Monday, November 21, 2016

In the News: School opens bright future for the underprivileged

This article originally appeared on the Philippine Star last November 21, 2016

MANILA, Philippines – High quality private education should not be a privilege reserved for the chosen few.

This is the mantra of international, non-profit low-cost private school Mano Amiga Academy, which recently opened the doors of its new campus in ParaƱaque City.
Established in 2008, Mano Amiga has one primary objective: to provide students from low-income communities education at par with the best schools in the world.
 For the past seven years, the school operated in a 300-square meter property with only three classrooms in Taguig City.Pinugu recalls her frustration at having to turn away four out of five poor pre-school age children due to capacity limitations. “The small space hindered us from growing the impact and reach of our program,” she says.

Everything changed this academic year when the school, with the help of a grant from Metro Pacific Investments Corp., acquired a 2,500-sqm. property in Better Living, ParaƱaque City. Donations from other companies such as Western Union, Manta Equities, Qualfon Philippines, Unilab and LBC also helped the school to complete the first phase of the construction of its new classroom.

 From 95 students last year, Mano Amiga almost doubled its enrolment to 171 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7 this year.  Pinugu says they intend to further scale up to accommodate up to 800 students. 
“Our new campus allows us to accept more students and help more families, and also provides us with more equipped facilities to test educational innovations and to pilot other development programs,” Pinugu said.

Innovative approach
Even with the move to a new but farther location, Mano Amiga principal Revelyn Tria-Siasoyco said majority of their students still decided to stick it out “because they believe in the unique approach of the school.”
Mano Amiga implements a K-12 approach using an international curriculum, with a pedagogical method called integral formation – an personalized approach that develops a person’s intellect, character, critical thinking and leadership abilities, among others.
With the new campus, Siasoyco said they managed to strengthen co-curricular activities as they have more space for different activities.
“To develop life-long learners, students need to associate learning with both fun and hard work. We take pride in giving our students an exciting and enriching learning experience,” she said.
Since they no longer have to conduct classes in multiple shifts, Pinugu said they piloted a project-based learning approach that would teach students practical applications of what they learn in class.
“The idea is to come up with projects that help the community. The learners, they’re empowered,” she says.

For the full story, please click on the link below:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Message from our Executive Director on Mano Amiga's 8th year Anniversary

There comes a time in every person's life when you start to question whether the path you had taken was the right one. For me, this happened in 2012 when we found out that we had to find a new location for Mano Amiga, or else we would have to close down the school for good. The community leaders we were working with suddenly decided that the school was too troublesome because of the noise level during mornings, and that the area we were occupying was better off as their homeowners association office. The news came as a heavy and humbling blow to my team. We increased student learning outcomes and access to sustainable livelihood in the area, and our school model was gaining a lot of international attention, but we could not seem to win the hearts of the people whose opinion mattered the most.

We considered taking the easy route and to just close down the school. We had already been operating for four years, and we were hopeful that we've already equipped our students with foundational skills that would allow them to thrive, whichever school they're in. What motivated us to try to continue were the pleas of the families we've been helping- their countless stories of how Mano Amiga has improved their quality of life, and their commitment to help us in whatever way they can. The best encouragement came from the students themselves who found every opportunity they could, to tell me and their teachers that they will join us wherever we transfer.

What followed were four challenging years of looking for a new area, raising a huge amount of money for the property and the building, and eventually constructing a new school despited limited financial resources. I have learned so much from this experience. The first was learning to accept one's defeats with grace, and to focus on what one could still accomplish instead of what one had lost. Perhaps the most important was learning how to trust despite the disappointments- trust in the generosity and kindness of people, trust in the fidelity of God, and trust in the wonderful surprises that any challenging situation could bring. 

Last September, we found ourselves celebrating Mano Amiga's 8th year anniversary, not anymore in a small makeshift building, but in a spacious campus that could accommodate over 800 students. And though many challenges still lie ahead, we look back with pride and gratitude for what we have overcome, and look forward to the future with continued zeal and enthusiasm.

Once again, we thank you for your constant trust and support.


Eleanor I. Pinugu
Executive Director
Mano Amiga Academy, inc.

