As children ran towards the faucet near the covered court of the Marcela Marcelo Elementary School in Pasay City, a little girl was left behind. Not because she did not want to wash her hands but because she has no hands to begin with.
Grade 1 pupil Stephanie Talanay, who was born with no arms, is one of thousands of undernourished public school children who received free nutritious meals from PAGCOR’s Feeding Program. Like many students in government-subsidized schools, she could not get enough nutrition due to poverty.
But through the state-owned gaming firm’s regular Feeding Program, Stephanie and close to 10,000 undernourished school children from 186 public schools nationwide were able to win the battle against malnutrition.
During their final weigh-in last March, students like Stephanie – who were under 15 kilograms – reached 18 kilograms, the ideal weight for seven-year-old children.
PAGCOR allocates P40 million annually to address the needs of undernourished public school students. Each student from schools in Metro Manila And the provinces receive a daily meal allocation of P40 and P30 per meal per day, respectively. For the coming school year, PAGCOR increased the allocation to P45 million in order to have more beneficiaries.
The Feeding Program was carried out by PAGCOR in response to the pressing need to improve the health and nutrition of school children from the poorest public schools.
Based on a report released last August 2012 by the Department of Education (DepEd), a total of 562,262 pupils in kindergarten and elementary levels enrolled in public schools have been classified as “severely wasted” or undernourished. However, the DepEd’s Health and Nutrition Center (HNC) reported that it could only feed 42,372 or 7.54 percent of the identified severely malnourished pupils in 1,010 public elementary schools form 28 provinces.
Jaylord Lozano, a ten-year-old student of Damñas Elementary School in Digos CIty, Davao del Sur began attending the PAGCOR feeding program in their school in October 2012. After a few months, Lozano gained four kilograms and now weighs 26 kilograms. The ideal weight for 10-year-old kids is 24.5 to 47 kilograms, depending on their height.
Jaylord shared that he is now more energetic, and his grades were higher. “Salamat sa pagtulong sa kabataan. Binigyan kami ng libreng pagkain araw-araw. Ngayon pa lang kami nakakain ng ganito, na masarap,” Lozano said. The daily menu for students consists of vegetables, meat or fish, rice and fruits.
Meantime, Marilou Sales, principal of the Gabaldon Elementary School in Laoag, Ilocos Norte which is also a beneficiary of the PAGCOR feeding program, underscored the importance of proper nutrition among school children. “Kapag ang bata ay hindi kumakain nang sapat, walang nutrisyon, apektado ang kanilang pag-aaral. Mababa ang kanilang grades, hindi nakakabasa nang maayos at kadalasan sila yung hindi nakakapasok sa school,” she added.
According to her, most undernourished children come from the poorest families whose parents do not earn enough to provide the basic needs for their children. Sales noted their dropouts are children whose parents decide to stop sending them to school due to severe poverty.
Sales said their school achieved zero dropout rate when PAGCOR selected their students as beneficiaries of the feeding program. “Malaki ang pasasalamat namin sa biyayang ito dahil ang supplementary feeding program ninyo dito sa school namin ay nakakatulong nang malaki. Yung mga bata nakikita ko na sila ay naeengganyong kumain at mag-aral. Sa ngayon, wala na kaming mga dropouts dahil sa tulong ng PAGCOR,” she said.
After losing his father when he was barely five years old, Julius Ritchie Balucan was introduced to the football sport by his uncle who wanted to help him cope with the loss.
The sport was intially intended to relieve Julius of emotional pain. The game eventually became a passion for the young boy from Dipolog City. Now 12 years old, Julius says the game of football has taught him the importance of hard work, discipline and self-worth.
Because of his talent and love for the game, Julius was granted a high school athletic scholarship by the De La Salle Dipolog. “Dahil sa football, makakapagtapos ako ng high school sa magandang paaralan. Malaking tulong ito sa aking pamilya dahil umaasa lang kami sa tulong ng mga kamag-anak namin at sa pagbenta ng camote-que para matustusan ang pag-aaral namin at pang araw-araw na pamumuhay,” he shared.
Julius is now one of the nearly 60,000 football enthusiasts from all over the country who signed up for the Kasibulan Grassroots Football Program, a Philippine Football Federation (PFF) initiative which aims to develop Filipino football talents aged six to 12. The Kasibulan project received a P20 million funding from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) when it was launched in February 2012. The PFF recently organized the first PAGCOR-funded Regional Festival of Football (FOF) for 2013 to serve as a training pool for the country’s best football player aged six to 12.
