So You Think Christmas Is Over? Go To The Philippines

By early January 2019, the last of the After Christmas sales are over. People were packing up their Christmas decorations for next year. There were even signs in my apartment building on how to properly dispose live Christmas trees. So you thought Christmas is over? Head to the Philippines. It’s still going on. On January 12, 2019, I arrived at Manila International Airport and I was surprised to see a three-story high Christmas tree in the airport lobby still lit up in all its yuletide glory.

40-foot Christmas tree at Manila International Airport in January 2019

Christmas-obsessed Filipinos launch their yuletide season in the so-called Ber months – September, October, November. The Philippines’ Christmas season is as visually resplendent as it is long. Hotel lobbies and many public places glisten with decorations worthy of a czar’s winter palace. Christmas parades feature full-blown floats. The Philippines stands out in Asia for being more than 90 percent Christian – mostly Catholic (National Public Radio NPR, December 2018). Evelyn Castillo, Bayanihan Foundation’s Philippine Liaison said that many people even extend the yuletide season until February 14, Valentines’ Day!

Evelyn took me to lunch at her favorite lunch spot, Kitchenitos Restaurant in Tacloban City, Leyte. Lo and behold the fast food restaurant was bedecked with Christmas decorations. They were still playing Christmas carols.

Christmas decorations abound at Kitchenitos Restaurant, a local fast food joint in Tacloban City, Leyte in January

However, what I’m most surprised is how many Filipinos seems to have a healthy balance  between the secular and spiritual at Christmas time. The yuletide season seem to be more than just Christmas shopping as many retailers in the US seem to emphasize. Whatever the Christmas season meant to people, the extended yuletide season in the Philippines from September to February seems to put people in a good mood.

Evelyn Castillo and Dale Asis pose in front of three-story Christmas tree at Manila International Airport in January

Posted in culture, Philippine travel, Philippines | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Plans for Three Exciting Projects for 2019

In 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation had a banner year with the continued success of the NEXTGEN Fellowship and the donation of thousands of books to build libraries in Samar and Iligan. In 2019, the foundation plans to continue that momentum and build on three exciting projects to further the foundation’s mission of Filipinos abroad helping Filipinos at home.

Dale Asis in transit in Singapore on his way to follow-up on projects in the Philippines for 2019

1. Whale Sharks (Tiki tiki) and Environmental Conservation in Pintuyan, Leyte

In 2019, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to partner with KASAKA, a fisherfolk community organization in Pintuyan, Leyte. The fisherfolk community provides holistic ecotourism and proper interaction with whale sharks and other large marine vertebrates that passed by the islands between the months of November and May. The foundation also wants to contribute to the research and effects of climate change and at the same time support the fisherfolk community’s efforts in capacity building, raising awareness and social responsibility. The Bayanihan Foundation is also planning to bring NEXTGEN high school students to conduct an ecoscience adventure trip in April 2019.

Whale Sharks in Pintuyan, Leyte (photo courtesy of The Fickle Feet blog 2018)

The Bayanihan Foundation is exploring possibilities to work with the local fisherfolk cooperative, Kasaka, in Pintuyan, Leyte. At the same time, young Filipino Americans traveling with the new NEXTGEN High School Program will learn more about the fascinating whale sharks or ‘tiki tiki’ as the locals call it that passed Pintuyan Bay.

Whale Sharks in Pintuyan Bay, Leyte (photo courtesy of Joseph Pasalo, 2018)

NEXTGEN participants would learn about environmental conservation, know about the effects of climate change, and conduct brief ecoscience experiments with a  large marine vertebrate research institute in the area. The Bayanihan Foundation would also support capacity of the fisher folk community and help them with their advocacy efforts in protecting the whale sharks and other large marine mammals that pass through the Pintuyan Bay.

