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Cliford’s Strengths and Joys

Photos from middle to right by Ian Celis Productions and Rey Mendoza

Photos from middle to right by Ian Celis Productions and Rey Mendoza

Wearing signature large glasses and a quirky mustache-painted face mask, Cliford hopped off the bus that parked at D’Farm, San Isidro, Bacolor, Pampanga, ready to enjoy one of the most anticipated events of the summer with his friends from the hospital, the annual Kythe Camp.

Cliford is a survivor of ewing sarcoma, or bone cancer, and an amputee. However, Camp was an opportunity to show a number of his strengths and talents: despite having only one arm, he is a natural swimmer, and happily splashed along with the other campers in D’Farm’s spacious pool; he also proved to be talented at billiards—with the assistance of his friends, who helped position his cue stick, he easily sank his stripes in a game of eight-ball. During downtime, he used his arm to hold the microphone at the karaoke machine and show his knack for music in belting out Journey’s “Faithfully.”

Cliford was proud to receive this year’s “Most Promising Camper” award during Kythe Night. His bright smile, participation in camp activities, and rapport with his fellow campers earned him this distinction.

Cliford’s talents and kuya-figure personality carry over into his life in AFP hospital, where he is known to watch over the younger ones and serenade visitors with the complete lyrics of Disney’s Frozen. Having celebrated his 14th birthday last May 16th, Cliford has high hopes for the future, balancing his dreams with genuine kindness to those around him.

Surviving cancer #28storiesofgiving

MANILA, Philippines – While most teens today can be found tapping away on their mobile devices, planning what to take up in college or getting into their first relationship, 20-year-old Rudy Labata spent his teenage years dealing with cancer.

It has been seven years since Rudy was diagnosed with Stage 1 Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), but the young man still clearly recalls that fateful day.

“They suspected anemia at first,” Rudy says, as it took a while for him to get a proper diagnosis. The process took several tests and a long, agonizing wait. When it was finally determined that he was suffering from ALL, Rudy’s mother was crestfallen, taking the news of her son’s critical situation hard.

Rudy, on the other hand, put up a brave front but kept wondering how he could have cancer at age 13.

He was only in high school then, full of hopes and dreams.

“I was told that treatment will take two years,” he recalls. Concerned that the treatment would diminish his family’s meager finances, he also thought of the impact on his schooling.

“I thought to myself, it’s just two years,” he says.

Just then, a Kythe volunteer approached him and his mom at the charity ward of the UST Hospital and changed their lives forever.

Kythe Foundation Inc., which provides a whole range of support services to indigent children suffering from life-threatening illnesses and their family, started out as a school project at the Ateneo de Manila University, said executive director Maria Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo.

To date, the foundation has provided much-needed psychosocial support to over 8,000 children with cancer and other chronic illnesses and their families since 1992, and helped increase the patients’ chances of survival – from 40 to 60 percent – simply by making hospitals a happier place.

Although he suffered a great deal, what Rudy remembers most from his bout with cancer were summer camps that allowed him to play and mingle with other children also suffering from critical illnesses. During this time, volunteers generously spent their time with them and their families in hopes of seeing them get better and eventually, cancer-free.

He cannot thank enough the individuals and organizations that helped his family shoulder the costs of his treatment. Rudy’s father, a tricycle driver, was the sole provider of their family of four, and understandably had a hard time making ends meet.

He said, “There were times when the doctors themselves had to loan us money for medicine, or when we had to ‘borrow’ medicine from a fellow cancer patient.” According to Rudy, this was a common practice among the patients – a simple act of generosity that bound them closer together.

The positive experiences tend to drown out the suffering he endured.

“I would throw up so often it came to a point when I would eat just to make the throwing up a bit more bearable than if I did on an empty stomach,” he says.

On a lighter note, during his two-year treatment at the hospital, Rudy was everyone’s kuya, being the eldest in a group where patients were as young as four years old.

With an illness like cancer, Rudy admits, a positive attitude is not enough, one also needs a good support system. This is why Kythe proved to be a source of strength to him, while his fellow patients provided inspiration as he saw them trying to be strong for their own sake in spite of their suffering. He’s thankful that his friends and teachers were also very supportive and helped him graduate from high school on time.

Declared cancer-free in 2010, Rudy has become a dedicated volunteer as well as an employee of Kythe Foundation. After finishing high school, he took a two-year vocational course on a Kythe scholarship, and now works as an administrative assistant at the Kythe office in Quezon City.

