Kawang Gawa (Helping Others)


In August 2017, I traveled with the participants of the 2017 NEXTGEN program, Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga. During our visit, we demonstrated ‘kawang gawa’, the age old cultural trait of helping others. We planted mangrove seedlings in Mactan island with the local community supported by the Bayanihan Foundation’s partner, Visayas Mindanao People’s Resource Development Center (VMPRDC).  We learned about the challenges of the informal settlers and fisher folk community that are being engulfed by the rapid tourist and economic development around Cebu. We also heard the struggles of the struggling street vendors of Cebu’s Carbon Market. I think we demonstrated that the tradition of kawang gawa of helping others is alive and well.

Posted in Diaspora Giving, environmental sustainability, Philippine poverty | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Young Filipino Americans Travel to Philippines to Discover Heritage, Give Back

(left to right): E Armea of Kaluluwa Kolectivo and Marc Butiong, NEXTGEN Fellow distributes food packages to indigent Filipino Muslims in Iligan City, Philippines July 2015

In June 2015, I traveled with young Filipino Americans to the Philippines as part of the Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Program. The NEXTGEN Fellowship Program is designed for young Filipino Americans to learn more about their Filipino heritage and connect them to the foundation’s sustainable projects in the Philippines.  In August 10, 2017, I will be traveling for 10 days with two young Filipino Americans, Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga as part of the Bayanihan Foundation’s 2017 NEXTGEN Program. Marc, Camillo, and I plan to visit historic sites in the Philippines; learn more about their Filipino heritage; connect them to the foundation’s sustainable projects; and potentially give back to the community, locally and globally.

Marc Butiong

Marc Butiong from Chicago, IL

“I’m Marc Butiong. In May 2015, I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a degree in Business Management and minor in Finance. I work as a Sales Analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. I hope to pursue a career in healthcare administration after completing graduate school. I split my time between Chicago and Detroit where I support multiple nonprofit initiatives including the Bayanihan Foundation.

As a recipient of the first NEXTGEN scholarship back in 2015, the program provided me the opportunity to visit the Philippines for the first time and understand my Filipino identity. For this year’s trip, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the country and exploring more of its rich history to share with the Filipino community back home.”

Camillo Geaga

Camillo Geaga from Berkeley, CA

“I’m Camillo Geaga from Berkeley, California. I am completing an Associate degree (AA) in Liberal Arts and Humanities at Los Angeles City College. I will be joining this year’s NEXTGEN program and this will be my first time to visit the Philippines. I’m excited about my experience to travel to the Philippines in the hopes of cultural enrichment, education, and further participation with the Bayanihan Foundation.”

During our 10-day trip, we plan to:

  • Visit historic sites related to precolonial Philippines; colonial sites under Spain and the US; Philippine revolution for independence; and to World War II;
  • Connect with community groups like the Visayas Mindanao Resource Development Center (VMPRDC) and their local efforts for community sustainability. The Bayanihan Foundation has been connected with VMPRDC for the last six years;
  • Plant mangrove seedlings in Liloan, Cebu, as part of the thousands of mangrove seedlings already planted to combat climate change;
  • Complete the two new hospital lobby areas for the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital in Calamba, Laguna, the only charity hospital in the Laguna area. These hospital lobbies were donated by many donors from Chicago, IL; and
  • Relax and enjoy the Philippine islands, including visiting an active volcano, Taal.

Taal volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world (photo courtesy of Philippine Primer.com)

Interested in joining the 2018 Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Program? Applications for travel scholarship will be available late fall 2017. So stay tuned! In the meantime, take a look at the history links and Voice Thread presentations to learn more about Philippine precolonial history, its colonial past, and its diverse culture and heritage.

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, Philippine travel, Youth leadership development | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Philippine President Duterte Optimistic Development Plans

Dale Asis (seated far right) joins 60th wedding anniversary of Luz (seated middle) and Vic Saavedra (seated second from right) in Iligan City, Philippines (June 2017)

In May 2017, I joined my aunt Luz and uncle Vic Saavedra’s 60th wedding anniversary in Iligan City, Philippines. During this festive family celebration, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Iligan City and the island of Mindanao to crush militant rebels in nearby city of Marawi (BBC News, July 2017). Legislators in the Philippines have voted overwhelmingly to extend martial law to deal with an Islamist insurgency in the restive island of Mindanao. The island is home to a number of Muslim rebel groups seeking more autonomy. Martial law allows the use of the military to enforce law and the detention of people without charge for long periods. This a sensitive issue in the Philippines, where martial law was imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos for much of his rule. Leaving Iligan, we went through many checkpoints and delays as we head towards the local airport.

