Our President, A. Margherita Maffeis-Natale, who is also the Honorary Consul of the Philippines in Ticino, along with her husband, traveled to the Philippines a few weeks before the start of the pandemic with a special mission. Their mission was to consolidate our newly established sister organization, Culture Ticino Network & Philippines Association, based in Paombong, and to initiate the important “Sustainable Development in Paombong” project. Here is her account:
“As is tradition, I am here to share with you my latest humanitarian journey to the Philippines, which took place in January 2020. We departed on December 31, 2019, celebrating with positive emotions in various locations around the world as we bid farewell to one year and welcomed another. After a long 24-hour journey, we arrived on January 1, 2020, at Manila Airport, where we were warmly welcomed by Jennefer Espinosa, our local representative. We were then escorted, with an additional 2.5 hours of travel, to our hotel located in the Bulacan Region. After a day of adjusting to the jetlag and regaining our strength, we began our humanitarian journey.
On January 3, our journey began with the first meeting at the hotel with the committee members of the newly established Culture Ticino Network and Philippines Association based in Paombong. The initial topics of discussion included the projects to be implemented for the most needy and the organization of the Spyri Prize award ceremony scheduled for January 14.
In the following days, I held several meetings, including those aimed at establishing the legal foundations upon which to build our new association.”
On January 7th, in the morning, I met with the parish priest of Paombong, Rev. Fr. Anacleto C. Ignazio, and Francis Bartolome, vice chairman of the parish council, with whom we began discussing various future projects to assist the needy in Paombong.
Subsequently, I wanted to verify the validity and progress of the educational project initiated by our Culture Ticino Network Association in Ticino in January 2019 at the “Central Elementary School” in Paombong. I was pleased to observe the functionality and positive engagement of the students.
During our visit, I delivered another new LABDOO Laptop, adding to the four others provided during the previous year. Educational software has been installed on all five devices provided, aimed at assisting the training and learning of the students.
The project has been very successful, and our Association intends to provide more educational laptops to the school in the future. A heartfelt thank you for their valuable collaboration also goes to the school principal, Marquez T. Cartel, and the teacher, Ms. Janet Principale.
On January 8, I met with Ms. Susan “Toots” Ople, the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute in Manila, to whom we will be presenting our Spyri Prize. It was also a valuable opportunity to inform her about our humanitarian projects for the most needy in Paombong. On the same day, still in Manila, I conducted other meetings.
On January 10, I had the opportunity to meet with Swiss Ambassador Alain Gaschen in Manila. It was a very positive meeting with a desire to further assist the most needy in the Philippines.
On January 13, the day began with an event with catastrophic consequences for all of us, but especially for the population of the towns near Manila: the eruption of the Taal Volcano. This disaster allowed us to better understand how these people live in constant danger, both due to their poverty and possible natural disasters. The volcanic ash reached within a few kilometers of our hotel and saddened all of us. However, I observed that despite everything, this people has not lost the solidarity and courage that distinguishes them. The government immediately took action to inform and assist the people who had to evacuate the affected area. Many individuals and local associations gathered in community centers in the following days to cook and help those who had to leave their homes. Shortly afterward, the Manila airport was also closed, putting our return home at risk.
On January 14th, the Spyri Award ceremony took place at a venue in our hotel. The Spyri Award is an accolade presented by the Culture Ticino Network Association, recognizing an individual who has distinguished themselves for peace and solidarity. In 2019, it was awarded to Ms. Susan Ople, who was unable to join us on November 16, 2019, to personally receive it during the ninth edition of our 9th World Forum for Peace.
Ms. Ople received the Spyri Award for the assistance her foundation has provided and continues to provide to exploited and mistreated Filipino workers worldwide.
On January 15th, we finally received the news that our return flight had been confirmed.
On January 16th, the inaugural meeting of the Culture Ticino Network and Philippines Association was held, during which all roles were defined, and the desire to establish a multifunctional center for training activities was expressed. The evening was filled with joy and a strong eagerness to carry out important projects for the needy in Paombong and the Bulacan Region. Among the first projects scheduled for 2020 are the distribution of 31 scholarships lasting for 2 years to the neediest students; a medical mission (providing free medical check-ups and surgeries for those in need) in collaboration with the Paombong parish and the St. Luke Medical Center Foundation; the implementation of training programs for chefs (Tesda program), and the realization of the “Sustainable Development” project in Paombong.
On January 17, 2020, we departed for Switzerland, leaving behind the nostalgia for this wonderful country and the people we have met and encountered. However, we also left with the certainty in our hearts that we now have a capable local committee that will collaborate with our Association in Ticino to realize humanitarian projects for the needy in the area. In doing so, we have strengthened the bridge between Ticino and the Philippines!
Mabuhay Culture Ticino Network and Philippines Association in Paombong and Culture Ticino Network in Lugano/Switzerland. God bless us all!