Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Mano Amiga students' magic voyage

For most of us, going to the theater to watch a movie is something so ingrained in our daily routine that we no longer consider the experience as something out of the ordinary. For children from poor families however, watching a movie is a luxury they could only dream of.

As a Christmas treat to the kids, Living Dreams Philippines organized a special movie screening of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third installment of the C.S. Lewis' Narnia series. For the students, just the experience of stepping inside a movie house was already a magic voyage in itself.

Upon entering the cinema, most of the students ran excitedly with the volunteers to choose their seats. Some of the younger children were initially scared of the dark theater but immediately got over their fear as they played with the cushioned chairs. Before the movie started, some of the students kept leaving their seat to go closer to the movie screen and admire the "giant TV."

For two and a half hours, the Mano Amiga students explored C.S. Lewis' world of magical creatures, scenic islands, and never-ending adventures. It sparked the students' curiosity, fed their imagination, and taught them important values. After the movie, the children excitedly chatted with the volunteers about the new things they learned, particularly the characters they met and new places they discovered.

Before saying goodbye, the children performed a song to thank the volunteers for the day's adventure. The experience was truly a magic voyage they would not easily forget.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Day of Spiritual and Physical Nourishment

When thinking of ways on how to help families from marginalized areas, the first programs that come to mind are usually those that address physical needs-food, shelter, health, and education. Equally important however, are programs that seek to cater to the spiritual needs of the poor. As Pope John Paull II stressed during his Papal visit to the United Nations, “The poor have needs which are not only material and economic, but also involve liberating their potential to work out their own destiny and to provide for the well-being of their families and communities.”

Last November 19, the Men of Sacred Heart of Sanctuario de San Antonio Parish teamed up with the Everest Academy K4J (Kids for Jesus) Club to help the Mano Amiga students and their families develop a more profound understanding of the unconditional love of Jesus and to see His presence in their lives, despite the challenges that each day may bring.

The afternoon began with catechism using games and crafts. The students listened attentively as the volunteer catechists explained how the sins of man deeply hurt God’s heart. Even at a young age, the students could already grasp that God must love us so much to allow Himself to be vulnerable. Afterwards, the K4J members and Mano Amiga students then made heart-shaped cards containing promises and resolutions on how they could show their love for Jesus.

The students and members of K4J and Men of Sacred Heart then gathered outside for the enthronement of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Simplicio of Ina ng mga Dukha Church, a parish near the school, led the prayers. The Mano Amiga teachers and parents joined the students in the solemn celebration.

The afternoon concluded with the sharing of snacks. The Men of Sacred Heart also donated to the school much needed school supplies and uniforms for the children.

Lead activity organizers were Men of Sacred Heart of Sanctuario de San Antonio Parish members Mike Limpe, Jun Rodriguez and Ditto Lesaca, Everest Academy Catholic Formation teacher Christa Huddart and K4J Volunteer Mom Karen Limpe.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Men of Sacred Heart as well as the K4J club for giving this simple yet very meaningful activity,” Mano Amiga Development Director Lynn Pinugu said. “In order for us to be successful in our mission of transforming the community, we need to form these children and families not only intellectually and humanly speaking, but spiritually as well.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

British Alumni Association holds Medical and Dental Missions in Mano Amiga

Early childhood caries, tooth decay and other dental problems were identified as the main problem in the community. To help address this problem, Mano Amiga Academy Development Director Eleanor Pinugu asked the British Alumni Association to hold Dental Missions in the school for the students, their parents, and other families in the community.

BAA organized a one-day Medical and Dental Missions in Mano Amiga as the culminating activity of the RP-UK Friendship week. BAA Executive Director Elcid Pangilinan and his team worked with Mano Amiga Principal Revelyn- Tria Siasoyco in getting volunteers and promoting the activity to the community.

20 doctors and 3 dentists spent the whole morning attending to the medical and dental needs of the families. Over 300 children and adults benefitted from this initiative.

The volunteer doctors and dentists used games to help put the nervous children at ease.

The families were provided with free medicine and multi-vitamins. The volunteers also gave lectures on proper health and oral care.

Adequate health and dental care is vital for the children's growth and learning, as well as for the families' general welfare and productivity. Mano Amiga Academy thanks the British Alumni Association and everyone who volunteered their time and shared their resources for helping us serve the needs of the community.

