'CNN Heroes' nominee is Pinoy helping troubled youth

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 05 2009 10:42 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2009 03:08 AM

An organization of young Filipinos is actively making a difference in the lives of children in depressed areas.

The Dynamic Teen Company (DTC) aims to uplift the lives of underprivileged children younger than themselves through education. Armed with only a pushcart full of books and other educational materials, DTC brings the classroom to children and educate in slum areas, dumpsites and even in the cemetery.

Formed in 1997 in Cavite by Efren Peñaflorida, its mission then was to keep the youth away from trouble and vices.

“Nakita namin yung pinaka-ugat ng problema na nanggagaling sa mga slum areas kung saan ginu-groom yung mga future gang members, gang leaders, so kaya nag-start kami noong 1999 na mag reach out sa mga bata sa slum area, para dun pa lang ma-guide na namin sila na di sila sumama sa mga ibang klaseng activities,” said Peñaflorida.

Born to tricycle driver Efren Sr. and housewife Lucila, Penaflorida grew up near the city's dumpsite where he spent most of his younger years playing and swimming in the garbage beach.

Hardworking and intelligent, Penaflorida’s commitment is to improve the standard of public secondary education. For more than four years, he has been giving free tutorial classes to high school and college students.

 Penaflorida exudes the qualities of an everyday hero. His life would seem ordinary, but the tasks he undertakes are extraordinary earning the respect of his peers and even parents whom he helped in the past.

There was a time when he skipped a class to convince a peer to abandon his attempt to kill himself. He also stood up against an abusive teacher and brought the complaint to the City Schools Division Superintendent to protect his classmates.

Penaflorida had his share of bad experiences while growing up near the slums. He had fallen prey to bullies and solvent kids in the area.

By the age of 16, he knew he had to do something to change all these. Together with some classmates, they started DTC.

Today, Penaflorida wants to address the growing issue of juvenile delinquents. He also wants to address moral, and the values of education of today's youth.

Michael Advincula is a living example of the group’s positive work. The organization was able to help Advincula turn his life around for the better. Advincula used to be a thief and an Akyat Bahay gang member. Now, he is a full time volunteer and scholar of DTC.

“Nagbago po yung buhay ko dahil sa pagtutuok nila sa akin. Tinuro nila lahat ng pwede kong malaman, na dahil po doon nakita ko na kaya po pa lang tumulong at tulungan yung mga tulad ko po. Dati sa madilim na parte ng buhay, sila po nag-angat ng buhay ko,” said Advincula.

Hopeful

Meanwhile, DTC president Eman Bagual is full of hopes. Bagual grew up in a slum area and never thought that his life would finally have a purpose.

“Sabi ko siguro pati ako mayroon akong pagbabago pwedeng gawin. Kaya hinanap ko yung paraan kung paano po ako makakatulong at nakita ko yung paraan na ito sa Dynamic,” Bagual said.

Bagual is happy with the sense of fulfillment he derives from helping other children.

“Kung babalikan ko yung dati kong buhay, malayong gagawin ko ito. Pero ngayon, ang sarap po sa pakiramdan, kung dati isa akong taong pasaway sa lipunan, ngayon isa na po sa taong kahit papano po nakaktulong na ako sa kanila. Kaya yung fulfillment, yung joy pa na meron ako talagang yun po nararamdaman ko ngayon sa pag-tulong sa kanila,” he said.

Bayaning Pilipino

DTC’s good deeds were noticed. In fact, the group won the Gawad Geny Lopez Bayaning Pilipino award in 2007 for its mission of educating children through its mobile classrooms in depressed areas, cemeteries and even in dumpsites in Cavite.

A year and a half later, it’s their founder's turn to be nominated as the first Filipino to be included in the international search, “CNN Heroes”. According to CNN’s website, CNN Heroes is a search for “people driven to exceptional achievement in service to others.”

Like Charice Pempengco and Arnel Pineda, CNN discovered DTC’s story through YouTube.

Last January, CNN, with award-winning producer Tim Shwartz visited the Philippines to do a feature on DTC and Peñaflorida.

Shwartz reportedly commented, “I knew your story was good. But now, I think it’s great.”

Peñaflorida will be featured on CNN’s Larry King Live Friday at 6 p.m. He was already interviewed by King Thursday morning via satellite with the help of ABS-CBN.

“Di ako makapaniwala na makapasok sa isang award giving-body na nagre-recognize sa mga kagaya ng mga batang nasa likod nito ngayon. Actually, ang mga totoong heroes dito ngayon itong mga teenager na walang kapaguran na tumutulong sa akin. Talagang collective effort ito sa gusto naming mangyari na maraming kaming matulungan,” he said.

According to Peñaflorida, DTC’s work is simple, and this can be done by other youth regardless of their economic background.

Through DTC, Peñaflorida hopes to inspire the youth and other organizations to be heroes by doing something good for the country. TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News