A Philippine policeman mans a checkpoint along a highway in Iligan City, Mindanao (May 2017, Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Like many Filipinos at home, those overseas largely voted for Duterte. So as soon as I got back to the US, I wanted to find out some answers on key questions in my mind:

  • Why does President Duterte continue his surging popularity in the Philippines, despite the setback of the insurgency in Mindanao?
  • What kind of migration policies does he support? Is he like the other Philippine presidents that actively promote out-migration to continue the flow of remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW)?
  • Will his tough on crime stance hinder Bayanihan (community giving)?

Philippine President Duterte greets displaced residents of Marawi City affected by local insurgency (June 2017, photo courtesy of Xinhua Chinese news agency)

Behind the headlines of the brash President Duterte, I was surprised that his polices were thoughtful and departs from his predecessors. Beyond the media hype of get tough, macho stance, his policies seem more optimistic, in fact, looking ahead. His presidency’s development plan is unprecedented that it situate a development agenda within the longer-term AmBisyon Natin 2040 (Our Vision 2040; literally, ambition), which reflects the aspirations of Filipinos for themselves and their country (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

Duterte’s long-term view for the Philippine development plan (PDP) is novel. These development plans are typically anchored on the six-year cycle of each administration and nothing more. The new PDP explains, “As one of Asia’s better-performing economies today, the Philippines is in a more favorable position than it has ever been in the last four decades. No longer weighed down by an unmanageable fiscal deficit and more secure in its political legitimacy, the government can now afford to think about national goals based on a longer time horizon.” The Duterte administration’s target is to achieve annual GDP growth of 7-8 percent in the medium term, and the PDP aims to cut the poverty rate from 21.6 percent to 14 percent overall, and from 30 percent to 20 percent in rural areas. It also seeks to reduce the unemployment rate of 5.5 percent by 3-5 percentage points by 2022 (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

The new development plan also gives special attention to overseas Filipinos by incorporating international migration issues, often referring to migrants directly, throughout. It gives attention to the special circumstances of migrants and their families, and aims to protect their rights and improve their well-being, strengthen their engagement in governance, ease their participation in the country’s development, and ensure their smooth reintegration upon return.

Last March 2017, Duterte visited Thailand and he spoke to almost 2,000 overseas Filipino workers.  The Philippine President said, “My dream for the Philippines will not be reached overnight, but we can start it. In 10 years, you don’t have to travel abroad to find a job.” (Manila Bulletin, March 2017).  This is a departure from other Philippine presidents that actively pushed Filipino workers to find employment abroad and keep sending vital remittances back to keep the country fiscally afloat. Limited employment opportunities affected many higher skilled Filipinos, forcing Filipinos to migrate by necessity and not by choice.  And their emigration results in brain drain, which deprives the country of human capital important for development. (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

On the other hand, Duterte’s long-term plans calls for strengthening the long-running Balik Scientist (Return Scientist) Program and similar schemes. He is open to the idea of tapping foreign experts, including overseas Filipinos, for institutional capacity building and development expertise. This is an important policy pivot. The Bayanihan Foundation believes in connecting the expertise of Filipinos abroad, promoting return migration and reversing the brain drain. However, it remains to be seen, if Duterte will keep up the momentum to maximize the development potentials of migration, while continuing to look out for the well-being of migrants working abroad (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

Posted in government, Overseas workers, Philippines, Remittances | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pasalubong, Bayanihan (Community Giving) In the Age of Trump

The continued rhetoric of the Trump administration of closing the borders, building a wall and blaming Mexican immigrants (and all immigrants for that matter) as criminals was getting to me. I thought I better pack up, put my notions of bayanihan (community giving) in hibernation and maybe emerge from my cave in 2020 when this is all over. However recently, I’m having second thoughts. I’m beginning to believe that despite all the negative news, glimpses of community giving are emerging. The Filipino ritual of giving and helping each other could not be squelch and perhaps provide hope and renewal in the age of Trump.

Last June 2017, I went back home to the Philippines to attend my aunt and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary. When I get back to Chicago, I was eager to bring back dried mangoes to my friends and colleagues. Some of my co-workers were even anticipating these gifts from the Philippines, a remembrance of home.

