Transforming lives 2

I WAS very happy to be invited to the “moving up and recognition day” of the Birthright Educators Foundation, Inc.  last April 26 and to witness the significant  strides that the school has made since its founding in 1993.

Birthright  was the very first special private elementary school in Muntinlupa City dedicated to the the needs of autistic children and other children with intellectual disabilities.

Its founders -  Teacher Miriam del Rosario and  her husband Pastor Jun -  came to  my office   at the  Muntinlupa city hall one day  and asked if I could help kick start the school which the couple wanted to incorporate as a non-profit foundation.

I did not need much convincing. I immediately wrote a check for P68,000 - part of the proceeds of my annual Mayor Toting Bunye Invitational golf tournament. Instinctively,  I said to myself:

This will  probably be one of the most meaningful social investments I will ever make.

My instinct proved correct. Years later, I received an unexpected email from Mrs. Rhodora “Dory”  Mandap. At that time,  Dory was a teacher at Itaas Elementary School. She is now the principal at the Cupang Elementary School in Muntinlupa.

She wrote about Lylette, her daughter, a special child, whom I helped enroll at Birthright.

“Dalagang dalaga na po si Lylette although she will forever be my baby. Continuous po pag-aaral nya sa Birthright. Nasa pre-vocational  class po sya. Accdg to teacher Miriam del Rosario, she’s no longer capable of continuing through  the high school curriculum kaya life skills na ang itinuturo sa kanya.

“She’s a good cook now. She can also bake. Her specialty and best seller: double chocolate oatmeal cookies. At kung dati ay hindi nagsasalita....pagkadaldal naman ngayon! Thank you so much for your help.”

Zherwin “Bong” Balota was one of the first four students of Birthright. More than 20 years ago, Bong was a problem boy, aged 9, with practically zero skills. Bong  used to  walk aimlessly around Parkhomes Village in Tunasan, Muntinlupa, (where Birthright is located), ringing door bells, sometimes throwing stones at passersby and sometimes pilfering  articles from sari sari stores when their owners were not watching.

No one ever imagined,  except  perhaps for Teacher Miriam and Pastor Jun,  that one day Bong would grow up into a responsible adult. Teacher Miriam and Pastor Jun  knew that deep within Bong was a potential which only needed to be unlocked.   Bong eventually graduated from the vocational program where he learned  to cook, do housework, and other practical skills. Bong is now a teacher aide and monitor at Birthright.

There is also the case of RJ Gongora, who overcame a severe speech defect. He is now a teacher at Birthright. Melissa Tabalingcos similarly overcame initial handicaps and is  now a fitness trainer for movie personalities and other professionals. Jan Christopher Hernandez who could hardly speak at 3 years old, eventually finished  Bachelor of Science in Accountancy with flying colors!

Beyond its classrooms in ParkHomes, Tunasan, Muntinlupa City,  Birthright  has outreach programs. Birthright  started its first outreach  with informal settlers along the railroad track in the RMT area of Barangay Tunasan. When the informal settlers were relocated by the government, Birthright ‘adopted’ the old dumpsite in Southside, San Pedro,  Laguna.

Birthright now has three centers in San Pedro, Laguna. The first is the HALMS Center  where young children at- risk are  being prepared for school. The second is the Family Center where mothers and teenagers congregate weekly  for values formation and life coaching.

The third - Mt. Olives Turf of Hope - is where  Birthright hopes to put up its future high school.

The good work done by Birthright has not gone unnoticed. Some of its projects are now undertaken  with the assistance  of generous groups like The Liliane Foundation of Netherlands, NORFIL, the Alabang Ladies international Group, a friend from Singapore,  and, of course,  the city government of Muntinlupa.  

Teacher Miriam dreams of a future high school and a physical rehab center. I have no...  

...and employees as well as elected public officials and other law enforcement agents.

On orders of the PNP chief, all concerned police forces, in coordination with the Armed Forces, are now tightly guarding Mindanao and other areas in Luzon and Visayas which have been declared as election ‘hotspots’ by the Comelec amid validated threats by various groups to disrupt the peaceful holding of the elections.

The poll body has declared the entire Mindanao Island Group as a Category Red Election Hotspot, for purposes of the 2019 National and Local Elections.  The Mindanao Island Group is joined by other Category Red hotspots Jones, Isabela; Lope de Vega, Northern Samar; and the entire province of Abra.