These days, he devotes time helping young patients and their parents cope with cancer, assuring them that it need not be the “death sentence” it is feared to be.

“I give talks especially to parents of newly diagnosed patients. They have to stay strong for their children,” he says.

Rudy hastens to add that at one time he also received help from The STAR’s advocacy arm, Operation Damayan, among a long list of donors that helped him get through the ordeal.

Currently, Rudy is hoping to continue his studies, eyeing a four-year course to enable him to support his parents and younger sibling. He admits that even though it’s been years since he underwent treatment for cancer, the family still has debts to settle that he would like to shoulder, if only to repay his parents for their efforts.

If there is one thing he has learned from all this, Rudy says it is appreciating life and everyday blessings. His story, indeed, is one of survival.

(Editor’s Note: The Philippine STAR’s #28StoriesOfGiving is a campaign that turns the spotlight on 28 inspiring stories of people and organizations who devote their lives to helping themselves or others. Everyone is encouraged to post or tweet a message of support with the hashtag, #28StoriesOfGiving. For every post, P5.00 will be added to The STAR’s existing ‘give back’ anniversary fund. For comments and suggestions to #28storiesofgiving, email [email protected] follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit The Philippine STAR’s page on Facebook.)

Rebong, Abby. “Surviving cancer #28storiesofgiving.” Philippine Star, July 17, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2014,

TSM Adopted Patients: Looking up, living on

TSM Adopted Patients: Looking up, living on

ABOVE: For adopting Kythe patients and funding their needs, Kythe executive director Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo thanks the officers of the TSM Multipurpose Cooperative: president Ian Garcia,; vice president and chief finance officer Zenaida Primo; executive officer Veronica Javier; finance director Arnol Gomez; senior accountant Marie Acuna; accounting manager Mabel Alvarez; and IT supervisor Juancho Sunga.

As an official partner, Thome Ship Management was first involved with Kythe Child Life activities in Quirino Memorial Medical Center. TSM expanded the gazebo and garden facilities of the hospital, sustaining a conducive environment for pediatric patients and their families to relax and play.

Today, TSM proudly continues with Kythe as they join the Adopt-a-Patient program. The company’s donation now supports the needs of five pediatric patients in the Kythe-affiliated hospitals, greatly contributing to their compliance in medical procedures and their overall psychosocial well-being.

These are the stories of TSM’s five adopted pediatric patients.

Fourteen-year-old Rowie now stays with his mother and grandmother after the passing away of his father. Rowie was diagnosed with beta thalassemia and must stay in the National Children’s Hospital for one to two weeks whenever a blood transfusion is needed. This does not serve as a hindrance to his playfulness, as he is known to always be in the Kythe playroom. Rowie loves arts and crafts, and his absence from school for medical treatment notwithstanding, he is very handy with computers. Staying in the playroom, he says, makes him forget for a little while that he is confined.

Marco Angelo was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and attends treatment in the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. Although it was difficult at first for his family to accept the situation, they witnessed firsthand the strong will of other children to battle with cancer, and they hope for the best as well for their eleven-year-old boy.

Like Marco, seven-year-old Jilka Alliyah is also afflicted with acute lymphocytic leukemia, having been diagnosed in 2012. Her condition prevents her from continuing formal schooling, but cheerful Jilka copes by reading and writing poems while she undergoes her medical procedures in PCMC. For more than a year, Jilka and her family have been dedicated in completing her treatment despite their lack of resources; PCMC is happy to report that Jilka is responding well to her chemotherapy.

At two years old, Liamuel has already been diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Liamuel’s father is a jeepney driver who roughly earns around PHP7000 a month, and his mother is a housewife and his primary guardian in PCMC. In taking care of her son’s needs, she is a devoted, caring, and sensitive mother. The family has mostly depended on support from relatives and PCSO grants for Liamuel’s chemotherapy treatment.

After noticing that two-year-old Keith had an eye discoloration that became bigger over time, his mother brought him to the ENT clinic in Leyte. No developments came after Keith was provided with an antibiotic, and the family traveled to Vicente Sotto Memorial Hospital in Cebu for further assessment and an eye operation. Keith was to undergo chemotherapy, and the his family decided to transfer to PCMC for continuous treatment. Keith had a second eye operation in February, and is in good spirits while he is in the hospital.

