A Q&A from the heart

Veteran news anchor Mel Tiangco does more than just report on the lives that the GMA Kapuso Foundation (GMAKF) makes better every night on 24 Oras. She is actually part of every single step that 

Says the philanthropist: “Why will I go into politics? I enjoy what I’m doing. I just love to help people.”

gets a sick child to the doctor, find work for a struggling father, or make a home for a family displaced by fire or a typhoon.

For those not in the know, the famous lady is also the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the charitable organization, which triumphantly celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 11 during the network’s general employees’ assembly. 

Tiangco led an emotional look back at the evolution of the foundation—from its humble beginnings, undertaking relief operations efforts during the 1990s, to being one of the most recognized, most trusted, and most credible nongovernment organizations in the country today.

The foundation’s programs, which address four main areas—namely education, health, disaster relief and values formation—have already served millions of Filipinos throughout the country, including those from remote areas. 

But while Tiangco reports the projects of GMAKF with ease during the news, pulling them off is another matter altogether. As she revealed at an open forum with the press, there is so much that goes into helping a single person. From finding funds, to actually getting to those in need, a lot of effort—and a lot of heart—is needed every step of the way. 

Question: Is there a project that is closest to your heart in the last 20 years of the Kapuso Foundation?
Tiangco: Ay, wala akong favorite. Lahat yan kami ang gumawa, kami ang nag-implement. I don’t have a favorite because I think all of them are really very good projects at nakinabang talaga ang mga kababayan natin.

Q: What challenges have you encountered in running the foundation?
A: We are (a) non-stock, non-profit (organization). That alone is a challenge. We need to look for proceeds to make the projects go. But of course, we are very lucky to have the network support us. 

Our projects are funded with millions and millions (of pesos, and) although we are thankful to the network . . . we are thankful to the public who also help us in our work. Funding is very challenging. 

No. 2, and again under the heading of “non-stock, non-profit,” mahirap din kaming kumuha ng mga staff because the staff that we need are staff that also have service in their heart. So we are very discriminating in getting the staff. Ang una kong tatanungin dyan talaga, “Do you have it in your heart?” Kasi hindi namin mabibigay ang benefits na mabibigay ng network. So that is also a challenge to me—how to get people who are also dedicated to serving the public.

Another challenge is of course, doing the project itself. Kailangan namin ng mga sasakyan, hindi lang pera, sa lawak ng bansa natin. It’s not easy going to Tawi-Tawi, to the north. Gustung gusto namin puntahan ang areas na talagang hindi naaabot ng kahit sino—my staff will vouch for this. And you know the dedicated people that they are gusto rin nilang magawa yan. 

But then again, these are all just challenges. We in the foundation believe that the harder it is for us (to do things), the more blessings ang binibigay sa amin sa tao.

Q: What keeps you going despite the challenges?
A: It has to start first with your desire to help. Even if the blessings are there, if you do not desire to help, wala eh. It is our commitment to be able to give “Serbisyong totoo.” Yon lang ang amin eh, and then the best things come in. And the blessings are really not blessings for us individually, but for the people that we help, which to our mind is already blessing for us.
Q: When you get frustrated while mounting such projects, what do you do to find inspiration to keep on going?

A: I don’t think I have ever become frustrated. I get a little low—pag meron kaming pasyenteng namatay, pasyenteng inaalagaan namin for a long, long time; we really feel it. But you know, you go on, you continue. Personally I think it is a calling; it is a vocation. I also look for that in our staff; you need to have the psychological makeup, the emotional strength. Imagine naman day-in, day-out kinakausap namin puro mga may sakit, mga mahihirap, may problema. So I don’t think I’ve ever been frustrated. I get sad. When you see a little child who’s so sick, you ask, “Why?” But still you see, na-co-compensate naman ng fulfillment namin. Hindi naman matatawaran yung fulfillment namin.

Q: With all the good you do, don’t you ever think of going into politics?
A: (Laughs) No, that is always asked of me. I would have done it long ago, but up to now, I have stood by my answer. I’m not a politician. Why will I go into politics? I enjoy what I’m doing. Not that I have any disdain or enmity or whatever (for politics). It’s just that I don’t want to go into it. I just love to help people. Baka sabihin n’yo I don’t like politicians ha! Hindi lang ako pulitikong tao.

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