by Mariah JC
“Hindi nila na-enjoy ‘yung childhood nila.” An aspiring lawyer looks back at his first memory of seeing inequality as a child – a bitter taste of reality which served as his greatest inspiration in fighting for equality through advocacy and charity.
Howard Tuanqui of Legazpi City went back to Napo, Polangui, Albay, the place that gave him the best memories of his childhood. But among all the happy moments of spending the weekends in Napo and experiencing countryside bliss as a city kid – playing with his cousins, feeding ducks and chickens, picking mangoes and rambutan from trees, eating lola’s home cooked meals, swimming in the swamp and river with their lolo, escaping in the evening to go to the perya, among others – a not so picturesque impression was left on his mind as he recalled seeing the children in town from the window of their ancestral house. They were around the same age as him, but they were working under the sweltering summer heat.
“Iniisip ko noon, bakit kaya kaming magpipinsan ang saya namin dito, hindi kami naiinitan? Pero bakit sila ‘yung mga kaedad namin, o yung mga mas bata pa sa amin, kailangan nilang gawin ‘to, na imbes mag-enjoy sila, kailangan nilang maghanapbuhay?” At such a young age, Howard could not shake off this image of inequality in his head.
Howard is now a law student. “Kung ako nga na medyo privileged na, I’ve had experiences in my life na I felt oppressed, yung boses ko pinipigilan para hindi ako makapag-express, makapag-voice out,” he acknowledged his challenges despite his comfortable social position and the responsibility of giving back by sharing his dream of being of service to those who are less fortunate. “I want to help the underprivileged and the oppressed, to fight for their rights at para maging boses nila.”
“The essence of a true great lawyer is really knowing how to administer justice through making yourself an instrument of how social justice and equity would be able to thrive in the community.” It is clear in his mind that the path to becoming a full-fledged lawyer is the answer to his lifelong desire of doing his part in alleviating his countrymen’s poverty and creating sustainable change. But Howard also knew that helping others does not require a law degree. His relatives shared how generosity is simply a core of Howard’s nature, something that runs through their bloodline
“‘Yung mga bata kasi kapag yun yung nakita mo di ba by example. Hindi yung sasabihin mo sa kanila na maging ganito ka, maging ganyan ka paglaki mo. Si Howard na-absorb n’ya kasi bata pa. Yun ang nakikita nya, kaya yung yung nagma-manifest sa kanya,” his aunt Susan shared, noting that Howard’s eagerness to help is probably inspired by his grandfather’s stint as a dependable Barangay Captain who would start repacking relief packs as soon as the news of an incoming disaster reaches the airwaves.
“Just imagine kung deprived ‘yung mga batang ‘yon ng chance at opportunity. Who knows kung isa sa mga beneficiaries na ito ang magiging susunod na presidente ng Pilipinas o makaka-discover sa cure ng mga sakit ngayon?” Howard said he wanted to make an impact as soon as he can for he truly believes in the power of empowering the youth by starting them young. He reckoned, “Kung hindi natin sila matutulungan, just imagine the loss it would be to humanity?”
To celebrate his 27th birthday, he fulfilled his promise to himself that he will one day help the children in his beloved barangay of Napo. Through a partnership with BEAGIVER, Howard initiated a bag drive with the help of other generous fellows on October 30, 2022. More than 200 school children in Napo Elementary School received their sturdy yet stylish school bags and raincoats, which would aid in their studies and ultimately push them in achieving their dreams.
The school’s principal Trixie Santor explained how the majority of the learners belong in low-income families. Most of the households’ breadwinners are tricycle drivers, farmers, and construction workers so they rely on support from various stakeholders to provide for the children’s education. Some of them are 4Ps beneficiaries but the cash grants do not suffice in funding their needs. The children’s education is usually the first thing being sacrificed. Sometimes, the teachers would pool their extra money so they could buy school materials for the students.
Howard’s father Dennis expressed great joy in his son’s altruism, encouraging his son to keep sharing his blessings. “Sana ‘yung anak ko can continue sharing sa ibang ways ulit naman. You don’t have to be wealthy, ‘pag sinabing sharing ‘yung kaya mo lang,” Dennis said. Their other relatives pointed out that it was largely due to his parenting and teaching by example that made Howard the giving man he turned out to be.
Howard’s 7-year old cousin Alexandra also started signing up her help in his initiatives, proving that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. “I felt good. It felt good,” Alexandra shared her experience when she donated food with her Kuya Howard.
“Marami, hindi lang ako maraming maraming maraming tao ang handang tumulong sa inyo at handang tumulong para marating at maisakatuparan ninyo ang mga pangarap ninyo and sana pagdating ng araw na kayo naman ‘yung nasa lugar namin, may kapasidad tumulong,” Howard addressed the student beneficiaries of the bag drive and humbly recognized that every person can and should do far more.
We can all come together in common cause to tackle inequality. Bring hope and help alleviate poverty, one student at a time, by partnering with BEAGIVER, a social enterprise focused on spreading a culture of generosity by providing school bags to children in need. Visit beagiver.com.ph now to know how you can contribute.