On Altruism and Volunteerism


I haven’t told anyone — I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. But I was taught by my mother realities such as famine kills in Africa. If it was a ploy to make me eat dinengdeng and pinakbet, I thank her for all the nagging at the dinner table. My father, who would have been a richer man by now if he didn’t give so much to charity, taught me the value of service.

Marketing the environment is a tough job. Not having enough funds to promote a cause is a tougher one. Inspiration to sustain Camp for Earth came from the selfless and driven people lending a hand. There is something about social consciousness that sews up loose ends together.

Pre-Camp for Earth, I told the volunteer staff for Camp for Earth, “It will feel good after helping out.”

There is a happy place in this world if you find it.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014

Adams: Scaling the Path


In 2004, in this maze-like mountain town, my mountaineer friends and I were welcomed by blood-sucking limateks, I had to tackle a landslide on a denuded area in the fringes of Mt. Pao by rappelling via a string hammock, slept in a dripping tent under uncertainty, stayed close to our one and only guide on former rebels’ path, kept my senses keen for hunters’ booby traps, and by God’s grace, survived all of it. The energy inside the rainforest was unbelievable — surreal — I felt the power penetrating like a kyrptonite. It was a life-changing experience for me… I made a commitment to help conserve the last of the remaining primary forests in the north. (Story here.)


My good friend Leehua Lu, a successful Ilocano entrepreneur, hardworking and self-made, btw, called me up and invited me to be part of her birthday celebration in Adams. I gave my word right away.

I guess there’s that point in one’s life where the desires of the heart level up into something more meaningful and worthwhile. I’m happy for my friend for searching for that path.

DummapayAdams' WomenRaffle DrawFlashlightPadapadakamBirthday GirlNalabbasitRandy, Ramy, Romy - September 2012

Triplets Randy, Ramy and Romy now. Their mother shared a wonderful story about Randy (left), when he was about 1.5-years old, he suddenly disappeared at 5 pm. She was resigned to lose the mere baby only to find the unscathed Randy in the mountains the next day.

Randy, Ramy, Romy - April 2009

Randy, Ramy and Romy when I visited them in their home in Sitio Maligligay three years ago. The story: here.

[Photo credits: Photos of Blauearth grabbed from Leehua’s]

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2012

It’s gonna be okay:)

Transforming Lives

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight” ~ Phyllis Diller

Hope for a brighter future awaits little boy Christian, one of the children with facial deformities receiving free reconstructive surgeries from Operation Smile Philippines, a non-government organization under Operation Smile which is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. Not many people know that Operation Smile was conceived in Naga, Philippines. In 1982, husband and wife Dr. William Jr. and Kathleen Magee saw the dire need to help children with life-threatening deformities such as cleft lip, cleft palate and facial tumors while on a medical mission in the Philippines.

Hereditary factors,  drugs, maternal illness and/or malnutrition are proven causes of such deformities that may eventually lead to other serious health conditions like eating, hearing, dental and speech development problems, depending on the severity of the deformities, if not properly treated early. Loss of self-confidence makes matters worse for the growing child with a facial deformity.

The genuine spirit of volunteerism has brought new smiles to more than 150,000 children across the globe since Operation Smile began. In the Philippines, over 22,700 children have already been transformed.

Through the generosity of former board member Kristian Ablan and the 25-member team of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, dentists, pediatricians, speech pathologists and volunteers of Operation Smile Philippines, 43 children in Ilocos Norte are receiving new smiles at the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Memorial Hospital.

Operation Smile Philippines President and Executive Director Roberto “Bobby” J. Manzano says, “We are governed by global standards of care. Patient safety is paramount.”

Christian is about to enter a new phase of his life.

“To change the life of a child, it takes a village,” says Mr. Bobby Manzano

Dr. Owen Loh of the UP-PGH (second from left), head of the medical team, says that the children cry pretty much during surgery. The joy of giving is palpable as doctors heal the children.

