Blog Views

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Zamboanga - A Day Full of Hope!

Last June 14, I visited Zamboanga for the first time.  The one-day visit was arranged primarily by the National Youth Commission, who I’ve partnered with a couple of times, to do community work for the people of Layag Layag in connection with the 25th anniversary of the NYC. In order to maximize my trip, I figured it would be best to do campus visits to the schools in Zamboanga to propagate our anti-bullying campaign, which has been given much attention lately. During that same trip, We were also able to have a productive meeting with the regional youth board of Zamboanga as well as a live guesting with Sir Ron on TV5 Mindanao to talk about bullying and other relevant issues of the youth.

My friend Oliver and I took the early Cebu Pacific flight that departed Manila at 545am. Upon touchdown, we were met by Commissioner Early of the NYC and immediately had breakfast at the Garden Orchid hotel and met with the rest of the group, composed of NYC Chairman Flores, DepEd representatives and volunteers of the Yellow Boat project headed by Dr. Anton Lim, who became known internationally for his contribution in saving the life of hero dog Kabang.

 NYC Chairman Flores speaking to the very well-behaved kids of Ateneo de Zamboanga during our Anti-Bullying & Anti-Drug abuse symposium
 Students signing the pledge that they will not be bullies, they will report bullies & they will help the bullied
This time, here I am addressing the less-behaved Western Mindanao State University students and faculty, hehe!

Charis Foundation Exec. Director, Oliver Tuason, giving a short seminar on virtues to local administrators


We drove about 15 minutes to get to the eastern tip of the mainland where we had to walk and maneuver our way through the muddy ponds, which used to be salt ponds. It was a wrong move to wear flip flops because they ended up sinking in the mud so I just walked barefoot and watched out for the sharp rocks. We then boarded two yellow boats, which were made possible by the Yellow Boat group of Dr. Anton, and sailed towards the Layag Layag community which was located around 2.5 kilometers away. It was a very scenic and serene ride through the mangroves. This boat ride was only possible as it was still high tide. The bigger boats cannot sail during the low tide.  At one point we could actually see the silhouette of Basilan already. The water was surprisingly clean and clear, allowing you to see the floor bed.

 Executive Director of Charis Foundation, Oliver, and a cute local friend
Beautiful mangroves leading to Layag-Layag

Finally we arrived at the community. I was amused! They literally lived on stilts. And the boats were their primarily mode of transportation. Potable drinking water was delivered twice a day. Electrical wires were tapped from the mainland. I felt like we were already at the end of the country already where all you could see was water surrounding us. Apparently, when I checked my location using google maps on my mobile, we were literally on the southwestern most tip of the country.

Some houses even had TVs and it was flattering to find out that they enjoy watching iBilib on GMA7! Some of them also patronize the PBA and my team Rain or Shine. I was amazed to see they had a basketball rim hung on one of the houses BUT it could only be played when it was low tide.  I initially thought they could play ball on boats when high tide, but no! That would have been interesting to see! Since they were predominantly Muslims, there was a floating Mosque nearby where they would pray several times daily. 

It wasn’t very easy loading and unloading the boat because it would sway once someone stands or unloads. We did our gift giving at the day care center, which was donated by the Tzu Chi foundation and this was physically connected to the sari-sari store only by three bamboo sticks which we had to use to cross.  Incidentally, our goodie bags contained Master facial wash among other Unilever products.

Check out these eco-friendly makeshift light bulbs. Recycle your plastic 1.5L or 2L bottles, fill it with water and add some zonrox or bleach, then you have a natural source of light that’s essentially free and eco-friendly.


The one thing that alarmed me and caught my attention was how the kids travelled to school and back.  The nearest public school was Talon-Talon public school, which is located in the mainland. If it was low tide, these poor little kids have to place their school uniforms in sealed plastic bags and wade or for the smaller ones, swim to the mainland which was around 2-3 kilometers away, so that their uniforms will not get soaked. Remember, these are kids as young as 6 or 7 years old. If the tide would permit, they would take their own boats and paddle their way to the mainland. Some are lucky enough to be ‘paddled’ by their fathers before they head to work.

Upon getting to the mainland, they dock their boats on tree stems and bring their paddle to school. After class, they walk back to their boats, untie them, and paddle back home. I’ve never seen kids so independent and fearless!


The reason why this community chooses to live on water is because of their livelihood. The main produce in Layag Layag is seaweed. They plant and harvest these seaweeds just outside of their houses. Sadly, many of the young boys have to stop schooling as early as high school in order to help their families make a living.

Here’s a photo of myself with the ‘seaweed’ boys! Always cheerful and positive.