2. Supporting orphans in General Santos City, Mindanao

In 2019, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to support abandoned children and orphans in General Santos City, Mindanao. The city is located in the southern tip of Mindanao island with over 500,000 residents. International boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao hails from the city of GenSan, as many locals call their city. The Bayanihan Foundation plans to partner with the Marcellin Foundation with Brother Crispin Betita, FSM with the Marist Brothers Catholic congregation.

(left to right): Evelyn Castillo, Bayanihan Foundation Liaison; Brother Crispin Betita, FSM; and Dale Asis at Marcellin Foundation (January 2018)

The Bayanihan Foundation also plans to partner with the Zakat Foundation in potentially supporting Filipino Muslim and indigenous orphans and abandoned children in the area. These young boys are often abandoned by their parents due to extreme poverty; or they’re fleeing domestic violence or abusive home situations; or have been orphans and left to fend on their own in the streets of GenSan. Since 2010, the Bayanihan Foundation has partnered with the Zakat Foundation in providing meals and food to thousands of indigent Muslim families in cities of Iligan and Marawi.

3.  Building a state-of-the-art computer lab to help children with disabilities  and the disabled in Tacloban City, Leyte

People with disabilities in Pasay City, Metro Manila (stock photo Dept People with Disabilities 2015)

In November 2014, Tacloban City was hit hard by super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon on record to hit landfall at 210 miles per hour. Since then, the Bayanihan Foundation has helped the devastated area and continue to help rebuilding efforts when other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have moved on.  In 2019-2020, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to build a state of the art computer lab at the local Tacloban High School in Tacloban, Leyte. The lab will have state-of-the-art computers and possible Internet access to potentially help high school students who are blind; who are hard of hearing; and/ or have learning disabilities. This state-of-the-art computer lab will be the first of its kind in a public high school in the island of Leyte. This project culminates the Bayanihan Foundation’s continued investment and partnership with local communities for long-term sustainability.

Over 95% of your donations go directly to worthwhile projects like these. Consider donating to the Bayanihan Foundation and support projects that help abandoned children, the disabled, and environmental conservation of whale sharks and other large marine mammals unique to the Philippine islands.

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, Education, Environmental conservation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Less than 48 hours remain – Donate NOW!

(far left) Dale Asis and school children of Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos Samar

You have been the key for the Bayanihan Foundation’s successful year in 2018. We won’t be able to do it without you. However, time is running out. The year ends tomorrow, December 31, 2018 and you have less than 48 hours to donate to make your donation count for 2018. Donate now in any amount. More than 90% of your donations go directly to programs in helping education, environmental justice, advocacy, and long-term sustainability locally and globally in the Philippines. Donate securely by using PayPal

(left to right); Kyle Craven, Dale Asis, Karen Foley, and Willard Dix of Juvenile Protective Association donates over 2,400 books to the ‘Balikbayan Box’ Book Drive (August 2018)



In 2018, the Bayanihan Foundation has donated over 2,400 books to build several libraries and reading centers. The foundation also has continued its successful NEXTGEN Fellowship program.




The Bayanihan Foundation also facilitated the Jolynne Andal Biljetina Community Scholarship Award that provided Kristy Liu a scholarship to support her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

(left to right); Dale Asis, Bayanihan Foundation; Jocelyn Azada, scholarship Committee Co-Chair: and Kristy Liu, recipient of the 2017 Jolynne Andal Biljetina Community Scholarship Award (July 2018)

For 2019, the Bayanihan Foundation plans to continue the NEXTGEN scholarship, build a computer lab, and donate computer equipment to help the children of the disabled in Tacloban, Leyte. Don’t miss the chance to make your donation today and make a hopeful 2019. Donate securely through PayPal using the button above.

Or mail your check to Bayanihan Foundation, 2020 N. California Ave. Suite 7 Box 147 Chicago, IL 60647. Make sure you mail your check by December 31, 2018 to count for 2018.  DO IT NOW and thank you!

