Heroism through volunteerism

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

This famous line of former US President John F. Kennedy, is the inspiration of a pastor, farmer, and at the same time a volunteer in Sitio Gomez, Barangay Pinamulaan, Banisilan, North Cotabato.

Born to underprivileged family, Jovito Liwat Jr., at a young age experienced the sad part of life where he felt deprived of education and other basic necessities that an individual should enjoy in his childhood years.

Instead of going to school, Jovito can be seen in farm fields. Instead of holding toys, he carried farm inputs and produce.

Despite his day to day experience, he survived all the struggles which made him realized that there was a need to address poverty and helped the less fortunate families particularly those who are members of the indigenous people.

Being a Manobo, Jovito is steadfast in his goal of changing the situation of his tribe, having seen some of the problems affecting his community.

Among the problems were insurgency and unfair treatment towards the Manobo people. Poverty and discrimination have also made it seemingly impossible to achieve their dream. 

Looking back, Jovito said that he had declined some offers and opportunities for greener pastures just to serve his community. He then volunteered to lead a vital project under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for his locality.

Through his leadership, various projects under DSWD’s Kapit-bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS), were implemented in Sitio Gomez. Some of these projects were solar dryer, animal dispersal, construction of tribal hall, and this year, a two-unit day care center.

These projects did not only help the indigenous community in their day to day life but also developed the so-called bayanihan spirit. Jovito’s efforts in uniting the tribe helped empower the once marginalized indigenous people.

Jovito became an instrument for IP’s self-worth as their rights get to be recognized. Before the Manobos in the area are described as silent, shy, and uneducated individuals often times bullied and discriminated.

With their experiences in policy making and in implementing government programs and projects, the Manobos in the sitio are now active, confident, and knowledgeable of their rights and privileges.

Aside from DSWD’s program, Jovito initiated volunteer activities together with his family. He believes that helping is an unending commitment and that volunteerism is more than offering a penny for the needy. Jovito believes it is a calling that gives self-fulfillment.

Since 2016, they have distributed school supplies to three less fortunate schools in the area and their family adopted scholars from poor Manobo families.

His advocacy of lending a hand to his fellow Manobos is driven by his desire to educate them.

“Without education, oppression would continue and this could hinder the growth of the Manobos as individuals who deserve to be respected and given opportunities,” he said. 

All of Jovito’s efforts have paid off well as evident by his constituents slowly rising up from the quagmire of poverty.

These also resulted in his nomination for this year’s Search for Outstanding Volunteers of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

He was also a recipient of the Buhay ang Pangarap Award of the RBA-Aljay Dreams Foundation, Inc. Last year, he received the DSWD’s Bayani Ka Award.

Indeed, his passion to serve rather than to be served is worth more than every penny combined. #