Friday, December 26, 2008

Street Children

I still wonder how many street children there are in Baguio. I don't know what the local government can do to help them or do they really want to be helped? During holidays specially Christmas and Holy weeks, their numbers increases. Not only the street kids, they even have their parents with them. They come here to take advantage of the generosity of the people during these holidays.

But they're not the ones I want to talk about for after the holiday they will be gone. I am more concerned about the street children that do live in our neighborhood. Some of them are trying their best to survive by selling bags, cigarettes or candies on the streets.

However, many of them have relied on stealing to survive. Police have reports that many of them are committing crimes from pickpocketing, snatching to prostitution. These things has become normal daily chores to them. Can the society still do something to help them?

The photo you see here is just one of the photos I took of them. In here, they rely on the cheapest drug available, probably to escape from reality or perhaps they just don't have anything better to do.

Looking at them I feel lucky that despite of difficulties, I still have a place I can call home and a family to turn to when hardship is in the offing. I don't know if there is still hope for these street children. I am not one of the privileged so what I could give them is be just enough to feed one for just one meal once in a while. These kids had been surviving like this always depending on the little extras people can give them. But I believe that's not what they really need.

I believe what they need is a place they can call home, a decent job and someone to guide them. And who can possible provide that? I thought at first that it should be the government as part of the services they should be doing for the taxes we pay, now I don't really know if they even care.

I've seen many non-government agencies helping many of them but there seem to be no end of them. When will these problems be solved?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hans Adversity and the People He Touched

Born April 5, 1998
Died December 4, 2008

The first thing I remember of my nephew Hans Sebio, then only son of young couple Steve and Maggie, was when I was invited to attend a concert for a cause for his medical treatment. His father is a cousin and was a bassist in a band at that time. The young Sebio was diagnosed with a life threatening heart defect. Doctors diagnosed Han’s condition as “double outlet right ventricle – Taussig Bing variety with a large ventricular septal defect, right ventricular enlargement coaretation of the aorta, pulmonary artery hypertension; congestive heart failure, secondary to the above structural heart defect.”

With the rising bill for his medications, the young couple sought out good Samaritans through concerts for Hans and through the net. However, with all of their efforts they couldn’t even pay half the price of Han’s operation. They prayed for a miracle.

A miracle did happen when a New York based foundation wanted to sponsor Han’s medical treatment. Gloria Weichand, the founder and president of the Gloria’s Place of Hope asked the couple to bring the baby to New York. On September 16, 2000, Maggie and Hans flew to the big Apple and the baby was immediately brought to NYU Medical Center upon arrival at the airport.

Unable to afford a decent accommodation, Maggie and Hans stayed at the Ronald Macdonald House, a $20 dollar per night accommodation supposedly for cancer patients. When Weichand explained their predicament, the mother and child were accepted in the facility. New York became the home of Hans for the next four years.

After four years and three operations, Hans was strong enough to go back to his home. He started attending elementary school. For several years, he seems to be doing fine. He also had a younger brother Keefe to play with.

On September this year, he had cardiac arrest. The whole family decided to join Hans back to the U.S. This time the sponsor to Han’s operation was the Gift of Life International and the Verrazano Club of New York. On October 13, Maggie and Hans went to New York, while Steve and Keefe proceeded to San Francisco to stay in Vallejo with Modesto "Estoy" Aglit (a friend of Maggie and Steve).

The Foundation's representatives made sure the basic needs of Maggie and Hans were met and they were comfortable. After his checkups and lab tests, Hans' open heart surgery was scheduled on the 22nd of October. Everyone was expecting a recovery when Hans seems to be doing well. This would have been Hans' 4th open heart surgery. The whole family was supposed to stay in the U.S. until Hans has fully recovered. Their family friend Gloria Batalao was supposed to host Maggie and Hans while recovering. Gloria Batalao is also maintaining Han’s blog that she and Maggie created.

