Lance was only 4 years old when his father, Army Sgt. Narciso Lawrence Layug died. He remembers how his mom broke the news to him, “Anak, si dad nandun na sa heaven.” (Son, daddy’s in heaven.) To which he gave an innocent answer, “Sundan natin, bisitahin natin siya. Malapit lang naman yun, at may pamasahe tayo.” (Let’s visit him. It’s not that far a place, and we have money for the commute.)
Years later, the family left the province for Manila. As they rebuild their lives in the city, mother-and-son became best of friends, and helped each other in running their household.
Lance is only one of the many children supported by HERO (Help Educate and Rear Orphans) Foundation – a non-profit organization that provides educational assistance in the form of stipends to children of fallen soldiers.
To help support military families, Fort Bonifacio Development Foundation, Inc. (FBDFI), BGC’s social responsibility arm, and the Bonifacio Global City Estate Association recently turned over P1-million and P200,000.00 worth of cash donations, respectively to HERO Foundation.
“Wars, insurgencies and natural disasters keep military families apart. When an unfortunate incident leaves servicemen killed or incapacitated in the line of duty, their families are equally left impaired. The surviving parent and children are left to deal with bouts of emotional and financial stress and their future suddenly becomes unstable. This is why we have partnered with HERO Foundation to help some of the children have a more secure tomorrow through education,” says Aileen Zosa, EVP of Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Vice Chair of FBDFI.
Zosa explains that HERO Foundation’s cause is so close to home because BGC, now a vibrant business and lifestyle district, was once a military base. “While BGC has evolved by leaps and bounds through the years, we acknowledge that what once stood here is an integral part of the city’s history. We feel that by assisting HERO Foundation, we are honoring this side of our past.”
Two of the teens who will benefit from BGC’s donation are Lance Kelly Layug and Danica Joy Talania, residents of Taguig who manage to ace their studies while enjoying every bit of their student life.
Lance, an outspoken Ninth grade student, makes sure that all his grades are above the 85-mark. In a recent inter-school competition, he emerged as a champion for Biglaang Talumpati, an impromptu speech contest in Tagalog. He even writes stories in his spare time, or when he’s inspired, and hopes to get published someday.
When asked what he wants to take up for college, he says, “I want to enter law school. But sometimes, I kid my mom, ‘Ma, pwede ba akong mag-sundalo?’” (Can I enter the military?)
His surprised mom would reply, “’Nak, tama na yung kay dad lang!” (Son, it’s enough that your dad did it!)
Tenth grade student Danica, on the other hand, is a bubbly, music-lover who is part of her school’s Glee Club. She also plays the guitar for a band and is into sports. The energetic youngster is a track and field player who bested other runners in a 50-meter-dash during her school’s intramurals.
Danica was only a year old when her father, Army Sgt. James Fabellan passed on in battle. While she longed to know her father, it seemed that she’s able to connect with him through music.
“Kwento ni mama, nasa combo daw po si papa. Kaya pinagsikapan ko rin pong mag-play ng instrument.” (Mama says, papa played in a combo. That’s why I tried hard to play an instrument.)
It’s been 28 years since HERO Foundation was formed to support the education of military orphans. The stipend that the organization provides complements the scholarship offered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Educational Benefit System Office (AFP EBSO).
Engineer Leomhar Padaoan was one of the AFP EBSO’s scholars who received a regular allowance from HERO Foundation in college. He was barely a year old when his father died in combat. Since then, he – an only son – and her mother faced life’s struggles together in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.
“My mother was a housewife. We managed to get by through my father’s pension and my HERO stipend,” Engr. Leo shares.
“Naranasan kong pumasok ng eskwelahan noon nang walang pera, pang-kain lang,” he recalled. (I experienced how it’s like to go to school with no money to spend, except for food.) When he was much older, he sometimes worked as a helper for a construction site to make ends meet.
Engr. Leo described himself as an average student. And he took pride in his diligence and efforts to pass subjects for his Mechanical Engineering course.
“Hindi ako nagpabaya sa pag-aaral. Responsable lang ako,” he shared. (I didn’t take my studies for granted. I was a responsible student.)
HERO Foundation’s assistance does not end with providing allowances. It helps scholars like Engr. Leo find a suitable company for his on-the-job training. The organization even recommended major companies to apply for as soon as he graduated.
“Malaki talaga ang naging tulong ng HERO sa akin. Kaya ngayong nagtatrabaho na ako, hindi pa rin nawala yung communication ko sa kanila. As much as possible, I try to help spread the word and invite companies to support the foundation by making donations,” he explained. (HERO Foundation provided a big help for me. Now that I am already working, I still keep in touch with them...)
Words of gratitude
Engr. Leo, Lance, and Danica have nothing but words of gratitude to HERO’s sponsors. “When there are people who support you (by providing your needs), you can’t help but appreciate them,” Engr. Leo remarks.
For Lance, “We’re grateful for our sponsors, blessed even. Through them, we feel that we are supported both in our studies and in our dreams.”
Danica asserts, “To give back, mag-aaral kami ng mabuti. Yung diploma namin, yun lang po ang tanging maibibigay namin sa kanila bilang pasasalamat.” (We will study hard. We have nothing but our future diplomas to show our gratefulness for their support.)
Zosa explains that BGC, through FBDFI, fully intends to continue supporting HERO Foundation. “At the turnover ceremony, we saw how much these scholars value their education. We were moved by their desire and passion to learn. We will work closely with the foundation to help these families as best as we can.”