Giving and receiving that life-changing gift.

A little boy after the 45-minute surgery.

Sir Ed, one of the noble benefactors of Operation Smile.

A speech pathologist gives instructions to the mothers and children. One week, one month and one year check-ups are arranged to ensure quality health care.

Joining the ranks of international stars Jessica Simpson and Charice Pempengco as Smile ambassadors, ABS-CBN Little Big Star Cebu finalist Chadleen Uy Lacdo-o of Mandaue City is the local Smile ambassador. A “Child of Destiny”, Chadleen was able to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a singer made possible by the extraordinary  kindness of Operation Smile volunteers. The last on the list to be operated on for a botched cleft  lip and palate corrective  surgery that eventful day when she was four years old, Chadleen, now a teen, is  an unsinkable soul with an inspiring  story. She was able to perform for the US Congress when President Obama was still senator, and she was guest singer in a David Pomeranz benefit concert at the Sofitel in Manila in 2009. She is scheduled to perform with Charice Pempengco and Miley Cyrus in a charity gala dinner in Beverly Hills, according to Mr. Manzano.

Chadleen Lacdo-o, a success story.

Executive Director Bobby Manzano has this to say about volunteerism, “It’s a great feeling. I do it out of passion. It’s difficult to explain… you get a sense of fulfillment.”

“To make sure we generate donors and help in getting volunteers,” he says of his work as head of the country’s Operation Smile. I asked him how much would a reconstructive surgery cost and he says, “About forty thousand pesos.” He adds, “There are donors who stick it out with us because they can see the results in 45-minutes.’

I was able to witness firsthand the beautiful thing going on in the Smile mission. Not only the lives of the children and their families are transformed, but also the lives of the volunteers, donors and staff.


Making A Difference

“Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but for greatness, because greatness is determined by service” ~ Martin Luther King

Top 10 List of Things a Volunteer Should Know (by Donald Patrick Dunn in Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul)

  • 10. List your dream and talents. Where do you excel? What have you always dreamed of doing? What do you really enjoy or would like to try? Is there a way to prepare, learn or try it as a volunteer?
  • 9. Pick your duration. One size doesn’t fit all, just like volunteer opportunities. I’ve found that volunteer projects come in three sizes: one-time, short-term, ans “whad’ya doing for the rest of your life?”
  • 8. Make a commitment. Sometimes a volunteer project is an acquired taste. Give yourself a chance to have good days, bad days, and in-between days. If after three months you see no redeeming value, then at least you can feel you gave it a fair chance.
  • 7. Watch and learn. Seasoned volunteers can teach you the ropes, so to speak. Observe them and follow their lead. Have confidence in the knowledge that you are capable and trainable. Balance that confidence with humility, also.
  • 6. Ability, need and desire. You must have the ability to do the service, there must be a need for the service, and you must have the desire to be of service.
  • 5. Unpaid doesn’t mean unprofessional. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” All that we do, we need to do with our most sincere effort. Anything less is a disservice to those we are helping and ultimately to ourselves.
  • 4. Balance is key. Priorities add balance. Charity begins at home — keep the priorities straight. Balance out family, work and volunteering. If you become overwhelmed, stress will set in and you won’t enjoy doing anything.
  • 3. Stand back and admire. Sometimes people forget to say “thank you,” so you will need to reward yourself. Be proud of your accomplishments — take the time to smell the roses, hear the raindrops on the pane, feel the snow on your nose, taste the cool clear water.
  • 2. Find a home or make a change. Are you stale or still fresh? Are you learning, enthusiastic or approaching burnout? Check yourself periodically and act upon your honest answers.
  • 1. Have fun! Life has enough drudgery; volunteering shouldn’t be one of them. Giving of yourself should be uplifting and joyful. We are at our best when we learn, grow, play and serve each other with love and respect.
*Many thanks to Miss Alma Ajero, coordinator of Operation Smile Philippines Ilocos Norte mission.
Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED