Volunteer Mission of Hope Educates Filipino Kids in Sabah


by: Christine O. Avendaño
March 1st, 2015

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OUT OF THE BOX   Children of undocumented Filipinos learn the 3 R’s as well as other basic skills at Stairway to Hope Learning Center at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, an alternative learning center built through the joint effort of volunteers from the Filipino community and the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–It seems strange to hear the “Lupang Hinirang” being sung in Sabah, the state in East Malaysia to which the Philippines has a longstanding claim on behalf of the Sultanate of Sulu. 

The Philippine national anthem is being heartily sung by children of undocumented Filipinos in the disputed territory who are given free education, thanks to volunteers from the Filipino community there and the drive of the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia.

Stairway to Hope Learning Center in the capital of Kota Kinabalu is one of six alternative learning centers (ALCs) in Sabah where more than 2,000 children of undocumented Filipinos are enrolled.

Besides the Philippine national anthem, the children at the ALCs are taught “reading, arithmetic, Bahasa and like skills,” according to Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya.

‘Rampant illiteracy’

Malaya said the ALCs were put up by members of the Filipino community in Malaysia, with the embassy’s encouragement, in response to the “rampant illiteracy” of thousands of Filipino children in Sabah who had no access to public schools because of the irregular status of their parents.

Under Malaysian laws, access to local public schools extends only to those possessing Malaysian citizenship.

Malaya said the parents of undocumented Filipinos could not afford to send their children to private schools. A way had to be found for education to be provided to these children who had nowhere to go but the streets, he said.

“These children, mostly Muslim Filipinos, would often be found in public markets in the large towns or in oil palm plantations in the interior of Sabah, loitering around or doing menial jobs,” Malaya said.

There are now six ALCs serving some 2,200 school-age children in the Sabah capital and the municipalities of Keningau, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Sandakan.

Tremendous challenges

The ALCs are run and staffed by volunteer teachers—Filipinos and Sabahans—who receive no compensation. Most of the volunteers are the parents themselves who care about the future of their kids, Malaya said.

The centers are being financed through donations from “kind-hearted individuals and some corporations.”

The challenges faced by the ALCs are “tremendous,” Malaya said.

“There is lack of almost everything that normal schools and pupils often take for granted—teachers who are qualified to teach, comfortable classrooms, proper school facilities, school supplies, adequate operating expenses,” he said.

It is a “miracle” that these centers are still running, the ambassador said.

“It is the volunteers’ resourcefulness and commitment to the children’s future that keep them going,” he said.

Malaya said the Philippine government was committed to providing this kind of alternative education to Filipino children in Sabah.

The education intervention program for the Filipino children in Sabah is the first such program undertaken by the government.

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Some 2,200 children are recipients of free education from six centers that thrive through individual and corporate donations. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MOU on education

In February 2014, during the visit of President Aquino to Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in education.

“The Philippine side has indicated that it wishes to give priority to alternative education in the implementation of the agreement,” Malaya said.

Malaya said the hope was to see more ALCs put up in Sabah, as well as for the government to work out “an appropriate recognition and accreditation of the ALCs by the Malaysian authorities in the near future.”

Last November, “at the urging of the embassy,” the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) conducted a two-week capability workshop in Kota Kinabalu to “raise the competency of some 65 volunteer teachers,” Malaya said.

The workshop was attended by DepEd Undersecretary Mario Derequito and CFO Chair Mely Nicolas.

Beyond politics

Malaya recalled that when he first visited Stairway to Hope two years ago he found the children there to be shy. But after six months of basic literacy, he could see the children had gained much confidence. He credited those running the school, led by Marilou Salgatar-Chin, for this.

“For many of us, the issue is beyond politics. It is humanitarian, it is about children and the imperative to provide them a future brighter than the bleak one they face in the future,” Malaya said.

The ambassador said he never thought of focusing on education as a diplomat, but now he was glad that he did.


by: Christine O. Avendaño
March 1st, 2015


Filipinos Score Low On Financial Literacy


The Filipino Times
April 22, 2015

DUBAI: The financial literacy levels across the Asia Pacific region, which includes the Philippines, is decreasing with only few countries as exception, according to a latest research by MasterCard.

Besides Philippines, other markets that scored low on financial literacy included Malaysia, Bangladesh, Thailand and Singapore, Gulf News quoted MasterCard’s Financial Literacy Index as pointing out.

