MANILA, Philippines - With more famous faces joining the front lines of causes that matter, John Lloyd Cruz is very happy to be part of a partnership that brings help and hope to children whose going to school is an everyday struggle.
John Lloyd joins the medical brand Biogesic, of which he has been endorser for seven years now, in its Ingat na Damang-Dama, Sa Bawat Kumot Ipalaganap campaign that supports the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation in reaching out to remote communities in the country. The foundation took root in 2011, thanks to a Facebook status post of founder and new media advocate Jay Jaboneta that went viral after he described the plight of young kids in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga swimming half-a-mile to school. The Yellow Boat Project has since provided more than 100 sturdy boats in Zamboanga alone (other areas are Negros, Albay, Masbate, etc.) to ferry kids for free so that they report for school safe and dry. According to Yellow Boat of Hope co-founder Dr. Anton Mari Lim, the foundation has evolved to include healthcare, school supplies distribution, scholarships and livelihood programs with corporate partners like Biogesic by United Laboratories jumping onboard.
For John Lloyd, seeing first-hand the transformative power of the seemingly humble banca (named Yellow Boat after the iconic yellow bus) on the lives of struggling students was an eye-opener. He recently took time out from his busy schedule to join the Ingat na Damang-Dama campaign in an island in Sagay, Negros Occidental, wherein they distributed medicines and thermal blankets, and spent time with the community’s more than 600 families.
During a recent intimate media gathering, the 30-year-old Kapamilya actor recounted how he found the experience an inspiration despite his frustration — as shared by many a Filipino — over the recent headlines of widespread pork barrel abuse and misuse.
“It was two hours from Bacolod by land. We went to Sagay. The nearest island there is Suyac. There, we saw majestic mangroves that are really centuries-old,” related John Lloyd before adding, “as old as the corruption in the Philippines.”
“You can’t help but associate the experience to it,” he continued, “because if you really see the place, you can’t help but think of corruption issues, and here, the kids on a daily basis risk their lives to the waves... For someone like me who doesn’t know how to swim, I find it hard to believe that they would cross that whole stretch (just to attend school) and in the open sea at that. And this is happening on a daily basis. If you think about it, what’s the PDAF and DAP doing (for the people)? What is the local government doing about the problem? Witnessing these problems, you can’t help but get frustrated.”
But his sentiments aside, the actor is happy and honored to be tapped for the campaign. “I’m happy to be of help in whatever way they think I can. I couldn’t be more grateful and proud that they have included me so that my eyes are opened to these kinds of situations.”
For Yellow Boat’s Dr. Anton, the open support of John Lloyd is already a huge help and his actual presence in Suyac Island was a very big bonus for the kids. “As they say, if you want to help one kid, you have to do it by yourself, but if you want to help a lot of other kids, you have to inspire other people. So this is where John Lloyd can come and help us to inspire more people to join this advocacy. The only way you can help is to care,” he said.
John Lloyd admitted to feeling emotional during his visit. “Right now, we can speak lightly about it, but when we are in their shoes, and when we are the ones swimming for two kilometers every day just to go to school, I don’t think we can afford to laugh or smile. These kids really are heroes! It was a very humbling and inspiring experience. Here in Manila, they say the problem is traffic, but there it’s different, there’s no transportation.
“You can’t help but get all choked up (upon seeing the situation) and instantly, you’d think, what else you could do to help or how, but your resource(s) can only go so deep so thank you that I can be part of something like this. It is very moving, you can’t help but get emotional, and being able to help, you can breathe.”
He added, “Hopefully, my presence in this movement, maybe it can help create awareness... These foundations, they can never have enough because there will always be more who will need help. I can confidently say that with Biogesic and Yellow Boat, I feel that the help extended will not be mismanaged.”
On a more personal level, John Lloyd plans on involving members of his family in his experience. “Actually, I’m thinking of letting the kids in our family actually witness this so they can learn from it. Because here in Manila, everything seems so easy that it’s easy to take for granted the luxuries that kids have here.”
Unlike other actors, he doesn’t have his own foundation (“the concept of a foundation used to overwhelm me, like how do you do it, how do you manage it?”) but it’s one of his goals. “It’s one of my dreams when I hit 30 to establish my own foundation… But with this, I’m being exposed, I’m able to immerse myself and I can still choose which cause I’d like to be involved in.”
The box-office star and sought-after endorser has been, however, doing his share of giving back, thanks to his mother who encouraged him to support the schooling of some students in the town where he grew up. “A few years ago, my mom and I, at the town where I grew up, started (choosing) graduating students from grade school and high school, who have good grades but are somewhat financially challenged. We offered help so they could finish studies.”
He has been doing that for several years now although he readily admitted that the number of beneficiaries “is still a conservative number.”
John Lloyd, who is the youngest of three boys, also supports BFF (Breast Friends Forever), a group of breast cancer survivors also because of his mother who was diagnosed with the Big C some six years ago. The actor, who opened up about this family health scare as a speaker at a recent Breast Cancer Forum in Cebu, told The STAR when asked how her mom is doing now, “There has been a recurrence. Malakas naman siya. I can say she’s handling it better this time around than the first time. She can better handle it now.”
He has had supported RockEd Philippines in their education-related and calamity relief efforts.
John Lloyd hopes that his commitment to the Ingat na Damang-Dama campaign will lead to advocacies he will personally take up or spearhead himself or “makapunta ako sa moment na ito ang gusto ko, (that) I will concentrate on this particular issue, guess it hasn’t matured just yet, as to what advocacy I will pick, but I’m really looking forward to it.”