Monday, October 23, 2017

"I love You, Alona"

(The following is the speech delivered by Ms Cynthia Ho, the daughter of the employer of Alona Famatiga, domestic helper in Hong Kong during the graduation ceremony of Ateneo LSE53 held at The Chinese University of Hong Kong last October 22. 

The Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Training Program for Overseas Filipinos and their Families (Ateneo LSE) is a flagship Executive Education program of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG). Ateneo-LSE is organized by WIMLER Foundation in Hong Kong.)

Years ago, I was 11 then, when I suddenly learned that we have one new family member at home, one that is not blood related, not even sharing the same ethnicity, but our bond is much stronger than many of my blood related ones. 

I left Hong Kong for the USA when I was 16 to pursue my study.  I came back again when I was 23. I left our home when I was 30 and started living on my own until now. I am now 41 years old. Alona has been staying with my parents for 30 years, while I lived with my parents for 22 years only. Trust me, staying with my parents is not one of the easiest thing to do, especially because my mom is not an easy person to live with.  I would like to call that a generation gap.

So, seven years after I graduated, I finally moved out. All these years I keep wondering what an amazing woman Alona is being able to stay in this family for 30 years! As I grew up, I finally understand it. It is because she does not only TREAT us as family, we ARE her family.

Let us do a little bit more mathematics here.  I was 11 when Alona came.  I spent 5 years with her and I left for the USA.  I spent another seven years living with my family before I moved out.  That means I have only spent 12 years living with Alona! But what makes us so close? I would say, destiny indeed! 

Alona is like an angel sent to me from God. She took good care of me when I was young, from as simple as cooking and taking care of all housework to bringing me lunch every single day when I was in early secondary school. She protected me when my mom punished me at home (trust me those were not simple punishments), to standing up for me when I was being mistreated. Nowadays she still takes care of my parents so that I could literally be carefree, knowing that no matter what happens, my parents would always be well taken care of.

Even though it was just 12 years that we lived under the same roof, she has shared my laughter and tears.  And I am glad that this sharing is mutual  since Alona also has her tough time. As Alona said: "We have been through ups and downs together". She sees everything that happened to me, my changes, my metamorphosis. She sees all the struggles and successes I have had.  There is not a minute that she doubts on me, and she has always been very supportive to me, sometimes even more than my own mother.

I am a grown-up person now.  I wish I could do more for her, for she is not just a helper, but a close family member. I wish she could stay here forever and I could take care of her just like what she did for me, but that would be just too selfish of me, for she has her own family too in the Philippines. She has sacrificed her most beautiful years with us, and as she is gradually getting older, she should have the opportunity to retire and spend the rest of her time with her own family too and do the things she wants to do, for herself and herself alone.
When that day comes, I know I gonna miss her. 

However, being able to graduate from this Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship training program, I believe she will make the best choice for herself and continue to be the leader of her life, and seek the type of happiness she truly deserves.

I love you, Alona!

CYNTHIA HO, is Sex Therapist and Relationship Counselor in Hong Kong. She studied Sexual Health at University of Sydney and Film at Boston University. Ms Ho was 11 years old when her parents hired Alona Famatiga as household helper.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

LSE 53 BP awardees aim to help farmers, fisherfolks

Hong Kong – October 23, 2017 

The winners of the LSE 53 Best Social Enterprise Business Plans 2017 awards were announced at their graduation ceremony at The Chinese University of Hong Kong yesterday. LSE 53 class submitted a total of 14 business plans with three or four members each. Mentors were assigned to advise them in the process of writing the narrative, financial statement and designing the powerpoint presentation.

They presented the business plans during the trial presentation where they received comments and advices from the panelists on how to improve their work specially the financial forecast.  Then, they were given two weeks to finalize the business plans and finally presented them before the Board of Judges during the final presentation. It is very interesting to note that this year, most business plans are quite clear with the social component. From the 14 business plans, the Board of Judges picked the winners. For the first time since LSE was introduced in 2012, two teams received two awards each.

This year’s winners per category are:

Magsasakang Byaherang OFW garnered the Most Socially Relevant Award for their mission to economically empower the Mangyan people in San Vicente, Mindoro and tapping raw materials indigenous in the area.

Magsasakang Byaherang OFW is a social enterprise which is engaged in buying, producing and selling products of Mangyans, the indigenous people of Tinis-an in Barangay San Vicente, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.

