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Reviving Filipino spirit of 'bayanihan’ through volunteerism

One of the inherent traits that identifies Filipinos is ‘bayanihan,’ or the willingness to help others without asking for something in return.

Through the bayanihan spirit, volunteerism is reinforced and becomes a way of life to empower communities and promote nation-building. It becomes the lifeblood of those who believe serving their fellowmen is their purpose, so that they endure all the storms just to be of selfless service to them.

Volunteers in the Soccsksargen (Region 12) are silent, yet their work speaks volumes. A testament to this is the annual recognition of the region’s outstanding volunteers at the national level.

Since 2002, Region 12 has conquered the national scene, topping the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency’s (PNVSCA) list of outstanding volunteers through its annual Search for Outstanding Volunteers (SOV).

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop volunteers in Soccsksargen from continuing to extend a helping hand to the needy.

University of Southern Mindanao (USM) employee Yvonne Saliling (far left), a 2021 National Outstanding Volunteer, perseveres in the face of challenges and difficulties to help students of USM during a lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a true-blooded volunteer, she helps generate face masks and disinfectants, among other vital supplies, to be used by students to protect themselves against COVID-19. (Photo by Yvonne Saliling)

2021 National Outstanding Volunteer Yvonne Saliling, an employee of the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato, weathered all the challenges at the height of the pandemic by voluntarily delivering basic food and hygiene needs to students who were affected by the lockdown imposed by the government.

"Aside from visiting each boarding house in Kabacan, I, together with other volunteers, led the distribution of workbooks to students in far-flung areas during the conduct of online classes," Saliling said, adding that there were times when money was scarce and that she had to draw from her own pocket.

The most recent awardee from the region is the Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc. (CLAFI), which received the accolade in 2022 as the National Outstanding Volunteer Organization in Soccsksargen.

The foundation has served the people of Sarangani province for the longest time, particularly those who live in the mountainous areas, through its two major programs: Education and youth leadership, and environmental protection and conservation.

A volunteer teacher of the Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc. (CLAFI), a 2022 National Outstanding Volunteer Organization, which nurtures the value of education through its Flalok Project as its premier advocacy among the children of indigenous people (IP) communities in Sarangani, reads a story to Blaan children. The CLAFI's Flalok Project aims to improve the literacy skills of IP children and develop a community of readers through the Blaan art of storytelling. (Photo: Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc.)

CLAFI’s volunteer work fulfills the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.1 indicator, which provides children access to complete, free, equitable, and quality primary education.

Also, its volunteer work on the environment supports the government’s National Greening Program and strengthens the attainment of SDG target 15.3, which focuses on “combating desertification, restoring degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods...”

Meanwhile, Marcelo Gusanan, a Blaan farmer in Barangay Eday, Columbio, in Sultan Kudarat, used volunteerism as a strategy to attain peace and development in his area, which was formerly known as a "no man’s land" because the place used to be an exit point for rebels.

Marcelo Gusanan is all smiles during the award ceremony of the 2016 Search for Outstanding Volunteers. Gusanan was hailed as a national winner for his selfless act of turning Barangay Eday from a ‘no man’s land’ into a progressive community. (Photo by Marcelo Gusanan)

Teary-eyed, Gusanan accounted for how he was pushed to find means to solve the problems of his neighbors, who always ended up fleeing their homes due to unstable peace and order conditions, in addition to experiencing perennial poverty.

To help his community, he advocated for community-driven development (CDD), a strategy now used by the Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 12’s Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan—Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS).

Consequently, this has empowered him to actively participate in local governance by identifying their own community needs and planning, implementing, and monitoring projects together to address local poverty issues.

Through his volunteer activities, their village has now become a model site for the KALAHI-CIDSS program. These efforts have also earned Gusanan the honor of being named Region 12’s National Outstanding Volunteer in 2016.

These are just some of the exemplary performances of volunteers in the region. The PNVSCA continues its call for nominations for the annual event.

The PNVSCA partners with all offices of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which is the lead agency and chair for the conduct of the SOV nationwide.

Desiree Jacinto, NEDA 12 chief of the Project Monitoring and Evaluation Division and head of the secretariat for this year’s search, said the submission of nominations for the search will end on August 25.

“To all our volunteers in the region, please come out in the open. Ito po ang pagkakataon natin na marecognize po ng gobyerno na nandiyan lang ang ating [This is our opportunity to be recognized by the government that our] volunteers handang makipagtulungan [are just there ready to extend assistance] in terms of delivery of social services lalo na sa mga hindi narereach ng services ng government [especially to those who cannot be reached easily by the services of government],” Jacinto emphasized.

The search has three categories: The National Outstanding Volunteer Award, which also has two subcategories, namely Individual (youth and adult), and Organization (corporate and non-profit). The other two categories are the Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award and the Special Award for local government units.

"This search will highlight the exemplary performance and efforts of our silent heroes," Jacinto said, prodding the public to nominate volunteers. (SJDM – PIA Cotabato Province)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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