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Expert skills bring young mason to places

By Ma. Fatima Cruz

The market for skilled workers abroad is still large and waiting to be filled, but in the face of increasing competitiveness in the global arena, Filipinos need to continue setting themselves apart with a reputation for excellence and strict work ethics.

The story of 28-year-old Saudi worker Wilbert Balbuena is one of a personal drive to excel, coupled with finding the right opportunities for doing so.

Born in Dumaguete, Balbuena didn’t get to finish high school due to hardships, followed by the separation of his parents. However, he pursued his dreams of a better life by going to Manila where he found livelihood as a construction worker.

His commitment to his chosen job and his perseverance eventually took him to the ranks of leadman mason for a construction company in Taguig. Balbuena would often go the extra mile for his employer, and these efforts eventually caught the attention of his team’s project engineer who nominated him for further education and skills training.

He was one of the four masons required by their project engineer to attend the Experto Ako! Masonry Skills Training Program organized by cement manufacturer CEMEX Philippines in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

Ayoko sana pumunta dahil akala ko wala akong bagong matututunan [I was hesitant at first because I felt there is nothing new that I needed to learn],” said Balbuena, who later admitted to have been proven wrong.

Such training programs are important in professionalizing the industry of skilled workers in the country, according to CEMEX Philippines Foundation Executive Director Chito Maniago. “It is a commonly accepted part of our culture to rely on informal means of educating our laborers and workers, such as mostly those in the construction industry— masons, carpenters, and the like,” he explained.

“We need to do away with those practices and it’s time that we give value to our most valuable asset which is our labor force,” added Maniago. Efforts such as these training programs, in turn, increase the competitiveness of Filipino talent to world-class standards.

The Experto Ako masonry skills training program is an intensive 30-day course designed and implemented by TESDA through licensed instructors. The sessions are usually scheduled five days a week, starting as early as 7 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.

The mason scholars are excused from their work and, in lieu of this, CEMEX provides stipend, food and transportation allowances, and lodging quarters for all the participants. This way, attending classes and workshops early in the morning will be more convenient.

The program scholars usually come from the existing network of CEMEX clients. These construction, engineering, and labor companies nominate deserving employees to participate in the program. In Balbuena’s batch, he was one of the 27 scholars across Luzon who passed the rigorous screening conducted by TESDA and PBSP.

Attending the program is a privilege for chosen ones like Balbuena, who in turn willingly undertook some sacrifices for this opportunity. For instance, CEMEX offered on-site lodging for mason scholars; however, Balbuena chose to commute everyday to be with his then pregnant wife. He would board his motorbike from his residence in Taguig to get to the training site in Antipolo, Rizal.

Aside from technical skills, the Experto Ako! program also provides vital leadership and values formation workshops to hone the right attitude that is important for professional and personal success.  “Natutunan ko ang kahalagahan ng pakikisama, ang magplano sa buhay, pati na rin maghawak ng negosyo, at marami pang iba [I learned the importance of getting along with people, planning my life, as well as entrepreneurship, and a whole lot more],” shared Balbuena.

The program included a TESDA-supervised assessment that was composed of practical and theoretical knowledge on masonry. In Balbuena’s batch, a hands-on exam required them to fix the campus wall of Cabarrus Elementary School, CEMEX’s adopted school. After passing the tests, the Experto Ako scholars received their national certificate from TESDA, which is recognized both locally and globally in terms of masonry competency.

With the correct methods and latest technologies in cement application that Balbuena learned, he was able to eventually land a more lucrative job abroad, as a mason foreman for the ABV Rock Group Company in Saudi Arabia. He knows that his TESDA certification was a big help in providing an edge over other applications.

Thanking CEMEX, TESDA, and PBSP, Balbuena enthused, “Sana po ipagpatuloy pa nila ang Experto Ako program para mas marami pang mga mason na katulad ko ang matulungan at magkaroon ng magandang oportunidad.” [“I hope the Experto Ako program continues to help more masons like me gain better opportunities.”]


The Experto Ako Masonry Skills Training Program also graduated two more batches of scholars in Naga City, Cebu and San Remigio, Cebu. The next leg to be launched this year will take place in Iloilo.

CEMEX turns over ‘bancambulansya’ to Daanbatayan, Cebu

Bancambulansya is a hybrid vessel that serves as a banca (boat) for water search and rescue missions and as a regular ambulance.

A boat ambulance, which enables patients to be immediately rescued or transferred from a far-flung island to the hospital, is exactly the kind of marine vehicle that coastal villages need.

