At the forefront of our march to aid in the sustainable progress of marginalized communities are thousands of Meralco employees who devote their time, talent, and treasure to the Foundation’s causes.
Throughout the year, employees of Meralco and its subsidiaries take part in the Foundation’s work by supporting its fundraising campaigns and volunteering in the implementation of its programs.
The Foundation team is composed of dedicated individuals who lead about 300 activities every year, on average. Some of these are in far-flung and hard-to-reach villages. Thanks to the support of Meralco’s workforce, the Foundation is able to deliver services to its community partners.
In 2019, employees raised funds to help hundreds of families recover from a series of earthquakes that shook Kidapawan City and various municipalities in North Cotabato. They also contributed to the One For Trees program through a Christmas campaign in December, by buying specially designed greetings cards from OMF in exchange for planting a native tree in the name of donors and intended recipients.
Their biggest contribution, however, is the donation of “Laging Handa” all-weather preparedness kits to 6,212 public school students during the back-to-school season. Employees raised a total of PhP2.31 million for this campaign.
Employees from various departments of Meralco scoured the company’s franchise area to look for public schools in their area that need the most attention. Some had to hike for a few kilometers of dirt road, take a boat, or wade through flood waters to deliver the kits to their intended recipients.
Engr. Maria Trixie M. Pescos, a sales and relationship management officer, was among them. She and her colleagues from Meralco’s Malolos Business Center had to navigate the narrow waterways leading to the estuaries of Hagonoy, Bulacan where the two island communities of Pugad and Tibaguin are located.
Both islands are submerged in seawater for at least six hours a day (especially in the rainy months of July to December). This perennial problem is caused by a confluence of factors including rising sea levels, sedimentation of nearby rivers, recession of the coastline, redirection of waterways and land reclamation (due to the construction of fish ponds), and overpopulation.
Most of the residents here have chosen to adapt to the situation rather than relocate inland because they draw their income from the sea, through fishing and drying fish. Due to the increasing population on the islands and the difficulty of transporting school children to the mainland and back daily, the education department established a primary school on each one: Pugad Elementary School and Tibaguin Elementary School.
The volunteers from Meralco experienced, first hand, the plight of residents when they arrived on their first stop, Pugad Island. They were greeted by a knee-deep floodwater, which rendered their rubber boots useless. The men had no choice but to wade through the water, while the female boarded a makeshift raft, which residents pulled towards the school. It was too late to turn back as dozens of school children and their parents had been waiting in an elevated classroom.
“I have participated in various activities of OMF in the past but it was my first time to walk through a flooded area. I am aware that the community experiences flood regularly, and that’s why I came in rubber boots, but we did not expect that the water was going to be as deep,” recalled Pescos.
Nevertheless, she and her fellow volunteers proceeded with their mission safely and returned to work with a renewed sense of fulfillment.
“It made me realize that there are still a lot of Filipinos who face challenges that most of us probably don’t imagine exist in a modern and progressive society. These are the ones who need our support and sustained intervention. I am thankful that, through OMF, I was able to bring joy and hope, in my own little way, to children in these communities,” she said.
A total of 720 Meralco employees joined the Foundation in implementing this program, which eventually received an award for exceptional employee engagement from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Ready To Serve During Disasters
In the best and worst of times, employee-volunteers extend a helping hand to the Foundation to reach more communities in need.
Employees in corporate offices assisted in repacking of relief goods, while those in the business centers distributed them to families displaced by fires (2,782), typhoons and floods (2,525) in the Meralco franchise area. The company’s linemen and engineers helped electric cooperatives in provinces outside of the Meralco franchise area that were swept by typhoons. They provided additional manpower and equipment to expedite the restoration of electricity in these areas.
Such was the case when Typhoon Tisoy (international name: Kammuri) made landfall in the Bicol region as it peaked into a Category 4 typhoon in early December. It toppled several transmission lines and damaged vital distribution facilities of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) and the Albay Power Energy Corporation (APEC) causing massive blackouts in the province of Albay, which dragged on for weeks.
In such situations, power utilities are usually overwhelmed by the massive restoration work, adding to the fact that their employees are also victims of the disaster. This is why help coming from outside the calamity zone is necessary. The Foundation also conducted relief operations in Camarines Sur and Oriental Mindoro in the aftermath of the typhoon.
Honoring Excellence From Within
In gratitude for the contributions of Meralco employees, the Foundation holds an annual awards program that recognizes the exemplary academic performance of their dependents. The MVP Academic Achievement Awards (MVP AAA) awarded 210 winners and 92 Top Achievers in 2019. Each of the winners received an educational assistance grant and a medal of excellence.
Those who won in the previous year and maintained their stellar performance in the current academic year clinched the Top Achievers award. This is just one of the many ways the Foundation strengthens the values of “Malasakit” and “Makabayan” deeply embedded in the culture of Meralco.
It empowers its volunteers so they could wield this power to change the world.
“I am very proud to be a part of an organization that not only provides high-quality service to its customers but also puts their welfare at the forefront. In Meralco, employees are referred to as ‘tagapag-hatid ng liwanag.’ OMF’s volunteering activities allow us to realize our social duty to make people’s lives, literally and figuratively, brighter,” Pescos said.
(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the 2019 OMF Annual Report.)