Cesar adds star power to Gabay Guro in Bohol
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Cesar Montano added star power to the Gabay Guro outreach in Bohol, two months after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the tourist-favorite island-province, leaving many of its iconic and important structures like schools damaged and destroyed.

Gabay Guro, the brainchild of PLDT-Smart chairman Manny V. Pangilinan as part of their corporate social responsibility, and manned by PLDT executives who serve as full-time volunteers, has helped in the construction and repair of classrooms in the towns of Loay, Cortes and Tagbiliran. Cesar graced the inauguration of the earthquake and typhoon resistant classrooms in Tagbilaran, which are patterned after classrooms built also by Gabay Guro in neighboring Cebu several years ago.

The Bohol native Cesar also electrified the tribute event specially mounted for the more than 5,000 teachers from partner public schools all over the province at the Bohol Wisdom Gym in Tagbilaran. Aside from the entertainment, prizes were given away in similar fashion to that of the annual Teacher’s Tribute here in Metro Manila. According to PLDT broadband boss Gary Dujali, one of the volunteers for the educational arm (now on its sixth year), “You get real emotions from people that you will not get from a regular day job. It’s so fulfilling!” 

Even before the Gabay Guro events, Cesar (who maintains a home in Bohol) has been quietly flying in and out of the province since the earthquake to hold relief efforts. “This is my fourth time and nasabay sa soap opera (GMA 7’s Akin Pa Rin Ang Bukas) na ginagawa ko pero tuloy pa rin ang pagdalaw, medical mission, feeding, now we’re in the process of restoring classrooms. There really are many damaged schools, especially in interior Bohol.”

“I was shocked,” Cesar recalled his first visit. “I haven’t seen earthquake damage like that before in my life. In Loon, the crack in the road is so deep you wonder how far does it go. Then there are sinkholes, and there are people who don’t want to go back and sleep in their houses. Your home is supposed to make you feel safe but how can you call it home if you can’t even sleep there? (It’s) really not a normal situation.

“The classrooms, although the walls are still there, you’ll be putting the children at risk because every now and then, there are (aftershocks) which could make the walls collapse. So, there are makeshift classrooms made of bamboo, tents, that when it rains, their feet get wet. That’s what the teachers have told me. I really pity them.”

Nevertheless, Cesar noticed on his latest visit that his fellow Bol-anons are getting back on their feet. “I’m so glad dahan-dahan bumabalik ang confidence ng mga tao.”

He also understands why Supertyphoon Yolanda, which left a swath of destruction (particularly in Eastern Visayas) barely a month after the Visayas quake, has diverted the national attention from Bohol quake victims. But he asked for continuous support and that Bohol must not be forgetton.

Cesar and his group are, in fact, planning to “detour some of the help to Yolanda victims for the meantime because my mother is from Estancia, Iloilo, which was also devastated by the supertyphoon. My mom lives with me, and I told my Nanay about it, although bedridden na siya, she said, sige punta ka. But I’m not forgetting Bohol.”

Among the schools his group is targeting to help is the Tubigon West Central Elementary School because “my first kids Angela and (the late) Angelo were raised and sent to school there. I brought them to Manila when Angela was in high school already.”

The other schools are in Santa Rosario and Bilar, which is popular among visitors for its manmade forest. Cesar acknowledged that it is during these times, actors can best use and exhaust their celebrity status to be of help. Apart from rallying fans or mounting fundraisers (which Cesar did with friends from the industry like Noel Cabangon, raising over P1M), simple gestures from their idols can bring more than a huge smile to those who are suffering. This wasn’t hard to notice when Cesar performed at the Pahalipay an anthemic song titled Pilipinas he himself composed, moved by the tragedies that hit the country. “Come to think of it, konting kanta mo lang napaligaya mo, kinamayan mo lang sila, they will gain confidence. That’s true. Ayokong ikulong ang sarili ko sa bahay, it’s already a sin, you should feel guilty if you remain in your room, watching TV. C’mon, go out, at least kumamay ka ng tao, give an autograph, sing a song for free, do everything for free, nakatulong ka na, ganun lang.”

Cesar is eyeing a not-for-profit EP release that will include Pilipinas and other original songs to “help boost the morale of our fellow Filipinos. That we shouldn’t lose hope. As long as we’re alive, there’s hope. Even if that (tragedy) happened, we still live the beauty of this place kasi nasa loob ng puso natin yon.”

Although Cesar is more known as an action star and award-winning dramatic actor, he is also a musician at heart, with a couple of solo albums to his credit. The inspiration to write songs again came to him after meeting a man named Roldan in Bilar who lost his wife, three sons and his home during the earthquake.

“I really became sad because I have my own personal problems (but when I imagined myself in his situation) biglang nawala yung problema ko. I told him, alam mo may mga problema ako, but if I had your problems, di ko kaya.”

He readily admitted that this Christmas has been a lonely time, with his marriage rocked by controversies this year, and that every visit to Bohol brings back bittersweet memories (he proposed to estranged wife Sunshine Cruz 13 years ago at sunset, in a lighthouse near Baclayon Church, as the Loboc Children’s Choir sang in the background), but recent calamities have somehow shifted his focus.

“I’m not saying it’s a good thing but malaking tulong sa akin ang nangyaring adversities sa paligid natin,” Cesar reflected, “why because I was able to compare myself to the victims. I realized they have bigger problems. Me, I can see my kids anytime, and I’m OK, thank you Lord!

“Yes, it’s a sad thing and it’s not a good thing. But it doesn’t mean the pain should dictate the future. I should stop looking at the rearview mirror, look onwards, move on, set aside my personal problems and share whatever blessings I have to other people.”

AKIN PA RIN ANG BUKAS ALTHOUGH CESAR ANGELA BACLAYON CHURCH BOHOL BOHOL WISDOM GYM BUT I CESAR CESAR MONTANO GABAY GURO
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