This article was taken from the Philippine Daily Inquirer http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/128803/lighting-up-lives
In line with the celebration of Peace One Day Sept. 21, the “Ilaw ng Paglinaw” (Light of Enlightenment) team, composed of five high-school students from Xavier School, went to Payatas to bring light to impoverished homes.
The team’s vision is to help eradicate darkness in the homes of Filipinos who have access to only minimal source of light and as a result, only have the daytime to function. The Ilaw ng Paglinaw initiative was formed with this vision.
By providing rechargeable, cost-efficient and environment-friendly LED lights to families, the project will help people be productive even at night.
The Ilaw ng Paglinaw project started out a year ago when the team won the Indie Engineering Competition of the University of the Philippines-Diliman on April 8. As a result, it secured funding from the Ninoy and Cory Aquino and Tanging Yaman Foundations as part of its prize.
With a strong desire to give back to the community and help out in our own simple way, the team decided to carry out its first major operation by visiting Payatas and lighting up their homes.
The journey to Payatas was an experience in itself. This being the first time for most of us to visit Payatas, we didn’t really know what to expect. Aside from the extremely heavy traffic that rainy Saturday afternoon, we also weren’t sure where the chapel meeting place with our beneficiaries was located. As a result, we ended up having to search almost every nook and cranny of Payatas.
At one point, after going around for one hour with no luck, we thought of just going home and returning another time. Luckily, we decided to give it one last shot, with a visit to the Payatas parish office, which we found with the help of Google Maps.
We were finally directed to the chapel, where our beneficiaries were waiting.
Once we got to our location, we felt energized. We immediately began unloading the lights and visited the homes of the residents. It was a really eye-opening experience, seeing how underdeveloped and neglected the area was.
Exploring the different streets and barangays of Payatas, we saw for ourselves the poverty-stricken place. You could see children and adults wearing worn-out clothing.
The houses were also very run-down. Simply put, the families living there needed as much help as they could get.
At first, we felt a bit uncomfortable as we went through the narrow streets, with several of the people staring at us, probably wondering why some Chinese-looking kids were even there in the first place. But as we gave them the lights, “salamat,” “thank you’s” and wide smiles started coming.
“My initial realization when I first saw the people of Payatas was that they were kind of scary, and may even be into drugs, as we noticed a drug-rehab center in the vicinity,” said student Jasperr Ang. “I felt afraid and thought that this project would fail, but as we got to the area, the people I thought were scary seemed to be very pleasant and happy. One thing that struck me most was how thankful they were for the lights. I actually did not expect them to be so grateful, but I was wrong.”
“The experience was very unique and different, because this time the project was initiated by us, not by the school,” said Sherwin Lu, who believes that the youth should take the initiative in doing projects outside of school to help the community.
“We learned how, even if there are roadblocks, one must not give up on a goal that you know will lead to a positive change,” said Nathan Cotoco, referring to how we initially couldn’t find the place, but our desire to light up the homes of families spurred us to keep trying until we found our beneficiaries.
“We want to be able to provide the basic needs for all of those who are underprivileged. We want to make a difference. Ilaw ng Paglinaw is only our first project, and the team will have more to come,” said King Alandy Dy on future plans.
At the end of the day, seeing the smiles on the faces of people more than made up for the tiring trip and preparation. More than that, the fulfillment we felt after being able to help out in our own simple way was more than enough.
Our lights obviously won’t completely transform the lives of these poor Filipinos, but we hope that our lights will give them hope for a better future. Moreover, we also hope that through this project and our future projects, we will be able to inspire the youth to help make a difference in their community and help uplift the lives of our less fortunate countrymen.
Many teenagers and students these days think that we’re still too young to make a difference, but in reality, anyone can initiate change even in his own little way. All it takes is the desire to help and the willingness to share one’s blessings.
We hope that this will be the start of greater things to come. Our spirits have been bolstered by two Rotary clubs which have already signified their intentions to help fund the expansion of the Ilaw ng Paglinaw project.
If you want to donate, support or be part of our project, you can visit our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/IlawngPaglinaw and feel free to message us! Remember, it is never too early or too late to let your light shine!