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At TAYO Awards, the youth is the future

By Kara Angan Published Apr 14, 2023 5:00 am

The Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) awards started with a dream: a culture that empowers Filipino youth to serve the country.

In 2003, former Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, former Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, and former National Youth Commission Chairperson Atty. Mabel Villarica Mamba didn’t know what to expect when they laid the foundation for a body that would recognize young Filipinos who organize projects centered on Culture, Arts, and Heritage; Education and Technology; Environment; Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation; Health, Well-Being and Human Development; and Livelihood and Entrepreneurship.

“We thought we had seen it all… but every year, may bagong idea. May bagong project. Twenty years after (TAYO’s creation), we continue to face so many challenges… pero tumindig kayo. You inspired us, you gave us hope. You, after all, are the hope of the nation,” Pangilinan shared in his opening remarks.

Igniting communities

The theme of the 20th installment of the TAYO Awards was “Siklab,” to represent the “undying flare among Filipino youth organizations to make a difference, inspire hope and unity, and positively influence generations to come.”

Ryn Anthony Esolana, executive director for the 20th TAYO Awards, explained that this stemmed from combining a sense of reflection over the last 20 years and a celebration of how far they’ve come. “That’s the whole context of why we brought this whole production together—it’s a celebration. We have to celebrate the 20 years of what TAYO has done for the communities of the organizations.”

“But more than that, we also want to ignite. We don’t want to end the conversation with just a celebration. We want to ignite more opportunities (and) more stories, and that’s why we also had to take our best efforts to amplify the stories of these organizations.”

Almost 500 organizations submitted applications for this year’s awards. After a vigorous screening and judging process, 20 were selected as national finalists.

The projects covered a variety of issues—for example, the Albay Young Farmers Organization encouraged young people to participate in farming technology; the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Leaders’ Council organized programs for the reformation of children in conflict with the law; and the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Calumpang in South Cotabato organized initiatives to inform, educate, and prevent the spread of HIV in their community.

Among the 20 national finalists, 10 were announced as the winners. This included the Albay Young Farmers Association; the Leaders Council of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu; the Open Arms Organization, which created accessible rehabilitation services and social programs for families in Batangas; Alabat Island in Quezon’s Pintakasi, which produced the Buwan ng Sining for their community members to express themselves freely through art; and Project Tala in Isabela, which utilizes theatre to spread awareness around HIV and AIDS.

The remaining awardees include the Youth Empowering Youth Initiative in Bacolod, which worked together with carinderias and market vendors to lessen food waste generation; Iligan Safe Spaces, which organized group dialogues and empathic listening for LGBTQ+ youth; the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Talomo River, which assisted senior high school students and college freshmen with pre-calculus subjects; the Shafaat Agriculture Cooperative, which helped provide an alternative source of income for farmers, internally displaced women from Marawi, and out-of-school youths through an agriculture-centered social enterprise; and finally, Misamis Oriental’s The BAKA, who organized the Agricultural Leadership Incubation program for Kagay-anon youth.

The winners from TAYO 18 and TAYO 19 were also in attendance, where they were formally recognized for their respective awards. The two batches were part of the online editions of the ceremony.

Carrying their communities on their shoulders

"Laging sinasabi na talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” Pintakasi representative Gabriel Villaruel shared while talking about what the award means for their art expression program in Alabat Island, Quezon. “That’s why we’re so thankful kasi dinala namin 'yung bigat ng buong isla namin. We want to showcase that at the national level.”

Villaruel also shared the different challenges they faced as they organized programs in their community, of which were redtagging by local officials and the lack of support from their local government. “Kami-kami lang ang tutulong sa isa’t-isa, kaya gumawa kami ng sariling movement.”

Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Talamo River’s TAYO Award marks the first time an SK council has won the award. “I hope this becomes a message that SKs can also do this. We hope that there will be a lot more SKs, especially with the coming elections in October, that those who really have projects and programs in their mind that would really help the youth, I hope that they take the platform and do something for their community.”

“Walang maliit o malaking organisasyon,” TAYO Awards co-founder Atty. Mabel Villarica Mamba said, explaining that any young person could make a difference. “Walang taga-siyudad, walang promdi.”

At the core of the TAYO Awards is hope—hope that a better Philippines is possible with young people who believe that they can make a difference.

TAYO Awards co-founder former Senator Bam Aquino added, “TAYO has been that beacon of hope and inspiration for the youth, and we’re all grateful for the great work that TAYO has done over the years.”

The top 10 winners and 10 finalists received a trophy designed by renowned artist Toym Imao, as well as P50,000 and P20,000 seed grants respectively to help fund their ongoing projects or start new ones.

Additionally, the winners will receive grants from Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines and San Miguel Corporation amounting to P20,000. The Office of Senator Sonny Angara, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, will also grant P10,000 to all finalists.

“It is evident (in the) causes you’ve adopted and the advocacies you uphold that we are looking into a hall of young people whose lives are already so well-lived,” shared San Miguel Corporation’s vice president for corporate affairs Kin Lichauco.

“Each batch (of TAYO finalists) is packed with people like yourself—problem-solving young adults who are so solutions-focused and always seeking out answers where other people might have given up. In this post-pandemic recovery, we are going to need so many young people like yourselves leaning in.”