Facebook and the Power of Social Media

Photo courtesy of Facebook Stories

Last December 6, 2012, Facebook released a video called “Beyond the Yellow Boat” through their Facebook Stories platform.  It has been an amazing ride for each one of us on board the Yellow Boat (of Hope Foundation) during the last 24 months.

The organization which basically started from my Facebook status at the end of October 2010 is now a foundation – registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines.

We are also now present in 8 communities around the Philippines and also assisting various other causes in the Philippines from time to time especially during natural disasters.  One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned so far is that solutions must always come from a local perspective.  And that is basically one of our driving philosophies – we look for and partner with talented individuals who already have existing organizations or projects in their own localities.  We get to learn from them and they get to learn from us.  More importantly, we also get to learn from the communities we are helping.

When we set out to build the very first school boat for the first community in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City, we never realized that we were beginning a relationship with this community and build relationships in 7 more communities in Masbate in the Bicol region, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro and Negros Occidental.  We are now collectively touching almost 10,000 lives.

The Yellow Boat has taken me to the US, Singapore, India, France, Italy, Spain and now Pakistan.  Hoping to learn more on how to run nonprofits and social enterprises, I applied to be a Global Fellow of Acumen Fund.  And that’s why I’m currently in Lahore, Pakistan working with a social enterprise that distributes affordable high quality drinking water to the underprivileged.

I know the recently released Facebook video is also an ad for the social network behemoth but again our organization would not have been possible without it.

We are still using Facebook Groups creatively to connect with friends, donors, partners and supporters.  It is a platform for our communities to discuss and to engage in ideas.  It allows us to transcend borders.

It also allowed me to meet wonderful people along the way. One of them is my Co-Founder, Dr. Anton Mari Lim, who is the driving force behind our organization.

It allows us to tell our story better – in a way, that we can share our successes and failures.  The best kind of relationship is one where your donor or supporter can see your mistakes, your faults and you both work hard at it to make it better.

Collaboration is so much better than competition.  We believe that leadership needs to be shared – because at the end of the day, we are all leaders of our own destinies.  It is our individual and collective responsibility to help make the world better especially for children.

We believe that leadership is about sharing powerful stories that will empower and inspire even more leaders.

We believe that leadership has two key responsibilitiesone of inspiration and another of reproduction.  For leadership to be truly shared, a leader must empower others – empower them to do something about the things they are passionate about.

We believe that for leadership to last, a leader must nurture more leaders and not just followers.

Social media allows us to bridge this leadership gap.  My experience tells me that people want to do something good, they want to be part of something bigger, and they want to lead authentic and fulfilling lives.  And all these mentoring and coaching is possible now in the age of Social media.  Facebook for one has allowed us to connect with amazing donors, leaders and partners around the globe who empower us with the resources we need to make a difference.

We collaborate with individuals and organizations from Taiwan, the United States, Australia, France, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya.  The world has truly become flat and interconnected.

We now have the world’s greatest minds at our fingertips.  And we also now have more access to each other.  The best inventions and discoveries were made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  And social media allows even more collaboration, even among people who haven’t met personally.

That is the true power of Facebook and Social Media and explains why a simple yellow (school) boat built in a far-flung community in the Philippines has sailed across the world and touched more lives than we can possibly count.

Thank you for reading and here are the links to the video:

[vimeo clip_id=”54999049″ width=”500″ height=”325″]



Please visit us at http://www.yellowboat.org.

Facebook and the Yellow Boat of Hope

Facebook released the much anticipated video about the Yellow Boat Project last night.

You can find the Facebook Stories feature story here:


[vimeo clip_id=”54999049″ width=”500″ height=”325″]

I would like to personally thank Peter Jordan, Skip Bronkie and Everett Katigbak for creating this video and for coming to Zamboanga City last July 2011 to film our Yellow Boat Community in Layag-Layag.

I also like this post by Click Dominique about the video, [Video] Act local, share global: Facebook user shares localized solutions to Philippine poverty.  Indeed, it’s time we highlight how social media can be used for social good esp. on the largest social network today.

