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Angat Buhay NGO keeps spirit of volunteerism and hope alive amid dark times

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Jul 01, 2022 6:35 pm

When the May 9 elections resulted in the victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Lorie Rivera, like many other Filipino citizens, was left depressed and in despair for the future of the country.

But the 43-year-old college professor saw a beacon of light with the announcement that former vice president Leni Robredo's program, Angat Buhay, was going to be launched as a non-government organization. During its official launch on July 1, she took it upon herself to sign up at once as a volunteer.

"During the campaign, I gave what I could because I believed in what VP Leni and Senator Kiko stood for. I would be a volunteer for the organization because the coming years will be hard for many Filipinos, and I want to help in any way that I can the way that VP Leni, the OVP, and many other volunteers helped during the very difficult years since 2016," Rivera told PhilSTAR L!fe.

Rivera, shared that as many as 200,000 signed up, but only 6,000 slots were opened on the launch day Friday, which was marked by a Street and Art Festival at the Volunteer Center in Katipunan, Quezon City. 

The volunteer shared that visitors can go around two exhibit rooms which features more information about the Angat Buhay program, see items that will be featured in the pink museum, and buy portraits at the launch event, which runs until tomorrow, July 2. Only 10 people are allowed at a time at a time for just 10 minutes for social distancing purposes.

At the launch event, there's a food court and booth selling items like shirts plus other campaign-related items, and of course the murals to admire. The pink jeepney, which was brought to nearby campaign sorties to attract support from voters, is also parked at the Angat Buhay volunteer center. 

How it started

What started as a simple contribution of the former vice president's office is now turning into Angat Pinas Inc., a full-fledged nongovernment organization comprised of volunteers who merely want to see a change in the country.

Angat Buhay was initially launched in October 2016 with the aim of bringing together organizations and individuals alike to provide a helping hand to the families living in the farthest and the poorest communities in the country.

Through close cooperation with partners, the program is able to empower disaster-affected families, grassroot stakeholders, urban poor, women and the youth through various modes of engagement.

From a life of hardships and impoverishment, 622,000 Filipino families in 223 cities and municipalities have had their lives eased because of the flagship anti-poverty program that has spanned for nearly six years now. These figures are as of December last year from a report of Robredo's office.

Robredo may be done with her role as the second highest official in the country, but she still has more to offer up her pink sleeve with the launch of Angat Pinas Inc.

What are its programs?

Food security and nutrition, universal healthcare, public education, rural development, housing and resettlement, and women empowerment are the six key areas that the program focused on. These are more or less the same advocacy areas that Robredo will still push for with Angat Pinas Inc.

In her speech on the launch of the organization, Robredo announced that they will give importance to food security and nutrition or "Angat Kalusugan". 

"Ngayon, mag-uumpisa tayo sa apat na key advocacy areas. [Y]ung umpisa, angat kalusugan, na ang pangunahing agenda nito ay food security, nutrition, at healthcare. Gutom at sakit ang pangunahing kalaban ng mga nasa laylayan," she said.

"Kapag nagkulang sa pagkain ang mga bata, maaga siyang mapapag-iwanan, at habang-buhay niyang kakailanganing maghabol nang maghabol," she added. 

According to a press release of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, Filipino children are at risk from a poor diet, with many suffering from anaemia, stunting, and obesity. This is a result of them not getting their required nutritional intake, with 44 percent not being fed fruits and vegetables and 59 percent not being fed fish or meat.

As Robredo has always emphasized that the Philippines is facing an education countries in many of her speeches and interviews, Angat Pinas Inc. has its sights on improving the quality of education in the country, dubbed as "Angat Edukasyon".

The community learning hubs that have been started through Bayanihan E-skwela will continue. Bayanihan E-skwela was an initiative of Robredo that aims to assist teachers and parents by publishing videos about how to make lessons and project-based learning at home.

This initiative gave birth to 129 community learning hubs, which are centers built in communities where children can get assistance on answering their modules while schools were closed during the pandemic.

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However, Robredo said that the hubs would be a little different now that schools are practicing face-to-face classes again.

"Since magbubukas na 'yung mga paaralan, gusto nating i-convert ito into remedial centers na ang focus niya reading atsaka math," she said.

Robredo also said that the organization would pursue building dormitories and classrooms at communities that need them.

Another advocacy that they would focus on is disaster relief and rehabilitation. Robredo and her camp are known for personally leading and organizing relief efforts to aid Filipinos whenever typhoons and other disasters would strike.

"Magbibigay pa din tayo ng agarang lingap, susuporta sa rehabilitasyon, at pagsasagawa ng mga programa para sa risk-reduction at resiliency," Robredo said.

The last key advocacy area is community engagement, which Robredo said would be the leading mechanism in gathering volunteers.

"Ito ang magiging pangunahing mekanismo para tipunin ang ating mga volunteers upang mabisang maitutok ang kanilang lakas sa nangangailangan lalo na sa sarili nilang komunidad. [P]atuloy ang pagpapadami at pagpapalakas ng ating mga volunteers," Robredo said.

According to Rivera, volunteers were encouraged to sign up to offer their help in these areas. The launch also included a fundraising activity, which would be a sale of portraits and artworks on display to provide seed money for the organization.

There is also the "pink museum," now officially called Museo ng Pag-asa in the works, which will contain the handmade gifts Robredo has received throughout her campaign, along with videos, internactive experiences and artwork from citizens showcasing the "pink" phenomenon and how it continues to inspire Filipino citizens.

The will to volunteer

Angat Buhay is what launched Robredo into having an active role during her six-year term after not being given a cabinet position by her "boss" and now former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Rivera could not help but shed tears during when Robredo gave her speech.

"Her power to inspire and give hope washed over me like a healing wave. She talked about all the good things that everyone can still do to help the Philipppines. Seeing the volunteer center again was very therapeutic, from seeing the art exhibit and the Museo ng Pag-asa teaser exhibit, to listening to Kakampink artists, to just being around other Filipinos who believe in honesty, integrity, and good governance," she said.

Although Robredo faced defeat against her political rival Marcos Jr. in the recent elections, she emphasized that she still succeeded in the end because her campaign was able to start the spirit of volunteerism which, as far as the Philippines is concerned, is needed now more than ever.