*Pictures c/o Aileen Siroy Photography

Monday, October 25, 2010

Futbol Funatics and Dance Basics give Mano Amiga students a chance to pursue Arts and Sports

Most parents enroll their kids in sports and art programs because the children learn essential lessons that would benefit them all throughout their life: leadership and time management skills, increased self-esteem and confidence, and good values namely teamwork, discipline, and respect.

Studies show that these activities have an even greater impact on the lives of economically disadvantaged children. Making team sports and performing arts accessible to at-risk youth led to improved over-all academic performance, lower drop- out rates, and decreased occurrence of emotional and behavioral problems. Unfortunately, the children who need these programs the most are the ones least likely to get them.

Mano Amiga Academy has partnered with the founders of Futbol Funatics and Dance Basics to help give poor but deserving students an opportunity to pursue their interest in arts and sports.

Football Fridays

Futbol Funatics’ ( first encounter with Mano Amiga students was a year ago when the group decided to hold a one-day outreach camp in the school. Founder and Head Coach Candice Grey-del Rosario remembers vividly how the students had zero knowledge about football at that time, “Most of them did not know any other sport apart from basketball. At first, all they wanted to do was dribble the ball using their hands. After a few exercises, the students fell in love with the sport and tried their best to apply defense tactics and score goals.”

Coach Candice and her co-founder Coach Avery del Rosario felt that playing football would teach Mano Amiga students valuable lessons that would help them reach their future endeavors. They decided to offer free, regular classes in the school to broaden the students’ exposure to football. Every Friday, Futbol Funatics takes over the PE classes and holds different fun drills to introduce the students to the fundamentals of the game.

“It never ceases to move me whenever I see them get so excited in class. We are committed to providing these children with an enriching experience that would impact their lives in the same way football did for us,” Coach Candice shared.

Ballet Saturdays

Dance Basics ( was founded in 2004 by ballerina sisters Nesa Tanyag and Trina Tanyag-Zafra. What was originally a school with only one class grew fast into a school offering four levels. The two sisters approached Mano Amiga because they wanted to extend their love for dancing to underprivileged children.

“We have always wanted to make ballet more accessible to children who cannot afford to pay the high cost of training,” Teacher Nesa said. “We chose the Mano Amiga community because we saw how eager the children are about learning new things as well as the parents’ desire to give their family a better life.

Dance Basics now holds free ballet lessons in Mano Amiga on Saturday mornings. There are 40 students enrolled in the class. The most promising students will be awarded with dance scholarships for a more intensive training.

Other students of Dance Basics have also been helping out by serving as teachers’ assistants. Some of the students also donated their old (but not worn out) ballet shoes, tights, and leotards so the Mano Amiga students could have the proper attire.

“Our company has been so blessed and we are thankful for the opportunity to share those blessings with the Mano Amiga students.,” Coach Nessa said. “We believe that Ballet will be a good learning experience for the children, and hopefully, pave the way for educational and career opportunities in the future,” Ms. Tanyag added.

The Mano Amiga parents have expressed their gratitude to the school and the two organizations for offering football and ballet classes in Mano Amiga because they know these are opportunities their children would not normally have access to due to financial constraints.

“Akala ko po sa panaginip lang posible na makapag-aral ang anak ko ng ballet o kaya football,” Grade 1 parent Marlyn Nieva said. “Talagang malaki po ang pasasalamat namin na nabigyan kami ng ganitong pagkakataon. Nagsisikap kaming bigyan ng mas magandang kinabukasan ang aming mga anak upang hindi masayang ang mga paghihirap ng Mano Amiga at ng lahat nang mga taong tumutulong sa amin.”

(I thought that my child would never have access to ballet or football lessons, except in my dreams. We are all very grateful to have been given this opportunity. We are working hard to give our kids a brighter future because we do not want to waste the efforts of Mano Amiga and the other people helping us.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Magical Day

Living Dreams, an international organization that aims to help ease the plight of underprivileged children, recently gave the Mano Amiga students and community kids an early Christmas gift by bringing them Enchanted Kingdom amusement park for a day of fun and magic.

The 120 beneficiaries were accompanied by their volunteer Ate and Kuya as they spent an entire day exploring the different rides, and trying out the different food stalls. The kids loudly expressed their amazement as they experienced riding the carousel, flying swings, and water rides for the first time.
What made the day even more magical for the children was the special visit they received from the different mascots including some cuddly dinosaurs, a famous wizard and a lovely princess.

"We believe that Mano Amiga Academy is making a genuine difference in the lives of these children," Living Dreams Chair Cristina Yambao said. "We hope that through this field trip, the students would feel even more inspired to go to school and take advantage of the wonderful opportunity they have been given so that they could have a brighter future."

