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I Thought it was Her

I've been looking for
All these years I was praying
For this to come and touch
My soul that longed
to be warmed by that sweet smile.

I dreamed of her to sit
At my side holding my hands
As we watched the stars and
Talked about our dreams
We want to reach
Through our lives

I didn't lose hope
Into believing on this
It's just that i can't stand yet 
On my own feet
And I might regret that,
I might fail her heart
I'd always wish to protect

Guess this is love 
When you want the best
Where her life can find

The true happiness in life

VSO-ICS: Giving Opportunities to Learn Life Skills

“What’s the greatest decision you've ever made?”, the interviewer asked.
Working team and participants during the LTS

I have been itching to learn Filipino Sign Language (FSL) ever since I was in college. We once visited a Deaf school during my first year and wanted to explore the Deaf world and learn more about their culture. Unfortunately, no opportunities were available for me to have the chance to encounter FSL in a more intimate way. I am Francis and I'm from a newly formed city in Mindanao. I have been volunteering since I was high school - playing with the kids in a Gawad Kalinga Village of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.

It was a great opportunity for me to become part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) program which allowed me to volunteer in the Deaf community in Cebu City, work with Deaf co-volunteers, as well as, British volunteers. ICS is a 3 months program that allows you to work on a particular development theme and gain cross-cultural working and living.

I was placed with 1 Deaf Filipino and 2 British volunteers with the Cebu Association of the Deaf (CAD) to help them grow and develop as an organization. CAD conducts health education in different Deaf schools in Cebu City , and also, Human Rights Advocacy and the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. It was my first choice among the volunteer placements especially that I am so eager and really wanted to learn FSL and work closely with the Deaf community.

Our work placement is very challenging especially that we only learned the basics of FSL when we arrived in the program and it is very crucial and necessary to communicate to our 2 Deaf Volunteer Placement Supervisors (VPS). But, my worries slowly faded knowing that our VPS' were very patient and supportive with our progress.

One of the most unforgettable experience I had on my journey was during our Leadership Training Seminar we conducted wherein I made 4 Deaf friendly powerpoint presentations for our lectures and did a session on Events Management using FSL. It was almost a month since we arrived and started learning the language and it was a great achievement for me – truly I did improve.

I'm so thankful for ICS for this chance they have given me. It deepened my understanding of the Deaf Community and made me an advocate in raising more awareness to people who haven't heard about the Deaf Culture and the challenges they are currently facing.

After the program, I wish to visit different Universities in Mindanao to share about what I have learned. I want to go to Government Institutions especially in public schools to tell them the importance of giving the best Education for their Deaf students. I hope to tell story of my Deaf friends in Cebu and Manila who experience discrimination and explain to them what can they do about it. I want to show to the world how volunteerism can make a difference in the society and the world.
Now, I can say with confidence to myself that I am Deaf aware. 3 months is nearly over and soon we will be going home. My ICS journey have ups and downs but one thing I know – its the 90 days in my life that surely mattered – it gave me an opportunity to learn a life skill which is FSL that I can share to people I will encounter in my lifetime.

“Volunteering with ICS is one of the greatest decisions of my life”, I replied. And we all know that my decision didn't fail me.

Educating ASEAN Societies for Integrity: CALL for ESSAY

CALL FOR ESSAY - invitation letter - 1st call

Educating ASEAN Societies for Integrity
“The Role of Educators & Students in Building Integrity”

Date & Venue
Jakarta, 21-22 March 2013

20 February, 2013

Expected Outcomes:

-Sharing experiences among youth through dialogue in conference
Identified youth “dream” of ASEAN community

-Newly established integrity network among youth in ASEAN countries

-Publication of the best 10 papers in https://www.e-integrity.net/

Benefits for TOP TEN Essays:

Ten best essays will be selected to receive a net-book each and will have an opportunity to present their essays during the conference. All accommodation and transportation will be covered by TIRI.

For More Info Visit:




Submitted applications with accompanying concept notes should describe knowledge-driven youth volunteerism projects under one of the eight thematic areas: 

1.    Rural Development and Poverty Eradication
2.    Social Enterprise
3.    Youth-friendly Health Services
4.    Education Development
5.    The Environment
6.    Protecting ASEAN’s Heritage
7.    Disaster Response, Risk Reduction, and Recovery
8.    Sports and Recreation

In every project under these eight thematic areas, the AYVP Secretariat will provide a team of four to six (4-6) youth volunteers. These volunteers will come from different ASEAN-member states, and will help respond to the requested needs from the local communities over a two to three (2-3) month period. The volunteer programme aims to open these young volunteers’ minds to new livelihoods, perspectives, and cultures by working with community leaders and volunteers from other countries in ASEAN.

