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Honoring our mothers throughout the year

PHOTO: Vicky Garchitorena, president of both Ayala Foundation, Inc. and Ayala Foundation USA, officiated the launching of the Kultura Corner in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, together with key officials of Seafood City.


Vicky P. Garchitorena

Some say it smacks of commercialism. A way to rev up sales for gifts, for special dinners out at high-end restaurants, for bouquets of lovely flowers in spring.

Others are happy that one special day is set aside every year to honor the one person who means the most to almost all of us. A way to express our gratitude for all the years, weeks, days, and hours that mothers lavish on their children.

Nothing in the world – not a diamond necklace, not a hand-written letter lovingly composed, not a vacation from household chores – can adequately express our appreciation for the lives of dedication of mothers everywhere.

They kissed away the pain of childhood scratches; cheered us on when we tried our hand at sports or drama, or various contests; empathized with our broken hearts; gave us advice and recipes when we in turn became mothers.

Whether our mother is quiet, boisterous, funny, overbearing, aloof or in our face, we love her because we know that whatever she does – even if it irritates us – is done from the depth of her love for us.

How then can we really show her how much we love her?

Today, there is a growing trend of giving gifts that make a difference in the lives of others. Many birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries, and corporate events are now used as occasions to raise funds for a cause that resonates with the celebrants.

The program GILAS (for Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students) seems to have attracted its fair share of donations in this genre. GILAS is a very strategic nationwide program being implemented by a multisectoral social consortium in the Philippines. It aims to put a computer laboratory with Internet access in all 6,300 or so public high schools in the country. Already, more than 2,100 schools have connected, giving more than one million underprivileged kids access to the information available on the world wide web.

When Raymond Mendez heard about it, he immediately emailed AF USA, saying he had been looking for ten years for a way to honor his mother, who was a public school teacher in Cavite. The trouble was, he didn't know exactly where she had taught, as she had passed away some years ago.

There were six such schools in Cavite and it seemed an impossible task to find out which one was his mother's school. Fortunately, he told us that his mother had studied there in many years back and we found out that at that time, there was only one public high school there. Today, the Emiliano Tirona National High School in Cavite has a computer lab with internet access named after his mother Marilyn Abalos, a second generation FilAm, saw in GILAS a way of honoring her mother, now 94 years old. A retired Citibanker based in New York, Marilyn decided to identify a public high school in her mother's hometown – Oton, Iloilo – and to undertake a campaign to raise the $6,500 needed to put ten PCs, a Local Area Network, and internet access in the school.

She did it by sending an email to all her relatives and friends with a photo of her mother asking them to join her in this wonderful way of giving back – to her Mom, to her kababayans, and to her country. In about six months, she had reached her goal. Today, Marilyn has decided to also get more involved in the school, keeping in touch with the teachers and mentoring a number of students.

She has also decided to sponsor a second school, still in Oton.

She is a perfect model for those who may ask themselves "What can one person do to change the lives of our brothers and sisters in the home country?" Marilyn identified her goal and rallied her natural circles – first her family members (Even her nephew asked his aunts and uncles to donate to GILAS instead of giving him graduation gifts.) and then her circles of friends and former colleagues in Citibank.

She is that One Voice. She has spoken up in the name of the kids in Oton, who, with their computer and internet literacy skills, will be better prepared for the workforce because one person cared. And inspired others to do the same.

Do you want to honor your mother? Find out what city or province she is from. Then email us
garchitorena.vp@ayala.com.ph or give us a call (650) 598-3126. We will help you give her a Mother's Day gift that will live in the hearts and minds of at least 500 Filipino youth.

Happy Mother's Day!

(About the author: Vicky Garchitorena is constantly in the whirl of things being the driving force in several prestigious groups in the homeland and was the former head of Arroyo/s Presidential Management Staff and senior consultant on Poverty Alleviation and Good Governance -- remember, she resigned all her Malacanang positions a day before the so-called Hyatt 10 walked out in protest of the Garci tapes? -- that we sometimes forget that she is also a mother of five and grandmother of three. As the steady hand at the helm of the Ayala Foundation, Inc., the social development arm of the Ayala Group of Companies, Vicky is very much involved in the GILAS, a program that aims to put computer labs with Internet access in all 6,350 public high schools in the Philippines. - dg)

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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