For more info on Living Dreams Philippines, please visit:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Give a gift that gives twice!

It is quite difficult to give a gift to the people we know who seem to have everything they need. Show your loved ones how much your care for them by helping a child fulfil his dreams.

Mano Amiga Academy is selling In lieu of Gift cards. Each all-purpose gift card contains a message explaining that a donation has been made in the recipient’s name in lieu of traditional gifts. The amount donated is not indicated. The cards feature special portraits of the Mano Amiga students taken by well-known Filipino photographer Mr. Jun de Leon, who volunteered his services for free. Proceeds from the card will go to the Mano Amiga Academy Scholarship fund. For orders, you may get in touch with Ms. Lynn Pinugu at 09063361663 or at

For those who want to get a head start on their Christmas shopping, complete your gift list by giving Christmas Cards produced by Picture Company. Instead of a gift, give your family and friends an Idream Christmas card and help a Mano Amiga scholar continue his schooling. The cards could be personalized; it could feature your company logo, personal message, family crest, etc. Pre-order now and get it after 14 days. Pickup and payment could be in any Picture company branch.

For orders/inquiries, kindly email: or call 756-0020 (Greenbelt 5 branch)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mano Amiga celebrates Buwan ng Wika month

August was an exciting month for Mano Amiga Academy as the school celebrated Buwan ng Wika for the first time. The Mano Amiga staff worked with the parents and volunteers in coming up with different activities that help build awareness and instill love for Philippine culture.

Throughout the month of August, culture appreciation was integrated into Mano Amiga's classroom activities by introducing the students to different local customs and traditions, as well as important events in Philippine history.

Mano Amiga included the whole community in the festivities by organizing a Youth Sports Tournament featuring traditional Filipino games.
The Buwan ng Wika month culminated with a program featuring performances from the students and parents of the different types of folk dance. After the show, the community feasted on different local delicacies donated by the Mano Amiga faculty and some of the families.

"Buwan ng Wika is an important school event because it serves as a good opportunity for us to nurture the children's love and appreciation for our culture, specially the Filipino language," Principal Rev Tria-Siasoyco said. "Developing a strong sense of country among our students is something we try to integrate in our activities all throughout the year to help them become productive citizens who are proud of their rich culture and heritage."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Western Union Global President and CEO Christina Gold visits Mano Amiga Academy

Western Union President and CEO Christina Gold accompanied by Drina Yue, Senior VP and Managing Director of WU Asia Pacific; Patricia Riingen, Senior Vice President of WU Pacific Indo-China; and Lorenzo Ocampo, President and CEO of PETNET Inc, recently visited Mano Amiga Academy to meet with the PETNET-Western Union scholars.

In 2008, PETNET and Western Union Foundation provided Mano Amiga with a $50,000-scholarship grant to cover the tuition fee and educational materials of 14 students for three years. The recipients of the award were chosen from the informal settlers residing in Taguig City which includes families of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

The Mano Amiga students welcomed the guests by performing musical numbers while the parents of the PETNET-WU scholars met with Ms. Gold after the program to express their gratitude. Taguig Mayor Laarni Cayetano awarded Ms. Gold with the Key to the City, to thank her and the company for their numerous efforts to improve the lives of underprivileged families living in Taguig.

Ms Gold's visit to the Philippines is her fourth time over the last few years. It will be the last occasion she visits in her official capacity as she retires in September and hands over her role to Hikmet Ersek, the current Chief Operating Officer.

The entire Mano Amiga family thanks Ms. Gold for being its partner in transforming communities!

Friday, August 20, 2010

NASA engineers inspire Mano Amiga students to reach for the stars

Cheers fill the Philippine Science Centrum auditorium as a woman in a space suit gracefully enters the room. The woman is Sabrina Singh, an engineer and astronaut trainer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA), and her audience are the students of Mano Amiga Academy and other public schools in Manila.

Singh, along with fellow NASA engineer Adam Gilmore, took a break from their work duties to be part of Asia's society Science Caravan: Reaching for the Stars. For two weeks, Singh and Gilmore will conduct "interactive science and space demonstrations in different public schools in order to inspire and motivate the youth."

The students listened attentively while Singh explained to them how astronauts eat and sleep in outer space. They all gasped in amazement when Gilmore showed them an actual footage of a space shuttle launch. The children got even more excited when he taught them how to make their own space rockets using paper, cardboard and glue.