You can also read the coverage on Social News Daily and WebProNews.

To donate to the foundation, please use the donation page on http://www.yellowboat.org. Thank you in advance!

Changing the world, one boat at a time

The Little Dream

We all dream of helping make a difference in people’s lives. In much the same way that a pebble creates ripples when thrown in water.

In 2006, I met one such ‘pebble’ who changed my perspective on life, his name was Alex Lacson.  In 2005, he wrote a wonderful book entitled the 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.

It became a national best-seller and it allowed him to test his idea that every Filipino can become part of the solution to the problems that our country is facing.

Over the last 6 years, we have heard of wonderful stories inspired by the book. There was a high school class in Muntinlupa City that adopted a scholar, there were families who bought more local products and supported local industries, and there were organizations and companies that adopted their own 12 Little Things that their employees can do to help the country.

While I was growing up, I thought heroes were people who had to die for the country. But there is another aspect of heroism that we are failing to notice – the side of heroism that is in the everyday Filipino.

And this is what this little story of a yellow boat, built in the south, in Zamboanga City, is all about.

I remember vividly the story of the kid who picks up and throws every starfish on the beach back to the sea indifferent to the fact that there are miles and miles of beach with starfishes.

Asked that he couldn’t possibly think he could make a difference, he replied that to those starfishes that he threw back, he surely made a difference.

The “Little” Fund

Last October 30, 2010, I had the opportunity to discuss the role of New Media in Nation-Building to almost 100 bloggers from all over Mindanao for the 4th Mindanao Blogging Summit.  Little did I know then that I was about to become part of the solution to one problem in Zamboanga City.

During the sidelines of the summit, I met with some of our campaign volunteers in the city and one volunteer, Juljimar Gonzales, told me of a story that during the presidential campaign last 2010 their team came across a group of children who were swimming just to be able to go to school.

The story really moved me. I have heard of stories about elementary students having to walk 4, 5 or even 8 kilometers daily just to be able to go to school. But have never heard of children who have to swim or wade through the waters just to go to school.

I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, I went back to Manila and I felt compelled to share the story on my Facebook status.

I know the story will move people but I didn’t realize it will open their pockets. My good friend, marketing guru, Josiah Go, saw my status update, and we were able to start an online fundraising campaign among his friends (and my friends).

I was surprised because friends and friends of friends excitedly re-posted our call for donations. In less than 7 days, the Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids (as the fundraising campaign came to be known then) raised almost Php70,000.

During this period, I also asked Doc Anton Lim, another volunteer of the President in Zamboanga City, to check the story.

In the middle of November 2010, I called up Anton if we can already look for a boat. We had a hard time finding the right boat for the children so we decided to build it.  Anton Lim, in behalf of the Tzu Chi Foundation, agreed to accept the funds we have raised, and he also raised additional funds from local donors.

It was a difficult journey though. At first, we couldn’t find any boat-maker. We found one but he lived in a far-away community; until finally Doc Anton through Kagawad Jesse Jamolod found a boat-maker (Abraham Mawadi) who came from the village of Layag-Layag itself in Brgy. Talon-Talon in Zamboanga City where the children who swam to school lived. I thought the boat-building would start right away but again we hit another challenge – finding the log to be used.

Fortunately, DENR was listening and CENRO Region IX donated the logs to the project through Tito Gadon.  In January 2011, the boat-building started.

And last March 27, 2011, I joined Tzu Chi Zamboanga for the turn-over of the boat in Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City.

It took us 5 months to finish the project but nothing can be compared to the joy you feel in your heart when you realize you’ve helped make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small.

I slept well that night – it was as if I saw God smile back at me.

Nation-building is a difficult project. It requires the participation of each and every one among us. And for the country’s leadership, it is about telling stories that inspire our people to act on the problems they are facing themselves.

The boat we turned over was christened ‘Bagong Pag-asa’ (New Hope) – it is a symbol of change that finally a group is finally noticing this particular community’s problems and challenges.

But more importantly, it is also a symbol of people power in action. It is about ordinary Filipinos helping other ordinary Filipinos.

