Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Message (of hope) in a bottle

Message (of hope) in a bottle
By Nathalie Tomada
The Philippine Star
March 27, 2012

MANILA, Philippines - Boy Abunda is proud to have gone to a public school. When he was in elementary, the TV host studied at the Eugenio Daza Pilot Elementary School in Borongan, Eastern Samar.

When he was in grade one, he attended a school tucked away in a remote barrio where his mother, then a new teacher, was assigned to teach. He remembers that there were only two classrooms, with grades one to three students packed in one, and grades four to six in the other.

He now believes that his phobia for snakes started at that school, where snakes would find their way to the roof. He also experienced not having any classroom because it got damaged by visiting typhoons.

Despite those challenges, Boy will always remember that part of his life with great fondness.

“I think some of the sweetest moments of my life happened when I was in public school, when life was gentle,” Boy shares in a presscon.

“Those were the times when I was walking to my school in slippers. During recess, I would eat ice candy sold outside the school. I remember a very strict principal and when you throw your trash around, you get reported to her. I miss those unadulterated moments. All these are part of my life, a part of me that has not diminished. I think that public school boy is still who I am deep inside.”

Boy may have gone on to become one of the most successful in the entertainment industry who has a public school background, but he still feels for the many public school students who still have to contend with those conditions that make learning a struggle every single school day.

For this reason, Boy readily gave his endorsement to the new purified bottled water in the market, aptly termed as Hope In A Bottle, which aims to address a persisting problem of the country’s education sector — classroom shortage in public schools.

Boy is joined by other celebs that had public school backgrounds, too, such as Joey de Leon (Moises Salvador Elementary School, Manila), Bea Alonzo (Ususan Elementary School, Taguig City), Winnie Monsod (Juan Luna/Legarda Elementary School, Manila) and Jericho Rosales (Esteban Abada Elementary School, Quezon City). All are endorsing the bottled water for free and are appearing in a commercial megged by award-winning director Yam Laranas, also a product of the public school system.

Hope In A Bottle is the cause-oriented brainchild of Friends of Hope, Inc., led by former actress Nanette Medved and Ricky Gomez, a former San Miguel Corp. big boss. Friends of Hope has committed 100 percent of its profits — meaning whatever is left after all the expenses needed to manufacture, market and deliver Hope In A Bottle have been met — to the building of public school classrooms nationwide.

“This is not just any story, it’s a real story for me, I really experienced what it’s like to be in a classroom without a roof and under the shade of a tree, especially if our classrooms got destroyed,” says Boy, whose many advocacies are essentially education-related (from Unicef to NCCA). “I realized that the problem is still there and is even worse, because there are more students now needing classrooms. So, this is one reason why I didn’t have second thoughts of doing this project. More than just it being water, this is an advocacy.”

Figures say that with 88 percent of Filipino students in public schools, the country is suffering from a classroom shortage of 66,800.

Nanette says, “This is something that everybody knows. When we decided to come up with and choose an advocacy that we felt will have the most impact, actually it’s not hard to think that it’s education. Our public schools, naghihirap talaga, and you can’t always rely on the government to solve all the problems so we thought that rather than blaming the government for the lack of this and that, parang let’s take a most positive approach, and do it ourselves.”

Nanette further relates that it all started as an idea — Project Hope — “and then as Ricky started to pull in all the experts to make it happen, and as we brainstormed, we wound up with this project. Although you’re buying water, what we are really selling here is hope.”

That’s what made Boy fall in love with the project as well. “Ang ingay ng mundo natin ngayon, nariyan ang impeachment trial, mga problema, lahat. I fell in love with this project because it’s hope, and we cannot lose this right now. More than just it being bottled water, it represents so much as to where we should be, what we should have, and what we should go for in the long run in terms of solving problems.”

Ricky, for his part, says: “It’s a rather different (business model). It requires a lot of sacrifice. Hopefully, we can really excite a nation to be part of this and in turn, make huge profit to build more classrooms. That is also what excites me.”

Hope In A Bottle is competitive as a product, adds Boy, in the sense that it’s quality (toll-packed by San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Corp.) and priced at parity with existing products in the market.

To keep track of the profits and any developments on classroom-building, they have also put up the Hope Meter on the Friends of Hope’s Facebook account.

So how does it work? Once enough funding has been raised for a classroom, Friends of Hope in tandem with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the largest corporate-led, non-profit social development foundation in the country, will refer to a shortlist provided by DepEd of the “most desperate districts” to select a school. Once that school is identified, Friends of Hope and PBSP will bid out the project. PBSP will then manage the project under its Ten Moves program. Depending on the location of the school, building a classroom can cost from P500,000 to P700,000 per classroom, and this amount only covers the bare structure.

Nanette says, “It (is) really an effort but we understand that Filipinos really have this sense of collective heroism, which is why nanggaling sa atin ’yung People Power. It’s really in us to help, so we decided to use this for good and put it towards something more tangible like schools.”

Hope In A Bottle is supported and distributed by Rustan’s, Ministop, Krispy Kreme, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Jamba Juice, Shopwise, Kenny Rogers, Super 8, Suy Sing, Landmark, South Supermarkets and selected Robinsons Supermarkets.