"The objective of the program is to free the minds of our children to dream bigger and to have courage in pursuing them through education. By meeting Sabrina and Adam whose life stories are likewise inspiring, our children will get to meet in person people who have truly accomplished much," Asia Society executive director Arnel Casanova told the Philippines News Agency.

During the workshop, Singh asked whether anybody from the audience would like to be the first Filipino astronaut. Many raised their hand, including Mano Amiga student Joshua Dave Waras, who added that he would like to put the Philippine flag on the moon.

Singh smiled at the audience and said,"Just remember: If these people can do it, then you can do it, too. Anything is possible."

20 Mano Amiga students from Prep and Grade 1 were chosen to be part of Asia Society's Science caravan

NASA Engineer and Astronaut trainer Sabrina Singh tells the students that they can do anything if they work hard enough.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From Trash to Scholarship Fund

Mano Amiga Academy is now a member of, a website that allows donors to sell their unwanted possessions online, and be able to donate the proceeds to their chosen advocacy. The site, which has been likened to an ‘online garage sale’, specially caters to people who would like to help, but prefer to donate in kind rather than direct cash.

To help generate more awareness about the product, all items donated in will also be sold on Sellers will get an acknowledgment letter from Mano Amiga once the items have been sold. Direct cash donations could also be made through the site.

Registration is free! Unload those unwanted items and help send a child to school at the same time! For more information, please visit:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Back to School!

Last July 19, Mano Amiga Academy officially began its third school year. Mano Amiga Principal Revelyn Tria-Siasoyco welcomed the children, their parents, and the two new teachers, and outlined the different exciting activities aimed at providing quality education to the students and holistic formation to their families and the community as a whole.

The day marked another milestone for the school as it opened its doors to its pioneer batch of first graders. It was a happy and seamless transition for the students as they expressed their excitement about the new subjects they will be learning this year as well as the new responsibilities they will have.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bistro 3846: A Mano Amiga Social Enterprise

Mano Amiga Academy recently announced the official opening of Bistro 3846, a food and catering business that will help sustain the operating cost of Mano Amiga Academy.

The focus of Bistro 3846 is to provide school children with age-appropriate and nutritious lunch meals. The comprehensive nutrition program will help inculcate healthy eating habits that would provide nourishment, facilitate proper development, and promote environmental awareness and concern.
100% of the profits earned by Bistro 3846 would be donated to the Mano Amiga Academy scholarship fund.

Everest Academy has graciously agreed to host the initial site of Bistro 3846 and will be the school's cafeteria concessionaire for School year August 2010- May 2011. General Manager and Head Chef Amelia de los Reyes Alba, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu London, developed a menu featuring children's favorite meals that are prepared in a healthy way. The bistro also established a school herb garden that will help augment the cafeteria's herb requirements and help educate the Everest school children about the different herbs, their taste and nutrition content.

To learn more about the project, please visit:

Mano Amiga's partners had a chance to sample Chef Amelia's specialties during the Bistro 3846- sponsored reception of the recently held Mano Amiga thanksgiving mass.

The Bistro 3846 team (from L-R): Chelsea Otero-Lopez, Anna Aquino-Dee, Mano Amiga Development Director Lynn Pinugu and Chef Amelia de los Reyes Alba

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mano Amiga gives thanks for a successful 2nd School year

On June 26, the entire Mano Amiga Academy faculty and school officials, along with some of Mano Amiga's partners and padrinos came together for a thanksgiving mass at the Everest Academy Chapel. Father Daniel Polzer, LC, officiated the Holy Mass while Mano Amiga volunteers led the singing for the celebration.

In his homily, Father Polzer thanked everyone for all the little sacrifices they have made for the sake of the Mano Amiga families: the teachers and staff for choosing to teach in an environment that is not always comfortable, the volunteers for spending their weekends to serve as youth mentors instead of on some other leisurely activity, and the partners for giving up some luxuries to help send a stranger to school. Father Polzer said that the real challenge is to be joyful in serving others "even when there isn't always an applause or recognition for those deeds."

After the Thanksgiving Mass, Mano Amiga Development Director Eleanor Pinugu shared how grateful she is to be part of an organization comprised of people who see Mano Amiga not just as a job or an advocacy, but as their vocation.

Incoming Principal Revelyn Siasoyco thanked everyone for their faith in her abilities to lead the school. She shared how she has seen the school grow from an infrastructure with bare walls and no restrooms to a learning center and second home for the Mano Amiga students and their families.