By K. Cordero
SINCE 1948, the members and leaders of the Rotary Club of Naga have the singular privilege of serving the poor and the marginalized sectors in the country, the Bikol region, in particular, which despite economic prosperity at certain periods of time, Bikol has always been living under the ring of fire, the eye of the storm.
Despite these serious threats of natural calamities against human life which is heightened by the prevalent corruption in social structures both from the government and the private sectors, making the poor more vulnerable, the Rotary Club of Naga in the last seventy years has set the example of genuine community service despite these formidable challenges.
As the first and most enduring club in Southern Luzon, it is now ready to calibrate and propel its wheel to move towards larger and bolder programs. True to their commitment towards truth, justice, and common good, these forms of services are not only limited to individuals or selected beneficiaries, rather, they seek for programs that would benefit and generate larger and long-term impact to marginalized communities.
Taking inspiration from the millennium goals set by the United Nations, and from the motto that has characterized every Rotarian in the world, the Rotary Club of Naga will pursue programs that will give equal opportunities for the underprivileged, particularly the children, women, physically-challenged individuals, and senior citizens, giving them good access to health and education programs. The club will also continue its projects that promote peace and conflict resolutions, arts and cultural awareness particular among the young people, and environmental protection and preservation that will protect our land and marine resources.
Building Each Other Character
In its 70 years, it targets to have new members that will complete their number to seventy. As in previous years, they commit to recruiting only the most eligible citizens in the city. This eligibility is marked by a good moral standing and respect among peers. “As a Rotarian, we aim to build each other’s character by living to the ideals of the Rotary Club. One does not join the Rotary to gain access and influence, rather, one must really have the heart for service, a cause that is noble that in process will only forge our individual’s character and the friendship by which this Rotary Club of Naga was founded”, said Abby Sy Soriano, the current secretary of the club.
The symbolic number of seven inspires the incumbent President, Maryselle Uy Olivan to raise the amount of P70, 000 as the club’s contribution to Rotary International Foundation. As a respected businesswoman and community leader she will continue and finish its seven major projects among which is the construction of a Rotary Building in Brgy. Balatas, Naga City. The groundbreaking will happen in March 2018.
Aside from this major infrastructure, the club has also established the Rotary Club of Naga Peace Center with Ryan Bastarche as chair. Inaugurated last July 12, 2017, the center aims to respond to situations that will encourage people to resolve their conflicts within the tenets of decorum and law. Guided by the dictum that peace is the fruit of the truth, the club will provide avenue for conflicting parties to resolve and seek the common beneficial grounds. This center is working closely with the local police group.
The Murals and Corals: The Club’s Visions for Environment and Culture
Another important projects undertaken by the Rotary Club of Naga which promote environmental sustainability and cultural awareness are the Coral Reef Restoration Project chaired by Ma. Cecilia Magtuto in Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the Mural Contest sponsored by club with the support of the United Architects of the Philippines-Students Auxiliary, Pacific Paint Philippines Inc. (Boysen) and the Avenue Plaza Hotel. Ms. Mirabel Tan chaired this painting contest.
In recent years, the said coastal town of Caramoan has become a favorite hub among local and foreign tourists. One of the many challenges with the influx of tourists’ arrival is how to keep and manage the environment without jeopardizing the natural ecosystems. Notwithstanding that some of the local population still resort to illegal procedures of fishing and mining that seriously threaten their environment. Being home to a rich marine life, Caramoan must be saved from all these factors. In collaboration with the Tugawe Cove Resort, the club installed a 20 feet Rotary Wheel using the bio-rock technology. Powered by solar panels and batteries, bio rock uses the process of electrolysis that restore the coral reefs 4-6 times faster than the normal process. The club is optimistic that this technology will hasten the restoration of the coral reefs and that marine life will continue to improve and flourish in the said area.
