Yellow Boat of Hope

These are stories about the Yellow Boat of Hope (Bagong Pag-asa). Check out our Facebook page at

(Article by Ernie Cecilia that appeared yesterday in the Q5 Working People Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer about the Yellow Boat Project. Thank you Sir Ernie!)

LAST TUESDAY WAS BONIFACIO Day. National Heroes Day is in August. But nothing prevents us from celebrating heroes anytime of the year. In fact, I suggest we should.

Korean War hero

My late father was a Korean war hero. He shed blood, sweat and tears in defending democracy in another country. Fifty years after the end of the Korean war, the South Korean President wrote my dad with profuse thanks for his participation in preserving democracy. He must have been a hero to the Koreans.

At the time of the Korean war, South Korea’s per capita income was $60, compared to the Philippines’ $700. Of course, we were No. 2 to Japan after World War II. In 2009, our per capita income increased to $1,747. Today, I guess our per capita income is roughly $2,000, while South Korea’s is $16,000.

Last November 21, Ana Marie Pamintuan wrote in another paper, “Today Hyundai is heavily into shipping, although it is best known in the Philippines for its motor vehicles. Korean cars and consumer electronics are competing with the best in the world. Samsung is taking on Apple’s ipad and iphone. Seoul Incheon International Airport has won several awards as the world’s best. We, on the other hand, have not graduated from making gaudy, polluting knockoffs of the Jeep. And our airport is… never mind. Our country is not lacking in brains and talent, but many of our best minds are working overseas for foreign companies, frustrated that most of those who prosper in this country are those with the right surnames or connections. When the accident of birth plays a critical role in financial or professional success, there is little incentive to strive for excellence and genuine self-improvement.”

Like many kids, I used to dream when I was young and silly that I could fly. My recollection of early childhood is of heroes with supernatural powers. Then, Michael Jackson helped changed the definition of heroism in his song, “In Our Small Way,” when he sang:

“Maybe you and I can’t do great things We may not change the world

in one day But we still can change some things today In our small way” Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Perhaps, our world does not have enough room for geniuses. That’s why there are few of them. And you can’t even count on geniuses to save the world.

I admire Helen Keller when she said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”

Tiny push

I first got an email from Jay Michael Jaboneta in his early 20’s in 2006. He was jumping from one job to another in the corporate world seemingly looking for something meaningful.

Jay would write of his idealism and his ambition to help our country in a big way. Later, he told me he got hooked with Alex Lacson and helped him during the latter’s senatorial campaign and in setting up some foundations. Jay was an incessant blogger. I learned that he was born in Cotabato City where he finished high school, then completed his collegiate education in Ateneo de Davao.

When Jay was a toddler, his father would tease him that his cousin who was a year younger was already reading the Malaya newspaper when he was only four. This must have been the turning point and tiny shove for Jay. Since then, he developed a strange hunger for knowledge, until he blogged and Googled a lot. While working in Manila, he met other bloggers from Mindanao online, mostly doctors, media practitioners and other professionals who hated the perception that Mindanao is a war torn land. In fact, there are only 10 out of 10,000 barangays that can be truly classified as hotspots.

When Pnoy became President in 2010, my friend Sonny Coloma became Secretary of the Presidential Communication Operations Office. Sonny took Jay as Media Head of his office. In October 2010, Jay joined the fifth annual bloggers’ summit in Zamboanga City. He met his online friends and several volunteers. One volunteer talked of how children swim to school in Layag Layag, a nearby village where 200 Muslim families live in huts on stilts over the sea. They have no means to buy a boat, so their kids would swim two kilometers and walk four kilometers to school every day—their uniforms and books in airtight plastic wrappers.

Jay thought to himself, “In Manila, kids would skip school to swim. These kids would swim to go to school.”

Bothersome thought

The thought bothered Jay enough to take a bold move. He used his social network to create awareness of the deplorable situation. He caught the attention of marketing guru Josiah Go, and Anton Lim of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, and the rest is history.

Using confiscated logs from illegal loggers, Jay’s group asked boat maker Abraham Mawadi to build the first yellow boat, and named it “Bagong Pagasa” (New Hope). Attendance in the school soared.