With gratitude,

Dale Asis and the board of the Bayanihan Foundation

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Take Your Giving To The Next Level: Establish a Donor Advised Fund

Excerpts of this blog entry come from the World Economic Forum article “How to Encourage Philanthropy in the Diasporas” (June 2015)

Diversity and Philanthropy Book Cover (courtesy of

Since 2010, the Bayanihan Foundation has been encouraging giving locally and globally to the Philippines. The foundation realizes that Diasporas are increasingly garnering attention as contributors to economic and social development in their countries of origin. Remittances from international migrants to developing countries alone are three times the amount of official development assistance. Diasporas have both the desire and capacity to invest in larger efforts to effect change (Why Diaspora Investing is a Burgeoning Trend). However, there are barriers to giving. The Bayanihan Foundation tries to bridge those barriers by bridging the gap of the lack of information in local and global giving; addressing the challenges in giving; and  providing the niche for a financial intermediary. Many donors would value transparency, tax deductions, and the ability to invest in sustainable efforts. Perhaps the solution is a well-established IRS philanthropic vehicle called a donor advised fund (DAF), which can be tailored to appeal to the diaspora donor.

Eight Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1.What is a donor advised fund? Donor advised funds are charitable giving vehicles administered by public charities into which donors can make tax-deductible donations. A portion of the assets leave the DAF in the form of grants to qualified nonprofits that the Bayanihan Foundation partners with locally or globally in the Philippines. Then the Bayanihan Foundation makes grant recommendations and direct the donors’ giving to their particular interest. The rest of the assets are reinvested in securities until they are recommended for grants. DAFs in the U.S. hold nearly $54 billion in assets.

Planned homes in Dingle, Iloilo sponsored by the PFK Family Foundation (January 2015)

2.Does the Bayanihan Foundation have experienced carrying out a donor advised fund? Yes, the Bayanihan Foundation has carried well the wishes and interests of donors. In 2015, the Bayanihan Foundation helped carry out the construction of planned homes in Dingle, Iloilo sponsored by the PFK Family Foundation.

Covered emergency lobby of Calamba Municipal Hospital, courtesy of the donations of ‘The Adorables’ and the many donors of the Bayanihan Foundation (August 2017)


In 2016, the Bayanihan Foundation carried the wishes of the donations of “The Adorables” and other donors led by Carminda Aldeza in funding for the emergency lobby and waiting area at the Calamba Municipal Hospital.



3.What is the advantage of the Bayanihan Foundation donor advised fund in comparison to the big charitable trusts?

The largest donor advised funds (DAFs) are managed by the charitable trusts of Schwab, Vanguard, and Fidelity, with the majority of their grants going to domestic nonprofits and their assets being invested in U.S. securities. Often times, the donation just becomes an impersonal, financial transaction. On the other hand, you can direct your donation to a Bayanihan Foundation donor advised fund and reflect your personal interests. Your donor advised fund will give you the right, altruistic feeling and a longer, lasting legacy to your gift.

For some taxpayers, it may make sense to accelerate several years of charitable contributions into this year (Wall Street Journal, Dec 2017)

4.Why give to a donor advised fund?  Forming a donor advised fund will give you the tax effectiveness especially after the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Trump tax cuts). A donor advised fund maximizes your deduction and be good for business as well (Minimize Taxes Using Donor Advised Funds, Forbes Magazine, August 2018). Please consult your tax advisor for details. A DAF will also provide you the flexibility and convenience. It also makes good financial sense. Your donation will go through a registered public charity like the Bayanihan Foundation that will ensure transparency and proper governance of your donation.