Learning Through Exploration: The PBL Approach

Project-based learning is the immediate application of what they learned in the classroom in which they develop critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. The students work in groups to collectively solve challenging problems that are relevant in their immediate environment, community, and country. Through this 21st-century learning approach, the students help propose and solve problems that are all authentic, curriculum-based and interdisciplinary as it touches on several subject areas.
This year, Mano Amiga students will have two PBL projects per quarter where in they will get a chance to brainstorm solutions for different problems in their community, using knowledge and concepts they learned in the classroom.

Through the PBL activities, various experts have selflessly volunteered their time to share their experience in their respective fields.  Last week, Lance, a segment producer of TV 5, taught Gr. 4 students about producing videos to give helpful tips to  students who are currently making webisodes about Science experiments, as part of their PBL project. 
Lance, Segment Producer of TV5 teaching students about production in one of the PBL classes

Thursday, August 18, 2016

WE MADE IT! Mano Amiga's new campus finally opens

Mano Amiga Academy’s permanent campus in Paranaque City has finally opened its doors to 173 students from Kinder to the 7th Grade last August 30, 2016! Though the school is a work in progress, the students have been enjoying the larger classrooms and new facilities. 

Thank you for making this possible for the children and their families. Your impact has gone a long way!

Though classes have started, a lot work remains to be done. To reach more students by the next school year, we are still raising P35,000,000 to build a library, a technology-enabled classroom, chapel, sports complex, and cafeteria and livelihood center. 

There is still much to be accomplished & more children to help as we complete the new Mano Amiga campus. For updates or inquiries on how to donate for the construction, please get in touch with us

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Vision for the future

LivPH chats with our Founder and Executive Director Lynn Pinugu, about the long-term vision for Mano Amiga Academy. 

What is the Mano Amiga Program?
Mano Amiga is a school that provides an international standard of education in a way that's affordable for low-income and middle families. Our dream is for every child in the Philippines, no matter what their socio-economic background is, to receive quality education and the necessary support in order for them to build better lives for themselves and contribute positively in society. More than just a school, we also serve as a community development center. We also provide our students and their families access to healthcare, values formation programs and livelihood opportunities.

What is the organization's long-term vision?
We envision Mano Amiga to be a center for educational innovations - a school that makes learning fun while focusing on teaching the skills that a child would need to thrive in the creative revolution. We would also like to be known as a Center for excellence in teacher training, particularly on how to effectively facilitate a class through engaging activities and projects. Lastly, we hope to replicate our success in our pilot school to at least 20 other locations in the Philippines.

How can people help?
So many families apply to our school for a full-year scholarship, but due to limited funds, we can only accept a number of them. Those interested to help financially may do so by providing scholarships to our students. It takes about P300 a month to send a student to Mano Amiga Academy.
People may also choose to donate their time, and to share with our students (and staff) whatever skills or talents they may have. We are always looking for role models who would be willing to mentor our students. It goes a long way in making a lasting positive impact on a child’s life.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Urban Yogi 2016 for the benefit of the Mano Amiga library

Hundreds of yogis gathered as early as 6:30am at Ayala Triangle Gardens for Urban Yoga 2016, organized by Urban Ashram Yoga. 

The event featured a whole morning of yoga classes taught by local and international teachers, for the benefit of Mano Amiga Academy. This was Urban Ashram's way of raising funds for the shelves and chairs at the new Mano Amiga library, while promoting over-all wellness among urbanites. 
Urban Ashram scholar Jazailah Cababat performed ballet for the Yogis as a way of giving thanks 
Urban Ashram founder and Mano Amiga Ambassador Maricar Holopainen cheerfully welcomed the crowd.
Classes were well-attended- with yogis not minding the scorching heat.
International teacher Joan Hyman has been firm supporter of Mano Amiga, consistently choosing the school as a beneficiary of her community classes.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Good Code with the Mano Amiga Kids

Mano Amiga volunteer Steph Rosalia spent an afternoon teaching our students how to Code. She shared her experience and learnings with us.

