Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Learnings of a youth leader from Olongapo

She is young and effervescent, like many of her peers. But she stands out because of a confidence that comes with being elected federation president of the entire Sangguniang Kabataan herd in Olongapo City.

Cheenee Hoya, 17, rifles off a slew of data about her projects in the city and we wonder how she is able to juggle a Customs Administration course at Lyceum of Subic Bay where she is a junior, and her myriad duties as SK head, both of Barangay Barretto and the entire city.

We met Cheenee leading her group in setting up for Anak TV’s Larolympics last week. She was partial to the project, not because of the promise of media play up but because she saw how children in her barangay cuddled up to games like piko, which she herself was smitten with, both as a child and as a youth official. The intramurals were successful despite the rains, she says, because it was a concerted effort of the entire community.

Olongapo Mayor Bong Gordon fielded indefatigable city social welfare office head Gene Eclarino who in turn harnessed everyone else from the Department of Education (DepEd) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) to local NGOs like the Alay Lakad Foundation to pitch in. The endeavor was in keeping with the saying that it takes the entire village to raise a child.

“In Olongapo, we make certain every child is included: in school, underprivileged, even differently-abled. We proved that during the Larolympics. That is why each barangay team showed bravura and demonstrated camaraderie, sportsmanship, cooperation & team spirit,” explains Cheenee. “Those were proud moments for us, the youth. I pray this event is institutionalized and staged annually,” she continued.


Cheenee gushes with impish pride when she speaks glowingly of her theater acumen. She was a member of the PREDA-AKBAY, an advocacy theater group that promoted children’s rights and youth empowerment.

Armed with customary youthful vision and vigor, Cheenee founded the Barretto Theater Club with her sister, making it the first local performing arts troupe based in Olongapo.

She says she was inspired by the juvenile delinquents of the area whom she harnessed to join in.

Soon after, besides basketball and loafing around, the out of school youth were deeply involved in rehearsals and production work. Their excess energy suddenly found attractive outlets in singing, dancing and creative work. Today, other barangay SK groups are adopting the scheme.

It helps that as a youth leader, Cheenee has her ears on the ground and her vision on the horizon.

Criticisms are always welcome to hone her into a better person. Her brief stint with the ABAKA Foundation prior to adolescence taught her that “you cannot really understand a child unless you are willing to listen.” While advanced politics is pretty remote to her at this point, she is like a sponge absorbing as intently as she can. Her belief systems are being shaped, thanks to her exposure to a variety of people, persuasions and ideals. Public service has taken a whole new meaning in her life. She has learned to accept that not everyone can be pleased, no matter the effort or the sincerity.

In an effort to balance work and study, she and her siblings jam among themselves using different instruments. She dabbles in guitar and drums and, occasionally, even sings with the mayor who is widely acknowledged as a homespun musician and performer.

In the end, Cheenee says, when all else fails, and the going gets rough and tumble, she has a cohesive family to lean back on. “To me, ultimately, that is all that matters.”

By MAG CRUZ HATOL - Manila Bulletin

SK Federation president Cheenee Hoya (center, in white) in a huddle with her Olongapo SK team.

(If interested in the advocacy for family-friendly television, visit anaktvweb.com or email the foundation at anaktv_seal@yahoo.com.)

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