Let me talk about a group of Boholanos who, a decade ago, decided to band together for a common dream of helping their home province. This all started out in the summer of 2000, when a small group of friends would get-together on Sundays for some fun and games, and cap it with a couple of bottles of beer.
This group would meet at the Presidential Security Group (PSG) compound right across Malacanang, the Philippines’ Presidential Palace, in Manila. Some were basketball, swimming or tennis enthusiasts, while others were wannabe golfers. Other simply wanted to jog or walk at the PSG compound.
The morning would be devoted to the different sports activities. Families would picnic at the swimming pool area. And the ladies would eventually start their day with intriguing tidbits for gossip fodder. This would then be followed by a boodlefight lunch.
If you’re wondering what a boodlefight is, it’s a food-fight where you gather all the food brought in by the group on a long table, mix it up over banana leaves or whatever, and have everyone partake of the food. It is a good way to economize, and a good bonding experience as well.
After filling up their stomachs, it would be time to relax and open a few beers. If lucky, there’d be ‘tuba’ or ‘bahalina’ – that’s the popular native wine – available. And these afternoon drinking sessions would lead to discussions on anything under the sun. We’d have spirited talks on topics ranging from politics to showbiz to business and individual careers to affairs of the heart. But at the end of the day, the discussions would almost always go back to how we could possibly help our province, Bohol. We all wanted to make a positive contribution to Bohol. But how to do it….. that was the big question then.
That was the impetus that led to the creation of Tapok Tapok Bol-anon Inc, or ‘TAPOK’ for short. TAPOK was formally organized and incorporated in the summer of 2001. Its overall aspiration was to develop the camaraderie and the leadership among middle-level Manila-based Boholanos, with the end in view of being able to eventually contribute to Bohol’s well-being.
Some of its founding members were Flor ESTACA, Air Force Gen Leo OLEGARIO, Navy Adms Rogie CALUNSAG and Boy SANCHEZ, Ed and Josie TORRALBA, Edna BALLESTEROS, the brothers Rene and Bing LUSPO, Pat MANLANGIT, Gideon MIOLE, Maning OMICTIN, among others. We didn’t realize it then, but we were about to embark in a long, humbling yet enlightening and totally fulfilling experience.
So we decided to organize a golf fund-raising for our very first project. With the proceeds of the tournament, we were able to procure 25 brand new computers which we then distributed to different high schools which were in need of such. From then on, we were hooked! It felt good to be able to give of ourselves. It felt so fulfilling to be able to pay back to Bohol, for everything it has done for us. It felt so gratifying, to see the happy faces of our young students in the barrios, and to hear their poignant messages of thanks. These were truly priceless!!
Over the next few years, we continued to provide computers to Bohol’s high schools. But this time, we were told to provide the internet-ready kind. At this point, people were starting to recognize our work, and we started to get feelers from well-meaning companies that were only too willing to donate their old computers for schools in need.
It was just a matter of time though, and as more companies started to unload their old computers, DepEd declared that we could be of better help if we switched to helping develop the technical/vocational skills of our students. And so we switched to providing tech/voc equipment in 2009.
Over the years, TAPOK has been religiously coming back to Bohol to distribute welding machines, sewing machines, cooking equipment and even musical instruments and garden tools, depending on what our students needed. We were also lucky to have the National Development Support Command (Nadescom), the development arm of the AFP, partner with the local government leaders in constructing school buildings in the hinterlands. This initiative led to the involvement of many partner organizations, most notable of which were the ABS-CBN Foundation and Bohol’s First Consolidated Bank (FCB), in providing for a lot of the schools’ needs.
In Manila, TAPOK also initiated other activities catering not just to the Boholano community in Metro Manila. These projects included providing used clothes and food for the victims of the floods in Manila, Cagayan de Oro, and lately, Compostela Valley. We have involved ourselves in assisting medical missions in Manila and Bohol. We also hosted social events and sports activities for the Manila-based Boholanos.
But it is the success stories we get from Bohol that inspire us to keep our noble service going. We have regularly received letters of appreciation from schools and individuals who have benefited from the tools made available to them by TAPOK. From former students who are now gainfully employed as welders. Or students who have been able to continue their studies with the savings they made while sewing. Or those who have landed scholarship grants with their vocational skills. Or teachers who have been able to provide better training in cooking, etc. Or schools which have won national acclaim and awards in welding competitions. Indeed, it is an exhilarating feeling that makes you want to do even more.
Now, for the first time, TAPOK embarks on a new adventure. Our next offering will be an attempt to support the province’s tourism, and youth and sports development programs. The 2nd Cobra-PDBF International Club Crew Challenge is a dragon boat competition that aims to make Bohol a primary watersport destination for the country. It is a bold aggressive move to put Bohol in the international dragon boat arena. It is a very doable goal; but it will need the commitment of the entire Boholano community to ensure that this initial offering becomes a resounding success, and nurture it for the years to come. Bohol must learn to look at the long-term effects of this Dragon Boat Festivity, and not be distracted by the short-term benefits. For in reality, TAPOK can only provide a spark. At the end of the day, it is the Bohol community – as the direct beneficiaries of the event – who will mandate whether the project is worth investing in for it to thrive in the future.
TAPOK is just one of many like-minded Boholano organizations who dream of helping Bohol in Manila. The Bohol Association of Metro Manila Inc (BAMMI) is the mother organization which provides guidance and direction to the many Boholano social groups. Similar organizations in the USA, the Middle East and elsewhere have long been organized. And each one of these organizations have big or small dreams for Bohol. Truly, our advocacy of being able to give back to Bohol remains strong. Bol-anons, it seems, will always be there to help their home-province of Bohol.
For more about TAPOK: https://www.facebook.com/groups/123530200992890/