Project proposals must also substantiate the organization’s capability, trustworthiness, and experience in working with and using volunteers in their operations. The responsibilities of local implementing partners will vary by project, but at minimum, they must be able to provide:

  1. Identified room and board for volunteers
  2. An established in-country office with the necessary staff and capacity to handle day-to-day communication with the volunteers and AYVP Secretariat
  3. Capacity to handle orientation for the volunteers at project site
  4. Monitoring of volunteer assignments
  5. Coordination of reporting and final evaluation of the volunteer
  6. Transport of the volunteer from the closest airport to the project site

Funding Mechanisms

Proposals must indicate whether funding is provided or required to implement the project. It must also specify the number of volunteers needed. The AYVP will provide an allowance to each volunteer which will cover his/her expenses for the 2-3 month duration of the programme.

Deadline for submission of applications with proposals is February 15, 2013. Submissions and queries should be directed to the AYVP@AsiaEngage Secretariat at: ayvpsecretariat@asiaengage.org

The AYVP is implemented by the ASEAN Secretariat in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia, the AsiaEngage, and the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

The National Youth Commission is inviting government organizations, university-affiliated youth organizations, NGOs, and recognized foundations to submit project proposals to the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP).

Red Cross Village: Wonderfully Red

I rode a motorbike going to Red Cross Village located at Digkilaan, Iligan City. It's about a 30-min road trip   and I payed 35 pesos for the ride. The scenery traveling the mountain side is very enticing but at the same time, the destruction that occurred almost a year ago is still very visible along Mandulog River. It's like a scar that is slowly healing and recovering from a great wound. 

I arrived the village around 2 pm. It's now a common destination among the motorbike drivers since many are visiting the relocation site.

There are 320 houses built and already occupied as of November 15, 2012 as reported by United Nations Office for Coordination for the Humanitarian Affairs. It's wonderfully red.

50 units were targeted to be finished last July 2012 and they added another 170 units making it 320 houses.
This project was done through Red Cross/Red Cresent and Australian Aid in partnership with the DSWD and other local agencies of Iligan City.
Ground breaking Ceremonay happened last 8th of May  2012 and the turning over ceremony was last October 2, 2012.
Facilities such as this Payag were made to provide a place for meetings and social gatherings as well as psychosocial activities.
This one is located in a hill. As I walked around the village, I saw two of these kind of structures located in different strategic areas so residents will have opportunities to also use it for recreational activities.

The floors were concrete and the side walls were made of wood. The house also included a toilet. Most residents planted alugbati around the sides of their house and some made a small flower garden to beautify the area.
According to the residents, there will be a multi-purpose hall to be built on this area. The turning over program was held here and its located at the front center of the village.

Water for drinking is still being delivered  as of October. They also use it for cooking.
There were around 4 water pumps which is their water source for general use. 
Nearby the site is a High School where this building was rebuilt by ABS-CBN and the Philippine Army. According to the stories of the teachers, there were big logs that destroyed some of their school buildings and that the water almost overflowed the rooftops during the height of Sendong.

Few blocks away is an Elementary School where an ongoing construction sponsored by the USAID and partnership with the Philippine Government to build new classrooms.

 I bid goodbye to the teachers I met at the school and head my way back to the City. These developments that I saw proves the joint efforts of the Local NGOs, GOs, and INGOs. Rest assured that there are people who works hard to fasten up not just the rebuilding of houses but  - rebuilding the lives of every Iliganon; of every Sendong Survivor.

View of the Red Cross Village near the High School Building at Digkilaan, Iligan City

NOTE: If there are any information written on this post which you think is inappropriate or lacking, please email me at ebardofrancisalain@gmail.com. This is the Author's experience of going Red Cross Village and some people I met along the road.

