Ex-BBC host helps fund education of 2 Pinoy kids

By Edward Lao, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Nov 24 2012 09:16 AM | Updated as of Nov 24 2012 05:17 PM

LONDON -- The star of a BBC show that was based in the Philippines braved an urban assault course in London recently to raise funds for two Pinoy children.

Josh West, who was the protagonist of "Toughest Place to be a Bus Driver"(2011), tackled this year's Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Challenge on November 17.

The annual event, which attracted around 8,000 runners, took place in and around the area of Battersea Power Station. Situated along the River Thames, the structure is the largest brick building in Europe.

Contestants were not only faced with a zig-zagging 10,000 kilometer run that stretched through nearby Battersea Park, but also over 20 obstacles and near 100 pieces of equipment along the way.

West, who is of West Indian descent, ran in the fifth wave of the day beginning at 10 a.m.

Cheered on by his wife, Lynn, and Ruby, their 8-month old daughter, West jumped over bales of hay, hung from monkey bars, swam in iced water, crawled through mud, was sprayed by water cannons and scaled walls.

The 40-year-old completed the course in 1 hour 25 minutes, which at first he thought was 2 minutes slower than his time from last year.

West was disappointed, but still relieved he made it through in one piece, especially since he has not been able to train as much as he would have liked.

"I'm absolutely knackered. I have a good sense of achievement but I'm absolutely knackered. I tried to prepare from last year, mentally. Physically I tried to do it from six, or eight weeks before, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way and I only had about four weeks training, again," he said.

"I'm relatively pleased that I got around without the injuries this time, but not so pleased that I finished two minutes slower than I did last year."

Asked what the toughest part of the course was, the 6-foot-3 Brit replied the final obstacle, which was an eight-foot wall dubbed the "Wall of Fame."

"It was the wall at the end. I'm one of the biggest guys around here, so when they [people] see me I give them a boost up and when I look to get a lift from them they're gone, and then the next person does it.

"I helped about six or seven people over myself, and when it came to me coming over, two guys helped me up, one guy pulled me over. I really needed help getting over the wall. I just didn't have the energy to do it."

West considers himself fitter than the average person, but admits his levels have dropped since becoming a father.

"Since having a child I've become less fit. I've been running around after my child instead of actually going out and training myself. But for something like this I've got to be better than I am now, because I'm not at the level I want to be at."

A few hours after the event, West rechecked his finishing times and was shocked to find he had actually completed the course 10 minutes faster than last year's effort of 1 hour 35 minutes.

He was pleased, but not completely satisfied.

"I'll definitely do it next year and I have to get it under an hour. I'll keep doing it until I get it under an hour."

A better start in life

West aims to raise £800 to cover a year's schooling for the grandchildren of his former host and mentor in the Philippines - Rogelio Castro.

During his 13-day stint in the south-east Asian nation in 2010, West not only learned how to negotiate a jeepney through Manila's busy streets, but he also developed a strong bond with the Castro family who he lived with for a few days.

West was touched by the family's hardships and decided to help by funding the education of Rogelio's grandchildren - Russel, 8, and Janell, 6. Last year, West told ABS-CBN Europe he wanted them to have "a better start in life".

"They're [Russel and Janell] in the second year of schooling, which has been paid for by all the donations that have been given to the charity. I'm just doing this so that I'll have enough money for next year.

"Each year I do this in November so that when school starts in July of next year there's always money there ready for them.

"£800 for the both of them covers it all. It's a little bit more than I need but it's just in case the exchange rate changes and stuff like that so we've got a balance.

Previously, West used international charity Hope For Children for the transfer of funds to the school in the Philippines, but he explains circumstances have changed.

"They [Hope for Children] found the project I was doing was only catering for two kids. These were their words, not mine - they said they can't keep implementing so much work for two kids.

"I felt that they let me down because they're the people that approached me to do this. I never approached them, and now they're finding they can't help me anymore. So now I have to find a new charity to help me deliver the money which I've collected so far."

West concedes he does not have the backing he had last year, which will make it harder to raise funds. However, he remains hopeful and appeals to those that were touched by the show.

He says he is still accepting donations and that anyone interested can contact him via his Facebook group page "Toughest Place to be a Bus Driver".

"On this particular thing I won't know until the final money comes in at the end, but last year I did about £600. I'm looking to do about the same myself again this year, and then, people who've seen the program, because it has gone worldwide, they donate and that usually brings us up to £800.

"In the last two and a half years we've generated about £4,000, and I've got a balance of about £2,000 and change left in the account.

"I've got to keep topping it up. I can't just sit down and say I'm not going to do anything this year because I've got a balance. I've got to raise £800 each year so that I'm always ahead of the game."

West says the Castro family still resides in Manila and are doing well.

"I speak to Rogelio, or contact him at least once a week, via text or Skype or Facebook. So, we're in regular contact and he knows that I'm doing this run for him today."

"He went on a program over there last year and they gave him a boat. He's got a boat now, which is helping to support his income, so he's doing better.

"He's getting a couple of jobs, private jobs as well which is really good. So, he's doing really well for himself and I'm just helping him out."

West says Rogelio's jeepney made an appearance in Hollywood movie 'The Bourne Legacy', which was filmed in Manila.

West also had one more bit of good news to share, which until now he had only told his family.

"His [Rogelio's] daughter-in-law is pregnant with their second child. They're going to have a boy and they've decided to call him Josh, so I'm going to have a godson in the Philippines.”

West hopes to attend the child's christening in the Philippines next year.