Such vision for environment is similarly achieved by tapping young Bikol artists for a mural painting contest that showcased the exceptional talents of these young people and the Rotary Club’s commitment to community service. From July-September 2017, the club set the mechanics and called for participants to what can be be called as the biggest mural contest in Bikol region. Forty-four young artists composed the twelve participating teams from Bicol State College of Apllied Sciences and Technology (BISCAST) and the University of Nueva Caceres (UNC) that made it to the final selection and the winners were announced last September 6, 2017, in time for the Penafrancia Fiesta last year. Ms. Lzl Ampatuan who edits the Philippine Rotary magazine was the guest of honor. Now, the locals and visitors of Naga City can marvel at this 132 meters long mural situated near Avenue Plaza Hotel and adjacent to the bank of the Naga River, where the traditional fluvial processions happens every third week of September.
“We Can Only Give What We Have”
For incoming Governor Everett Olivan, the Rotary Club of Naga has survived the tests of time because it has its focus toward the frontiers and a deep sense of a mission. “Considering the professional background of every member, we seek to work on the mission of Rotary based on our strengths. We can only give what we have, one sees these dispositions of the spirit in the murals executed by our young artists,” said Olivan.
“Our profiles are varied. Mostly businessmen and women, others are in the medical profession, some are working in the government as law enforcers and engineers, and there are three members of the local Catholic clergy. Fr. Rex Alarcon who is the head of the Naga Parochial School is a member of the club,” said Secretary Soriano. “Hence, when we launched the Banhi Sa Futuro (Seed for the Future) which is a scholarship grant that provides monetary support to good-performing students but who are facing financial difficulties, we inquired and asked the help to Fr. Rex to help us identify these children.
As of today, aside from the four students enrolled at NPS, the club is also supporting three college students from the University of Nueva Caceres. In the coming years, the Rotary Club of Naga wishes to add the number of scholarship grants they are now providing.
Incumbent president Maryselle Olivan values the power of education as a great social equalizer and a driving force that makes significant change to people’s lives. “While our scholarship focuses on the individual students we want to generate more impact by adopting a public elementary school, where the facilities are in impoverished conditions especially after the Tyohoon Nina hit Bikol in December, 2016,” according to Ms. Uy-Olivan.
Last year, in Brgy. Sabang, a coastal village in Calabanga, Camarines Sur, the club was instrumental in constructing three new classrooms constructed with the supervision of Engr. Dennis Caramoan, a member of our club. For one month, the Rotary club members together with their respective family went to Sabang to help the community build their new classrooms. The club also refurbished these classrooms with new educational facilties which include blackboards, tables, chairs, bookshelves and computers. In addition to these classrooms, the club also constructed six new toilet facilities and the drinking station to serve the 900 students enrolled in this public school.
Other schools that benefited from the club’s support programs include the Del Rosario Elementary School, Concepcion Grande School in Naga City and the students and elderly in the towns of Tigaon and Sangay, Camarines Sur, where they had a free optical check-up. Out of 561 students screened 99 were diagnosed to have vision problems. Of the senior citizens in Tigaon and Sangay, the club committed to provide corrective eyeglasses to 156 patients. The programs were chaired by Tom Enrile, Mary Genevieve Sia, Maryselle Uy-Olivan respectively. These programs were made possible with the support of the Physicians for Peace, and the Rotary Clubs (Pili Centro) and (Goa Partido).
Aside from eyeglasses, the club has also distributed free customized wheel chairs to sixteen beneficiaries suffering from cerebal palsy, scoliosus, hydrocephalus and multiple disability. The distribution was conducted last November 30, 2017, at the Parish of Immaculate Conception in Naga City where Fr. Domingo Florida is the parish priest, and a fellow Rotarian.
“Having doctors, priests, engineers, and the most successful business leaders in Naga City, one can really get the best diagnosis and strategies to address the urgent concerns of our communities,” said Ms. Uy-Olivan.
If there is another particular project that the members and leaders of Rotary Club of Naga are most excited about it is the Global Grant contribution for laparoscopic equipment which will be received thru the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City.
«While this state-of-the-art medical facility is available in private-run hospitals, our public hospitals do not have it yet. We have partnered with our international affiliates to bring this technology of minimally invasive surgery in Bikol and we are happy that this will greatly improve our health care services in the region and will definitely help our indigent patients,” continued the incumbent president.
With these gifts of vision, mobility, and good healthcare and educational facilities as reflected in the murals and the promise of a coral reserve teeming with splendor and life, the Rotary Club of Naga looks towards to the many upcoming years with ardor, vigor, and humility as they continue to respond to the call of service above self.