Another thing that got my attention was the average number of people per household. Moms had anywhere between 4 to 8 kids despite having such low-income levels. Some of them were fathers even before 20 years old. For the women, because of the lack of opportunities, education and absence of aspirations, they decide to marry early and have kids.


After a few hours, we headed back to the city, I hope we were able to bring smiles to this uniquely persevering community! Paradoxically, I was the one really moved after witnessing their persistent and such simple lifestyles. Yet, they remain so detached and so happy with whatever it is that they have – mostly I would say is the company of their families and loved ones!

This experience made me reflect. Many times, we fail to realize how blessed we are because we are pre-occupied with our fast paced lives. And with this consumeristic environment we live in, we tend to want more, more and more, never content with what the Lord has already given us. I think one way to escape this viscous trap is to practice self-giving and detachment before it’s too late. It won’t happen overnight, we will need to do it one small step at a time. With God's grace, it can be done!

The Yellow Boat project is a huge blessing for the people of Layag Layag! Through the generosity of various individuals and institutions, these boats allow the kids, at the very least, to go to school. More so, they are used by the locals to make a living by planting, harvesting then selling the seaweeds in the markets. But more than its pragmatic function, for me, when I see these yellow boats in the community, I see HOPE! I see persevering individuals trying to survive in life! I see selfless Filipinos who care for their fellow people. This is one type of fever we won’t mind spreading – the Yellow Boat fever!


  1. very inspiring....thanks for sharing this :)

  2. nice chris, you have such a big heart!

  3. Hi Chris, i was forced to read this by a friend of mine...which i think you know who she is. But at the end, hindi ako nagsisi na binasa ko blog mo.
    i realized plenty of things. Indeed feel that i am very blessed and yes we have to extend our blessings to others most especially to those unfortunate. What an inspiring blog. Thumbs up!

  4. I was moved by those people who can still smile from all we know how tough their living is. I realized that, you cant really appreciate true happiness without us being contented to what we have. Those kids were brave enough to paddle alone just to attend school. Sometimes, we still need to see other's life story just to comprehend how lucky are we. That's why we must thank God everyday :)Share your blessings and lend a helping hand.

    Good Job idol, continue inspiring!!

  5. It's what others fail to see, how blessed they are in life and yet they still find some time to complain on trivial matters. This is what life is. This is the real situation outside the city. If only people would see how those kids value their education, maybe they won't need to wade or even swim just to get to their school. There are those who took for granted their education but don't realize that others need to sacrifice a lot just to be educated. It's really nice to know that there are still people like you sir, who are very eager to reach out to others, not minding the situation you're going in or the place you're in.

    Keep inspiring youth like us! We're always here to support!

    M :)

  6. Inspiring :-) God bless your heart Chris

  7. It was worth waiting for your next blog entry! Truly another inspirational one that we should keep in our hearts. Your sub title "SO PERSEVERING, SO SIMPLE, YET SO HAPPY" says it all. This type of life that they have is something that we really should ponder about. Especially with the recent issues rattling our nation, the persons involved must have forgotten what a good life should really be.

    Sometimes we tend to forget it too, so by sharing your experience here you made us remember how we should live our life, and how to help others as well. Thank you again for such an inspiring entry!

    I look forward to reading another entry of yours, no matter how long you would take to post again. You are my most favorite blogger ever since you started your first blog! :) Thank you so much again!

    God bless and good luck to your future endeavors! :)

  8. You really have a good heart. Not just your blog, your act but you yourself is such an inspiration nut just to me but to all. Not everyone in basketball or showbiz industry does that kind of job to our unfortunate kababayans. I hope every Filipino or even every citizen in the world can find time to read about this and be inspired for your act.

    Good job, Chris.

  9. I am still blessed pala. Minsan nagrereklamo tayo na walang bagong damit o sapatos. Samantalang sila, hirap sa buhay pero walang reklamo. Nice blog Chris. Dami ko narealize :)

  10. With your help Mr. Chris magtimes two pa sana lahat ng mga blessings sayo BIG HELP! You are born to be a Leader!Big Source of Inspiration po talaga tong blog mo...Sana matapos na yung gulo sa zamboanga kasi kawawa lahat ng victims especially the kids..

  11. nakakainspire naman tong blog mo..:D like the others, i've realized that i am still blessed..:)

  12. ,another inspirational one idol..mahaba man pro full of meaning,,totoo nga nman n we tend to asked for more pro hnd natin na rerealized n mas marami ang nangangailangan..spread love and start helping other people,,,thank u kuya chris for making me realized...luv luv luv,,,may God Bless you.. ;)

  13. Ang ganitong klaseng tao at dapat tularan ng lahat..

  14. Nakakainspire, pagkatapos kong basahin to. Mas gusto kong tapusin pagaaral ko para makatulong sa iba. Good job idol :)