The proposed business aims to organize the Mangyans, provide training in self-development such as proper hygiene, organic farming, basic financial literacy training, and enhance their skills in chips production.

The Mangyans are the first to inhabitants of the island of Mindoro compromising 10% of the Mindoro population. There 12 known Mangyan tribes, each with their own language, culture, and a way of life. They hardly could meet their basic needs due to insufficient income. Farming root crops and growing fruit trees are their only means for livelihood. As of now their main products are banana, taro, and sweet potato. The business plan proposes to process these raw materials into chips. They will install solar power supply and renovate an abandoned building to serve as a working station for the chips production.

Magsasakang Byaherang OFWS serves as their marketing arm. 

The team members are: Elizabeth L.  Lingan, Rhodora U. Camba, Alona F. Famatiga, and Lowie L. Cuenca and mentored by Randolph Flauta who works as Senior Engineer at NXP Semiconductors Hong Kong (Now Nexperia).

Mega Ampalaya Jam team garnered two awards: Most Comprehensive and 
Most Innovative Awards

Mega Ampalaya Jam is a social enterprise that aims to help Ilonggo Ampalaya growers and jam makers by using ampalaya as the main ingredient of the jam. Ampalaya jam is non-existent in the Ilonggo market but based on the market survey the team conducted, there is a demand for ampalaya jam. Ten farmers who are local residents of Pototan, Iloilo will supply raw ampalaya so they can increase their income.

The business addresses the unhealthy lifestyle of the people due to busy lives which caused lesser time in meal preparation. They tend to consume junk and unhealthy foods because they are easy to prepare and tasty. It also addresses the insufficient income of ampalaya growers which hinders their economic development.

Mega Ampalaya Jam is innovative because although ampalaya is full of nutrients and easy to grow, it has never been considered as a main ingredient by jam makers in Iloilo due to its known bitter taste. The proposed business plan hopes to change this stereotype on ampalaya. They will process it into healthy and delicious jam.

The team also garnered the Most Comprehensive Award because before writing their business plan, they conducted market survey in Iloilo involving 400 respondents. This extensive study of the market, comparative prices, existing competitions coupled with ampalaya jam tasting enabled them to prepare a well-thought and convincing business plan.

If implemented, the company provides opportunity to four overseas Filipino workers who are presently working in Hong Kong by producing a local product that has potentials to capture local and national markets.

The members of the team are: Marycris T. Catubay, Nannette M. Pasol, Cheryl L. Precia, and Aien A. Salay with Leila Rispens-Noel, social entrepreneur, founder and director of WIMLER Hong Kong as their mentor.

JARC Seafood Company team won Most Viable and Well-Presented Awards

JARC Seafood Company received the Most Viable and Well-Presented Award.
JARC Seafood Company Ltd. is a social enterprise that aims to transform the mindset and practices of small fisher folks in Atimonan, Quezon province who are presently engaged in illegal and destructive fishing into a sustainable sea farming of high value fish species like grouper. This fish species is highly valued because of its excellent body texture and flavor. The export market for the groupers is rapidly increasing especially in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. The team plans to provide proper training and financial assistance to start grouper fish farming.
The team easily convinced the Board of Panelists about the viability and benefits of sea farming. The business plan could stimulate grouper farming, increase production, scale up markets, and eventually improves fisher men's livelihood and financial situation. Moreover, it addresses poverty of fisher folks, illegal and destructive fishing.

The team members are: Janice G. Villanueva, Ancherell M. Manjares, Ronaliened R. Ros, and Carla Theresa P. Ramos and mentored by Jared King, social entrepreneur and co-founder of E3, a company which helps transform businesses by rethinking the way they view and treat their workforce.

About LSE

The Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (A-LSE) aims to develop the leadership skills and potentials among overseas Filipinos and their families, provide them with knowledge and skills in savings and investments and other financial matters, and develop and enhance their entrepreneurial skills. The LSE Program is a joint initiative of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) together with OFSPES, SEDPI,  Ugat Foundation, the Philippine Consulate HK, the Philippine Overseas Labor  Office (POLO HK) , and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA HK) .  LSE53 in Hong Kong is organized by WIMLER Foundation HK with support from Prime Credit, Philippine National Bank and SWIFT APAC.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Launch Invitation: O Susana: Untold Stories of Martial in Davao

You are most warmly invited to the book launch of

Date: February 19, 2016, from 3-5 pm

Venue:  F213 (2nd floor), Finster Bldg., Ateneo de Davao University.