When fellow Bicolana Dr. Ofelia Sy heard about the yellow boat, she took no time in contacting Jay in behalf of the Masbate kids. Jay coordinated with a television station to air the story, which started donations to pour in for the Masbate Funds for Little Kids. Three classes at DLSU-ST. Benilde donated their “baon” for the day for one week and helped raise funds for three boats (one boat costs roughly P7,000).

Today, Jay Jaboneta, Anton Lim and Dr. Sy have gone national - and international. Jay’s brainchild, the Yellow Boat Project, was featured in local television shows, and in CNN, Al-jazeera and Associated Press. If you want to help, check out The Philippine Funds for Little Kids (PFLK) at

Jay says, “People power is not just about ousting leaders. It is also about taking on current challenges without waiting for authorities or celebrities to take the lead.”

Time for heroes

The world today needs plenty of heroes. The Philippines can have a fair share of them, too. It could be Efren Penaflorida or Efren Bata Reyes; Manny Pangilinan or Manny Pacquiao; Cory Aquino or Cory Quirino. Anybody can qualify to be a hero. What one needs is the belief that nothing today is impossible. Every human being has the capacity to do something worthwhile, no matter how small it is. Jay Jaboneta did not come from the planet Krypton. He does not have the superpowers that I dreamt I would have when I was a small boy. Yet, Jay made a difference to the hundreds of school children who now don’t have to swim to go to school.

Most heroes don’t work alone. As Andre Malraux once said, “One person may supply the idea for a company, community or nation. But what gives the idea its force is a community of dreams.”

Maya Angelou’s words are apt here, “To make a difference is not a matter of accident, a matter of casual occurrence of the tides. People choose to make a difference.” The key is to first believe in yourself. Then find company in people who can uplift you, whose presence, words and actions bring out the best in you.

Often, we look and wait for heroes to save the day for us. If we continue to wait, we could wait forever. June Jordan suggests that we look inside ourselves as he admonishes us, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” In the words of a great Filipino hero, “Only the Filipino can help the Filipino.”

The problem is often too easy to see. “Here and there, you’ll find people who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don’t seem to see that we must lift together and pull together,” says Kyle Carlson.

If you ask most of the boys who their hero is, they’d say. “My daddy is my hero.” I will always remember my dad, but I have many other heroes. These days, my hero is a blogger. So, “who’s your daddy?”

(Ernie is current Chair of IR Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). He also chaired ECOP’S Long Range Policy Planning Committee. He was also President of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines in 1999. He is the President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center, a human resource consulting firm. His new books, “Life’s Big Lessons” and “Life’s Big Lies” are now available at book stores. Recently, he was voted “Best Newspaper Columnist of the Year” in the PMAP Makatao Awards for Media Excellence. He can be reached at

The donors, volunteers, members and friends of the Yellow Boat Project (aka Philippine Funds for Little Kids) would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and their panel of judges for choosing our project as one of the Liberal Projects, a project that recognizes the best initiatives that promote empowerment and freedom in the country.

The Liberal Project was organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) as part of It’s All About Freedom campaign. FNF is a German political foundation that promotes participatory democracy, human rights and free trade. It is currently celebrating its 25 years in the Philippines.


Come if you’re free on November 10!

More details at

IMMAP stands for the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines.

The Speakers


What is it?

IMMAP Open Mic Night is a networking event following an unconference format. Nominated and voted by the wise crowd, 20 speakers take their ideas to the stage and share their thoughts following the PechaKucha format.

What is the PechaKucha format?

Simple. 20 images x 20 seconds each. Each speaker will have 20 slides which he will talk about for 20 seconds per slide. Normally, PechaKucha speakers use images for their slides which they accompany with engaging storytelling. Below are some helpful links to better acquaint you with the format:> 

PechaKucha site:
Click here to view a sample presentation

What topics can we talk about?

Speakers are to share their thoughts on any of the following keywords: AWESOME, VIRAL?, SUCCESS, BITS & PIECES, ROCKS, BULBS.


Admission is free of charge for all IMMAP members and non-members alike. We like diversity so one need not be a digital marketeer to attend.

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