This is part of the Iligan to 1 Series. What happened to 1 year after Sendong? A blogger report through his visit to different relocation sites and places,  and interview with some Iliganons. Like my page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItsSimplyFrancis

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Bayug Island: A Hidden Beauty Beyond The Ruins II

I retraced my way because it was a dead end. I was afraid to get lost on the small island so I carefully looked into the marks that I remembered passing through. The sunset is nearing and I want to reach the shore before It breaks.
 You'll find lots of crosses around the grassy surroundings. The scenery is very piercing to the heart. Most of the people living in this island are still missing. Some must have remained hopeful to find their loved ones.
 Finally, I found my way to the main road. The locals in the area said it's still a far and long trek to reach the shore. On the roadside are growing bananas covered by thick greens which resembles an abandoned farming site.
 Along the path were abandoned houses; ruins of that one cold evening.
Almost nearing the destination, I remember a very familiar place. It was the site where we usually ride a banca to cross from Bayug Island to the Orchids Village to get a jeepney ride back to the City. The river has widened and the rip rapping was gone. On the other side were people planting Mangroves. It was indeed a devastation and now we're trying to restore what was lost.

On the side where I took the picture where you can find these memory landmarks. Lot's of crosses that resembled a graveyard .

I again paused for a while then continued to find my way to see the beautiful shore. 
And finally I my long wait was over. An amazing scenery. And this is what lies ahead of the ruins. Exploring Bayug Island made me realize a lesson. We all travel a river filled with a wonderful journey. The journey may sometimes be tuff, the water may sometimes be calm - but -  whatever happens we all go back to the sea.

NOTE: If there are any information written on this post which you think is inappropriate or lacking, please email me at ebardofrancisalain@gmail.com. This is the Author's experience of going Bayug Island and some people I met along the road.

This is part of the Iligan to 1 Series. What happened to 1 year after Sendong? A blogger report through his visit to different relocation sites and places,  and interview with some Iliganons. Like my page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItsSimplyFrancis

Ideas are Bullet Proof: Let your Ideas Change the World

Photo Credits to British Council Philippines

"Everything begins with an idea, let your ideas change the world" 

It's an unforgettable quote during my third year high school. It was in front of us, above the chalk board where we could easily be reminded of its value and meaning. Recently I bumped to a posting about the British Council's  "I am a Changemaker:Ideation Camp". I reposted it on my blog because I wanted others to know about this opportunity. I browsed the links and asked myself, "Do I have an idea that can change the world?". The question echoed on my mind like the Last Song Syndrome (LSS). 

Identifying the Problem:

For the past years that I have been joining some organizations, one of the problems that I had experience was the lack of resources whether it maybe financial or knowledge/skill resource. It also came to me that the youth has: 
1.      Limited Information on Opportunities for Youth to participate: a. to develop skills,intelligence and interests , and, b. to build on their chosen advocacy.
2.      Limited Resources  in terms of fund generation, knowledge-sharing and capacity building.
3.      Limitied Networks for Youth to partner, cooperate and collaborate in reaching the same goal.

Addressing the Problem: 

My thoughts lead me to this solution. Why not develop a web –based Youth Organization Networking Site that enables them to gain Information, gather resources and build Networks? 

So then, I tried to learn how to make a business plan. It's kind of funny for me as a Psychology Graduate and took up an Education Certificate Course to be learning something about it. But It has become part of the things that I value in life, "I learn so I can give more to others.". 

My Fears:

I am indeed a very low self-esteemed person. What if I made a mistake? What if this idea is already present? Is it really feasible? Will I be able to make it? Is it really important? And maybe, it's fun to make a mistake after all because eventually I will learn. Maybe it's great that the idea has been done  or present because it was able to help more people for a long time now. 

I thank the people who supported this idea and who believed that it can change the way things as they were. Yesterday, I just arrived home , and today I will be leaving again. I hope that when I return, I have something to share and would grow more on the way I approach things. I only have an idea with me. They say Ideas are bullet proof - let your ideas change the world. 

