Excellence Awards

Paddling for Education

Read on the personal account of Major Harold M. Cabunoc, PA (TOPS 2004) on the Yellow Boat Project for TOPSOLDIERS.

My awareness about the Yellow Boat Project of Mr Jay Jaboneta started in late 2011 when he called me to ask for my assistance about his noble undertaking of providing boats for children who used to swim to school.

He said that he learned about me due to my exposure during the homecoming of the world champion Dragon Boat team which competed in Tampa, Florida.

I invited him to a meeting were the paddlers of the Dragon Boat team attended. He showed us the movie clips about the kids who swam and wade through chest-deep waters in order to reach school. I was moved by the sight of those poor kids.

I was reminded of the poor kids in Bicol who lost their militiaman-father due to the armed conflict there. I have helped send some of these children to school.

So, I pledged my willingness to help. We planned about fund-raising activities to help construct school buildings and finance the sustainability of the Yellow Boat project.

In April 2012, I was approached by 'Deal or No Deal' program of ABS-CBN about their intention to feature the PMA 2012 topnotcher in their program.

I requested that a fund be allocated for the Yellow Boat project as part of his appearance. The organizers agreed and set aside P28,000.000 for the project. Meanwhile, Lt Tom Puertollano pledged to add some more if he will win 100k and up.

Through our collaboration with the ABS-CBN, we were able to send the amount to the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation sometime in May. A motorized boat was procured and named Philippine Army 'Bayanihan'.

When the boat was already completed, I was invited by Anton Mari Lim of Tzu Chi Foundation-Zamboanga, the partner NGO of Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, to attend the formal turnover of the boat right in the community of fishermen-beneficiaries in Layag-layag, Zamboanga City.

I travelled to Zamboanga City on June 23 to attend the momentous event. We did not only handed over the boat to the beneficiaries; we also planted 9,000 mangrove trees as part of the reforestation efforts of the local government. At least 800 people joined us in the tree planting, including at least a hundred soldiers from the Western Mindanao Command.

It was a rewarding experience for me. It was a small contribution that made the difference, in the spirit of Bayanihan that the AFP espouses.

My effort does not end there. More joint undertakings with my new partners are in the bag. Truly, some 'impossible' things can be achieved if people are united towards reaching a certain goal.  

This is part of my humble contributions to the poor communities as a proud member of the TOPSOLDIERS (The Organization of Philippine Soldiers with Outstanding Leadership, Dedication, Integrity, Excellence and Responsibility to Society).