In 2012, I was invited by Mon Corpuz, founder of Black Pencil Project (BPP), to be one of its core group members. BPP is a social media-based civilian voluntourism (volunteerism + tourism) movement that supports barrio school education of children by providing implements for learning in remote and indigenous communities in the Philippines. Together with like minded individuals, most of who also have their own advocacies, we promote and support BPP’s cause through our network of donors and friends.
It was in 2009, on my second year of assignment in Camiguin Mission Station in Babuyan Islands that I first met Mon Corpuz. He is a mountaineer and a photographer who graduated from UST College of Fine Arts. He was with a group of mountaineers and outdoor adventurers who went to CamiguinNorte on a whale watching expedition. On that visit, they also brought school supplies and distributed them to the poor elementary school children of the island. There were stories then that some children are so poor and the islands are so remote, that they would sometimes share pencils by breaking them into pieces.
It was the story of Mon Corpuz and the Black Pencil Project that inspired me to duplicate what he was doing. The following year, I initiated a fund raising campaign to gather school supplies and distributed them to about 1,500 elementary school children in the 4 elementary schools of CamiguinNorte. This time, it was a joint effort of BPP and Camiguin Mission Station with the help of National Book Store Foundation (NBSF). That was the birth of NBSF’s “Project Aral”. From that time on, Mon Corpuz has become a volunteer of Babuyan Islands Missions and I became a volunteer of Black Pencil Project. The outreach to the Babuyan Islands Missions has become an annual activity.
In 2010, I invited a group of teachers and students from Colegio de San Juan de Letran Manila’s Institute of Communication to do an educational outreach to CamiguinNorte. They stayed in CamiguinNorte for a few days and were able to accomplish their mission. On their way back to Manila, while crossing Babuyan Channel, strong waves due to a sudden change of weather forced their boat to capsize. Luckily there were no casualties. They were afloat for 4 hours and there were no signs that they will be rescued. It was really a miracle how they were able to survive that mishap. Realizing how blessed they were, they came up with a project to help the poor school children in Babuyan Islands with their education. “Send A Child To School” (SA CTS) supports the education of the youth in remote Babuyan Islands through a sponsorship program for students, construction of school buildings like classrooms and libraries, and providing school children with tools for their education. SA CTS promotes poverty alleviation through education.
Having met and known other leaders of organizations with their own advocacies and passions, I suggested to Mon Corpuz that we organize a forum for students where we can share our stories. Hopefully it can inspire them to support our advocacies, or better yet, to initiate an advocacy of their own. Initially we were looking at member schools of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAA P), since Letran and UST are members of these two college and university leagues.
A couple of months ago, the story of David Sicamwas featured in a TV program. David was an artist, musician, and volunteer of Send A Child To School and Black Pencil Project. He was oneof those who perishedin a fatal Florida bus accident in Bontoc, Mountain Province in 2014. Although his wife, Abby and his two sons, Agung, 9, and Amian, 6, survived the accident, it left Abby unable to walk. It sparked in me an idea to launch a photo exhibit of the advocacies which Mon Corpuzand I have been thinking about.
To celebrate the 800th Jubilee of the foundation of the Dominican Order, we thought of “ALAB: Advocacies Outof Passion” (A Photo Exhibit). “Alab” is a Filipino word which connotes a spark, flame or fire. It may also mean passion. Paul Watson of Sea Shepherds once said that “social change comes from the passion of individuals.” The photo exhibit hopes to share the stories of selected advocacies out of the passions of individuals and inspire others to support these advocacies, or better yet, to have an advocacy of their own. “Alab” tells the stories of ordinary people with extraordinary passions.
“Alab”, a photo exhibit featuring advocacies related to education, arts and culture, and care for creation, was launched last September 12, 2016 at the Et NosGallery in Angelicum School in Jaro, Iloilo City. Among the advocacy groups (and the people behind them) featured in the photo exhibit were Black Pencil Project (Mon Corpuz), Send A Child To School (Institute of Communication – Colegio de San Juan de LetranManila), KlasrumsngPag-asa (Atty. Angelo Valencia), The Storytelling Project (Rey Bufi), Climb Against Cancer (NiniSacro), The People’s Pilgrimage [for Climate Reality] (AG Saño), DiksyonaryoAtbp. (LiaManalacdel Castillo), and White Canvas (Dino Dimar). It featured 80 photographs of 8 advocacies. It ran until the end of August. We hope to add a few more advocacies and to bring “Alab” on a campus tour in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
A special feature of the photo exhibit is “Send Agungand Amian to School”, a special project of Send A Child To School. It hopes to raise funds to support the education of Agung and Amian (the two children of David Sicam) by means of soliciting monetary donations, selling of framed photographs, t-shirts, souvenir items and CDs of David’s band known as “Kinaiya”. Like the flame on the torch of St. Dominic’s dog, “Alab” is a humble response to the theme of the Order’s Jubilee, “Sent to Preach the Gospel.”
By Br. Jose Martin L. Sibug, OP