What’s in a house? A story of service and compassion…Glad 1 The Promised Land

Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”

Psalm 41:1

Growing up near the campus of the biggest school in my hometown in Midsayap, North Cotabato is something I consider a blessing as it gave me a front seat observing the academic community to which, I attribute to a significant extent, the moulding of my values and character.

The moment I stepped in a classroom at Southern Christian College (SCC) as a Grade 1 pupil, there was this one figure that from the eyes of an innocent child then, was bigger than life. He spoke with so much wisdom and vigor and when he talked, I couldn’t get my eyes and ears off him as he did not only speak of great stories about God and application of parables but he genuinely spoke from the heart. He was Reverend Dr. Eliezer Mapanao, the President of SCC from 1967-1987; 1994-1997- practically the entire time I was studying in this esteemed school from Grade 1 up to High School.

Despite his Harvard Master’s Degree in Theology and while serving as resident director for International Study Fellowship at Princeton University, he decided to accept the call of his father-in-law to “save” a struggling school which at that time was at rock bottom and moved his family from California to settle in our hometown to spread the light through education. He introduced the paradigm of soil and soul for social well-being. He was a great fundraiser using his pen and tongue to bring dollars for the construction of school buildings and implementation of academic and community programs. Read more about his inspiring life: https://southernchristiancollege.edu.ph/remembering-his-elyness-in-scc-a-tribute-to-dr-eliezer-d-mapanao/

“While we are a small college, we serve a big God, and he bids us to grow and glow… The first and best resource of SCC is its un-surrendering people. Lesser mortals would have presided over her funeral long ago.” ~Rev. Dr. Eliezer D. Mapanao

Jowena, his eldest daughter graduated with a degree in Psychology from the University of the Philippines and immediately after graduation, he asked her to teach in the program of the school for underprivileged children. She agreed to do so and as she was teaching, she observed that these Muslim children kept on missing classes as they would always get sick. A further survey revealed that it was because of their poor living conditions that caused the frequent absences which was exacerbated by a fire that destroyed almost all of their houses in that squatters’ area.

Such led to a fundraising effort by Jowena to buy a land and relocate these families. Later, through the leadership of Mrs. Leda Moralde, two hectares of land was purchased. Fast forward to 2015, those children whose families were recipients of the village are now young adults and while they had been given the land, they could not transfer because of some legal requisites and lack of funds.

The passing of Dr. Mapanao on October 13, 2015 at age 89, sparked the aspiration of the Muslim young adults led by Mrs. Norma Umali and Bai Puti to relocate. Moved by the appeal of these young adults (who were Jowena’s pupils 25 years ago), his wife, Mrs. Portia Mapanao responded which led to the founding of the Bangsamoro Young Adults Association (BYAA) whose Vision and Mission is to build the homes of 65 Muslim families and implement livelihood programs to make the community sustainable. She tapped her network, talked to government officials and appealed to the current SCC leadership through Dr. Edwin Balaki (incumbent President) for things to get moving.

I was privileged to be part of this relocation project becoming a reality which is aptly referred to as Glad 1, The Promised Land. A couple of years back, I got a letter from Mrs. Portia soliciting help and in my own humble way heeded to such call. A bigger opportunity came when I got in to be part of Team Manulife-John Hancock runners for the 2020 Boston Marathon (where my company Manulife-John Hancock is a proud sponsor for 35 years now). Each runner is required to do a fund-raising campaign. I chose this relocation project to be my recipient and raised close to 700,000 Philippines Pesos (roughly $15,000) from 92 generous individuals to construct 15 houses overshooting my target of 10 houses! Even if the usual Marathon did not happen this year, this worthy endeavour came out of it which I am truly honoured to initiate. To all my friends and family who generously opened their hearts to my call, may God bless you many times over. It was so inspiring to say the least!

Each house is built on a 150 sqm space (more or less) and is a one-room space with no divisions when it is turned-over. A house is built when the recipients thru BYAA are able to raise their share of 20,000 Pesos (which they save up for over a year on the average as the source of income of these families is peddling sliced fruits, vegetables and candies) as counterpart. The Foundation raises funds of 45,000 Pesos ($935 US) as each house costs 65,000 Pesos ($1,350 US) to build. Imagine how low-cost the houses are considering the small amount to build them but for each of these families, it is a dream come true.

For those from the Philippines and those knowledgeable about Mindanao, I grew up very much aware of the differences and conflicts between and among Christians and Muslims and this is what makes this project even more meaningful. As one anonymous donor said, it crosses cultural boundaries and is really an initiative to demonstrate that we can co-exist and live harmoniously. It takes a visionary leader with a compassionate heart to make it happen and such was Dr. Mapanao and Mrs. Portia Mapanao.

Now we are down to just 10 more houses to go. Ten more families waiting to have a house they can call their own. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we call on you to respond. This year had been beset by many challenges but there is still so much to be thankful for and giving to this worthy cause may just be one way to give back. No amount is small not to matter. Every heartfelt donation will be much appreciated.

Mrs. Portia just celebrated her 86th birthday last November 21 and her only wish is to complete this project as envisioned by her late husband. What a life testimony this is!

It is my prayer that you will be moved to donate and together, let us realise the dream of The Promised Land.

For your donations, please give to https://www.gofundme.com/f/glad1relocationproject?sharetype=teams&member=3527002&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na%20share-sheet&rcid=c1dbcb935ac6455bbd8654c5a3ebb844&fbclid=IwAR3tTjB_jOPttwXHBUl1KjkBtNpldpQa8YbulTbCIp7Vj-Z2zine9w9rgvU

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