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 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

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

Is Climate Change Affecting the Philippines? the World?

The Philippines has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather. But in recent years the nation has suffered from even more violent storms like Typhoon Haiyan. On average, about 20 tropical cyclones enter Philippine waters each year, with eight or nine making landfall. And over the past decade, these tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely, scientists believe, because of climate change. In addition, two factors unique to the Philippines – its geography and development – have combined to exacerbate both this threat and its devastating consequences.

Climate Change Displacement Is Not Hypothetical