Sunday, October 7, 2012

Efren Penaflorida: First Pinoy CNN Hero of the Year

Originally posted on February 2010
With the mother nature’s continuous landscaping project in the country, I feel morally obligated to mention at least one heartwarming story of heroism we have going for no other reason than to make us feel some semblance of hope that all is not lost.
Efren Penaflorida – one of the toughest and most undersung heroes in Philippine history, and a crazy kickass teacher who routinely (and boldly) goes where no man has gone before.
Efren Penaflorida posing before his billboard in LA, California

How can a man named Efren be cool?  By being freakin’ awesome.  Kuya Ef, as he is now fondly called, was born poor and in the province in 1982.  Now, being poor and in the province positively sucks in any given generation. Peer pressure in those areas is composed of the daily “threat” for you to kill someone just for the freakin’ heck of it or be killed just for, well, the freakin’ heck of it.
During his teenage years, he was almost neckstomped into submission by different jackass smelly slippers of stupid gangs in Cavite. Kuya Ef wasn’t so cool about the idea of being on either side – killing someone is terrible, being killed totally sucks so he entertained the thought of picking up and getting the effin’ out of this country. Saudi seems to be a good place to be but he met another kickass guy who would eventually become his mentor.
Now, this mentor is so freakin’ awesome that he doesn’t even bother to let people know he is actually behind the development of a hero like Kuya Ef, so let’s respect his wish and be contented with his alias “The Mentor”. I know open and close quotes are misused and abused but believe me, this guy deserves the greatness that truly comes with it.
“The Mentor” encouraged Kuya Ef to get his ass into prison and distribute food to the true blue baddasses spending time there. Kuya Ef didn’t understand the significance of what he did at first but “The Mentor” told him, in a true Morpeus fashion, “just like that, you helped them”.
The smashin’ crystal heart and brilliant mind of Kuya Ef awakened and he told himself and the whole freakin’ world he will put up with no crap from any effin’ gang. He decided to commit his whole life to helping other kids make a hero of themselves and anyone who doesn’t agree can just get the hell out of his way because someday, he will come back to rescue them as well.
At this point, Kuya Ef founded the Dynamic Teen Company (DTC). If you ask me, they should have named that group Dynamic Kickass Teen Company because that is what they do. They kick the ass of the anyone who tells them “you’re too poor to be somebody” or “who the hell are you to make a difference? you’re just a kid”. They look at these stupid people in the face, stretch their muscles and walk towards the people worth their time – children.
There is a glitch in the matrix though. He had no money. He just had all these awesome volunteers committed to help others as well. So every Saturday, they would carry these shitloads of books, papers, and other teaching tools and walk kilometers on end just to teach the kids in slum areas some basic eduction. That ain’t no freakin’ joke. Carrying your own laptop for a kilometer makes you want to face punch the next person who moves his toe what more books heavier than a full grown pig that ain’t even yours?
So, he used a “padyak” to load all their teaching materials and drive themselves to the slum areas just as so they could provide the kids with something our wonderful fantastic amazing government should be providing – education. It didn’t freakin’ work, either because – read back – the books are heavy. The tires get flat more often than they eat and chains get broken more often than they pedal. So, they came up with an idea of lifetime – use a gaddam Kariton. They load their stuff, push their way through traffic to get to these kids.
Transportation isn’t the only problem they encountered. Apparently, the parents of the kids they want to teach are (1) pissed that kids are studying instead of helping them work, (2) unaware that their kids have God- and constitution- given right to education, and (3) kids are just not so hot on the idea of studying. Playing seems to rock more.
However, Kuya Ef and his crew are really supergenius. They realized, if you give them food, they’ll come to you. So they decided to bring not only books but also food. In record time, kids were lining up and the parents started not to mind especially when they realized the importance of education in their children’s life. They started diggin’ it. The DTC goes to these kids every week to teach, feed and give first aid treatment. Pretty sweet deal.
There are natural jerks in this world. They encountered a number of them. They had people insulting them for pushing their kariton, others mocking them but they didn’t mind. They were there to help kids and they ain’t paying attention to anyone who is not down with it.
The year 2008 was pretty sweet for Kuya Ef. One ex-almost-murderer-but-turned-his-life-around-volunteer saw the video of Arnel Pineda in Youtube and told them “dude, we gotta get noticed”. He uploaded a video of what Kuya Ef is doing.
Apparently, some CNN guy is a youtube freak and during one of his intense youtube sessions, he stumbled upon Kuya Ef’s video. He bookmarked the video and showed it to the guys in CNN higher in the food chain and they nodded and said “that’s freakin’ awesome.” CNN picked up the phone and gave Kuya Ef a call and told him “we kindda think you ought to be a CNN hero.”
FYI, CNN or no CNN, Kuya Ef is a hero but the recognition is much appreciated.
While this is an epically huge achievement for anyone to accomplish, it’s also important to keep in mind that Kuya Ef isn’t just the first Pinoy to become a CNN Hero, he is also the first true blue Asian to be in that group during a year when Pinoy were just so pissed at our government all they wanted to do was leave the country. For him to choose to stay in the country with an extremely underpaid job just as so he could help children is not just awesome, it’s double awesome. He went up against a sickening social trend and told them all to blow it out their collective asses with a potato cannon, which is something I think everybody SHOULD respect. 

He has won other awards since being named one of the CNN Hero for 2009 and more people are donating to his cause. 

I honestly can’t think of any job I’ve ever had that I would perform voluntarily outside of the regular nine-to-five workday. Kuya Ef and his crew are just of a different breed. Many of the children that Kuya Ef used to teach are now paying it forward.

Efren and one of his Kariton
Many awards and support have followed but despite all the accolades, in true self-effacing humble guy fashion, Kuya Ef maintains that he is just doing what he is supposed to be doing and there is nothing heroic about it. He is sure that if other people will just be shown how to help others, they would be doing the same.
Personally, I kind of doubt that’s the case but since it comes from Kuya Ef, there might e some truth to that.

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