Dried mangoes from the Philippines, a favorite ‘pasalubong’ – a souvenir, a gift given to someone

The precise beginnings of the pasalubong ritual are difficult to identify. Dr Nestor Castro, anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, believes pasalubong is a pre-Hispanic practice, given that the term is indigenous to the Filipino language and that early Philippine communities engaged in long-distance trade (BBC Travel, July 2017).

Fellow anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, Dr Michael Tan, agrees, writing, “…I suspect it referred to a time when travel was difficult, making the return more emotion-laden. The more distant and the more difficult the place one went to, as in the case of many of our overseas Filipinos, the more important it was to bring back something.”

This implicit recognition of reciprocity – that the person who receives pasalubong is expected to give pasalubong in return – is an essential part of the ritual. Expressions of appreciation and reassurances of joy for the person returning home are also expected (BBC Travel, July 2017).

Store of pasalubong(souvenir) in Batangas, Philippines (photo courtesy of BBC Travel, July 2017)

This pasalubong ritual I think is a major extension of community giving within the Filipino culture. At the end of our summer picnic last 4th of July, my mother insisted that every guest of her backyard barbecue take home a Tupperware of pancit (Filipino noodles) or baon. These extensions of community giving – pasalubong and baon continue to flourish despite the negative news and pulling back of the welcome mat of the Trump administration (CNN News, July 11, 2017).

My partner, Will Dix and I bought sundresses back as gifts to our mothers, they were both ecstatic to receive their pasalubong. Our small gifts was more than a ritual. It was an extension of bringing something home to them.  “We should not underestimate the resiliency of culture,” Dr Castro added. “The longing for pasalubong connects Filipinos to their notion of home and heritage.” I think these extensions of giving through pasalubong,  baon and bayanihan continue the spirit of community giving that no autocrat could squelch.

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, philanthropy, Philippines | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

NEXTGEN: ‘Pagbabalik’ (Coming Home) Applications Open until April 15, 2017!

NEXTGEN Maria Cristina Falls

Kaluluwa Kolectivo and NEXTGEN Fellows enjoy Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City, Philippines

Applications already open; deadline extended to Saturday, April 15, 2017.

Apply online at: NEXTGEN Travel Scholarship Application for Summer 2017

This Summer 2017, the Bayanihan Foundation will sponsor partial and full travel accommodations for up to seven young adults (18 years old and up) to visit the Philippines for 14 days. Travel scholarship opportunities [valued up to $4,500 each] will be awarded based on merit and financial need; scholarship funds go towards international airfare to Manila from Chicago, domestic transportation in the Philippines, meals, lodging, and sightseeing. Anticipated costs that participants are expected to cover on their own: passport and/or visa costs, incidentals, souvenirs, travel vaccinations (please consult your doctor), and travel insurance. Participants are encouraged to fundraise $300 to $1,000 or as much as they can for their own service projects.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Diaspora philanthropy (sharing resources with your homeland)
  • Service projects (contribute in sustaining community with action)
  • Visit family & friends; immerse in Filipino culture ([re]connect with your roots)
By Saturday,  April 15 Complete online application to participate
Sunday, April 30 (IL) and/or

Sunday, May 21 (CA)

Attend Bayanihan Foundation events centered around NEXTGEN selected scholars (announcement ceremony!)
Between April 30 – June 20 Work on “Filipinx X-plore Our History” orientation workshops online (stay tuned for more information)
June 20 to July 4 Program in Philippines (NEXTGEN 2017 Planned Travel Schedule) including travel to three different islands
Up to a couple weeks before June 20/ after July 4 Plan your own travel to visit family and friends in the Philippines before or after the scheduled itinerary
Post-NEXTGEN program Consider joining Bayanihan’s Community Power Giving Circle and/or getting involved in other service projects

Interested in participating? Please complete the following to apply for NEXTGEN 2017:

  1. Review the documents below to get an understanding of what you can expect
    1. NEXTGEN Requirements & Expectations
    2. NEXTGEN Certification Form
    3. NEXTGEN Brochure
  2. Complete the NEXTGEN Travel Scholarship Application for Summer 2017 online by APRIL 15, 2017. Applications will only be accepted online.
  3. Send one recommendation letter to Bayanihan’s Executive Director, Dale Asis via email at dale@fdnbayanihan.org or mail to 2020 N. California Ave., Suite 7 Box 147, Chicago IL 60647. Use NEXTGEN Notarized Release Form.
  4. Selected participants are expected to attend an announcement event and complete the orientation workshops to be provided online. Please mark the following dates on your calendar and plan to attend an announcement event either:
    1. Sunday, April 30, 2017 in Chicago, IL
    2. Sunday, May 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, CA

We hope you join us!

