23 February 2012

US-based Filipino foundation fulfills promise to Subic Aeta kids

“I have returned.” Like that of a great general in World War II, a Filipino-American has fulfilled a promise he made two years ago to Aeta children in this free port.

Edilberto “Bert” Aguilera, a certified public accountant from Ibaan, Batangas, who now lives in New Jersey, USA, met an Aeta while visiting Subic in 2010 and made a promise to return with school supplies.

Aguilera, president of the family foundation Fil Aid USA, a US-based non-profit humanitarian organization, was then in Subic as part of the delegation from the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of Texas which organized a trade, tourism, and humanitarian mission to the Philippines on October 11 to 16, 2010.

On their last day at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center, which served as the venue, Aguilera met Tata Kasoy, an Aeta tribal elder living in Pastolan Village inside the Freeport.

“I met Tata Kasoy and made a promise that I would return to donate school supplies for the school children in his tribe,” Aguilera recalled.

In a surprise gesture on the second week of February this year, Aguilera, accompanied by his wife and three more family members, visited Subic Bay to fulfill his promise.

In coordination with the Public Relations Department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which regularly undertakes livelihood projects in Aeta villages here as part of the agency's corporate social responsibility program, Fil Aid USA visited elementary schools at Sitio Kanawan, Barangay Binaritan, and Pastolan Village in Hermosa, Bataan.

In Kanawan, where a simple turnover of donations was held, the group was met by tribal leaders headed by chieftain Rodelio Tamundong and school principal Jose Labandillo.

In Pastolan, Tata Kasoy was among those who greeted the group and was emotional in meeting Aguilera, who returned to fulfill his promise.

“Hindi ko na halos matandaan ang naging pag-uusap namin noon at hindi ko na inaasahan na matutupad iyon. Pero narito na nga siya at dala na ang ipinangakong mga gamit ng bata sa paaralan,” Tata Kasoy said.

Aguilera said his return is part of a mission to help the needy.

“This trip of ours could be a trailblazer because when I go back to US, we will make some publication about what we have done here for the school children, and probably others will follow suit,” Aguilera said.

“God is giving me energy while I’m doing this mission,” he added. This kind of project, he added, would be ideal for “people coming from abroad go to various places in the Philippines for a vacation. We in this mission are looking for places where we could help the needy,” Aguilera said. (RAV/MPD-SBMA)