Dingdong Dantes pushes youth empowerment

By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---Actor Dingdong Dantes is more than a handsome face in the silver screen. Behind the scene, Dantes silently works for the empowerment of the youth for eight years now through the foundation he organized---YES (Youth Empowerment and Services) Pinoy Foundation. A doting dad to 19-month-old Leticia and loving husband to Marian Rivera, Dantes never gets tired of pushing his advocacy for the development of youth even as he builds his young family. When he and several of his friends founded the YES Pinoy Foundation in 2009, they have sent to school about a hundred children of soldiers killed in action. Dantes said education is dear to his heart since he experienced the harsh reality of being sent to school through the collective effort of relatives and friends. “Since grade school and high school, I am a scholar of so many people. Even though I was studying at the Ateneo, I am aware that it was not easy for my parents to send me to school. In fact, there were times they want me to stop schooling and for me to quit school because I sensed I cannot sustain my education,” he said. Dantes said he was only able to continue his education because of the help of so many people. He said when he was in high school he got the opportunity to enter the entertainment industry and become an actor. “I told myself that someday when I am earning from showbiz I will be the one to pay my tuition, unburden my parents of sending me to school,” he confessed. Dantes said when he started earning he continued his education and help his siblings go to school. Thinking beyond the family He said he was thinking beyond his family when he achieved success in showbiz and entertained the idea of helping others who are too poor to finish their education. “That’s why I was able to establish the YES Pinoy Foundation to provide scholarship,” Dantes said. He said the YES Pinoy Foundation did not stop with the scholarship program but it embarked as well on projects like building schools, donating chairs and school supplies and capacitating the youth in disaster preparedness and climate action. He said this year they thought of branching out and focus on two specific youth sub-sectors---the working students and the out-of-school youth--- and named it Yes PH Community Development or Yes PH, being an offspring of the YES Pinoy Foundation. Dantes said the Yes PH, being evolved from YES Pinoy Foundation which focuses on the youth in general, advocacy on education and environment, somehow expands the service horizon of the original institution they have organized. Empowerment and Sustainable Development “The Yes PH supports the advocacy of the YES Pinoy Foundation by pursuing policies that empowers and sustains development participation of the working students and out-of-school youth,” he said. Dantes said the direction the Yes PH wanted to pursue is “to get the feel and real situation of the working students and out-of-school youth and explore collaboration to further develop them for sustainable future. “Our ultimate goal is to help develop the working students and out-of-school youth as positive forces of the community,” he said. Dantes said they will employ a bottom-up approach wherein the Yes PH will go down to the communities and draw from the working students and out-of-school youth the challenges they are facing so that they can help them formulate the means to overcome them and succeed in their endeavors. Particularly, for example, the Yes PH can initiate referrals to concerned agencies and institutions regarding the challenges the working students and out-of-school youth are facing in the localities, he said. “The narratives of the working students are very familiar to me because I had been a working student for a long time,” Dantes revealed. He narrated he became a working student since 1998 when he entered showbiz when he was graduating in high school. “The agreement with my parents was I will enter showbiz if I can continue my studies. So, I continued my studies at the same time working as an actor and finished high school,” he said. Dantes said he studied in two schools during the duration of his showbiz career for seven years and reached a point when he cannot do both---acting and studying. He stopped schooling in 2005 and concentrated my showbiz work but went back to college in 2012 and graduated in 2014. Challenges Dantes said with the challenges the working students and out-of-school youth are facing, the Yes PH can help them find sustainable jobs or embark on entrepreneurship. He said they have already launched the Yes PH in Mindoro and Ilocos. On Wednesday (July 12), Dantes flew in to this city from Manila to launch in Bicol the Yes PH with the participation of representatives from the provinces of Masbate, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and Albay. In the morning, the actor offered flowers to the grave of the late Jesse M. Robredo, visited the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and sought the blessing of Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona. He proceeded to address the initial meeting of the members of the Yes PH in Bicol and sat in the consultation with working students from Naga City. The meeting of the Yes PH in Bicol was graced by Naga Mayor John Bongat who welcomed the delegates from different parts of the region. “The programs of Yes PH in education assistance and other programs for inclusive and universal education and equal opportunity and education for all are among the concerns I believe,” Bongat said. He said the city government can collaborate with Yes PH in their programs in education because this is one of the priorities of Naga City.