For any inquiries, you may contact Coordinator [and NEXTGEN alum] Jeselle Santiago via email at jsantiago3@luc.edu.

Posted in Chicago, Education, Environmental conservation, environmental sustainability, Labor, love, philanthropy, Philippine travel, Volunteerism, Youth leadership development | Leave a comment

2015 NEXTGEN Fellow Jeselle Santiago Becomes Advanced Level Masters of Social Work Intern with Bayanihan Foundation

The following blog entry is written by Jeselle Santiago, 2015 NEXTGEN Fellow that traveled with the Bayanihan Foundation. In 2017, Jeselle will be learning about non-profit management and administration with the Bayanihan Foundation as part of her Internship as she completes her Master degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. Jeselle will also be helping prepare the next cohort of 2017 NEXTGEN Fellows to the Philippines in June 20 – July 4, 2017.

Jeselle Santiago, 2015 NEXTGEN Scholar, will be working with the Bayanihan Foundation as part of her Internship completing her Masters Degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago

Jeselle Santiago, 2015 NEXTGEN Scholar, will be working with the Bayanihan Foundation as part of her Internship completing her Masters Degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago

There are no words that I feel could adequately capture what the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide has come to mean to me. Truly, my experience as one of their first NEXTGEN scholars has been transformative to say the least, and a catalyst for clarity that moved me to my current life’s path in the field of social work. Our trip to the Philippines two summers ago (2015) awoke my dormant Filipinx soul and reignited my passion to spend my life in servant-leadership roles. Since returning to the U.S. from that trip, Bayanihan’s Executive Director Mr. Dale Asis has graciously taken me under his wing and given me the honor of being involved in various service projects such as sending balikbayan boxes of books to local Philippine schools in Iligan; spearheading fundraisers such as the kamayan (traditional Filipino feast) hosted at my family home; contributing to the development of a Filipino/Filipino-American history workshop series “Filipinx X-Plore our History”; and even co-creating a Filipino focused giving circle “Community Power Giving Circle.”

2015 NEXTGEN Fellow Jeselle Santiago collected used books for elementary school in Iligan (October 2015)

2015 NEXTGEN Fellow Jeselle Santiago collected used books for elementary school in Iligan (October 2015)

At the time I joined as a NEXTGEN Scholar that summer 2015, I had just graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with my Bachelors in Psychology and Minor in Asian American Studies…but after that milestone, I lacked clear direction about what to do next with my life. Now, only about a year and a half later, the possibilities of what I can do seem limitless.

I am proud to say that I am now a second year Masters of Social Work (MSW) student at Loyola University Chicago–specializing in Mental Health, sub-specializing in Migration Studies, and pursuing my certificate in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy. Time has flown by, and I can’t believe I’m due to graduate this coming December 2017! In the meantime, I have the privilege of continuing my involvement with Bayanihan and have leveled up from volunteer to formal intern!

(left to right): Dale Asis, Serena Moy of Asian Giving Circle; and Jeselle Santiago Fall 2016

(left to right): Dale Asis, Serena Moy of Asian Giving Circle; and Jeselle Santiago Fall 2016

As an intern, I will focus on developing our Community Power Giving Circle; contributing to the growth of the next NEXTGEN cohort; and working on policy advocacy for mental health issues affecting Filipino-Americans and Asian Americans overall. Up until this point, I had humbly been volunteering with Dale as I could, but felt constrained in capacity with competing responsibilities as a full-time graduate student with two jobs. Now that we have formalized my role with Bayanihan by connecting it to my MSW program and legitimizing it as my advanced level fieldwork experience, I am excited to have structured time for me to focus on our efforts towards Bayanihan’s mission of “Filipinos abroad helping Filipinos at home.”

I would like to close this post by taking a moment to step back and acknowledge that I could not have done this all on my own. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but I mean it when I say that my current path was made possible by the generous support and love I have warmly received from so many folks I’ve met along the way, folks including those of you reading this right now. Thank you, sincerely! Maraming Salamat, po!