I came across Mano Amiga Academy last year through a post on Instagram and got inspired to volunteer. I don't have any artsy or crafty skills to save my life so teaching arts and crafts (the staple volunteer activities) was out of the question. 

What could I contribute? I know! I could volunteer to teach kids to code. I have been doing that for years. Teaching kids, on the other hand, 0 years. But that's alright, I'll figure it out along the way, I said to myself. So with the passion for volunteerism ignited plus a whole lot of naivete and caffeine thrown in the mix, I sent an email expressing my interest to do a weekend of coding classes for the school using the free curriculum from

The Good Code team with their students for the day.
Things were, more or less, going according to our plans that Saturday afternoon. We had just introduced two computer science words – “algorithm” and “programming” and were getting the kids ready for the first group activity, graph paper programming. All of a sudden, things went teetering on the brink of disaster. Everyone started teasing and squabbling with each other. We urged the kids to behave and fall in line but we were essentially ignored. I looked over to Gen to signal for help as I felt panic starting to creep in.

Thanks to Carl's quick thinking and Gen's experience of handling unruly kids, the kids settled down. We were able to continue on with the activity and finished the coding lessons without any problems. Our energies were spent but we were pleased with what we saw from smart and eager students– specially with how they worked together to solve the puzzles. We've barely scratched the surface on teaching the kids how to code, and we're excited for more adventures with them.

Here's what I'll be keeping in mind for the next time:
  1. There's no such thing as perfect timing. Or is there? 
    It took me awhile from seeing that Instagram post about Mano Amiga Academy to actually taking action and volunteering. It's okay.  Just take that first step eventually.
  2. Things seldom go the way one imagines. 
    One has to plan it out and then learn to improvise. Enough said.
  3. Even if you've got all the passion in the world, you definitely need your friends to help you. I'm grateful for my awesome co-volunteers – Gen, Anna, Ash and Carl and Claud. They did most of the hard work and I have much to learn from them.
  4. This is not about you. 
    Sure, sharing and volunteering makes us feel we're good people. But the bottom line is – this is not about us feeling good about ourselves, this is for the kids.
Benz, Grade 5, showing off his Good Code stickers
We look forward to continuing the rest of the lessons with them and the other students. And we're excited to see what awesome things the kids will think of creating or coding along the way. 

To learn more about the Good Code, visit

Monday, February 29, 2016

We Thank You for a Bright Future

On February 17, Mano Amiga held a Thanksgiving Brunch for all the people who had supported Mano Amiga along the way. 

The event was attended by our long-time donors including Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, Urban Ashram and Children’s Hour, as well as by our newest partners like Vitamin B, Manta Equities, Globe Telecom and Unilever Philippines. It was an intimate affair that placed their efforts on centerstage as they received countless messages of gratitude from the students, parents and our team.  It also provided us with the opportunity to update our partners on the challenges and updates about the school as we build and transfer to our permanent campus.

Everest Academy Mommy Amiga team represent the Moms who have shown constant support for the school.
The Mano Amiga scholars practicing their speech
The Mano Amiga Team
Tile Painting activity at the event. The painted tiles will be combined into a mural at the new Mano Amiga school
Tiles painted by our donors, based on their interpretation of a bright future for Mano Amiga
Yanpi Oliveros and Nina Abellada represent Unilever Philippines- the latest branch of Bistro 3846
Model, Host. Curator & Mano Amiga Ambassador Teresa Herrera
Our seven-year journey since we first opened has not always been an easy road.  We are grateful to the 100 families who had placed their trust in us to educate and form their children. We are also grateful to the donors and volunteer who share our vision and have generously helped us create a school program that looks after the entire well-being of our students. As we prepare for our big move this coming school year, we thank our students, families and  partners once more for their full trust and support.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

At Mano Amiga, “We Heart Art!”

They say you know what genuine love is really like if you know how to love like a child. We at Mano Amiga believe that #EveryChildCan and that children are also the ones who can express love in the best and most creative ways.

Last January 30, 2016, Saturday, Mano Amiga's 5th grade students enjoyed a Valentine-themed art workshop wherein they got to make Valentine’s Day cards for their friends and loved ones. Helping them out were the volunteers who generously shared their time and creativity to the Mano Amiga kids. Some of them included, Filipino print medium artist, Lenore Lim. 

