An army of hope to rebuild the nation
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2013-03-19
By now, sympathetic Filipinos to the Kiram family should have realized that they were misled by the pattern of deception woven by the Kiram sultanate — thanks to the Aquino critics and some media personalities who provided them with undeserved exposure. By picking a fight with Malaysia, the Kirams have sent 200 of their fellow Tausugs to their demise. “Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk,” Seneca, a wise philosopher once counseled.

In stark contrast, President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) is inspiring a new breed of revolutionaries. An army of hope will march onward to conquer the real enemies of our country — poverty and injustice — by building healthy, humane and nurturing communities. This is Bayani Challenge.

On March 23-27, 2013, Filipinos who have genuine love for this nation will enlist for a new kind of People Power. An estimated 100,000 volunteers are set to engage in simultaneous, nation-building activities in 33 different provinces. This makes Bayani Challenge the biggest volunteerism event in the country. Seeing Filipinos of different age groups and professions from all over the world work as one to rebuild an impoverished community is a sight to see.

Bayani Challenge is a multi-sectoral partnership spearheaded by Pilipinas Natin, a movement that imbibes and cultivates the Filipino culture of caring, sharing and Bayanihan. Headed by PIA Director General Jose Mari Oquiñena, Pilipinas Natin aims to create an enabling environment where every Filipino is given the chance to contribute to the work of nation building with a special emphasis on poverty alleviation. In his address to the participants last year, Director General Oquiñena reveals the essential meaning of their hard work: “We have a beautiful country, we have a wonderful people. [As one people], we are saying that we will grant the wish of the poor; we will fulfill the dreams of every Filipino. I believe this is the picture of our country. This is the real story of our country. Not the violence, not poverty, not crisis but the solution we are embodying today.”

Steered by this year’s theme of Isang Bayan, Isang Bayanihan, volunteers sign-up in teams of 15 for a 5-day test of courage, endurance and love for country as they engage in varied nation-building activities that include the construction and refurbishment of homes and schools, education sessions for children, tree-planting, clean-up drives, and health missions.

From Isabela to Davao del Sur, volunteers are given the freedom to choose a specific province where they want to sow seeds of lasting change. Prominent sites include the recovering areas of Cateel in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, agrarian reform hotspots like Bukidnon and Negros and the culturally-diverse regions of Cotobato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao, Zamboanga and Basilan.

Most of the Bayani Challenge Volunteers are young people who seek to counter the apathy and materialism prevalent in our society by channeling hope and charity into sustainable, positive action. Almost three years into President Aquino’s term, many volunteers have claimed that today is the best time to be a Filipino — thanks to the President’s advocacy of good governance, inclusive growth and citizen empowerment. With movements like Bayani Challenge, perhaps the youth of today is within grasp of making history as the generation that will end poverty in the Philippines.

With a week to go before the event, young people are already flooding social networking sites encouraging their friends and peers to join Bayani Challenge. Some have shared that they aren’t thinking twice about sacrificing their vacation and others are coming home from Singapore, the US and other countries for this very meaningful event. Most inspiring perhaps is a 7-year-old who gathered ten of her friends to form their own team which they named Believers. These stories prove it is not only the people from the mission areas who are to benefit from this service-oriented activity. In this noble endeavor, volunteers themselves feel that surge of hope resonate within them. Working together, their message to the rest of the nation is clear: everyone, even a group of 10-year olds, has the power to transform this county of ours into a nation of compassionate, responsible and productive citizens.

Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, one of the many organizations that are co-organizers of this event always offers this challenge to his captive audience — that before they complain about the nation’s problems, they should first become part of the solution. “Let us not be cynics and critics always looking for mistakes. Today, there are thousands of us. Tomorrow, there will be millions.” Interested volunteers may sign-up either individually or in groups of 15 by visiting the website of Bayani Challenge at

There are great things happening in our country today that many Filipinos aren’t aware of largely because of media here being too fascinated with negative stories, conflicts, showbiz glitter and glow. If you were a foreign investor and you merely looked at what Philippine media are saying about the Philippines ‑ you’d consider putting your money in a safer, saner place. Thank God for the foreign media that have been truthfully reporting the positive transformation of our country under P-Noy.

Our country needs all the heroes that will step forward and be part of the solution.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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