Recently, CEMEX Philippines Foundation turned over the fully equipped CEMEX Bancambulansya to the Municipality of Daanbantayan in northern Cebu.

The CEMEX Bancambulansya will be docked at Malapascua and Carnaza and it will patrol the municipality’s 15 coastal barangays. Their fishing ground is around 400 to 500 square kilometers which is considered quite large.

Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro said that the boat ambulance will be very helpful not just for transporting patients from the coastal areas to the mainland but also for water search and rescue missions. “Be assured that our municipality will take care of the bancambulansya,” added Corro.


“Please take it to heart that CEMEX Philippines Foundation is very happy to have helped you in our own meaningful ways. Although the typhoon brought very distressing events, it also brought out the good and best in people— the kindness and malasakit (care) from every person, not just from fellow Filipinos but also from concerned individuals and groups abroad,” said Paul Vincent Arcenas, CEMEX Philippines vice president for strategic planning.

“Apart from the projects we have completed with your help, we will always treasure the relationship we have built with your municipality,” added Arcenas who also serves as board member of the CEMEX Philippines Foundation.

Aside from the boat ambulance donation, CEMEX, through the help of Apo Cement’s Emergency Response Team led by Engr. Ariel Lazarte, also conducted a water search and rescue training for Daanbantanyan’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

The onslaught of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 left the 15 coastal barangays of the municipality in a state of distress and calamity.

Most of the families were forced out of their homes to find a safer location during the disaster but upon their return, they no longer have roofs or walls to shelter them.

“After we were hit by Yolanda, there’s no such thing as small contribution. Every help counts,” recalled Corro.

Earlier this year, CEMEX Philippines Foundation also turned over the CEMEX Unity Village in Pajo, Daanbantayan to provide new houses to some of the affected families. The construction of the village was implemented in partnership with social development organization Gawad Kalinga.

“Back in 2008, the poverty incident is around 43 percent. After the disaster [in 2013], our donors’ intervention, including CEMEX, helped uplift the lives of our communities by providing houses for them. You can just imagine how happy they were when they finally have houses of their own built on a safer ground,” shared Corro.

The Foundation also donated a hematology analyzer and blood chemistry analyzer to help detect signs of dengue. According to studies and evaluation by the health office of Daanbantayan, there was a high rate of casualties amongst children in the area due to late detection of dengue fever.

“Lately we had an outbreak of dengue and as of August 15, we had 41 cases. We are very thankful that we have this laboratory equipment now to quickly address this health issue,” expressed Corro.

Manila Water Foundation’s 2015 Global Handwashing Day Celebration Reaches Luzon, Visayas & Mindanao

Representatives of the local government unit of Tagum City and Department of Education pledged for proper handwashing with Manila Water Foundation Executive Director Carla May Beriña-Kim, Manila Water Foundation Program Manager for Water Education Arvee Joy Bello-Galman, Tagum Water District General Manager Nelly Gentugaya, Tagum City Council of Women President Alma Uy, and Rotary Club of Tagum Golden L.A.C.E.S. President Rae Kara Malbog.

Over 40,000 individuals from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao took matters into their hands as they pledged for a cleaner, healthier and safer lifestyle and joined Manila Water Foundation’s month-long and nationwide celebration of the 2015 Global Handwashing Day (GHD).

Guests of honor led the pledging for proper handwashing in Bagong Nayon II Elementary School in Antipolo. (Front row, from left: Councilor Ronald Barcena, Ms. Chiqui Roa-Puno, Manila Water Foundation Executive Director Carla May Beriña-Kim, Unilever Brand Manager for Cleansing Carlos Corrales, Manila Water Project and Stakeholder Engagement Head Badette Del Rosario, and Manila Water Foundation Program Manager for Water Education Arvee Joy Bello-Galman.

During the entire month of October, Manila Water Foundation and its partners reached out to students from 18 schools, residents from 5 low-income communities, and individuals in 8 malls, a world class museum and a theme park all over the country to emphasize that handwashing is an important habit that everybody must practice.

Students who regularly wash their hands can protect themselves from diseases, improve their attendance in school and enhance their development


For the past three years, Manila Water Foundation, the social responsibility arm of Manila Water group of companies in the Philippines, has been supporting the Global Handwashing Day through activities that include demonstrations and actual handwashing, which complement their commitment to educate Filipinos of all ages on water, health and sanitation.

“Global Handwashing Day shouldn’t just be celebrated and observed once a year. It should be a lifestyle for all because it’s the simplest, most cost-efficient way to be healthy. We at the Foundation hope that more people help us spread this important advocacy.” says Manila Water Foundation’s Executive Director Carla May Beriña-Kim.