I believe it is time we extend the meaning of People Power, one that not only changes governments and leaders, but one that also truly empowers our people – a people power that calls on every Filipino to become an active nation-builder.

The Little Heroes

The real heroes in this story are those brave kids in the village of Layag-Layag who crossed the waters just to be able to go to school. Whether by boat or by swimming to school, they have conquered the challenges of water and distance.

The boat is a symbol that serves as a vehicle for knowledge and learning. We hear of stories about affluent kids in Manila who skip school to go swimming but these kids in Layag-Layag go swimming to go to school.

Changing the world is difficult but with the right attitude and with the community working together, we can make things happen, even with just one boat at a time.

I suggest we remember the story of how the barangay came about. During the pre-Spanish era in Philippine history, the term balangay referred to both the boat and the basic political unit in the country, the barangay.

This came about because the nature of building the balangay (boat) requires unity among members of the community. And that is how the barangay was born – members of the community working together to build something, whether it is a boat, a city or a nation.

I am sharing this story because it is my belief that each one of us can be part of the solution and you can start creating solutions to challenges in the communities where you live or work.

It is my fervent hope that this story has touched you in one way or another and that you won’t stop at just reading this – I hope you will you will start creating ripples of your own.

These little things create ripples across the country and sometimes with no end in sight. These small acts of heroism can deliver an impact bigger than originally intended.

To date, there are more than 150 yellow boats all over the Philippines and our group is now present in 8 communities.

Let us all become part of the solution!

Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur

Last June 23, 2012, at last, I was able to visit our 3rd community in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur where 45 yellow boats were distributed late last year to several households where kids have to walk 3 hours around the lake just to get to school.  With the yellow boats, they just need to row 30 minutes to school.

Many thanks to I CAN make a difference for bringing us to Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur during the inauguration of their half-way house.

Here are some pictures I took during the inauguration:

The half-way house in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur which will house expectant mothers so that they will be near the hospital
The Lakewood Half-way house was built with softdrink plastic bottles
Certificate of appreciation from the community
The yellow boats of Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur
The motorized boat in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur still carrying our former name Philippine Funds for Little Kids

People Power in Layag-Layag

The Yellow Boat Community in Layag-Layag showed that the spirit of People Power is alive in Zamboanga City last June 21-22, 2012.

Here are some pictures I took during the People Power celebration last June 22, 2012 in Layag-Layag when the EDSA People Power Commission went to Zamboanga City:

Our Community Storyteller, Hannah Reyes, arrives in Zamboanga City (and Mindanao) for the first time (June 22, 2012)
The Philippine flag proudly flies on the recently-inaugurated Tzu Chi Day Care Center in Layag-Layag
EPPC Commissioner Emily Abrera shares a story with the kids of Layag-Layag
Hannah Reyes teaches Shirlyn and Sharifa how to operate a camera
Doc Anton Lim illustrates how the Nokero solar bulbs are used
Tzu Chi volunteers lead the mangrove planting activity in Layag-Layag
The latest yellow (school) boat in Layag-Layag, Bagong Pag-asa 4 Salam built by Cluster 5 head Faisal Asakil and his cluster

I hope the spirit of People Power continues to live on in Layag-Layag and our Yellow Boat Communities and that one day all 7,107 islands in the Philippines will be infected by this virus.

#itsmorefuninZamboanga (Part 2)

Zamboanga City is considered to be Asia’s Latin City.  But aside from it being a melting pot of different cultures and food – it is also home to some exciting tourist spots!

Sta. Cruz Island, Zamboanga City

Just 20 minutes from the port of Zamboanga City, Sta. Cruz island is known to be the pink beach because of the presence of specks of the red corals that dot the whole island.

The clear waters of Sta. Cruz island in Zamboanga City
Welcome to Sta. Cruz Island
The beautiful beach at Sta. Cruz island

Merloquet Falls, Zamboanga City

Located in Brgy. Vitali in Zamboanga City, I did not realize we were still inside the city’s boundaries.  It’s just an hour drive from the city center.

