Efren was here at our Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library in Quezon City last Tuesday for the shoot of the “Ako Mismo” television show which will be aired at ABC 5’s Aksyon TV at Channel 41 at 5 in the afternoon tomorrow (you may also watch it over the Internet by going o this link site http://dabarkadstv.blogspot.com/2011/05/aksyon-41tv5-live-stream.html ).
It was actually our second meeting with Efren; the first time was when our A-Book-Saya Group, the NGO group behind the Kris Library, won the Community Idol Award Search of Smart Communication Inc. in 2010.
Efren has remained humble – even shy -- as usual. The nearly close to five-hour shoot (thanks to Ako Mismo staff Malen Nicasio, Director Jerome Zamora, Minette Falcon and cameraman Raelino Dizon, and JC Arboleda for being patient with us) gave me, Ann and Efren a lot of time to talk. One of our topic involved headaches in running and maintaining a literacy advocacy, although on the part of Kuya Efren he has less problems now with all the help he is getting here and abroad after getting the CNN recognition.
Efren’s Dynamic Teen Co. that brings education to the poor in Cavite on a “kariton” now has their own building, thanks to their US $100,000 prize from CNN and other donations. But Kuya Efren and his group deserve it, having toiled hard under the sun with their advocacy since 2007, the same year we established ABSG.
During the interview, Efren asked whether there was a point we considered closing or stopping the advocacy we started in 2001. My answer was: “Yes, that question crosses our minds almost regularly as we struggle to pay the bills in running our full-scale Kris Library in Manicahan, Zamboanga City, raising funds for the scholars and meeting up the increasing expense needed to send books and school supplies to four other Kris Libraries we are helping all over the country.”
I joked that although I relatively have no problem putting my kids in school – the eldest Arizza being a scholar from high school at Philippine Science and through college in UP – me and my wife Ann now have the burden of raising funds for 101 Kris scholars in Zamboanga City, five of them in college now.
“It’s like we took a hammer to strike our heads with,” I told Efren and he gave me a knowing smile.
During lunch, it was my turn to ask him his difficulties and he replied, with pain clearly edged on his young face: “Like you, the hardest part is confronting the biases and insulting and discouraging remarks from people.”
Having been viewed by some people – relatives included -- as “crazy” for giving free use of books and computers in our Kris Library in Zamboanga City when we can make money charging people for it, we can very feel Efren’s pain.
On our part, me and my Muslim wife told him that we’ve encountered biases a lot, both from our Christian and Muslim relatives who even discouraged us from pursuing our first Kris Library project early on.
As the country now puts Efren up there in the pedestal with neon lights; a celebrity who co-host the Ako Mismo show; and a hero among Filipinos and the world, it is quite a reality check and inspiring to see Efren’s pain and to see that even heroes bleed.
Thank you for the inspiration Kuya Efren, we badly need it as we too wake up each day still wondering whether pursuing our Kris advocacy is worth it or whether it is better to spend our lives with our children vacationing abroad, playing golf with public relations clients instead of taking time to write this blog entry or begging for books and donations; concentrating on buying and selling cars (on the part of Ann); or just living a less stressful life when we only worry about our OWN, PERSONAL and family’s needs.
Kris Library is worth the pain ...