January 30, 2023

A former radio reporter based in Baguio never thought that a simple book donation drive he started in 2014 will grow into a continuing project that has now extended to helping victims of calamity.

Unemployed for several months after resigning from Bombo Radyo-Baguio, Cesar Tableso said he simply let time pass thinking what his purpose in life is. 

“Bakit hindi sapat ang pagbibigay ng balita sa radio? Do I need to go back to media or mag-office job ako? I felt useless na hindi ako mapakinabangan ng society,” Cesar recalled.

A random check on his bookshelf where he saw a book donated by the “Give a Book, Give a Smile” project of Mass Communication students of Isabela State University triggered what would be a project he continues to this day.

Cesar said he wanted to donate books and other learning materials because in his community in Echague, Isabela students had to share books because of lack of learning materials.

 “Noong bata kami naghihiraman ng libro ang mga bata. Sa isang libro tatlo o limang bata ang nagsasalit-salit magbasa. Hanggang sa may mga organization na nagbigay sa baryo namin ng books. Ang daming pagpipilian. Doon ako natutong magbasa ng ibang libro at doon ako na inspire na what if may ganitong access din ang mga bata sa far-flung area,” he said.

Because he was able to read a variety of books, Cesar learned that being a teacher is not the sole profession there is on Earth or that one will end up a helper abroad if they did not finish college.

“Ang alam ko lang dati na profession or work ay teacher or domestic helper kung di ka nakapag-aral dahil ‘yun ang nakikita ko sa baryo. Nalaman ko sa pagbabasa ng libro na pwede pala ako maging writer/journalist or engineer or event coordinator.

In their barangay, Cesar is the first Mass Communication graduate and the first one to land a job in media.

Cesar said he asked officials of the project that he be allowed to use the name in the meantime, with assurance that if he is able to establish the group, he will change its name.

Using his connections as a former member of the media, he solicited books and other learning materials from his friends to donate to children in far-flung communities. 

Bookends Baguio and former Office of Civil Defense-Cordillera director Alex Uy were his first donors. Their donations benefitted schoolchildren of Kankana-ey descent at Baguio Village, Diffun, Quirino Province.

At first, soliciting donations was not easy. “Wala akong trabaho at wala mas-yadong nagbibigay ng tulong pero tiniis ko. Hindi lang katok ang ginawa ko. Kalampag na ata,” Cesar said.

Books and learning materials continued to be given so the donation drive reached Baler; Aurora; Masbate; Babuyan Island; and Palanan, Isabela.

With more areas that needed to be reached, Cesar asked a batchmate in college and a relative to help.

“Wala kaming budget para mag-rent ng private car at wala ako maipapakain sa volunteers. Hands on kami at puro public transportation. Nasakyan na ata namin lahat: habal-habal, jeep, bus, airplane, tricycle, bangka. Kaya sobrang tipid namin. Minsan pag kulang nahihila talaga ang savings ko or ang sahod,” Cesar said.

Cesar has since found a job in a business process outsourcing company in the National Capital Region. He has not totally abandoned his project.

From time to time, he mounts a relief drive, this time through his “Give a Smile” project.

Shortly after the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses in Isabela and Cagayan, Cesar launched a relief drive where he asked P20 as donation for typhoon victims.

He said this relief drive is close to his heart, having been a victim of numerous typhoons.

Finding the year 2020 as a very traumatic one, Cesar said he want to make the year memorable by coming up with an online donation drive where donors only need to give P20. The goal was to reach P100,000.

In 24 hours, he and two friends based in Isabela raised P16,000. On the third day of the drive, donations exceeded the P100,000 target.

They immediately used the amount to buy food, water, and face mask for 500 families in barangays Tunggui, Moldero, and Lanna in Tumauini, Isabela.

On Nov. 19, 400 families from Amulong, Cagayan were given food, water, and facemasks.

Aside from relief operations, they also invited student volunteers for storytelling sessions with children affected by the typhoon.

Cesar said he and those interested to help will continue doing this until there are children who dream and who need help.

“Hangga’t may batang Pilipinong nangangarap at ngangailangan ng tulong. Hangga’t ang gobyerno ay pagtuunan ng pansin ang edukasyon. Walang budget cut. Hangga’t may mga taong nagtitiwala sa amin, we will dedicate our lives to help. Kung mawala man kami o manghina na, alam namin na may isang batang makakaalala nito at itutuloy ang aming nasimulan,” Cesar said. – Rimaliza A. Opiña