A hidden paradise in Zamboanga City – Merloquet Falls (pronounced as Merloket)
Merloquet Falls within the jungle

#itsmorefuninZamboanga (Part 1)

June 2012 was a very busy month for our first community in Layag-Layag, Brgy. Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City.  There are so many developments on our projects and communities, that sometimes I actually feel left out.

But that’s the great thing about our project, there are local leaders in every community and the community itself is involved in the project so it has already empowered them to solve some of the problems they face.

At the end of the day, just as what Doc Anton Lim shared on this video – our end goal is that one day we would no longer be needed by the community because they can already support and help themselves, and hopefully even inspire and help other communities.

Here are some pictures from my June 2012 visit of Layag-Layag:

Sunrise in Layag-Layag
Kids in Layag-Layag prepare to board their yellow boat for school
Kids in Layag-Layag have to walk another half-kilometer to get to school after getting off their yellow boat
The kids in Layag-Layag play in the water after school (look at those big smiles!)
Children will always find a reason to play
Sunset in Layag-Layag

Summer 2012 (Part 1)

A lot of things have happened since my last entry in March 25, 2012 and I just wanted to share a few of these things.

Graduation Time

Last March and April 2012, I was invited to be a graduation speaker to 3 educational institutions in the country, namely: Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU), Proverbsville School Inc., and STI College Cotabato.

I never imagined that I would one day be a Commencement Speaker at age 30. In fact, I have never imagined that I would one day be 30 years old. Haha!

These are just some of the things I can’t complain about since I boarded this ‘yellow boat’ more than a year ago.

You can check out my commencement speech to the high school graduates of Ateneo de Zamboanga University here.

I just tweaked this speech a bit for the ones I gave to Proverbsville School Inc. in Angeles City, Pampanga and also to STI College in Cotabato City.  During the graduation ceremonies of Proverbsville School, I was pleasantly surprised to find 3 (yes three!) valedictorians in one ceremony.  Two valedictorians for elementary since they have 2 branches and one for high school. And of course, I couldn’t forget this banner that welcomed me:

STI College Cotabato was quite memorable too as it was my first time to visit my hometown in 3 years.  The last time I went there was in 2009 when an uncle died.

STI College Cotabato gave me this token of appreciation that I would never forget and speaks a lot for what we are trying to accomplish in the Yellow Boat Project – the project is an attempt to bring out the best in Filipinos, to unite and work together to bring HOPE and dignity to struggling communities around the Philippines.

Learning is a continuing journey

The whole experience of being a graduation speaker brought me back to my school days when I graduated as class valedictorian in high school and when I miserably failed in two major subjects while taking up Computer Science in college.

Today, I could talk publicly about these failures but back then I actually went into hibernation. I couldn’t accept it. After failing in those two major subjects, the division was forcing me to shift but I didn’t want to accept it and so I resented formal schooling and college and I went back to Cotabato City. After a few months, I moved to our farm in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat. After a year of what I now call as soul-searching, I went back to school. It was a painful and difficult process but it has made me stronger today (refer to my graduation speech for more details).

Looking back, I actually don’t remember what the graduation speakers for both my high school and college graduations were saying but one thing struck me – most of those who succeed in life after college are those who continue to learn. In truth, our education only really starts after graduation, as that is the only time we get beaten up and learn to stand up in the real world.

And so as I remember all these experiences, I am happy to share with you that I am going on another learning journey starting this September 2012 as one of the Global Fellows of the Acumen Fund, you can read about it here.

And as I enter this new chapter in my life, I’ve learned that we are always given second chances in life and we can always write a better story.

And so this summer 2012, I resolved to visit more Philippine destinations than I have ever done before.  See those trips on the next post.

Thanks for reading!

On being men for others

Last March 23, 2012, I spoke as a graduation speaker for the first time.  It was an awesome experience.

I could remember my hands were shaking when I started reading my speech entitled “On Being Men for Others.”  There’s always  a first time but since I was sharing my personal story it soon became easy to speak about it comfortably.

Since I was also an Atenean, I found it appropriate to talk about our school motto so that the high school graduates of Ateneo de Zamboanga University wouldn’t forget about the need to be responsible citizens as well.

Here is my speech as published on Rappler.