A Letter of Invitation

Dear friends,

On January 13, a group of us met in a room near the Tambara office of the Ateneo de Davao University to discuss the details of the launching of our book     O SUSANA! THE UNTOLD STORIES OF MARTIAL LAW IN DAVAO.

There are more than 30 of us writers who were part of this network of human rights activists during the Marcos regime’s martial rule who congregated in a building known as Susana Building. The offices in this building included: the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference Secretariat (where I was Executive Secretary), the Mindanao-Sulu Secretariat of Social Action, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, the Foundation of the Banana Planters, Inc., the Mindanao-Sulu Conference for Justice and Development, the Citizens' Council for Justice and Peace and AFRIM.

The building was constantly under the surveillance of the agents of Marcos' authoritarian rule and in fact there were a few raids that took place in that location.  A few of us eventually got arrested, or spent time in prison. A portion of this building, i.e. the MISSSA-MSPCS offices, was burned or caught fire, a mystery to us until now. However, we continued to sustain our commitment long after martial rule ended.

In the years that followed, reunions among those in this network of friends continued to take place as we continued to interact given our sustained commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation.  Most remained actively engaged in various social and ecological advocacies based in Davao City.

Two years ago, during this reunion, the idea arose that we should come up with an ANTHOLOGY recalling those years so that the present and future generations have an idea how oppressive martial rule was, and to share our reflections on how those times have greatly influenced what we have become.  This has taken on a greater importance with the current attempt to deodorize the Marcos dictatorship, as you very well know.

In the last two years, the articles got written and compiled.  And eventually we were able to get Dr. Macario Tiu into this project not only for him to serve as main editor; he even graciously offered to ask AdDU to be the book's publisher.

We are hoping you are free on this date and time as we would like to invite you to attend our book launch.

Your presence would be a source of inspiration for all specially those who share our perspective on human rights and civil liberties.

We are hoping that Fr. Joel Tabora, President of AdDU and Archbishop Romulo Valles DD will also be present to do the Closing Prayer and Final Blessing.

We highly anticipate your presence to help us celebrate the birth of this much-awaited book.

Very sincerely,

Bro. Karl Gaspar, CSsR

The authors

A Man with a Big Heart
Remy Arquiza
A Middle Way
Gene Stoltzfus
A Night  In Jolo
Elvira Ang Sinco
A Taste of Faith, A Taste of Fear
Cesar Ledesma
Afternoons at Susana
Lillian Abella
Joey Ayala
Jackie Schramm
Carabaos and Spider Webs
Gene Stoltzfus
Davao On My Mind
Leila “Lalay” Rispens-Noel
Rebecca Jolito
Dialogue at the Grassroots, My Malabang Experience
Mary Lou Birondo-Caharian
Dreams and Desires in Creative Drama
Malou Tiangco
Jackie Schramm
Fr. Ben Montecastro
Jeanette Birondo-Goddard
His Metallic Specs
Teresa Naraval
His Name was Buyog
Jeanette Birondo-Goddard
If the Land could Speak
Antonio Ferrer
Ikatulo nga nadakpan
Leon Bolcan
Journeying with the BCCs
Florante Villas
Life at the MDC
Daz Lamparas
Love and Laughter
Marilen Abesamis
Martial Law
Orlando Carvajal
My Radical Journey
Emy LaviƱa
My Travelling Companion
Avelina Engen
Of What Use Our Work for Liberation
Jackie Schramm
Relief and Rehabilitation Work
Dodong Cadorna
Salamat Kaayo
Dorothy Friesen
Shepherding a Stalked, Stressed but Struggling Flock
Karl M. Gaspar, CSsR
So That Others May Know
Melot Balisalisa
Something Special
Remy Arquiza Guillena
Tatay Bido
Karl M. Gaspar, CSsR
The Beginnings of MISSSA
Fr. Tom Marti
The Drama of Our Lives
Jehovenn A. Honculada
The Living Waters of Dumoy
Agnes Miclat Cacayan
The Tenants of Susana Building
Flora Ninfa Leocadio
Theater’s Tragic Tale
Karl M. Gaspar, CSsR
Wala Nang Tao sa Santa Filomena
Joey  Ayala
When Local is Global
Marilen Abesamis
When MSPC Calls
Earl Martin
Yanong Katawhan, Sa Kadasig Ug Inspirasyon Tuburan
Nonoy Rodriguez
Year 33 of the Cassandra
Illuminada Lucia S. Ramoso

Monday, December 7, 2015

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: "Sharing Hearts", a WIMLER HK Fundraising event

NEW DATE: February 20, 2016

Entering the 5th year since its inception, WIMLER Foundation HK made an early plan to hold a Valentine's fundraising activity in Hong Kong. "Sharing Hearts" will be held on Saturday, 20 February 2016 at the Hong Kong Football Club. The event will start at 6:30 pm with welcome drinks followed by Buffet Dinner and dance.

