hindi dahil sa [mga voice artists] hindi rin mabo-broadcast ang ganitong kaisipan,” he tells this writer.

(This was one of my passion projects when I started at VG8 Radio and VNN. I pushed for Mindspeaks because I can relate with its advocacy. That is why, it was a big thing that there are lots of volunteers, because if it were not for them, the voice artists, there was no way that Mindspeaks would be broadcast.)

Maria Jasmin Sanchez, another volunteer CVA and one of the Mindspeaks hosts, expressed her joy that she is involved in the show because she herself experienced the impact and benefits of the learnings she acquired from the show.

“The impact is big. Because you have learned something out of it, you’ll take that and apply that to yourself. It’s the learning and the application after the discussion that matters,” she quips, as she thanked the organization for coming up with the idea.

Partnering with the Philippine Information Agency Sarangani-General Santos

PIA has been very useful to VOTY volunteers as a vital source of information. The group has been using the news published by PIA, both in their radio program and on VG8 radio online. 

They are regularly attending the ‘Kapihan sa PIA’ produced by PIA SarGen to get information for content production and enhance their learning on media relations, interviews, hosting, and other relevant interactions. 

PIA and VOTY have a standing partnership when it comes to communication advocacy initiatives, as they work hand in hand to bridge the information gap, especially among the youth, on many aspects like the campaigns against illegal drugs, tobacco, including no vaping. These also include other information drives on mental and reproductive health, gender-based violence, peace and order, disaster preparedness and response, climate change adaptation and mitigation, waste management and segregation, good nutrition, education, HIV/AIDS, and many others.

Both endeavor to ensure that the youth are well-informed so they can participate in government undertakings that are being done for their own good.    

As an active volunteer and broadcaster himself, Cellan described the state media organization PIA as an "inspiration to youth organizations."

"PIA is an inspiration because of its sincere service to providing information to the public, which is also the objective of VOTY—to be a source of factual and correct information for the youth, with the youth, and by the youth."

Expressing his appreciation for PIA, Cellan said they are looking at the agency as an example "to be better content producers or to be the epitome of information" over the long haul. (HJF – PIA SarGen)

About the Author

Kate Shiene Austria

Information Officer III

Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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