Few days before the scheduled surgery, the doctors requested a conference with both parents so Steve and Keefe left San Francisco for New York. They met with the Doctors who explained to them that Hans is too weak and his heart cannot hold another heart surgery and the only option left is a heart transplant. Han’s had to wait for a possible donor.

A few days passed and Hans suffered few more attacks. This time his fragile condition couldn’t take more punishment. No matter how he wants to hold on he succumbed to his disease last December 4 in the arms of his loving family.

In the next couple of days, many people came forward to assist. The medical staff at NYU, the compassionate Ronald McDonald House and the good people at the Verrazano Rotary Club who played a key role in his care. Members of the Verrazano Rotary (Coney Island, Brooklyn) and the Gift of Life office made the necessary arrangements to help the Sebio family bring Hans back to his home town. The staff at Ronald McDonald arranged for a memorial service and provided counseling. Even the cancer patients in the house who were fighting for their lives came to the service to bid goodbye to their friend in adversity. All good people who helped this family at such a critical time.

On the 17th of December, Hans was buried in his hometown by his loving family, relatives and friends. Reading all of the articles and bloggs written about Hans, the Gift of Life child whose few years of life taught us so many things.

Hans death is not the end of his chapter, many more chapters will be written because of him. All of the people he touched have more resolve to help the people in need. I was only able to help with that one ticket I bought for his concert and I wish I have done more. I hope I can do more next time another Hans comes knocking for help. I’m thankful that there are many people out there who have shared more than their extras. And for those who did services above self for Hans, whose ways of life are to help others, may God bless all of your efforts. Although results sometimes are not what you aspire, the hopes you bring make a big difference not only to the people you’re serving but also to the ones touched by your selfless acts.

And from Steve and Maggie here’s what they said, “To all our friends and relatives from all over who sent cash donations, messages of encouragement, and to all who prayed for Hans and our family, Thank you very much! May God continue to guide and bless you!”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Skyworld #1

Another shot of Baguio sunset while waiting for the supposed pizza party from Greenwich that did not happen. So we just shoot around.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Legacy Worth Remembering

Carl Cariño Taawan

Igorot, a name that has many faces. Their unique traits are different from those who have lost their culture and customs to the western world. People who are uninformed of their history branded them as ignorant and backwards and the name Igorot became a derogatory term for stupid people. Even some of those who are related to the name have changed it into something else. Many shunned using it to avoid the mockery.

One brave young man came out to join a talent search that will be scrutinized by millions and boldly put in his Igorot lineage. Although Marky Cielo is half Igorot and has spent years away from the Cordilleras, he courageously used the already humiliated term and faced the challenge the world will throw at him. True enough, using the name of his origin gave him the expected ridicule and the famous remark, “he should be eliminated because he’s an Igorot” came out. He stayed to the end of the competition not only to win but to educate these uninformed people of his unique origins.

His forefathers fought for freedom and independence against a European race that wants to enslave them. And while the rest of the country had been colonized, the Igorots fought losing many lives but they never lost their independence. They also defied the American colonizers when they hide the Filipino revolutionary leader in their midst. And when their existence was once again threatened by the waves of hardened armies of Samurai descents, they united and prevailed that even the great country of America was awed by their courage. They fought for their freedom and cultures and they were able to preserve it that up to the present these people still have their own unique culture and identity. Yet only a handful remained who admired them for the courage they’ve shown.

These are the people Marky represented. He may have fought in a different battlefield our forefathers faced but with the similar goal. In the end he taught not only the uninformed but also us, his kinsmen. He brought us back what many have taken for granted, the courage to fight for our unique culture and identity and the power to unite as one to defeat all the odds. We united to back him up and he won.

But what he won is not just a place in the world of showbiz. He won for all of us a place in the limelight of the real identity of the Igorots. He inspired us to keep fighting and keep teaching the world of what we really are. This is his legacy. His memory will remain not only to his fellow Igorots but to all of the people who saw and heard of this young man’s talents and courage both on and off the camera.