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'Bayani Challenge Hope Stories'

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Saatchi's Bayani Challenge:
Don't Stop Online, Volunteer Offline

by Nikko Borromeo

So you’re probably at home, at the office, or sitting in the passenger seat of your car going through several of your social media accounts browsing for interesting topics. And when Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, you probably saw what happened to our very own Tacloban city online as well.
Did you ever get that feeling where you just wanted to disconnect from the digital world and just lend a helping hand to those who were greatly affected in Tacloban? Well I did. And that urge led me to the Bayani Challenge of Gawad Kalinga.
Last July, my officemates and I decided to get off our butts, pack our bags, and go to Tacloban. But we didn't just want to help Tacloban. We wanted to show the people there how much we cared. Especially the kids. We just wanted to make them happy. So we booked a ticket and made our way.

When we finally got to Tacloban, we were filled with excitement. There was nothing else we talked about that night other than helping the kids. Even if it meant that we had to wake up early in the morning (I’m really not a morning person), we were ready to turn their frowns upside down. Nothing beats three full days of building houses and painting walls.
The next day, we rode on the van as we made our way to the GK village. Most of us were sleeping like logs. But as soon as we got there, seeing the faces of the Tacloban people were like cups of coffee. The looks on their faces were priceless. We really saw how much they appreciated our presence. And that was pretty much all we needed to wake up.
There we were, 12 people painting and helping build 20 houses. The people got their stereo and played some music. It felt like I was working out in a gym with pump up music. I even painted the walls of the house pretending to work on my triceps.


As I was painting, I saw some kids look at us. I figured no kid in the area was used to seeing people from the city of Metro Manila in their town because they kept coming back to say hi. So I went over there and talked to them. Before seeing the kids, I imagined a group of kids still saddened at what happened to their homes. But when I talked to them, it was a different story. They were all smiles. Some of them even wanted to play tag with me. And I did. That was one of my main objectives anyway. Make the kids of Tacloban happy.
So there we were. For three straight days, we painted their homes, built houses, bonded with the community, and even played with the kids. Every single day was filled with fun and laughter. But of course, it had to end.


On our last day, we gave the kids a special surprise. A children’s party. It was a day filled with joy, laughter, dancing, singing, eating, and a whole lotta lovin’. The kids had a special performance for us where they sang the Gawad Kalinga song. As they sang, they burst into tears feeling appreciative for the simple help we did for them. And it broke our hearts to say goodbye. Especially because they expected us to come back.
As we made our way out of the village, we saw the kids running after the van just like we see it in the movies. It crushed me seeing them run after us. I guess the three days really meant the world to them.

This whole experience was something I will never forget. It’s not everyday you hop on a plane to help a village for three days. I’m happy I got to share it with my officemates. I’m sure that this experience won’t be the last.

Nikko Borromeo and 11 other volunteers from Saatchi went to Tacloban and joined more than ONE MILLION VOLUNTEERS in bringing concrete hope to Yolanda-affected areas. Click HERE to read more about the Bayani Challenge 2014.

Ace Saatchi & Saatchi, a full service integrated communications agency that aims to fill the world with lovemarks, is a Gawad Kalinga partner in building communities to end poverty. Aside from building a village in Palanog, Leyte for 20 families, Saatchi has produced videos for GK and helped reach more hearts for the mission. Watch “Disco” HERE and watch the “Don’t Stop Online, Volunteer Offline” video below:

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