The men and women of Manila Water Foundation #RaiseAHandforHygiene during the month-long celebration of the  2015 Global Handwashing Day.

The Global Handwashing Day events were well supported by local government units and institutions as they also promised to uphold this year’s GHD theme, “Raise a Hand for Hygiene.” They reinforced the concept of the easiest and most effective way to keep oneself in pink of health, by enjoining children and adults alike to regularly practice and promote proper handwashing as part of overall hygiene and health.

“I commend companies that aren’t purely commercial and are socially responsible. Thank you Manila Water in general and Manila Water Foundation in particular for spreading advocacies like proper handwashing” remarked Mandaluyong Congressman Neptali Gonzales.

“This initiative is very much welcome here in Quezon City as we also advocate handwashing for overall hygiene and health. I look forward to working with Manila Water Foundation on other projects and activities related to this advocacy,” said Councilor Eufemio “Pinggoy” Lagumbay

The family that pledges to wash their hands together stay healthy always.

The month-long and nationwide celebration of the 2015 Global Handwashing Day was co-presented by Unilever and Scholastic and sponsored by Globe, Enchanted Kingdom, Ascorbic Acid Ceelin, Ayala Malls, and Ayala Cinemas. Institutional partners include the Department of Education, The Mind Museum, Clark Development Corporation, Tagum Water District, Tagum City Council of Women, Rotary Club of Tagum Golden L.A.C.E.S., Red Cross Boracay-Malay Chapter, Boracay Island Foundation, Inc., Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay, Manila Water, Clark Water, Cebu Water, Laguna Water, Boracay Water, and Healthy Family. ABS-CBN Publishing, Working Mom, Smart Parenting, Good Housekeeping, Wish FM 107.5, Energy FM 106.7, DZUP 1602 and Yes FM Boracay served as media partners.

Visit to learn more about the 2015 Global Handwashing day or get in touch with Manila Water Foundation through 917-5900 local 1025 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Play is Cool at the Joy Schools

Why Mondelez Philippines believes in Play and Why You Should Too

Iring-iring is a game where the players sit in a circle with their hands behind their backs. The “Taya” or “It” drops a handkerchief behind one person and he/she must catch the “Taya” before the latter sits in his vacated spot in the circle or else he/she becomes the new “Taya.”

Younger generations will never know that “around the world” has a different meaning outside of the conventional one. Back in the days when “Patintero” was one of the few things kids did at 4:00 pm, you were powerful if you were the “around the world” – meaning the only player who could walk on all the lines and tag players. Many happy memories were created by this game, which certainly deserves to be brought back.

It’s not even about nostalgia or wanting to relive the golden moments of youth. Play is much more than a game. It is a learning avenue too. One that Mondelez Philippines hopes the adopted students of its Joy Schools program will re-discover through its “Play is Cool” challenge.

Joy Schools is a three-year adoption program of Mondelez Philippines, the company formerly named Kraft Foods. As a maker of delicious snack products like Tang, Eden Cheese, Cheez Whiz and Oreo, the Company is dedicated to helping promote balanced nutrition and active play among its six adopted public elementary schools. The Joy Schools is implemented together with partner the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

To energize students for learning and play, a 9-month daily feeding program for undernourished students is also part of the Joy Schools program.

To complement its ongoing daily feeding program for 1,200 undernourished students, the Company has been similarly helping them become stronger and more active through play. The World Health Organization cites the benefits of doing physical activity such as play to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact children aged 5-17 years old are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity everyday (WHO. 2015). Together with a balanced diet comprised of a variety of foods to provide nutritional needs, physical activity is one of the keys to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Play is not Laru-Laro Lang. The Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED) has long been a partner of the Joy Schools program and Mondelez Philippines by providing valuable learning to teachers of the adopted schools. This time they’ve used their experience in promoting excellence in education by facilitating the “Play is Cool” challenge.

Shares ACED Executive Director Carmela Oracion: “We have seen the benefits of both academic learning and those that come from interaction, including play. Having regular active play opportunities does not only help promote strong bodies. Regular active play also helps develop the students' brains and contributes positively to a child's ability to learn. Additionally, it also teaches children the value of fair play and team work. We’re very happy to be working with Mondelez Philippines in this endeavor to help children love play more and as an added benefit, re-learn seemingly forgotten Filipino games.”