The index measures the progress of financial literacy in 16 countries, including India, Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China, Korea and Myanmar among others.

India, as well as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Taiwan are the only markets to improve their financial literacy scores in 2014, and 2013, the report said.

Overall, people from Taiwan are the most financially literate, followed by New Zealand and Hong Kong. Singapore’s financial literacy dropped from the second to sixth place, while Japan remains at the lowest rung, it added.

Meanwhile, Filipinos occupied the 8th spot, while Indonesians were ranked 14th and Bangladeshis 15th, it was pointed out.

These countries, where a large proportion of expatriates in the UAE come from, are considered a region of savers. While majority of these consumers finance prudently, and save regularly, many are not very sound with other financial concepts, including retirement funds, the risks associated with investment, inflation and asset diversification, Gulf News reported.

“In both developed and emerging markets, people are struggling to understand the basic financial concepts such as inflation. In addition, while Asia Pacific is a region of savers, lack of retirement plans can have particular concern,” T.V. Seshadri, MasterCard group executive, global products and solutions, Asia Pacific, reportedly said.

MasterCard’s study was conducted for the fourth time between July and August 2014. The findings were released only last week.


The Filipino Times
April 22, 2015


CSC Highlights Women’s Role in Governance


by Criselda David
Philippine News Correspondent
Bayanihan News
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QUEZON CITY, Philippines – As it joins the Women’s Month celebration this March, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) recognizes the role of women in governance and nation-building.

Women make up the majority of the bureaucracy and as such, they play a significant part in the implementation of government programs as well as in policy and decision making. The CSC said it is only fitting to ensure the welfare and raise the morale of female workers so they can continue to be productive members of the bureaucracy.

In the 2010 Inventory of Government Personnel, there are 827,157 female government employees, representing 58.7% of the workforce.

However, according to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), women’s participation in decision-making can still be improved as males continue to outnumber females in various top leadership posts in government.

The CSC called on government agencies to observe gender and development (GAD) laws and policies, especially those that advance women’s welfare.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, the CSC issued Memorandum Circular No. 25, s. 2010 specifying guidelines on the availment of special leave benefits for women who have undergone surgery caused by gynecological disorders.

The policy says that female government workers, regardless of age and civil status, are entitled to up to two (2) months special leave with full pay following surgery caused by gynecological disorders. The employee should have rendered six (6) months of continuous aggregate service for the last 12 months prior to surgery.

In 2005, the CSC also issued Resolution No. 05-1206 or the Guidelines on the Availment of the 10-day leave under Republic Act No. 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004). The policy entitles any female employee in the government service who is a victim of violence, or any woman employee whose child is a victim of violence, to a paid leave of absence not exceeding ten days.

March is National Women’s Month and the theme for this year is “Juana, Desisyon Mo ay Mahalaga sa Kinabukasan ng Bawat Isa, Ikaw Na!” which aims to celebrate and emphasize women’s roles in leadership, power, and decision-making.


by Criselda David
Philippine News Correspondent
Bayanihan News
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


International Women's Day: Where are women now?


Fritzie Rodriguez

Do Filipino women and men have a fair playing field in terms of power, labor, and governance?

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MANILA, Philippines – As the country observes Women's Day on Sunday, March 8, how do Filipinos recognize women in power and power in women?

This year, the Philippines highlights the full participation of women in policy-making and their role in society and development. The Philippine Commission on Women hopes to spread this message through the theme, “Juana, desisyon mo ay mahalaga sa kinabukasan ng bawa't isa. Ikaw na!" (Juana, your decision is important for everyone. You are the one!)

The Philippines has seen much progress in promoting gender equality over the years, but official statistics reveal otherwise.

Traditional gender roles still triumph over certain aspects of life, as reflected in participation gaps in labor and governance.

As of 2014, the Philippines has failed 4 out of the 7 indicators for "promoting gender equality and empowering women," one of the Millennium Development Goals set to be achieved by the end of the year.

Women have been the country’s 5th poorest basic sector in the past 6 years, with a virtually unchanging poverty incidence. As of 2012, Women in ARMM had the highest level at 55%, and NCR the lowest at 4.1%. (READ: Why many of the hungry are women)

Poverty incidence among Filipino women as a basic sector
2006 2012
25.9% 25.6%

(Source: National Statistical Coordination Board)

"In the Philippines, women’s labor market participation is lower than men’s due to inadequate employment and decent work opportunities, domestic labor and care constraints, and social norms," the International Labor Organization (ILO) assessed in 2013.

