The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - And the movement gets bigger and bigger.
In a media announcement on Friday night, Gawad Kalinga (GK) Executive Director Luis Oquiñena revealed they are raising their target to tapping 100,000 volunteers to build houses in 30 provinces next year.
"We're waking up the Filipino youth that we can indeed be architects of our destiny as a nation," he said, as 10,000 volunteers from all over the country and the world marked the fifth day of the Bayani Challenge.
The Bayani Challenge is a five-day mass build that tests the Filipino's love for country. GK has been holding it every summer for six years now.
It began in the aftermath of the landslide that devastated St. Bernard, Southern Leyte in February 2006.
"A handful of young people from Manila wanted to do relief. When we got there, [we said] why don't we [do] reconstruction?" recalled Oquiñena. One group of volunteers took a jeep from Manila to get there, a trip that lasted 21 hours. Two of them have since gotten married, and join the Bayani Challenge every year to celebrate the event that brought them together.
"It was born of the disaster and the desire of the young to be relevant," said Oquiñena.
This year, organizers decided to take a step further and held the event simultaneously in five provinces: Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Masbate, Negros Oriental, and Occidental Mindoro.
"We realized [that even if we added more sites], there [was] no shortage of heroism in this country," said Issa Cuevas-Santos, IT Department Leader at GK.
Out of all the stories of heroism, however, one in particular struck a chord in Cuevas-Santos.
Sheena Santos, a college student from Camarines Norte, walked for three kilometers, took a tricycle for another 11, and boarded a truck that would bring her to Masbate. She lived in a kubo (hut) herself, and had less than P200 to last her five days. She had no idea how she was going to eat or get back home. All she knew was that she wanted to help.
When she got to the construction site, the women from the community, despite not being well-off themselves, pitched in so she could have enough money to get back home after the Bayani Challenge.
In Occidental Mindoro, 4,249 volunteers went to refurbish classrooms, hold workshops for kids, and clean more than 14 kilometers of coast. More than 3,000 of these volunteers were locals.
"This is one realization na kung kami, taga-Occidental Mindoro ay magkakaisa at magtutulong-tulong (that if we from Occidental Mindoro unite and help each other), we can do wonders," said Governor Josephine Sato. "We can even do miracles."
What was even more remarkable for her was that for the first time, the seven sub-tribes of indigenous people in the province banded together to build a house.
As the build came to a close Saturday, the local government jumpstarted the community's livelihood program by providing a prime lot for fruit-bearing trees and livestock.
"If we are able to bring our people to the summit and tell them that it's not impossible to own a house and be secure in their own home," said Oquiñena, "I think nothing can stop the Filipino."