Members of the United Philippine Amerasians (UPA) celebrate 4th of July (2014)

5. Where will you direct my giving? You will see up close that your donation is making a difference. For instance, a portion of assets could be allocated to a humanitarian assistance fund so that in the event of a future typhoon or earthquake. Your donor advised fund (DAF) could also be used to address environmental concerns and climate change. You could direct your giving to a particular island or town in the Philippines and address infrastructure development including wells, latrines or housing. Your donation could also be directed for educational and/ or policy outreach causes including the toxic clean up of the former US bases in the Philippines or relief to the thousands of Filipino Amerasians left behind in Clark and Subic bases. The Bayanihan Foundation has the local knowledge and networks to make your directed giving make an impact.

6.How will I know that my donor advised fund is making a difference? Unlike in a big charitable trust or a large brokerage firm, you will not just be a number. You will have hands-on and direct interaction to your giving. You will be informed in all aspects of the strategic grant making process. The foundation will make grants to local NGOs and invest DAF assets in the Philippines or locally in the US. The Bayanihan Foundation provides you personal, invaluable access to your giving.

7.How much do I need to give to establish a donor advised fund? You can give as little as $5,000 to establish your own donor advised fund. The Bayanihan Foundation also charges the least amount to cover its administrative costs. The foundation will maximize your donation to go towards the program and invest more in local economic and social development.

Dale Asis (right) showing off a different variety of bananas he has not tried (March 2016)

8.Who do I need to contact to establish a donor advised fund? Please contact the Bayanihan Foundation President Mr. Dale Asis, or call at (773) 273-9793 if you have any questions or would like to establish your own donor advised fund (DAF).

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, philanthropy, Philippines | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Balangiga Bells On Their Way Home

Major excerpts of this blog entry came from the ABS-CBN New Report, November 12, 2018

The Church Bells of Balangiga now in Ft. Russell, WY

After more than a century, the church bells taken by the US Army from Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1901 will be returned to the Philippines.

“This will mark the beginning of the journey of the 2 Wyoming bells back to the church from which they were taken. The Wyoming bells will now be able to begin their journey home,” the prominent Eastern Visayas historian Dr. Rolando Borrinaga of the Committee on Historical Research of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said.

The third Balangiga bell at an US Army museum in South Korea, Borrinaga said, had also been crated and is ready for repatriation.

“The latest successful campaign for the return of the Bells of Balangiga was largely a veterans-to-veterans effort. The Bayanihan Foundation also advocated with many Filipino American organizations also advocated for the bells’ return. So many in the U.S. veterans community have let their voices be known and lent their support – including National Resolutions of support from both the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion,” he said.

The bells will be refurbished first before they are repatriated. Details of their arrival in the Philippines have yet to be announced.

Depiction of Balangiga Massacre, painting at Tanuan, Batangas (August 2017)

Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Malacanang Palace welcomes the repatriation of the Balangiga bells.

“The President himself, in his second State of the Nation Address, expressed his desire for the return of these bells explaining that they form part of our country’s patrimony and they were taken at the cost of bloodshed of thousands of Filipinos,” he said in a statement.

The Palace, however, declined to comment further until the bells are delivered.

He said, “In the words of the President himself: “It ain’t here until it’s here.”

Balangiga Church, Balangiga, Samar (June 2018 photo)

In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte, during his State of the Nation Address, called for the return of the church bells taken during the Philippine-American war.  “Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Philippine President Duterte said.

In August 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed documents favoring the return of the war booties to the Philippines. US President Donald Trump earlier signed the US National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, which gives Mattis the authority to decide on the return of the Balangiga bells.

Posted in colonialism, history, Philippines | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

2018 NEXTGEN Camillo Geaga Inspired In More Ways Than One

Camillo Geaga proudly holds up his Associates Degree diploma from Los Angeles City Colleges (November 2018)

In 2018, Camillo Geaga joined the NEXTGEN Travel Fellowship program and he visited the Philippines for the second time. During his recent trip, Camillo was inspired to complete his Associate Degree at the Los Angeles City College. He was inspired more ways than one. In 2019, Camillo plans to continue his education at the California State University Northridge and achieve his bachelors degree in Public Health.

