In a small community of fishermen and agar-agar farmers, on an islet called Layag-Lagay, in Barangay Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City, they know all too well the saying that in a village on stilts like theirs, “no man is an island” — everyone helps each other.
Most of the parents of two hundred or so school kids there have high hopes an education can make their children’s lives better. It is hard work to toil day after day in boats at sea. An education can give a child a firm footing and hopefully the skills they’ll need to make a better tomorrow.
And in the Philippines, it is common enough that children walk to school. But the children from Layag-Layag had to swim to go to school.
These children wade through water daily to go to Talon-Talon Elementary School in Zamboanga City, but when tides are high, they either swim, or miss school. (See map at www.wheninmanila.com).
When Jay Jaboneta, the New Media Manager of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, heard of the plight of these school children from Juljimar Gonzales, a volunteer during the 2010 presidential campaign, he was moved by such a display of perseverance and the love for education by these kids that he posted the story on his Facebook wall.
Little did he know that one status update would later give smiles to those schoolchildren.
A friend of Jay, Josiah Go, read the status update and right away started an online fundraising campaign among his friends. In less than a week, the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (as what the fundraising campaign came to be known) raised almost PHP70,000.
Other friends also helped. Anton Lim, in behalf of Tzu Chi Foundation, also gathered additional funds and found a boat-maker, Abraham Mawadi, through the recommendation of Kagawad Jesse Jamolod. The boat-maker happened to come for the same islet the kids lived.
And when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources IX donated the logs for the project, the boat-building began.
Almost five months after Jay’s Facebook post, a ray of hope came to change lives of those 200 children in the form of a yellow boat. Named “Bagong Pag-asa” (New Hope), the motorized boat is indeed a symbol of new hope for the kids, and more so, a symbol of people helping other people solve their problems — ‘bayanihan’ spirit in action.
Zamboanga, it seems, is always blessed by fair winds and a good safe anchorage and is home to many families seeking prosperity and better life from all over Mindanao. It is where those from east and west meet, did business here for hundreds of years, many who have called on the flower of ports of Mindanao, to see for themselves why it known as ‘Hermosa’, a beautiful place.
For the residents of Layag-Layag, off the city, their safe harbor for their families, now live a little more secure knowing their yellow boat is there.