Yes, I believe

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Yes, I believe
The author, Manila Hotel president Joey Lina, and former Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

It is so easy to write about something if you totally believe in it, but if something comes across as incredible to you, then, writing about it is like climbing Mount Everest.

Good thing that is not the case here.

There is this highly popular song, The Greatest Love of All, that was composed by Michael Masser, with lyrics by Linda Creed, and recorded and released by George Benson back in 1977. The song was created to be the main theme of the 1977 film The Greatest, a movie about the life of the famous Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali.

The first lines of the song go like this: “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside; give them a sense of pride to make it easier; let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…”

Children are very close to my heart — aside from my own who are all grown up and who I adore and love immensely — especially at Christmastime, a season that was definitely made for children, it being a time of celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus.

Children, indeed, are our future, as the song goes. But what kind of a future would that be if they do not have any food or even the proper food to eat?

UNICEF says that every day 95 children in the Philippines die from malnutrition. Twenty-seven out of 1,000 Filipino children do not get past their fifth birthday, and one in every three Filipino children are stunted, or short for their age. Stunting after two years of age can be permanent, irreversible, and even fatal.

Joey Lina and grandson Evan Lina Mandap.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stunting is “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.”

Stunting in early life — particularly in the first 1,000 days from conception until the age of two — has adverse functional consequences on the child. Some of those consequences include poor cognition and educational performance, low wages, lost productivity and, when accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, an increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases in adult life.

Yes, I believe the children are our future, and I also believe that there is a way out of the serious problem of malnutrition and stunting.

Which is why, recently, to raise funds for a massive nationwide nutrition program for children, a charity dinner concert dubbed “Yes, I Believe” with the battle cry of “Malusog na Bata, Malakas na Bansa” was held at The Manila Hotel.

The benefit concert also launched the Alliance for Healthy Children (AHC) that was formed in October last year. The alliance aims to increase awareness on the serious child malnutrition problem in the country and to implement barangay-based nutrition intervention program, especially during the child’s first 1,000 days.

The organizations under the alliance include Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, Midwives, World Vision and others. The AHC will work in tandem with government, particularly with the National Nutrition Council (NNC), the Departments of Health, Education, Social Welfare and Development, and interior and local governments.

The performers in the concert included the country’s premier music artists Isay Alvarez, Lara Maigue, Rachelle Gerodias, former executive secretary, lawyer Salvador Medialdea, former senator and interior secretary Joey Lina, and me.

Invited special guests were Finance Secretary Ben Diokno, Labor Secretary Benny Laguesma and former national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.

Their musical renditions were accompanied by the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra.

With Lara Maigue, Medialdea, Isay Alvarez, Lina, and Rachelle Gerodias.

This concert will be the first of many planned events, all to help with the plight of malnutrition among children in the country.

All it takes is for us to believe.

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