The pediatric patients and their families brave through several obstacles as they work toward a full recovery from cancer and chronic illness, and Kythe thanks TSM for adopting the patients and helping them live on against the odds.

We thank TSM for adopting our Kythe patients. You have given these children a better chance to live long productive lives.

Junie del Mundo: Community in focus

Junie del Mundo - Community in focus Kythe

His sights set on a Philippine private sector that was full of promise and new opportunities, former diplomat and current chairman and CEO Mr. Junie del Mundo took the challenge and jumpstarted the EON Stakeholder Relations Firm with his two closest friends. EON, as Mr. del Mundo says, was his response to propelling the nation; the company has now made ripples the world over.

“16 years after we ventured into our own business, EON is now poised as one of the largest and most successful communication firms in the world. For 2 years in a row, it has been listed among the top 250 PR firms in the world in the Holmes Report’s World PR Report,” Mr. del Mundo says, of the progress the company has made over the years. “Outside overseeing operations at work, I partner with different organizations in advocating business preparedness for the ASEAN integration. “

Now with a number of challenges to engage the international business community, Mr. del Mundo says there must always be room to focus on a sense of country and community into the work itself. Many of EON’s greatest initiatives have been and continue to be centered on benefiting the country.

One such initiative is Kythe Foundation, where Mr. del Mundo is currently the vice-president of the Board of Trustees.

“It was in 2010 when we got Kythe as one of our advocacy partners,” he shares. “We helped Kythe mount its annual partners forum and contribute in operations, communication strategies, and plans for organizational development. In 2011, I was invited to be part of their board of trustees. To this day, we continue to support Kythe in its endeavor to improve the quality of life among hospitalized children with cancer and chronic illnesses.”

Both on a personal level and on the level of the EON community that he leads, Mr. del Mundo keeps the Kythe kids in perspective. Knowing that EON is about people, he believes that helping the community is not only a professional goal, but good for the soul—and that being with the kids and sharing their joy has its own rewards.

“At the heart of what I do lies a fundamental belief that ‘no amount of material success can replace the satisfaction of a life well lived,’” he says. “The kids at Kythe also give us something in return of our support. Through our community work, we witness happiness, we reach a deeper understanding of life, and we feel the love. We receive what money can’t buy. I wish that more people can extend support for the kids. So that through us, they see a world more beautiful.”

Atty. Regina Jacinto-Barrientos: Every Day, Every Act

Atty Regina Jacinto-Barrientos Every Day, Every Act

People refer to Atty. Regina Jacinto-Barrientos as a lawyer. Graduating from Ateneo de Manila University and Ateneo Law School, she stood as part of the top 15 of her class and was a member of the editorial board in the Ateneo Law Journal. In 1996, she was admitted to the Philippine Bar and became a founding partner of PJS Law. However, she is more comfortable being introduced as Reggie, the wife of tennis star Felix Barrientos and the mother of Diego and Andro.

Once rooted in a desire to change the world, Reggie’s drive in her personal and professional life matured with age, and is now directed toward making positive impact in the lives of the people that she meets and works with. Every day is important, and so is every act. “I always hope that in the 24 hours of a day, it will contain at least 1 moment that I have touched someone’s life, whether the same is by being able to help, make another person laugh, thank someone for their assistance, put order in chaos (whether at work or at home), or show someone I care for them,” she says. “Everything we do is always in the context of another and I hope that I will be able to enable another to be better.”

Reggie first became involved with Kythe through Mr. Junie del Mundo, who currently sits as vice president of the Board of Trustees. PJS Law was set to be the external counsel of Kythe Foundation. It was past president Mr. Gerry Bacarro who gave Reggie the push to contribute as a trustee. She acknowledges this to be a new kind of challenge altogether, one that has proven to be meaningful and fulfilling.

“Working with a dynamic board and being with them at my first Christmas party last year have been my memorable experience,” Reggie says. “Sharing the smiles and laughter of both the patients and volunteers made me realize that I was not the giver of gifts, but a recipient. I witnessed God’s face in the joy and smiles of the children and their families, something we sometimes forget to experience in our busy lives.”

At the heart of Reggie’s inspiration are the children and the organization’s hardworking team; her special wish is for Kythe’s continued success, that it will continue help and put in its fold more children and provide for happy memories to sustain the miracle of healing.