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Rough Cuts| A shelter house worthy of the city’s help

About three years back the City Council Committee on Rules chaired by then third district councilor, and later Vice Mayor, Dr. Bernie Al-ag endorsed to the Office of the City Mayor a proposed P3 million cash assistance to the Welfare Action Foundation of Davao (WAFD) more popularly known as the Boys Town of Davao City in Ma-a. The fund assistance is to cover a period of three years or P1 million per year. According to Al-ag the first P1 million will start to be released that year if approved by Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. We lost track of the result of that proposal because of our own busy daily grind for living.

The Boys Town is a project initiated by a group of socially concerned Davaoenos several years back to address the need for shelter of homeless young boys who at that time were roaming the streets of Davao scavenging and oftentimes ending up criminals or the latter’s victims.

One of the leading figures in the setting up of the Boys Town was the mother of President Rodrigo Duterte, the late Soledad “Nanay Soling” Duterte. She was actively supported by then police chief of the city the late Mariano Solis.

As a private sector initiative the Boys Town thrived on donations from well-meaning local and some foreign companies, socio-civic organizations and individuals. But it took a lot of hard work from the members of the Board and staff to find both individual and corporate donors considering that there were some people and companies that were pessimistic of what the shelter house for truant boys can do to change their behavior.

But the directors and officers persevered more so after finding very capable administrators of the shelter house, the priests and brothers of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB).

We have our own personal involvement in the running of the Boys Town when we were working with Davao Light and Power Co. (DLPC). Our boss then, Director of Apo Agua Infraestructura, Inc. Manuel “Bobby” Orig was a member of the Board of Directors. We sat for him every time he was not available to join board meetings as well as in other activities of the Boys Town.

At that time we were able to work with the late Atty. Pablo “Cholong” Lorenzo, Jr. who was President and Chairman of the Board of the Boys Town. He was an indefatigable man who literally squeezed the companies owned by his family, as well as his individual relatives, and businessmen friends to help foot the operation of the Boys Town. Up until the death of Nong Cholong and Rotarian Salvador “Bading” Angala took the leadership of the organization, we continued to represent Mr. Orig and later Mr. Arturo Milan who took over Mr. Orig’s position at Davao Light, and made sure that the power firm of the Aboitiz Group of Companies had its regular financial and in-kind assistance to the Boys Town as well.

We also saw the growth in the number of boys housed in the shelter and the rise of additional buildings to accommodate the increasing residents. As this developed, operating expenses of the Boys Town was also shooting up.

The Boys Town starting from the time of Fr. Franco Uras, an Italian member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, opened a lot of opportunities for the boys to learn skills in carpentry, hollow blocks making as well as bread and pastry baking and running a bakery. All these even as the boys were sent to nearby Maa Elementary and Maa National High School for their elementary and secondary education.

Some of the boys who graduated high school were sent to Don Bosco in Makati, or Don Bosco in Mati for skills in automotive and machining. Others even got luckier when they were able to get some sponsors for them to proceed to degree courses.

But even as these little successes were made the Boys Town was operating on a very meager budget. Oftentimes donations came in trickles. There was one opportunity, with the assistance of long time board member Sebastian “Anggie” Angliongto, that the Boys Town got financial support from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). But somehow, the funding agency was extremely strict in the liquidation of funds.  Good thing that a foreigner who married a member of the philanthropic Lizada family became a director and he was able to bring in substantial amount of donations from his family members and friends, and from his own family’s businesses.

In all those years though, we were aware that the city government of Davao had been helping the Boys Town. Unfortunately the amount given annually was very limited. It used to range from P250 thousand to P300 thousand. It was perhaps only lately during Bading’s incumbency as President of the Boys Town that the amount of financial subsidy was increased.

We do not know exactly how many boys are presently housed at the Boys Town and how many of them are in school. But when we were still active in its affairs there was a time that the Boys Town residents totaled to more than 100 boys. And they have to be fed, clothed, sent to school, provided hygiene supplies and medical needs. Then the Boys Town has some eight office staff including house parents to be paid monthly salaries, light, water, and telephone bills to be taken care of.

So it is easy to imagine the need to keep donations in cash and in-kinds coming considering that the income from its livelihood endeavors are very far from enough.

Up until now we have no idea whether the P1 million a year over three years financial subsidy from the city government had materialized. If it did then our friend Bading Angala and the other members of the Board may have been able to heave a sigh of relief at least for the three years.

With such generosity the city could be rid of some 100 or so potential undesirable members of society in the years to come. The Boys Town is a change agent for young boys who will be able to set their feet on its grounds. And we are witness to that.

 

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