Teachers looked on as Evelyn Castillo (standing middle) and Camillo Geaga (standing far right) look over the donated books for two elementary schools in Giporlos, Samar (September 2018)

During his trip to the Philippines in 2018, Camillo joined the Bayanihan Foundation in donating thousands of books to elementary schools in Giporlos, Samar.

(left to right) Venise Castillo and Camillo Geaga visits Pintuyan, Panaon Island, Leyte hoping to see whale sharks (September 2018)





Camillo also visited Pintuyan, Leyte hoping to see whale sharks but unfortunately it was not the migratory season for whales at that time.

Camillo Geaga visits Kabacsanan Falls in Iligan City (September 2018)




Camillo Geaga also visited Iligan City and visited my aunt and uncle, Dr. Vicente and Mrs. Luz Saavedra. He got a chance to see the city of waterfalls and swam at the Kabacsanan Falls, one of the many majestic waterfalls in Iligan.

Camillo Geaga is not the only one inspired by his trip to the Philippines. Vicky Geaga, Camillo’s mother was also motivated to encourage her friends and family to donate to Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide. “I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal,” Vicky Geaga said on a recent Facebook post.

Giving Tuesday is on November 27, 2018. Consider supporting Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide. 95% of your donations go directly to programs like NEXTGEN and other philanthropic projects locally and globally including environmental issues, quality of life, health care, literacy all in a spirit of giving back to the community.

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, Philippines | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Balikbayan Boxes: Symbols of Homesickness, Colonial History, and Family

(Major excerpts of this blog entry came from the Los Angeles Times article, “These boxes are a billion-dollar industry of homesickness for Filipinos overseas” by Frank Shyong, April 2018)

Will Dix packing thousands of books into balikbayan boxes (September 2018)

On September 2018, Will Dix and I packed thousands of used books bound for in Giporlos, Samar, and Iligan City, Lanao del Norte. Today balikbayan boxes, named after the Tagalog word for a returning Filipino, have become one of the most enduring symbols of the Filipino diaspora. The boxes help feed relatives who are struggling, console daughters separated from their mothers, and give far-flung overseas workers a tangible tether to their families.

My mother and my cousins always send these balikbayan boxes back home. As Will and I were sending these balikbayan boxes full of books to set up libraries in the islands, how many of these balikbayan boxes do Filipinos send back to the Philippines every year?  What are inside most of these boxes? And why do they keep sending these boxes full of stuff back to the Philippines?

How many balikbayan boxes are sent to the Philippines year?

With over 10 million Filipinos working abroad in the US and around the world, at least 400,000 balikbayan boxes are sent every month, according to the Door to Door Consolidated Assn. of the Philippines. That’s approximately 4.8 million balikbayan boxes every year becoming a billion dollar industry. The number of boxes being sent drastically increases during the holiday season.

These boxes are a billion-dollar industry of homesickness for Filipinos overseasAmy Guzman, who will be visiting her family in the Philippines, packs two balikbayan boxes full of things such as toothpaste, Spam, hand-me down clothes and rice at her home in Long Beach. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times, April 2018)

What’s inside a typical balikbayan box?

The balikbayan boxes are usually packed with gifts such as Kirkland chocolates, hand-me-down clothes and Spam for relatives overseas.  Amy Guzman, who will be visiting her family in the Philippines, displays the contents of the two balikbayan boxes she will take to her family (Los Angeles Times, April 2018). Here’s what’s inside:

Chocolate: Chocolates, and many other kinds of sweets, are one of the most common balikbayan box items. Common brands like Snickers and M&M’s are highly desirable, and more expensive candy brands like Ferrero Rocher are comparatively affordable in the U.S., and they can be purchased cheaply, in bulk, at American stores like Costco.

Colgate, Crest and Secret deodorant: American brands like Colgate and Crest seem like mundane inclusions, but they are especially desirable in the Philippines, where a history of U.S. colonization has shaped consumer tastes.

