Since its founding in June 2004, sceptics have wondered how Pondo ng Pinoy (literally the Filipinos’ fund), with its scheme of ‘gathering crumbs’, can address the debilitating problem of poverty in the Philippines. Surely, they argue, having people save 25 centavo coins in a bottle is like shovelling snow with a spoon. Poverty on such a scale can be fully eradicated only by a project of equal magnitude.
However, the project’s founder, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, sees filling up a bottle with 25 centavo coins not as fundraising but as what he calls ‘developmental evangelization’ – something which goes beyond the teaching ministry of the Catholic Church and which brings about full human development. Genuine development begins with the individual, and it is the aim of Pondo ng Pinoy to have individuals realize that they can develop themselves and, in the process, help others develop.
Archbishop Rosales insists that Pondo ng Pinoy is really about the love of God (Pag-ibig ng Panginoon) and translating it into the actions of daily life. Putting a coin in a bottle is both a reminder and an expression of God’s love for humanity and people’s love for him. As the container fills up this love grows within the person. The money becomes a concrete means to help the poor, and the compassion and magnanimity cultivated in the person strengthen the character of the giver and lead them to a more virtuous life.
That is why Archbishop Rosales cautions, ‘Never give to Pondo ng Pinoy unless you give out of love.’ It is this love, he says, that will bring about transformation in society, especially in the Philippines where poverty is rife and afflicts a majority of the population, and where politics and the system of governance often abet poverty rather than eradicate it.
In June, Pondo ng Pinoy will be two years old. Some are becoming impatient about its structural soundness, hoping for a ‘corporate-style’ system of ‘promotion, collection, disbursement, and evaluation’. But Archbishop Rosales often warns against the perils of sacrificing quality for quantity. It is a programme for the poor that changes not just the receiver but also the giver so that the cycle of love is never broken.
His concept is not an easy sell. Most of those who donate to Pondo ng Pinoy still view it as gathering money for the poor rather than an attempt to realize the Gospel notion of ‘fullness of life’. It is a start, but Archbishop Rosales hopes that with more aggressive explanation of what Pondo ng Pinoy is about, this attitude will change.
The material dimension
In the meantime, material as well as spiritual progress has been made. As of January 2006, the Pondo ng Pinoy fund amounted to around P60 million (US$1,136,400). The contributions of big corporations account for about 12 per cent of the total, with contributions from parishioners accounting for about 42 per cent and foreign donations for 25 per cent. The rest consists of a contribution by a group of foundations working with selected affluent parishes, but this fund is earmarked for a feeding programme for malnourished poor children.
The Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation, which plans the programmes and executes the funds of Pondo ng Pinoy, has released about P2.5 million (around US$48,000) to three dioceses. In the Diocese of Imus (in Cavite province south of Manila), for example, funds have been given to support the education of the children of peasant leaders and organizers; to indigent fishermen to help them begin shrimp cultivation; and to support the feeding of street children.
There has been no study to determine how many individuals are now participating in Pondo ng Pinoy but more and more of the bottles are seen on desks in offices and in bedside tables in homes. The ultimate vision is for a time when Pondo ng Pinoy will no longer be 25 centavo-coins in bottles but a way of life.
1 See Alliance Vol 9, No 3, September 2004, p3. See also Alliance, Vol 8, No 4, December 2003, p3 for an article on the earlier Pondong Batangan, also founded by Archbishop Rosales when Archbishop of Lipa.
2 A couple who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary recently told their guests that as their gifts they could contribute to Pondo ng Pinoy. This raised about P350,000 for the fund.
Peachy E Yamsuan is head of the Ministry of Social Communications of the Archdiocese of Manila and director of the media office. She can be contacted at email@example.com
For more information, see http://www.pondongpinoy.com.ph