2015 Gender Responsive CSR Initiatives

Believing that CIAC’s initiatives can be a good example to other organizations, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) invited last 1 December 2015 the CIAC and its representative to act as a guest speaker in the National Forum entitled “Promoting Safe Communities: A Forum with Male Advocates Against Violence Everywhere.” Accordingly, the letter of invitation specifies its request to “share CIAC’s Gender and Development (GAD) projects and activities, particularly the creation of safe environment to address the social costs of feminization of migration.”

END VAW NOW: Open Forum with the first set of speakers. (L-R) Mr. Donald Amado Caballero of House of Representatives, Ms. Patricia Quinatadcan of UN Women Safe Cities Global Initiative and Ms. Marie – Tessibeth T. Cordova of Clark International Airport. Held on 1 December 2015 at the AFP Theatre, Camp Aguinaldo, QC, attended by anti VAWC (Violence Against Women and Children) male groups, boys’ schools and traditionally male-dominated government agencies and non-government organizations from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Some CSR activities undertaken were as follows:

  1. Community outreach to Aeta families and children which included health and education-related activities as well as Christmas gift-giving
  2. AMMA (Ama na Magaling Mag-aruga sa Anak) Program: A Community-Based Program for Husbands and Children Left Behind by OFW-Mothers

    The Ama na Magaling Mag-aruga sa Anak (AMMA) Program of CIAC has been presented for two years now since 2014 at the Convention of the Psychological Association of the Philippines with (a) AMMA Phase I & Phase II entitled “Ang Dating Haligi ng Tahanan ay Ilaw na Rin” at Cagayan de Oro last August 2014 and (b) AMMA Phase III entitled “AMMA Program: Community-Based Interventions for Sustainability” held at Cebu City last August 2015.

    CIAC has adopted the AMMA Program to address an air transportation issue. As a government agency engaged in air transportation business, the Clark International Airport believes that while it contributes to the economic development of the migrant families and of the Philippines for providing an international gateway for the exit and entry of the OFW-wife away from and back to the country, it has become instrumental as well to the physical separation of the OFW-woman away from her family. The woman is not likely to go and work abroad, say, Dubai, by means of walking or sailing. But precisely because the air transportation exists, working overseas has become an attractive option. This has resulted to psychosocial familial problems in particular and national social costs at large that have been precipitated by the air transport.

    The Ama na Magaling Mag-aruga sa Anak (AMMA) Program is a community-based psychosocial intervention set out to assist the fathers “left behind” by the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) – women. The program began by providing the fathers with counseling services to help process their experiences and make sense out of them, leading to an enhanced self-concept and identity. They were also equipped with enhanced parenting skills in order for them to better cope with their new responsibilities at home. The children were also provided with play and mindfulness-based expressive arts therapy to help them process their experiences as well. This has provided the OFW-women a good sense of peace of mind.

    The Third Phase on Organizational Development and Management happend last year which involved setting up the AMMA organization, creation of its Constitution and By-Laws, election of officers and direction-setting. This year is AMMA’s Phase IV which is Consolidation and Expansion. This phase will involve: Further education and training, strengthening of organizational mechanisms, project development, resource mobilization, group mobilization, networking and advocacy.

    The AMMA Program is being run in very close and strategic partnership with the MLAC Institute for Psychosocial Services and the local government unit of Mabalacat City, Pampanga.

    Because of the AMMA Program’s strong social relevance, international media such as Channel News Asia, Voice of America and The National based in Dubai have come over to feature the program.

    1. CHANNEL NEWS ASIA (CNA) – a broadcast based in Singapore with worldwide coverage taken by correspondent CNA Aya Lowe (December 19, 2014)

    2. Voice of America

      Alvin Balenton, flanked by his two youngest children, attends a class for single fathers coping with life apart from their wives who work overseas, Mabalacat, Pampanga Province, Philippines, Oct. 29, 2014. (VOA / S. Orendain)

      In the Philippines, husbands left behind by wives who work overseas are learning to cope as single fathers, thanks to a parenting course designed just for them.

      At a town hall meeting room in Mabalacat, Pampanga, just north of Manila, about a half-dozen fathers receive tips on personal finance and budgeting.

      Alvin Balenton, 37, is a willing participant and always first to raise his hand. He is part of a pilot program that supports fathers who raise their children by themselves while their wives work abroad.

      Cedric Caubalejo, 8, looks at a picture of his mother while sitting on his father’s lap at their home in Manila, Oct. 19, 2006

      “I really like that there are a lot of folks to give advice and it’s interesting. Everyone here’s like family. There’s a lot to do,” Balenton said.

      “My wife is in another country and sometimes I start to think about her. So this removes some of that stress, you know?” he said.

      Balenton said he appreciates the emotional support he gets while taking the course called AMMA, which means “a father who rears his children well.”

      He juggles raising five children ages 6 to 17 with a part-time job while his wife works as a domestic helper in Macau.

      Close to 10 million Filipinos live overseas and about half are contract workers, seeking better-paying employment outside the country. More Filipino women than men work abroad and a majority of them work as household help.

