In keeping up with today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we are often left with little to no time to attend to matters other than our own. When was the last time we truly went out of our way and extended care to those in need?
Helping others may not be top of mind, but certain individuals prove that it actually doesn’t take much to try. Vince Balza and Fe Gabon of Childhope Philippines and Pawssion Project’s Malou Perez show us that practicing unconditional care little by little, day by day, can become a guiding principle—one that delivers lasting impact to the lives of others and even our own.
Faced with an overwhelming amount of issues to address, these inspirational figures reflected on the plight of street children and stray animals, respectively. They decided to answer the call to help, not fully knowing where this will lead them. In the process, they saved the lives of their beneficiaries and changed countless more, from the staff and volunteers that have become part of the group to the silent supporters of the cause.
“’Di siya nakakapagod, itong klaseng trabaho (This line of work is never tiring),” says Vince, Assistant Program Manager of Childhope Philippines. “Napapalibutan ako ng nakakatrabaho ko na iisa lang ang cause, which is to help children, or to alleviate the situations of street children. Tatamarin ka ba kung lahat ng kasama mo sa trabaho is dedicated sa trabaho nila? (I’m with people who share the same passion. Will you ever lose that fire if you’re surrounded by like-minded people?).”
Social work has a special place in Vince’s heart. He served as a street educator for more than half a decade in Divisoria with Childhope Philippines, a non-government organization (NGO) with a long-standing history and passion towards educating the youth. Vince taught children in street situations, or CISS, who enrolled for classes but faced difficulties learning, limited by disability or circumstance, including abuse and poverty.
Now, as the assistant program manager, Vince trains the next generation of street educators and social workers, guiding them through the struggles and joys that come with the role.
Moved by the same heart and passion to help street children is Fe Gabon, another street educator and catechist at Childhope Philippines for the past 15 years.
“Ang ‘di ko malilimutan sa pagiging teacher ko dito, ‘yung mga bata na tinuruan ko; ‘yung naisasapuso nila at naisasabuhay nila ‘yung mga natutunan nila sa akin, (I will never forget my students from my time being a teacher; how they learn and value the lessons I impart to them),” Gabon says. “Napaka-fulfilling talaga, lalong-lalo na ‘pag dumating ‘yung recognition day na nasa honors sila, at nakikita kong naka-graduate sila. (It’s very fulfilling, especially when the students achieve special honors and graduate.)”
Fe then casually mentions Jenelyn, a student she had from years ago who eventually joined as a staff of Childhope. Jenelyn used to live on the streets for a large portion of her childhood and even then, she displayed a drive for learning and a deep understanding of social issues. “Naging lider ako noong bata ako. Gusto kong makatulong sa mga ibang bata sa kalye, (I became a leader when I was a kid. I wanted to help the other kids on the street),” she says. Jenelyn knew she wanted to do more for those around her, and so she persevered as a working student, graduating with a degree in Information Technology.
Jenelyn recalls that through the unconditional care of social workers while growing up, she was always encouraged to improve herself and her skills; a mindset that she still brings with her today. “Tahimik lang ako before, at hindi ko kayang i-express sarili ko. Pero dahil sa pagtitiwala sa akin ng mga social worker na lagi akong binibigyan ng advice, nakarating ako dito, (I was quiet before. I couldn’t express myself…but because social workers believed in me, I was able to get to where I am now,)” she humbly notes.
Reflecting on her roots, she closes with, “Ito (Childhope) ang inspirasyon ko. Kung ano ako noon,’yun pa rin po ako ngayon, (Childhope is my inspiration. Whoever I was then, I am still that person today.)”
Similar to the benevolent workers and volunteers of Childhope, there’s another person who espouses the value of unconditional care. Only this time, for animals in need.
Pawssion Project founder Malou Perez is a self-confessed dog lover. In 2018, she encountered a Facebook post about 50 dogs on death row in Bacolod, set to be killed by gunshot. She shared the post and was eventually asked if she was willing to take in the dogs. Without any second thought, despite having no experience running a shelter, she said yes.
“I went to the pound, which was my first time to set foot in one, and I realized just about how absurd that we always say we’re dog lovers, but we never actually are in touch with what’s happening. We never even make an effort to check if we have a local pound, if there are dogs in need of help,” Malou said.
Malou also remembers the pound being “very filthy.” She recalls standing next to the hole where the executed dogs were supposed to be dumped. “It was so traumatic” she says.
Emphasizing that there was no plan of putting up a shelter, much less an organization, Malou proceeded with the rescue operation. In less than a week, she was able to save the dogs.
What followed was an outpouring support from people all over the country who saw the post about her efforts, which went viral. Malou admits being mind-blown by how big the problem was, and that was the moment she decided to establish a shelter and an organization, now known as Pawssion Project.
Today, the NGO remains dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of dogs in distress. Malou admits it’s still a challenge to maintain the organization from all aspects, from physical exhaustion to sourcing financial resources. But she points to like-minded people who continuously put “their compassion into action that inspires other people to help out as well.”
“Every day is still a struggle, but then it’s easier,” she says. “It’s easier because things are really clear to us. We know why we’re doing this. I feel really encouraged every time I would get messages from people who would tell me that they started adopting, they started feeding strays because of our advocacy.”
Caring for others can take so much of oneself, but the effect it delivers, big or small, is what it’s all about. As they emulate unconditional care in their own ways, Vince, Fe, and Malou and the many other carers in their organizations, are celebrated by Unilab and Biogesic as they embody the trusted paracetamol brand’s campaign of Alagang Walang Pinipili.
“It was our pleasure to meet them and join them in their causes,” says the Biogesic team, led by Stephanie Sandoval. “Their stories have stirred in us a drive not just to support their causes, but more so to take care of them as well—the carers who give so much of themselves for others.”
Seeing how tough their work is, Biogesic is there to help them get through their headache or fever bouts. And together with Unilab, Biogesic has provided health kits and other supplies for their organizations. These efforts to celebrate unconditional care tie back to Unilab’s purpose of working toward a healthier Philippines, one medicine at a time.
Unilab, Inc. Corporate Vice President Alex Panlilio explains, “Ang aming paniniwala, ‘Sino pa ba ang mag-aalaga sa Pilipino kung ‘di ang kapwa Pilipino?’ (Our belief is that who will take care of Filipinos other than fellow Filipinos?) We take that to heart. Alaga is a key part in what motivates our organization and therefore is also a key part in brands like Biogesic.”
Both Unilab and Biogesic’s support for carers and non-government organizations serves as a testament to this promise of care to their customers and the nation. It is also an expression of how they recognize the greater impact of unconditional care as the collective takes part in expressing it to others. Panlilio adds: “We recognize that to extend alaga, we cannot do it alone.”
Thus, people like Malou, Fe, and Vince lead the way in showing us the value of starting our individual actions and the impact of collective effort. They remind us that there is always something to be done, and that something could be done, whether it’s in our homes or in our communities. All it takes is to begin. Begin with doing what you believe in and be inspired with how Malou has put her journey into words “No matter how small a drop in the ocean you feel with what you’re doing, when you get people telling you that they’ve been impacted by what you do, it just makes everything worth it.”
Know more about Childhope Philippines and Pawssion Project and support their causes by visiting their website at childhope.org.ph and pawssionproject.org.ph. Feel free to share your inspiring story of unconditional care on social media, and make sure to tag Biogesic and Unilab at @BiogesicPH and @unilabp Visit Biogesic and Unilab’s pages to know more, and check out Unilab’s YouTube channel as well at youtube.com/c/unilabph.