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Newsmakers

Anthony & Donny Pangilinan: ‘Called to Rescue’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Anthony & Donny Pangilinan: âCalled to Rescueâ
Anthony and Donny Pangilinan make precious time to rescue victims of human trafficking.

There are many times when we take stock of our blessings, and even without a bite of food or a drink, we feel satiated. Our cup runneth over. And then we ask ourselves, why are we so blessed? What next? Aside from giving alms to the little boy knocking on our car window, and donating to our church, is there something else we can do — not just to give back but pay it forward?

Businessman and motivational speaker Anthony Pangilinan, sometimes known as the father of matinee idol Donny Pangilinan, found himself “being called to rescue.” And he answered the call, though there was no pressure for him to heed it.

He heads Called to Rescue, Inc. (CTR), an anti-human trafficking organization that helps rescue children and youth who have been abused, or trafficked. It also organizes awareness and prevention campaigns to advocate for the prevention and protection of children from abuse and trafficking.

Called to Rescue International is based in Washington state in the US, headed by Dr. Cyndi Romine, a former American missionary in the Philippines who went fulltime into anti-trafficking after seeing the “purchase and abuse” of a young girl in a popular resort in Laguna decades ago.

CTR’s vision is “to help build a nation where children who are victims of abuse and trafficking have a fighting chance for rescue and recovery.” It was an advocacy brought to his attention by his sister Angeli Pangilinan-Valenciano, and Anthony, who once headed the PLDT-Smart Foundation, realized he had the connections, the ability and the strength to undertake the “rescue.” CTR is now an NGO registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Human trafficking, according to Anthony during a recent interview via Zoom, thrives in the Philippines, and is a very lucrative industry, with profits so boggling they are second only to drug trafficking. “You know, it’s crazy,” says Anthony. “In the past, these human trafficking activities were run by syndicates. Now, in some places, it is run by the victims’ neighbors! You go to a place of concern, you look for a house in the area that has a tall antenna and several slippers of children outside the house, and you know something’s happening inside that house.”

“Oh, my gosh. The victims’ medical conditions when they’re rescued...” Anthony shakes his head sadly. “And then there’s psychological healing, and the legal (follow-up). Because these kids have to be driven with security to cases, because they’re testifying against their perpetrators, those who harm them. And then they have to go back to this facility, the address of which is confidential.”

Security, too, is an issue.

Anthony relates the story of a perpetrator who sent his bodyguard to silence the victim of his crime, who was then staying in a facility for abused children.

“Pinadala niya yung bodyguard niya, para patayin ‘yung bata, para hindi na pumunta sa korte. Pero that day na dumating ‘yung bodyguard, nandoon ‘yung tatay, visiting. So, they were there, in the garden. Dumating ‘yung bodyguard, nakita nung tatay, who hugged his daughter.

And then the bodyguard shot and killed the dad and ran away. He died in his daughter’s arms who was crying. There were no security guards in the facility, only a manong (caretaker).”

“The work starts after the rescue,” continues Anthony. “Because how do you help this girl? That’s the tough part. So, we work with lawyers.

Justice is part of the healing process. You can have all the counselors and psychologists that you want, but if the kids see that the person has gotten away with it, mahihirapan yung healing.”

Anthony says the victims are mostly female, from infants to teenagers. But some victims are mothers who fall into the trap, I kid thee not!

Anthony says one victim, a mother, would suddenly excuse herself from the dinner table, go to the den and do her online “exposure.”

Called to Rescue is coming out with a short film next week to raise awareness about human trafficking and the damage it does to body and soul of children who may be emotionally stunted by their trauma.  The message of the short film that will debut next week, according to Anthony, is, “Journey with people through the healing process. And you don’t have to be the rescuer, you don’t have to have a gun. You just walk with them through the healing process.”

“Those who have been rescued and have recovered are the best volunteers and counselors to those currently in bondage,” shares Anthony.

Donny

How did Donny get so involved in this advocacy and how does he make time for it despite his very busy schedule?

“I headed the PLDT-Smart Foundation, once. And MVP (tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan) had the heart for helping kids in conflict with the law. In my time, PLDT-Smart gave P40 million through DLSU in Dasmariñas to build Bahay Pag-Asa. And just seeing a child through the process of being rescued, and then seeing him transform? MVP told me, ‘Anthony, for one child, we will do this. Even just for one, we will do this.’ And Donny, because I was doing this, was present at the groundbreaking. He was probably eight or nine years old. And then he got to know the boys. And through the years, he’s been going back there, playing basketball with the boys, because we love basketball. The pandemic disrupted his visits somewhat, but bumabalik-balik siya doon, taun-taon, because he has a relationship with the boys. For me, I’ve learned a lot,” explains Anthony.

Donny was recently honored by PeopleAsia magazine as one of its “Men Who Matter.” During the awards rites, he thanked his mother Maricel, “the strongest woman I know,” and his father Anthony. “Thank you for being one of the biggest reasons why I am the man I am today,” he said of his father.

“It’s such an honor to be in a room full of significant men,” added Donny, the other half of the “DonBelle” love team (with Belle Mariano), which has been touted as the, “New Gen Phenomenal Love Team.”  Which makes Donny’s dedication to Called to Rescue even more admirable.

“I believe men who matter — matter, because they continuously do what makes them passionate every day,” Donny said, adding, “And with everything, I would like to say that everyone here, I hope we’re just not remembered as men who mattered in one point in history, but men who continue to matter as they do their God-given talents every single day, and leave a legacy of impact in their own specific worlds.”

“One act of reporting can change a person’s life,” concludes Anthony.

(You may reach the Called to Rescue hotline at 09175410287 or send a direct message to its social media channels on Facebook and Instagram.)

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

ANTHONY PANGILINAN

DONNY PANGILINAN

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