Bayug Island: A Hidden Beauty Beyond the Ruins Part I

The hanging bridge was destroyed during Sendong
 and now was replaced by a banca.
It was way back 2010 when I first came here at Bayug Island. The hanging bridge is one of the coolest attraction my college friends often talk. My first time to cross a structure like that was in Agusan del Sur when I was still in High School. It really terrified me especially the motions that might outbalance you and the view below would bring your heart pumping like hell. Even though how I find myself very afraid,  I know it's just part of an adventure to overcome a challenge - just like life.
Bayug Island is situated at the side of an estuary -  a place where the water from Mandulog river meets with the salty water from the sea.  It was said to be that the first settlers in Iligan City were from Bayug Island. Now, 9 months after Sendong, what happened to this very historical place?
Rowing the boat to cross the river to Bayug Island.
My journey started with a jeepney ride going to Bayug Island. The itinerary that I made was suppose to visit the "seemingly ghost town" Orchid's Village and take some snapshots around the area. On my thoughts, there was a banca that can cross to Bayug Island, but unfortunately, its operations stopped after Sendong came. The driver suggested that I should be using the former site of the hanging bridge since there is a banca where you can pay 5 pesos for the ride.
A Sendong Survivor. She's here tending for her plants as a source of livelihood.
She lost a brother and few other relatives during Sendong.
After crossing, I met someone on the other side. She was getting some water from the river for her Pepper Garden. I shared to them why I am visiting the place and they even gave me some mangoes to take home with me. The place is very different from before. Few people were present in the area and all over were growing grasses that seemed to cover the ruins of the past - the lives that together went down with the houses that was  swept by the water filled with logs.

A stray dog around Bayug Island.
 Our conversation lasted for about 15 minutes before I finally decided to move and get some glimpse around the unfamiliar place. She warned me about her dogs and I should be careful or wait for someone to come before taking another step. When I moved ahead, there were like more than 6 dogs who tried to stop me on the path that I'm trying to trek. They were stray dogs which were offered food by the lady ( whom I just talked) , and soon,   they became her pets. Hearing them bark and seeing their eyes gazing angrily at me, I stopped for a while , walked back inch by inch in a calm state. Never should I show fear or any anger or I'll be ripped of with their sharp teeth. Few steps later, I was a bit far from them but they seemed to follow me. Finally, I was able to come back to the place where I talked with the dog's owner and had some sigh. Then I decided to cross the river again and stick to the plan.
A natural shade  near the river where I stayed while the rain
was pouring hard together with some strong winds
Unfortunately, it rained at that moment and was so lucky to have brought with me an umbrella. I waited for the rain to stop but it turns on and off. I hesitated to call kuya on the other side to fetch me because his banca is already wet and it's already trouble for him. So, I decided to go on another way inside Bayug Island and travel towards the shore. 
A view of a memorial cross near a house at Bayug Island after the rain.
Few steps, I found a house and saw this cross where I found a cemented flooring. And without any further thoughts, I concluded that this was one of the houses that didn't survive. It was such a saddening view and I admit, walking through these ruins sent me some creepy vibrations. 

Another remains of a house few steps away.
As I continued further, another view of debris could be seen. And after 9 months, you might not be able to notice some of these because of the grown vines and grasses surrounding the area.

Debris of a house where the left a cross as a mark
for someone who died  in this place.
I took a leap of faith because I was already scared by the scenery. The ghost stories I had heard and seen gave me the creeps. But more than the fear that I felt was a pain in my heart because of the lives that were lost because of Environmental degradation. After taking some shots, I paused and offered a prayer for all the families that were left here on earth and thanking God for embracing the souls that left this Island.  

I took off for another road because it was a dead end. I went back to the trail determined to reach the shore. As I continue walking the path, It came to me how similar the hanging bridge to the experience everyone had in Sendong. It was indeed very terrifying, traumatic and seemingly unbearable when its your first time to cross the hanging bridge. It was like the first thought that we can't cross it because we might fall and we might not make it. And must have been that in life, Sendong has become  the challenging bridge we have to cross.  We must move forward and move on. Yes, it is difficult. Yes it is hard. Yes... yes.. yes..We cannot stay forever on the bridge..

NOTE: If there are any information written on this post which you think is inappropriate or lacking, please email me at ebardofrancisalain@gmail.com. This is the Author's experience of going Bayug Island and some people I met along the road.

This is part of the Iligan After 9 Series. What happened to Iligan 9 Months after Sendong? A blogger report through his visit to different relocation sites and places,  and interview with some Iliganons. Like my page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItsSimplyFrancis

Sendong Cannot Wash Away Good Food: An Iligan to 1 Blogger Special

A sight of the road in front of Jacko's Kan-anan after Sendong
Photo Credits to TravelJams.comMs. Lovette Jam
Not only the very precious lives our our fellow Filipinos were taken during that almost midnight surprise attack of the marching waters that devoured houses and even business establishments. On this part of the  Iligan After 9 series,  I looked for a business establishement that is proudly Iligan that was gravely affected by TS Washi. And finally,  I have found one of those that didn't escape Sendong's havoc. It was the Jacko's Kan-anan which is a carwashing and restaurant business.
Me with Ms. Lovette Jam, the princess of Jacko's Kan-anan.
It was a privilege to have an interview with their Princess  - Ms. Lovette Jam, the daughter of the owner of Jacko's Kan-anan. She's presently taking up Masters in Business Management at Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology and the Founder of Iligan Bloggers Society. She's very friendly and passionate businesswoman. Let's have an interview with her and listen to her stories of how they were able to recover after the calamity that hit them.