Labor force participation rate
Women Men
49.8% 78.1%

 (Source: Philippine Statistics Authority)

The ILO also found that women in the Philippines have lower labor participation compared to women in Cambodia and Kazakhstan.

Women's labor force participation rate

Since "gendered social norms" box women in domestic roles, they tend to spend more time on "unpaid work" like household and care tasks, hence constraining their participation in paid work.

In 2011, 31% of working-age Filipino women were not in the labor force due to family duties, ILO found. Only 3% of men experienced the same.

The country's gender daily wage gap is only 3%, at women’s advantage. However, this does not consider the "substantial gender differences" in certain careers, which could widen the gap to 30%.

As the country's population swells, the demand for women's unpaid labor may also rise.

Women, where art thou?

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Although more and more women are penetrating fields traditionally dominated by men, they are still underrepresented in areas like law, information technology, engineering, agriculture, and architecture, according to ILO.

"Sex segregation by level and type of training limits women’s opportunities for employment in more technical fields," it added.

One of the many Filipinos breaking such gender stereotypes is Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo. On Friday, March 6, Robredo recalled how she finished law school while also being a mother to small children.

"I promised myself that my family will come first. I work while my kids are at school, but when they're home, I should be at home too," she shared during the 7th GoNegosyo Women Entrepreneurs Summit.

She brings her kids to school, accompanies them to swim training, and tutors them. "It's easier to balance in the province. You don’t have traffic, everything is very near," she added. "At hati kami ng husband ko sa lahat." (And my husband and I split all tasks.)

Not all women, however, share Robredo's fate.

Some women are unable to study, have limited resources and work options, have no support systems, and some cannot afford to spend enough time with their children.

As of 2013, majority – or over 5,000 – of employed Filipino women are "laborers and unskilled workers," theDepartment of Labor and Employment reported.

They earn an average of P159/day, the lowest among all sectors.

Lowest average daily basic pay of women in different occupation groups
Laborers, unskilled (i.e., domestic helpers, cleaners, manufacturing) P159.18
Farmers, forestry workers, fishers P200.08
Service workers, shop and market sales P219.86
Trades and related workers P244.59

Women with the highest daily pay were government officials and corporate executives at P845, followed by working professionals at P740.

Meanwhile, women farmers and fishers spend most of the day out in the field or the sea, and upon arriving home, they must face household chores. This leaves them less time for other family activities.

Some jobs also require women to be away from their families, as in the case of live-in employees like househelpers.

"Gender stereotyping in our culture is still very strong," Robredo stressed. "Obligation to care for children, homes is given to women. If they somehow lack in that area, they're judged."

"As legislators, we try to close the gender gap by passing laws that can empower women and allow them to handle both family and work," she added, advising workplaces to set up daycare centers for working mothers. (READ: PH laws unfair to women)

"Alam mo naman sa Pilipinas, laging bida mga lalaki," Senator Cynthia Villar quipped. "It’s a culture. Ang nangyari tuloy, women have to work harder." (You know in the Philippines, men are always the "star." It's a culture. So what happens is women have to work harder.)

Women in power

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In the Philippines, men dominate both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

At present, only 6 out of the 24 senatorial seats are occupied by women, while there are only 79 women out of the 289 representatives in the House.

The 2013 elections showed that women occupied a rather small percentage of local government posts:

Women as governors 23%
Women as municipal mayors 21%

(Source: Philippine Commission on Women)

All these, however, are just numbers that the public can still change in the coming years, advocates say. What is more important is to push more legislators, women and men alike, to uphold gender rights.

Gender equality is not a fight between women and men, but a goal to be championed by both parties.

On the upside, several Filipino women over the years have been appointed as CEOs, chief justice, ombudsman, cabinet secretaries, among other "poweful" positions. Women in key foreign relations posts also increased from 28% in 2002, to 35% in 2010.

Many other women are doing just as much, oftentimes, in silence. They are everywhere, they are faceless, they are nameless. They are not in power, but they are working hard, and they are waiting for the rest of the country to recognize the power in them. – Rappler.com



Fritzie Rodriguez



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