The afternoon was filled with bliss as the kids and the volunteers spent their time cutting paper hearts and sticking them onto their handmade cards. Written on the cards were their heartfelt notes to their loved ones and friends. Aside from this, the kids also got to enjoy learning how to do paper mosaic.

One of the 5th graders, Carlos, made a card especially for his friends who were also part of the same art workshop. Immediately after making the card, he asked, "Can I give it to them already?" And he approached them with much excitement and joy.

(L-R) Gr. 5 students Carlos, Benz and Arzel posing with their
Valentine's card from Carlos

This is the sort of love you know is genuine and unconditional. One that longs to be expressed. One that does not expect anything in return.
It is this same kind of love, we believe, that has propelled our volunteers to take time and be with the kids that day, albeit for just a short while.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was when the kids were given the chance to draw their dream school and dream playground. It was inspiring to see these little ones dream extraordinary dreams for their future school. These dreams continue to inspire Mano Amiga to work harder so that when it’s finally time to transfer in the new Mano Amiga campus, these dreams will beautifully come to life.


We love having volunteers join the kids during various activities in Mano Amiga. Join us in our upcoming volunteer Activity - TEACHERS' DAY OFF!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Volunteer Call Out! - We heart ART

Be an Art teacher for a day! Help us facilitate a Valentines Day- themed workshop for the Mano Amiga 5th grade students. Activities include making Vday cards and decor through crayon melting, paper mache and paper mosaic, using recycled paper and old crayons.

Volunteer fee: None. But volunteers must bring some materials, water and snack.
To reserve a slot/ For Inquiries:

Frequencies: Giving voice to the youth through Art

One of the canvasses on display at the 2015 Venice Biennale, as part of Oscar Murillo's Frequencies Project. Photo courtesy of

“What if I tell you that from now on you can write on your arm chairs? In fact you can draw on them, color it, do whatever you want using the canvasses we just installed? Would you like that?”, asks Frequencies Project head Clara Dublanc to a group of wide-eyed 5th grade Mano Amiga students. 

“The only rule is, there are NO DESIGN RULES. All we want is for you to tell us what you’re thinking of and what you want to say, using these canvasses.”

Frequencies is a long-term project conceptualised by Colombian-born and London-based artist Oscar Murillo, as a collaboration with students aged 10 to 16 from schools in different parts of the world. Every year, they install canvasses in schools and just allow students to express themselves using their preferred tools. The resulting canvas is a very telling snapshot- not just of the student's imagination, but of the collective consciousness and popular culture of the youth living in that city. 

Clara Dublanc orienting the students about the Frequencies Project
Last October, Mano Amiga Academy was chosen as one of the two schools to represent the Philippine youth in the project. With the help of Art Enthusiast, Rocky David, Clara Dublanc and the Frequencies team visited the school and installed canvasses in the arm chairs and tables. The canvas will remain in the school until the end of the school year, after which it would be gathered by the Frequencies team along with the works of students from other parts of the world. Selected canvasses were presented as part Oscar Murillo’s exhibit at the 2015 Venice Bienalle, one of the most anticipated art exhibits in the world. 

At first, the Mano Amiga students were hesitant to partake in the project. This was counterintuitive for them, specially after hearing rules against drawing on their armchairs. Soon enough however, curiosity and imagination took over. After just three months, the canvasses are now filled with colourful drawings, written tributes to their favourite pop stars, and collection of their favourite quotes. 
Joshua Dave, a Science enthusiast, chose to draw the solar system on his canvas
“The stream of consciousness approach of the project is a wonderful opportunity for students to harness their creativity and explore the bounds of self-expression,” says Mano Amiga Executive Director Eleanor Pinugu. “These illustrations give us a rare and fascinating insight into what our students love, and what they feel strongly about.”

When put together, the artworks offer the world multiple perceptions and differing perspectives, freely and honestly expressed by children from around the globe. It is a wealth of insight, and at the same time, reminds us, what art is truly about.

To learn more about the project, visit
Three months into the project, students are still constantly decorating their canvasses.