Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bulalo for the Soul by TM Gege Sugue

80 million copies, 65 titles, 37 languages. This book called by Time Magazine as the “publishing phenomenon of the 90s” almost never got produced because it was just too positive. But friends, isn’t it that positive is what we need? In this messed up world we live in, it’s refreshing to know that there are still a lot of good souls out there. It is heartwarming to read real life stories of real people loving, winning, and giving.

But friends, reading about generosity, without applying it to our lives is just like watching Plinky Recto do the aerobics without actually working out ourselves. It does not do anything to exercise or stretch out the soul.

So, what am I saying – I encourage you, friends, to go for more than just chicken soup. An online dictionary defines chicken soup as broth with floating pieces of chicken.


For the hearty appetites of Filipinos, broth is hardly satisfying. We need something meatier, more substantial. Something more filling. Something like bulalo.
Bulalo or marrow is defined as the inmost, choicest, or essential part; the pith. It is the substance of the spinal cord, a fitting metaphor for the essence of life. And so in life, that is what we want. Bulalo. More satisfying than just chicken soup. Our souls are in desperate need for a sampling of bulalo.

Let me recommend to you one way we can taste the bulalo for the soul, or suck the marrow of life.

This ingredient is called volunteerism. Friends, I encourage you to be a volunteer. A volunteer is someone who does something without expecting any returns by way of financial compensation.
I will share with you tonight 3 Ws of Volunteerism – WHY we should volunteer, WHAT we can do as a volunteer and hopefully by the time I get to the last part of my speech you would be asking WHEN you could start volunteering.

Let me start with WHY. There are 3 reasons I want to elaborate on. And these are:

1. As a volunteer, you can change the world.
2. As a volunteer, you can change the lives of others.
3. As a volunteer, you can change your own life.

Changing the world seems like a lofty ambition. But history proves that volunteers do make a difference. In America, the system of slavery was abolished through the efforts of thousands of volunteers. The Revolutionary War was won with the help of an unpaid army. Closer to home, we have the first Edsa People Power Revolution. Countless Filipinos brought food to the camps, transported wounded people, and made human barricades all voluntarily. Volunteers can restore democracy. Volunteers can change the history of a country. Volunteers can change the world.

Volunteerism can change the life of others in a positive way. Let me tell you about Aling Tita. Aling Tita resides at, not around, not near, but inside the North Cemetery. You would think that living in the morbid confines of a cemetery would mean hopelessness and helpless desperation. But when you meet Aling Tita, you will not see somebody who is hopeless, desperate or helpless. You will see a woman who knows she can make a difference. A volunteer group called ATD, All Together in Dignity, initiates discussions with residents from poor communities. They talk about anything and everything; the purpose of the talks is to give people from poor communities a sense of value, a feeling of pride, an affirmation that their voices are being heard. From these talks, the volunteers met Aling Tita who exhibited the characters of a leader. They eventually sponsored her to go to represent the country in a New York meeting on poverty alleviation. This woman, so poor she lives in a cemetery, met and exchanged views with UN Chief Kofi Annan. This woman made the Secretary General, one of the most powerful men in the world, cry and want to do more to alleviate the plight of the poor. Hers is a life that has been changed by the work of volunteers.

Being a volunteer is not all that selfless. A volunteer benefits too from helping others. A University of Michigan study proves that senior citizens who volunteer live longer. The lead psychologist Stephanie Brown of the university's Institute for Social Research theorizes that humans live longer when they have a sense of being important to someone else, the way a new mothers feels important to her infant. There is scientific documentation of volunteers being healed from insomnia, weight problems, cardiovascular disorders, and depression. Helping others also increase our energy, reduce pain, speeds up recovery from surgery, and gives us a happier outlook in life. Another benefit of volunteerism is the building up of marketable skills. For example, you can learn sign language while helping the deaf and the mute.

From my experience, I know that there is instant gratification in volunteering As a Volunteer for the Metropolitan Museum, I was thrilled to learn more about Philippine culture. Seeing the gold jewelry created by Filipinos before the arrival of the Spanish made me realize that we had a rich civilization even before any colonizers came in. As a volunteer for the cancer hospice at the Philippine Children’s Hospital, I learned to value life and health, and I also learned to believe in miracles. And in conducting team-building activities for our church group, I have found a way to integrate my career and my ministry. I am confident that you, too, will find something gratifying in volunteering.

So, my friends, if you want to change the world, help change the lives of others, and change even your own lives, minds and hearts, be a volunteer.

What can you do? The list is practically endless. If your concern is for the environment, you can join the Pasig River clean up projects. If you love the arts, you can bring a wheelchair bound kind to a museum. You can teach sports or even self-defense to abused children. As most of you are HR practitioners, there is so much more you can do – you can give career talks, or you can organize for your company outreach programs that can even function as teambuilding activities. As ToastMasters, we can conduct Public Speaking workshops for the fresh graduates. I have with me a sheaf of papers pulled out from the calendar of Hands on Manila, a non-profit organization that provides flexible volunteer opportunities for community service in Metro Manila. If you scan them, you will discover ways of volunteering you never knew existed. If you are really interested in having bulalo soup and making a difference in the world, you can attend the Volunteer Orientation next week, Nov. 29 at the Greenbelt branch of Powerbooks. That brings us to the last W.

WHEN. When can we start volunteering? I understand that we are all busy. There’s always a report to submit, a project to complete, an event to attend. Our being busy will hardly ever change, and if we always use it as a reason for not volunteering, then we will miss out on the world of opportunities that volunteerism offers. So, I say, let’s start volunteering NOW. The bulalo soup is served steaming hot before you. It’s meaty. It’s tasty. It’s satisfying. It heals mind, body, and soul. It can change our lives, the lives of others. It can change the world. Tonight, tomorrow, check out to find out how you change the world. This bulalo soup has no cholesterol. But it adds flavor to your life, and nourishment to your soul.

(Just adlibbed: Friends, raise your hands, step out and volunteer and you will answer the Toastmaster call for the year – Volunteer and you will “Find your voice of action, and serve the world.”)

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