Kadang Kadang and Iring-iring. “Play is Cool” was a play competition among five adopted Joy Schools in Manila held last October 1, 2015 at the Padre Zamora Elementary School in Pasay – one of the adopted Joy Schools. Students re-learned the Filipino games of their parents’ youth and at the end engaged in a friendly competition against each other. “This does not stop with the event though,” adds PBSP Executive Director Rafael Lopa. “The Joy Schools is a sustainability program to empower students, teachers and even parents to avoid future barriers to nutrition, education and a better life. Thus we have asked for the commitment of the schools to ensure the games continue to be played even after the event, to become part of their daily academic and physical education.”

Bulong Pari was one of the games played during the Joy Schools “Play is Cool” event. In this game, teams must pass one message to each other by whispering it, ensuring the message doesn’t get lost along the way. Thereby promoting the value of listening.

Here’s an educational rundown of the games the students played – which even adults could benefit from re-learning. There was “Kadang Kadang” a relay game where competitors try to complete the race first while wearing coconut shell stilts. “Iring-iring” is a game where a circle is formed and a “Taya” or “It” is chosen. The “Taya” goes around the circle and drops a handkerchief behind one person. That person must pick up the handkerchief and tag the “Taya” before the latter is able to sit in his vacated spot in the circle. Otherwise he becomes the new “Taya.”

The intriguing and hilarious “Bulong Pari” and the more commonly known Agawan ng Buko, Tumbang Preso, Sipa, Pabitin and Basagan ng Palayok were re-learned and played as well.

Mondelez Philippines aims to create joyful centers of learning where children’s nutrition and well-being are given focus. This deep-well and roundabout playground in the Company’s adopted Joy School in Tacloban aims to encourage kids to play more – all while pumping water to the school every time the kids play.

The “Play is Cool” challenge is one of many activities under the Joy Schools program to promote active play among students. A deep well pump seesaw and roundabout currently provide students in Panalaron Central Elementary School in Tacloban - the sixth adopted Joy School, avenues for fun and water to the school for washing and cleaning purposes.

This and many other initiatives aim to create joyful centers of learning for the students. Where their nutrition, education, well-being and future are being taken care of.

For more information on Mondelez Philippines’ Joy Schools program, visit

Philex Group Foundation, Inc., TV 5 join forces for disaster preparedness in schools

PFGI Social Investment and Partnerships Officer Gloria Batac (third from left) turns over disaster preparedness materials to Sherryl Yao, TV 5's Public Service Head for its Oplan Handa sa Eskwela 2015 at the office of Philex Mining in Pasig. With them are PGFI Finance & Admin Supervisor Vincent Villanueva; Philex Human Resource Service Assistant Kristine Molina; TV5 Technical Rescue Consultant Charlie Gil; and Public Service Desk Coordinator Chester Batongbakal. [fotoname: PFGI_TV5kitfoto]

PASIG CITY, Philippines - Philex Group Foundation, Inc. (PGFI), the corporate social responsibility arm of Philex Mining Corp. has partnered with Rescue 5, TV5's Emergency Response Unit, in the latter’s long-term commitment to propagate disaster preparedness and awareness especially in areas prone to natural calamities.

Gloria Batac, PGFI Social Investments and Partnerships Officer said that Philex has recently turned over survival kits and school supplies to TV 5' Oplan Handa sa Eskwela 2015, ceremonies held at its corporate office in Pasig

"We have just handed over 500 pieces of whistles equipped with a small compass, flashlights and school supplies that our Kapatids from TV5 will be distributing to 12 public elementary schools in Cebu City this December 2015," she said.

"We, too, here at Philex have conducted a series of lectures on earthquake preparedness which were presented by Rescue 5 and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs). Though Philex Mining has its own rescue team composed of miners, reaching out and being able to help others has been one of the major thrusts of the MVP Group," she said.

The Philex Rescue team is composed of miners who are always on-call when disasters or calamities strike, with a priority to search for survivors and recover bodies in any given disaster. The team has been responding to rescue operations since the 1990 killer earthquake that devastated Baguio City.

Meanwhile, Sherryl Yao, TV 5's Public Service Head said that Philex Mining's support will be very helpful to its Oplan Handa sa Eskwela program.

"Disaster preparedness is the main advocacy of Rescue 5, and it is also important to provide students with the necessary tools to compliment the disaster preparedness lectures we hold for them," she said.

Through Oplan Handa sa Eskwela, Rescue5 has developed a fun, innovative and sustainable way of educating school children on how to protect themselves during disasters. With this pioneering move, learning about disaster preparedness became accessible, easy to remember and more enjoyable for the youth.


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