Posted in Chicago, Education, Immigration, justice, love, philanthropy, Volunteerism, Youth leadership development | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Philippines Is Number One Most Affected Country by Climate Change

(Excerpts from this blog entry came from the Climate Reality Project and the Migration Policy Institute)

Will Dix and Dale Asis enjoying unseasonably warm weather during Chicago's winter season February 2017

Will Dix and Dale Asis enjoying unseasonably warm weather during Chicago’s winter season February 2017

On February 18, 2017, Chicago and the Midwest was hit with record-breaking temperatures reaching 64 degrees Fahrenheit (CBS Local News, February 2017). Winter temperatures normally hover around the freezing mark, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So Will Dix and I went outside and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather. Is this just an anomaly? Or is this part of larger climate change happening worldwide?

Climate Change is Real

Many critics agree that climate change is happening and will affect cities and countries around the world. In 2015, the Climate Reality Project, a non-profit Washington, DC based organization involved in education and advocacy related to climate change reported the Global Climate Risk Index. They listed the Philippines as the number one most affected country by climate change. This is thanks, in part, to its geography. The Philippines is located in the western Pacific Ocean, surrounded by naturally warm waters that will likely get even warmer as average sea-surface temperatures continue to rise.

To some extent, this is a normal pattern: the ocean surface warms as it absorbs sunlight. The ocean then releases some of its heat into the atmosphere, creating wind and rain clouds. However, as the ocean’s surface temperature increases over time from the effects of climate change, more and more heat is released into the atmosphere. This additional heat in the ocean and air can lead to stronger and more frequent storms – which is exactly what we’ve seen in the Philippines over the last decade.


The Philippines also lacks natural barriers; as a collection of over 7,000 islands there is almost nothing standing between them and the sea. In addition to their coral reefs, one of the best buffers against typhoons are the Philippine mangrove ecosystems. These mangroves help mitigate the impact of storm surge and stabilize soil but have disappeared by almost half since 1918 due to deforestation (an issue for another day).  Since 2010, the Bayanihan Foundation has been planting over 30,000 mangrove seedlings in Liloan, Cebu to combat deforestation and climate change.

(standing second from right): James Castillo, foundation board member, leads youth participants in planting mangrove trees in Cebu, Philippines

(standing second from right): James Castillo, foundation board member, leads youth participants in planting mangrove trees in Cebu, Philippines

Other natural factors, like regional wind patterns or currents, can also increase the risk of tropical storms. Geography again plays a role here, as these factors affect different areas of the country differently, due to their unique circumstances. The graphic below from a report by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows how the various regions in the Philippines can face a range of climate threats, based on where they sit on the map.

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The map also shows the regions most vulnerable to sea-level rise, another detrimental effect of climate change that can be exacerbated by the storm surge from tropical storms. Sea levels in the Philippines are rising at about twice the global average. And when especially strong storms like Typhoon Haiyan make landfall, this higher sea level contributes to storm surge that can rise upwards of 15–20 feet, displacing thousands or even millions of citizens in coastal communities. Which brings us to our next topic: development in the Philippines.


Developmental factors have made it difficult for the Philippines to prepare and respond to disasters. Evacuation plans, early warning systems, and shelters are critical to dealing with extreme weather events. Warning and relocating thousands or millions of citizens when a storm is approaching would be a massive hurdle for any country – and in the case of a developing nation like the Philippines with nearly 100 million citizens spread out across thousands of islands, the hurdle becomes bigger still.Then there’s what these storms mean for the Philippines’ economy. According to a 2013 statement from government officials, a destructive typhoon season costs the nation two percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). It costs another two percent to rebuild the infrastructure lost, putting the Philippines at least four percent in the hole each year from tropical storms. And when you’re a nation aspiring to grow and create better lives for your citizens, this regular hit to the economy is the last thing you can afford.

James Castillo (standing center) leads youth in a film making workshop

James Castillo (standing center) leads youth in a film making workshop

This is not an easy problem to fix, but we need to try. The first step is educating citizens both in the Philippines and around the world about what the nation is facing, and about the practical clean-energy solutions available that can begin to address the harmful effects of climate change in the Philippines and beyond.

Since 2010, Bayanihan Foundation board member James Castillo has been conducting youth leadership and education workshops on environmental sustainability and climate change.

Climate-related displacement is not hypothetical

Since 2008, an average of 21.5 million people per year have been displaced by natural disasters, and thousands more have fled slow-onset environmental hazards. While migration can serve as a safety valve to adapt to changing conditions, few orderly, legal channels exist for climate migrants (also known as environmental migrants) (Migration Policy Institute, 2017).

Posted in climate change, Environmental conservation, environmental sustainability, Philippines | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment