The Haka boys of Tuloy Don Bosco
28th August 2013 by Reuben Levermore, Manila | 1 Comment
In 1999 Fr. Rocky Evangelista wanted to expand his orphanage for young boys from its base in Makati, but he didn’t have a site.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development awarded the Tuloy Foundation a lease on 4.5 hectares of land in Alabang, Muntinlupa.
The only problem was that it was a rubbish dump. Three hundred seventy-five monitor lizards and countless more snakes were found clearing that dump, says Fr. Rocky, and it took an entire year.
Fr. Rocky started the Tuloy orphanage in 1993 with 12 boys. Twenty years later, he has 997 boys and girls, with around 200 of the students living at the orphanage and other lesser privileged children live close by. The modern school, funded by private donations, boasts an “aqua-ponic” garden producing vegetables and herbs and which teaches the children respect for the environment.
But the first step in turning around the lives of these children is respect for themselves; the recognition that imbuing these children and teenagers with self-esteem will lead to change from the inside out.
“First self-esteem and self-respect. Then they respect others. Then they start to dream, to aspire,” says Fr. Rocky.
Children must be 9 years old before they enter the orphanage. “They have to decide if they want to live here until they are 18,” says Fr. Rocky. And when they are 18, they graduate into the wide world. Their last 18 months are spent undertaking vocational training to prepare them for this.
I visited Tuloy recently on a special assignment alongside fellow Kiwi Willie Wairoa-Harrison, who is head of UN Security in the Philippines. Our visit was inspired by a video shown to me last year of the Tuloy boys performing their self-taught haka, the Maori war dance performed by New Zealand’s world champion All Blacks immediately before their matches.
I told the boys that the All Blacks represent New Zealand’s cultural mix – European New Zealanders like me, Maori like Willie, and sons of Pacific Island immigrants like star players Ma’a Nonu and Julian Savea. The haka is a unifying force, something that represents Maori culture to the world and in which all New Zealanders can take pride. You don’t have to go to the best school in the country to be in the All Blacks and you don’t have to be wealthy. On the rugby field everyone is equal.
The Tuloy boys are the defending champions of the youth touch rugby competition organized by the Philippine Rugby Football Union. And having tried to keep up with them during a 7 a side touch match after our haka training, I can appreciate why. My hope, and no doubt Fr. Rocky’s, is that the boys can take the skills they learn at training – teamwork, discipline, respect, and a winning attitude – and apply them in their lives.
Thanks to Fr. Rocky, his 85 staff and the generosity of private donors and sponsors, including Australian construction company Leighton which sponsors the rugby team, the boys of Tuloy can choose between activities such as gardening, dancing and rugby. Tuloy has given them a chance in life. Now the only lizards and snakes at Tuloy are the ones gliding their way through opposition defenses on a floodlit sports field that once was a rubbish dump.
This article was originally posted on the Philippine Star website where Ambassador Levermore also provides comment.