What was your business all about?
A view of their carwash business before Sendong.
Photo Credits to Ms. Lovette Jam
Jacko’s started out as a carwash center in 2009. After a couple of months, we opened a snack bar to provide a waiting area for the customers. The snack bar soon evolved into a carinderia and soon into a restaurant offering meals (turo-turo and short order) in addition to the snacks.
How was your business before Sendong?

Dining Area of Jacko's Kan-anan before Sendong.
Photo Credits to Ms. Lovette Jam

In late 2011, Jacko’s has expanded in terms of area and services offered. We had additional carwash bays as well as an air-conditioned function room, which doubles as an office and classroom for Prime tutorial and review center. We have also started with catering services.
What happened during Sendong?
Sendong destroyed almost everything except for their kitchen area.
Photo Credits to Ms. Lovette Jam
Jacko’s was totally submerged in water.  Thankfully, all our stay-in staff and crew were able to evacuate and were all safe. (READ HER FULL STORY HERE)
A saddening view of Jacko's Kan-anan after Sendong.
Photo Credits to Ms. Lovette Jam
What were the challenges that you faced in rebuilding your business?
The mere thought of having to start all over again was terrifying enough. Then there’s the stress of planning new strategies, re-thinking the business direction, and the looming fear, trauma, and phobia. Then there’s the need for additional capital and resources for the actual rebuilding of the structure, repairing of destroyed appliances and replacing everything that had been washed away.
What were the strengths that helped you rebuild your business?
A sample of their sulit and delicious food packs.
Photo Credits to Jacko's Kan-anan
Sendong left Jacko’s in a wrecked, destroyed, and chaotic state. But despite the thin glass that separates the kitchen from the destruction, the kitchen remained intact and unharmed. Amazingly, the contents of the refrigerator and coolers were safe and uncontaminated – even the eggs were in good condition! We took it as a sign that we MUST continue with the business.  As a thanksgiving, we took everything we could salvage home, and prepared food for families in evacuation centers.  After the stocks were all delivered, several organizations ordered food to be distributed to the survivors of the deluge.  This allowed us to have income despite the losses.

Did you ask for any support from the government, friends or family?
If there’s one good thing about Sendong, it brought out the best of people.  We didn’t actually have to ask for support. Family, friends, employers and mentors, gladly and wholeheartedly offered help.  J   

What are the present improvements after Sendong?
Present view of the counter of Jacko's Kan-anan.
Because Sendong practically washed out the original structure, we had the chance to improve the structure and plan a better layout of the building.  Kitchen and dining areas are now bigger. And the larger and better function room has recently opened. J
Jacko's Kan-anan's conference hall
 which can accommodate more than 80 people.
Photo Credits to Jacko's Kan-anan
What are you looking forward for the future of your business?
Like all other start-up small businesses, we aim for growth. We’d like to see the business expand and open more branches and perhaps offer franchises someday.  We look forward to diversifying the business too, seizing other opportunities for growth.  Through this, we could offer more jobs and in our own little way be able to give back to the community.
A view at the side of the conference hall and dining area.
Photo Credits to Jacko's Kan-anan
What do you want to share to other businessmen/women who faced the same experience during Sendong?
We are all victims. But let us not forget that that we are survivors too. Take heart with some hope that this too shall pass.
It's now 9 months after Sendong and this is how far businesses in Iligan City has become resilient after the tragic experience they had. They never lose hope. My favorite dish at Jacko's Kan-anan is their Crispy Squid. I don't really eat squid but who would decline such a very tasty, delicious and mouthwatering delicacy. Indeed, Sendong cannot wash away good food.

For more information about Jacko's Kan-anan you can visit these links:

October is also Iligan's Business Month. Visit Iligan City and join the month long activities!

 This is part of the Iligan to 1 Series. What happened to Iligan 1 year after Sendong? A blogger report through his visit to different relocation sites and interview with some Iliganons. Like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItsSimplyFrancis

Other Parts of the Series: 

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