Net proceeds of the event will support WIMLER's "Send a Child to School" program. Since 2011, WIMLER has already supported more than 600 pupils, high school and college students in North Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, and Iloilo. Allprovinces are located in the Philippines.

To find out more of our Send a Child to School program, please visit:

For ticket reservation, kindly contact:

Emilie Veringa - +852 5191 0902
Luz Tan - +852 96309311

An amount of HK 500/year is needed to help an elementary school pupil. High school students would cost about HK$ 1,200 per year while a college student will cost about 
HK$ 3,300 per semester.

If you wish to donate, kindly send your contribution to:

Account Number: 801-079963-838
Bank: HSBC Hong Kong
BIC code bank (SWIFT address): HSBCHKHHHKH
Bank Address: 1 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong (SAR)

Donations sent from Hong Kong is tax deductible.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Message to all LSE/FLSE

We take the opportunity that this Advent brings, to wish you well this coming Christmas and the holiday season 

The year 2015 started with the sessions in Milan and Rome going into the homestretch and new programs launched in Hong Kong, Dubai and Macau. New programs were also launched in Paris, Brussels and The Hague and in the last quarter of the year, programs were launched in Barcelona and Torino.   Concomitantly, there were a series of graduations this year from LSE 24 through LSE 31 – a total of eight training batches - between the end of August through mid- November – bringing the number of LSE graduates to over 1200 globally. Similar strides have been done locally with new FLSE batches in Iloilo and San Fernando (La Union) and ongoing training programs in Pototan and Passi City  and potentially a new program in Bacolod City.

 A growing network needs real adaptation to the tools available to be able to continue the learning’s and reinforce them to continue the spirit of innovation, a new perspective,  and a determination to do things correctly for oneself, the family, the community and also contribute to nation-building. More and more the rooted secretariats, core groups, established partners and alumni councils will all have a larger role to play in mainstreaming the LSE program for OFW empowerment.

Here are some three ideas to reflect on this Christmas season. The first one is the theme of gratitude. We all have much to be thankful for in our lives, our families and friends, our classmates and co-alumni, and the gift of creation. After all the hustle and bustle of our being busy, we owe it to ourselves to find some quiet time to take stock and look at our gains and see with our LSE lens,  what are  our aspirations and to make a better resolve  to achieve better results for the future.  Let us remember to forgive those who disappointed us as we ask for pardon for our shortcomings. Reflection and discernment should really be integrated into our daily lives through meditation and prayer. 

The second is on perseverance.  As migrants we all know that life has not been easy and that even on a daily basis we are faced with a variety of challenges. The ability to endure or persevere is most significant as this will help us face the challenges and temptations that come our way. We should not give up because the going is difficult. LSE has taught us to see the situation and re-frame it depending on the opportunities available for us. Endurance requires commitment and dedication and the ability to see beyond our immediate surroundings and remain focused on our long-term goals. To be able to persevere, we have to look for like-minded individuals and communities, such as the LSE alumni, that will keep us on our desired path. 

Last but not the least, is hope. Hope is the ability to see what lies beyond for our future. It is what drives us to hang on to our vision. It helps us inspire us when we feel alone or discouraged. Hope helps us to build our character and continues to be our source of our inner strength in prayer. The ability to move against hopelessness, that small glimmer or slim chance or opportunity – is all we need to move upward and confront our challenges. Hope demands that we recognize our small victories and celebrate them. Our lives are founded on the conviction that our lives - together with our family and in so doing our community and eventually our nation – will be much better off in the years to come.   

So Christmas is the time for renewal of friendships, of  kamustahan, of remembering, and of sharing our joys. Let us do so in a meaningful way, mindful that we are men and women for others and that our LSE training and perspective has given us a second chance or a renewed purpose in life to build our legacies.

In behalf of the LSE Migration and Development Consortium (ASoG, OFSPES, SEDPI and UGAT), we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and more prosperous New Year for 2016.   

Cristina Liamzon
LSE Migration & Development Consortium