The second day in Cebu started early for the team with participation in one important programme of Cebu YMCA, feeding hungry children breakfast. This is a programme, which has been run for the last 7 years. After the Change Agents had been fed breakfast themselves, they visited each one of three programmes, either the Fair Trade programme, the Mangrove planting at the seaside or the programme for disabled young people. The Change Agents were impressed with the programmes they had experienced. Talking to some of them who had been walking around in the neighbourhood of the YMCA late night, it had made a profound impression on them to see children sleeping on the streets in utter poverty. Many have not seen such examples of radical poverty before. The YMCA is situated in the middle of these realities and is running a fantastic service for children and young people. It makes us proud to visit a YMCA like Cebu. Under the leadership of Chris and Winky and their volunteers, and working closely with the local Rotary Clubs, they are able to service thousands of people every single day of the year.
My good friend Chris has been the CEO of Cebu YMCA for 45 years and is a true hero of the YMCA!
The hospitality of everybody in the Philippines, from the National Leadership with the famous YMCA President, the honorable Justice Regino Campos Hermosisima Jr, Pablito A. Tabucol, the NGS, to the local leadership with Chris and Winky, has been overwhelming and we have all reasons to express our deep gratitude to our friends in Cebu.
Dr Martinez and his staff of the Talisay City College also deserve a world of thanks for facilitating the interaction with so many of his students, more than one thousand.
Chris, CEO Cebu YMCA, me, Judge Hermosisima Jr, National YMCA President, Dr Martinez of the Talisay City College and , Pablito A. Tabucol, National General Secretary
Winky, who is running the YMCA restaurant and also is the assistant CEO, was up at 03.00 in the morning to start preparing lunch for 200 people, and we had a full roasted cow and one roasted pig, and we could observe outside how the food was being prepared. The meal was like a wedding celebration without speeches!
During the farewell lunch I was sitting together with the National YMCA President Judge Regino Hermosisima Jr. He was a judge of the Supreme Court of the Philppines and a famous personality. He told me how he had worked for a new law a few years ago, bringing the minimal criminal age of children up from 9 years to 15 years, meaning that children under the age of 15 years can not be prosecuted or put to jail. He told me that the law had been relatively easy to pass, but when the implementation phase started, the pressure against the legislation started to grow tremendously. Druglords and other parts of organized crime started to abuse children and use them for different criminal activities, and people felt that they should be prosecuted. Imagine a court trial against 10 years old children!
The honorable Judge asked me for my opinion. I told him my true opinion. This is first of all a brilliant example of legislation defending the legal and human rights of children – a brilliant example of positive development. On the other side the response from the adult world is absolutely typical and absolutely unacceptable, I said with big letters coming out of my mouth. The typical reality of the untold story of injustice towards young people, is that the adult world, criminal or just plain capitalistic, abuse children to the utmost of their capacities and leave the children to heartbreaking suffering and destruction. When they are caught for this or the other criminal action, the adult world reacts back to them with fury and anger and moral indignation, claiming that it is 100% the responsibility of the children that they have been abused, and are ready to prosecute and punish them, meaning a further round of destruction and violation of their human rights. I told the Judge that these issues are at the heart of the Youth Empowerment agenda, this is what the World YMCA Change Agents are about to engage in and this is what the World YMCA is willing to shout out about from the roof tops and hill sides. This is the injustice that we will no longer accept or tolerate, and therefore we are totally behind you and in support of such brave and courageous legislation.
I could see that the Judge was in agreement, and he promised me to write something about the process of this legislation and give me next time we meet. This will be very soon, namely at the APAY General Assembly in Korea in a few days.
Three of the team of instructors at the back side of Magellan’s Cross in Cebu, Michal, Bob and Andrew
The realities of the world have hit us in different ways. Today two Change Agents from Sierra Leone had to leave the boat and go home because they are not given visa to enter any of the next stops and therefore their further participation in this travel became impossible. Two new Change Agents join us today from China, there are limited quotas of visas for Chinese to Japan, and therefore they can only join us here in Cebu. Two Change Agents from Sri Lanka were given permit to enter Philippines at the last moment, after interventions from the Peace Boat and the Captain of the ship, Captain Anders Andersson from Sweden. Already a good friend, I must say, but more about Captain Andersson in my next blog post. Internet is a real challenge when we sail at sea, and that is why I post two blog posts today, just to get them out while I have Internet in the port of Cebu.
It is deeply meaningful to be on the Peace Boat, we have a great group of Change Agents here and we are working hard and having lots of fun as well! More when we come to Singapore.