Search for world-class football players
Coach Norben Patangan shared that through the nationwide football festivals, the PFF will pick 21 young football players who will make it to the national team that will represent the country in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2014 Championship U14 qualifier in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on May 28. The national team will test their skills against other teams from Myanmar, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Timor-Leste.
“Ang FOF ay nagsisibling training pool ng mga kabataan mula sa iba’t ibang parte ng bansa. Ang mga batang nandito ngayon ay ang pinakamagagaling sa rehiyon nila. These kids will be screened to know who we can possibly include in our national football team. Of course, these football festivals also help train all the kids who enlisted for the program,” Patangan explained.
A series of football festivals were held during the first quarter of 2013 in Davao, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, Tarlac, North Cotobato, Dipolog and Cagayan de Oro. Apart from skills assessment and training, the participants also played a seried of small-sided matches under the guidance of their mentors.
According to Patangan, the 2,195-strong Dipolog Football Assosciation of Zamboanga del Norte has the largest number of participants in the Kasibulan Program.
Bright future for promising sportsmen
Patangan – who is also Julius’ coach – is happy that children specially those from less privileged families are given better opportunities through grassroots sports development programs like Kasibulan.
“Tuloy-tuloy na ito towards ‘Project 2019′. This summer, nagagamit na namin ang mga tulong ng bigay ng PAGCOR. Lahat ng karunungan na naibigay natin sa mga bata through the PAGCOR-sponsored Grassroots Development Officer Training Course, which all Kasibulan coaches have undergone, ay nagagamit na rin namin,” Patangan added.
The Program is also a step towards realizing PFF’s ultimate goal of developing world-class Filipino football talents capable of competing globally.
“Nais natin makakuha ng talento mula sa grassroots na tubong Pilipino talaga. Football is one of the fast-rising sports in the country. Nakita natin na malaki ang ipinagbago nito simula noong makilala ang Azkals. The mission of PFF is to produce homegrown Filipino talents,” Patangan cited.
“Right after the PAGCOR-initiated conference in Cebu. everyone saw what this project is all about. I am very thankful to PAGCOR for sponsoring this project. Hopefully in the future, madami pang mga bata ang mabiyayaan ng project na ito,” he said.
HOW often can you enjoy a game while having the opportunity to help other people?
Popular celebrities Duncan Ramos and Tessa Prieto-Valdes recently had this rare opportunity after they won in the exciting Casino Filipino Slot Machine Celebrity Challenge during the recent opening of the Lancaster Slot Machine Arcade.
Ramos and Valdes bested other well-known personalities in the fun event, in the process winning P100,000 each for their chosen charitable institutions.
Ramos, a lead vocalist for Southborder band, chose to donate his prize to Project Brave Kids – an institution that provides medical assistance to indigent children stricken with cancer.
Both celebrities were spotted early this year during the official turn-over of their tournament winnings to their chosen beneficiary-institutions.
Ramos graced the turn-over of financial aid to the Cancer and Hematology Center of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City. He said he felt a great sense of fulfillment for being able to contribute to Project Brave Kids’ noble effort to help children who cannot afford the costly treatment of cancer.
“It’s not every day that you can play to enjoy and help at the same time so the experience of winning for my chosen institution was a very special experience. I picked Project Brave Kids as my beneficiary kasi malapit sa puso ko ang mga bata dahil may anak ako. I hope this little help that I gave the institution will go a long way in their endeavor to assist more poor kids afflicted with cancer,” Ramos explained.
Project Brave Kids’ co-founder Sigrid Perez said the cash donated by Ramos through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) will be used to fund the chemotherapy sessions of children whose parents could hardly spend for the series of costly treatments.
“We know how expensive chemotherapy is, so we would like to thank Duncan for choosing us as his beneficiary. Dahil sa donation na ito, mas marami pa kaming mahihirap na batang matutulungan.”
Socialite Tess Prieto-Valdes meanwhile selected the Philippine Red Cross Makati Chapter as recipient of her slot machine tournament winnings.
“I’ve always been a supporter of the Philippine Red Cross, so I never had second thoughts about picking it as my beneficiary when I won in the Slot Machine Celebrity Challenge. I hope, PAGCOR can do such a fun event again so more people and institutions could benefit from it,” Valdes said.