Clothes: Many balikbayan boxes contain new or used clothing for relatives in the Philippines, often contributed by relatives in the U.S. And U.S. shoe brands like Nike and Adidas win fashion points with young people, because certain models released in the U.S. aren’t available in the Philippines.

Purses, perfumes and makeup: Boxes also contain more traditional gifts from overseas Filipinos who want to share their relative wealth with their less fortunate family members back home. The peak of the balikbayan box season is always Christmas.

Backpack, towels and sheets: A balikbayan box is typically preceded by weeks of communication between overseas Filipinos and their relatives in the Philippines to try to learn about the needs and wants of each of their family members. Guzman has included a backpack, towels and a comforter according to her family’s needs.

The boxes: Large door-to-door balikbayan box companies like Atlas, Forex, LBC, and Starkargo have professionalized the practice of sending balikbayan boxes via shipping container or airmail. Shipping a box costs anywhere from $40 to $80, and it’s often cheaper to send boxes to the Philippines through these services than it is to send it across the street using U.S. carriers.


The contents of Amy Guzman’s two balikbayan boxes at her home in Long Beach, CA.

Allen J. Schaben / April 2018, Los Angeles Times

Why send these balikbayan boxes in the first place?

“This is the Filipino way. You can’t go home without a box,” Marie Maruquin of Los Angeles replied.

“There are many who spend their entire lives as caregivers, and the boxes are sometimes their only remnant of a home in the Filipino community,” said Anthony Ocampo, a professor of sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and the author of “The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race.”

The 1970s brought high unemployment to the Philippines and a state-sponsored effort to export labor around the world. Thousands of Filipinos like De La Cruz accepted vast distances from their families as a requirement for survival.

For many overseas Filipinos, balikbayan boxes became the best way to bridge that distance. De La Cruz, who worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, scrimped and saved to put dresses, chocolates and toys in her children’s care packages.

The practice was formalized by an official government initiative to encourage returning Filipinos, or balikbayans, to spend their foreign wages at home in the Philippines. Tourism officials offered reduced airfares on the then-government-owned Philippines Airlines, hotel discounts, tax breaks and, most important, generous baggage allowances.

Returning foreign workers, who earned far more than their relatives could back home, needed to bring so many gifts that they soon quit using luggage in favor of large cardboard boxes, which could be packed to the very limit of an airline’s weight allowance.

The balikbayan promotion was supposed to last only six months, but the profitable initiative was extended repeatedly until it became permanent. In 1987, the government officially waived taxes and duties on goods in balikbayan boxes. Around that time, in Los Angeles and other Filipino enclaves in the U.S., entrepreneurs like Rico Nunga, 60, began to offer door-to-door delivery of balikbayan boxes to the Philippines for between $40 to $80 — cheaper than it would cost to send a box across the street. Nunga, who founded one of the first door-to-door companies in 1985, said the box sizes were set large to maximize the space inside standard shipping containers.

Balikbayan boxes shaped by history, colonialism and Filipino ideas about family

The contents of a balikbayan box are shaped by history, colonialism and Filipino ideas about family. But much of it can actually be found at Costco.

American-made or American-sold products are highly coveted. Vending machine standbys such as M&M’s, Snickers, Twix and Reese’s convey status upon relatives in the Philippines because they’re American products, which are seen as higher-quality, special-occasion foods. Colgate toothpaste, Spam and corned beef are big.

Decades of U.S colonization and influence made many Filipinos avid consumers of American culture and products, Professor Ocampo said. Generations grow up under a public education system established by an American government that uses English as the official language of instruction. And American products bound for Asian markets flowed through the Philippines and found customers in Filipinos, Ocampo said.

But boxes are more than just vessels for pasalubong, the Tagalog term for souvenirs for relatives. “The boxes show our feelings,” Jennifer Virgines of Thousand Oaks, CA said.

Posted in culture, Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment