Phil-Asia Assistance Foundation Inc. (PAAFI) chair Presentacion L. Psinakis (PLP) recalls the time she decided to take over the nonprofit founded by her late younger brother Roberto M. Lopez (RML) and his good friend, US-based Lisa Yuchengco.
“It was a very painful experience for me when he (RML) told me that he was dying, and he had this commitment (to the scholars). I told him not to worry. I promised him that I was going to take care of (PAAFI),” said PLP.
That was in 1992 and take care of PAAFI she did, providing her own funds and writing solicitation letters annually to friends and Lopez Group members whom she felt could make a difference in the lives of young public school students by subsidizing their education.
“You know, many of our employees don’t realize it but they are so blessed. When they go to these places where our scholars live, you wish they would be seen by more people so they would be helped more. My own sponsored children, they are very young and when they write you their English is not perfect, but they touch your heart. You can feel their sincerity in reaching out to you,” PLP said.
Credit to RML
Margarita Fragante, member of the PAAFI board of trustees, also credits RML for her involvement.
“First of all, I love Robby (RML). I met his mother in 1952, the year he was born. I saw him grow up, and we grew quite close. When he died, Presy (PLP) and I talked and we didn’t want to let go of Robby’s baby (PAAFI),” she said.
For her, the work of PAAFI is not simply soliciting funds and matching them with scholars. The foundation actually checks on the families of sponsored children.
“We have to find out if their parents want them to study. It’s very important to have a supportive environment for the child’s education. But if the parents stop them from going to school because they have to take care of house work or younger siblings, or the children themselves have to work, then the chances that they can finish school would be low,” said Fragante.
The cooperation between parents and sponsors is all that the scholars rely on. And when they graduate from high school or even college, the fulfillment of the sponsors would be almost the same as the pride felt by the parents themselves.
PLP, who is well known for her activism or joining demonstrations against corrupt governments , shares why PAAFI is a worthwhile advocacy: “I feel that for any country to progress, the people have to be educated. They have to know what is right from wrong. I feel very strongly about that and you owe it to them (the scholars). These are very bright students who cannot afford uniforms or even the basics.”
PLP is a veteran of protest actions. She joined rallies, even while in exile in the US, to protest against the martial law regime of Marcos and helped restore democracy in the country. She returned to the picket lines during the Arroyo administration and helped protect whistleblowers who disclosed irregular government deals that were harmful to the country.
“How my brothers suffered whenever I went out and campaigned in the streets. Manolo (Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez) and Oskie (chairman emeritus Oscar M. Lopez) are in business and they get hit. But they respect me. They know how I feel about these things. I may be in a wheelchair and I cannot go out as often, but I will never, never relax against people who don’t do good for the country. We have to keep teaching and reminding young people about what happened in the past so they don’t repeat it.”
Although PAAFI may not have as many scholars as other foundations, PLP and Fragante say it is not a numbers game. Operations over 28 years have yielded a harvest of graduates that many donors would be proud of.
“It takes a lot of collective effort to see these scholars through school. Our sponsors come first from the Lopez family, the Lopez Group of companies and then our friends. This is something (reflective) of my brother, Robby (RML), that genuine care for those who want to study but lack the necessities,” said PLP.
Fragante encourages LopezLink readers to sponsor children and to introduce PAAFI scholars to their own children.
“It’s good training for their children to share. When they sponsor PAAFI scholars, they receive these letters or reports from the scholars and when they give these letters to their own children, then the kids will realize how blessed they are. I know some children of our executives who save from their allowance so they could sponsor their own scholars.”
PLP asks Lopez Group members: “Open your pocketbooks. It takes so little to help our scholars. Just give up one night of eating out or sacrifice buying something (for yourself) so that you can give to these children (PAAFI scholars).” (Story/Photos by: Carla Paras-Sison)