Whether you’re rich or poor, alone or in a group—doing one’s best is all that matters in helping communities.
This lesson is based from the stories shared by the Balmores family and Dr. Arthur Tansiongco.
The poor family and the well-off doctor gave everything they could to help their communities. They are finalists of the Gawad Geny Lopez Award.
Gawad Geny Lopez is the Lopez group of companies' annual search for Filipino leaders who help their communities and inspire love of country.
Giving half but not half-heartedly
In 1965, the Balmores family lived in a one-story house in Basco, Batanes. Outside their little stone house, they saw their neighbors working day and night, but still mired in poverty.
They, too, experienced the same. They realized they had to do something to change the future of the children who may end up helping their parents till lands.
Ramon, 73, head of a family of farmers and fishermen wanted his wife Aurora, 69, and their four children to do something for their community.
Not even having enough money for their use, Aurora thought that it would be best to give half of their harvest to their community.
“In the midst of our poverty, we give half of the crops to help other people. We work hard for other people,” Aurora said in a tender voice.
She added: “Because we are poor, we only have a little and what we have is food, not money.”
Ramon said even if they don’t have much, they never felt like they were running out of anything to give.
“You can’t give what you don’t have. When my wife said we give half of what we have, we just divide our crops and give it to others,” he said.
The Balmores family is nominated in the Bayaning Pamilya category, noted for their undying generosity to their community.
Even in their old age, Ramon and Aurora remain leaders when it comes to giving.
They lend their small boats to their neighbors to help them make a living. They do not ask neighbors for rental fees for their boats.
Staying true to their promise of giving half the food they to their community, they give half of the catch they get from fishing.
Again, Aurora reiterated, “We give what we can.”
Tansiongco’s golden heart
Dr. Tansiongco hails from Magdiwang Sibuyan, Romblon. He serves as a rural doctor in a community of 58,000 and is a finalist in the Gawad Geny Lopez Bayaning Pilipino category.
Even during the awards night, wherein he was recognized for his medical assistance for his community, environment protection programs and contributions to the church, he still thought about the people in Magdiwang.
“I have more than 50 patients a day, I wonder how they are now that I’m not there,” he wondered while standing at the back-most row of all the Gawad Geny Lopez awardees trying to look out at the stormy weather through the tiny exit door.
Unlike the Balmores family, Tansiongco is relatively well-off. He went to Australia to attend medical school but went back to Magdiwang in the 1970’s unable to get the beautiful scenery of Romblon off his mind.
He wanted to preserve the beauty of Romblon that when he was elected mayor in 1996, he engaged in projects to save the environment.
Mt. Guiting-Guiting was proclaimed a natural park by President Fidel V. Ramos during Tansiongco’s term as mayor from 1995-1998. This brought joy to the people in the Romblon.
The mountain is one of the most popular in the region for its unique species of plants. Its summit is different from most mountains—devoid of trees and filled with grass and vegetables. Mountaineers often visit it because it is a challenge to climb its rocky ridges.
Lack of resources also did not stop Tansiongco from building nine health centers during his term. “I had to look for foreign funding to help build the health centers,” he said.
Giving and educating
Both the Balmores family and Tansiongco recognize the need for good education.
“I know we are given this recognition but I feel kind of ashamed to be here,” Aurora Balmores said.
Ramon Balmores said that they feel happy but sad as well because they are in front of well-educated individuals.
“Although we could be proud of the farm of five hectares we worked hard for and some boats, we did not receive proper education,” he said.
This is the reason why they urged their children to go to school and graduate from college to escape poverty.
They are proud that their children have escaped poverty. Their grandchild, Oxen, goes to the Australian International School in Malaysia.
“I am so happy for them, but I still feel lonely. If I could turn back time my wish is to go to school, but all I could do is help my family and my community. They need more help than we do,” Aurora said.
Tansiongco, having specialized in pediatrics, said he has a special place in his heart for children and educating them was one of his priorities.
Thirteen years ago, he put up the very first pre-school in Magdiwang. He formed the Magdiwang Mabuhay Foundation to work in partnership with the Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation to give support to local pre-school and elementary pupils.
In addition to this, he was able to ask for scholarship funds from ERDA for high school and college students.
“Magdiwang, mabuhay, freedom, joy—it is our town,” he said hoping that his foundation, educating people in his area, will help the community live a life of opportunities because of well-informed decisions.
“I still hope that our province’s younger generation will be better than us,” Tansiongco said.