      Emigdio Tanjuatco heads the Clark International Airport, which funds the AMMA program. Tanjuatco said the airport is a major send-off point for Filipino contract workers who go overseas.

      “The reality that most of the overseas contract workers are female leaves a void in the family as an institution. Therefore there’s a need to give a premium now on the fathers,” he said.

      Tessibeth Cordova, a psychologist with Clark Airport, is one of the creators of the AMMA program.

      Cordova said a typical father in the program wakes up at 5 a.m., makes breakfast for the kids, takes them to school and returns home to plan out the lunch menu, then does household chores. The fathers’ schedules continue through the late evening.

      “They’re not treating that as work, when as a matter of fact, it’s really a lot that they’re doing. But [it’s] not being valued as work and that perception affects how they look at themselves and how they relate with their children,” she said.

      Rodrigo Wage’s wife started working in Canada as a caregiver six years ago after his work making handmade signs became obsolete with the advent of computer graphics. Wage also is in the AMMA program.

      “We used to have a lettering shop at home and I would sweep as soon as I woke up and it was okay, I could totally handle it,” he said. “Of course those are your kids [you have to take care of them]. But of course there was an adjustment. Now, your work is to do the laundry,” he said.

      Wage, a father of three girls, said he had to adjust to a life of no longer being the breadwinner.

      He said he knows of other fathers left behind who are dealing with depression. But he says the best way to cope is to have a diversion, like playing music once his chores are all done.

      “Even if I’m mad at the kids – any parent would get mad, I forget about it. I go to my room and play the guitar and I forget about it. I’m really fond of playing,” Wage said.

      Cordova said the program evaluates the fathers’ emotional states and also does an initial assessment of the children at the start of the course. Apart from psychological support, fathers learn parenting tips, including disciplining their children and teaching them manners.

      The creators of AMMA are looking to turn the program over to the fathers to administer, once they determine the men are sufficiently independent.

    3. The National (based in Dubai)

      The Balwyut family use a well as they prepare for dinner with their neighbours. He was one of the AMMA’s first 12 participants and is learning how to bring up his children in his wife’s absence. Jes Aznar for The National

      MABALACAT CITY, Philippines ,For a long time, the only way Ermando Balwyut knew how to discipline his three children was with his belt.

      “If a child doesn’t experience pain, he won’t remember,” the 42-year-old says.

      This mentality is not uncommon in the Philippines, Ermando insists, but at times it led to tense relationships between him and his children, especially after his wife Michelle left to work as a domestic helper in Dubai. Michelle’s departure, in July 2013, placed Ermando in a new role: stay-at-home dad.

      In the Philippines, 10 per cent of the workforce lives abroad and almost half are women in their 20s and early 30s, like Michelle who is 34.

      She grudgingly left for Dubai after financial difficulties made it necessary for her to seek work abroad.

      The couple’s two youngest children, Kevin, now 14, and Patricia, now 12, dealt relatively well with their mother’s departure.

      But shortly after Michelle left, their eldest son, McNeil, who is now 15-years-old, began misbehaving. Each morning, he would claim that he hadn’t got enough sleep and refused to go to school.

      Left to handle the situation without his wife, Ermando grew frustrated.

      Seeking help, he quickly joined a new four-year programme organised by a local airport and a non-profit called MLAC that helps Filipino fathers deal with the challenges of having a wife who works abroad.

      The scheme, named AMMA — an acronym that stands for “A father who excels in nurturing his child” — is located in Mabalacat City, about 90 kilometres north of Manila, where the Balwyut family lives, and trains men in all aspects of fatherhood and running a household, from how to connect and talk with children to financial literacy.

      Amid mass unemployment and a growing population, Filipinos have for years left their motherland in droves. As of 2011, over four million Filipinos were working abroad as temporary labourers. That same year, roughly 14 per cent were living in the UAE, the second most popular destination for Filipinos after Saudi Arabia, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). They mainly work to support their financially-strapped families, and sometimes extended families, who are struggling to make ends meet.

      In the 1980s, opportunities for Filipino men to work abroad as construction workers began decreasing while the demand for women, who are prized for their warm and amenable nature, increased in the service industry and for domestic helpers.

      Last year, overseas Filipino workers sent back over US$24 billion (Dh881.6bn) in cash remittances — a record high — making up over eight per cent of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product. This money is widely considered to be key to the Philippine economy’s survival.

      But as more and more women leave to work abroad, their absence back home is hard felt.

      “It creates a sort of disconnect in Filipino culture because the male now has to deal with the household and raising children, which the typical Filipino is not used to. The Filipino looks at himself as the breadwinner,” says Emigdio Tanjuatco III, president of the Clark International Airport, which helps run the Amma course as part of its gender and development programme. The airport assists with the course as a way to give back to the local community.

      “Being the airport, there’s this sense of responsibility because indirectly, we’re responsible for that separation. We’re providing them the gateway to leave.”

      Ermando, who heard about the scheme from leaders in his community, was one of its first 12 participants. For him, the greatest benefit of AMMA is having a community of fathers who are in a similar situation and can relate to his struggles. “When I have problems, I feel like I can go to the other people in the support group,” he says.