In June of 2019, a fire broke out in a depressed residential area of Quezon City in the Philippines, ravaging the homes of nearly 100 families. Two weeks later, on Idealist Day 7/7, the Idealists of the Philippines, led by Mario M. Aloba, visited the site to provide supplies, financial assistance, and moral support to the victims. Though their situation had significantly worsened as a result of the fire, life for these families has always been difficult. “It’s a depressed area—and when I say ‘depressed’ it’s really depressed,” Mario says. “Very poor people living in shanties, squatting on the land that they do not own. Narrow streets, dirty alleys, so many extended families—grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren—all living in one small room. I cannot imagine how life would be to live in that place.”
Though the government had promised aid and, eventually, to allow these displaced families to legally live on the land they had been occupying, these benefits would not be a reality for a very long time. Mario and his fellow idealists, however, were up to the task of helping, in whatever minor way they could. “In two days, I mobilized the group to visit the victims,” he says, “and we brought along some food and some cash that each one of us donated for the purpose.” It’s only a temporary solution, and Mario knows that, but he still feels the effort is worth making. “I can see the urgency of the need,” he says. “What they really need is shelter to live with their extended family. 100 families. They grew up in that place for so many years. So, a few relief goods will help for the time being, but not for long.”
“Small acts in a given place, when you put them together worldwide, it makes a lot of difference. You’re not alone. The impact is stronger when we’re doing it simultaneously.”
Mario joined the Idealists of the Philippines in August 2018, eventually being elected President of the group the following January. “I’m proud to be the leader,” he says, “because when you say ‘Idealist,’ it’s not a local organization but an international one. I’m proud of that, and it makes me motivated to do more.” A retired banking professional, Mario has now devoted his time to charitable activity. “When I retired from the bank,” he says, “I started to think, ‘What are the things I’m going to do in my retirement?’ So I thought of rekindling my interest in charity works, and I found that in Idealists of the Philippines.” Through Idealist Days, Mario also found a real method for connecting with others and impacting his community in a more powerful way. “Small acts in a given place,” he says, “when you put them together worldwide, it makes a lot of difference. You’re not alone. The impact is stronger when we’re doing it simultaneously, and that’s the good thing about idealism. It will inspire all of us to contribute, in our own small way, to the people around us.”
The Idealists of the Philippines again put this into action in January of 2019, when they visited the San Lorenzo Ruiz Home for the Elderly in Pasay City, Manila, to donate food and provide company and moral support to the often lonely elders there. “It was a nice experience,” Mario remembers. “You just see many people who are hungry for people like us to pay a visit to them. You can see their spirits are high to see people taking care of them, people close to them who are ready to listen to them.” For Mario, this human connection is what it’s all about. “Somehow I feel that I can contribute to these people who are in need by way of talking to them, listening to their problems. You can feel the happiness in their eyes.”
Mario also made it a point to foster these human connections within the Idealists group. On Idealist Day 5/5, members of the Idealists of the Philippines convened in Manila to share a meal and foster a deeper bond with one another. The members chat regularly through messenger apps, discussing their plans and future meetings, but due to the physical distance between them, these personal meetings are few and far between. “[It was] a perfect time for us to get to know each other,” Mario says, “because we are divided by distance. We came from different places. So we [did that] by meeting in one place and meeting each other and having those bonding moments over dinner.”
After the fire in Quezon City and the group’s first visit to the victims there, Mario knows there’s much more to be done. “I don’t know how they will protect themselves from rain—especially typhoons,” he worries. “What they need right now are construction materials to protect themselves from the heat of the sun and, of course, from the rain. They need medicine, they need clothing, hygiene kits, and financial assistance.” not all of it is within their capacity. Still, Mario knows the victims of the fire appreciate what little they were able to provide on their first visit, particularly the human connections made through their simply coming to help. He is also determined to do whatever he can. “I can see that in a few months, people will get sick, and so we are thinking of conducting a regular mission. We will form a team. We are going to return to that place with more assistance,” he promises, “and a medical mission to address possible outbreaks of disease or sickness in the area.”
As the Idealists of the Philippines grows, Mario has plans for expanding and extending its reach. “Since we’re all scattered all over the Philippines,” he says, “I’m planning on honing different sectors.” The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Mindanao, where Mario and many of his fellow idealists are headquartered; Luzon, and Visayas. “I was thinking of setting up a Luzon group and a Visayas group to minimize expense in traveling to and from our office here in Metro Manila.” Mario is excited about these long term goals, and about discussing it with his fellow Idealists of the Philippines.
“Idealism is very timely,” Mario says. “It opens the eyes of those around us that, ‘Hey, we’re not living alone on this Earth. We have company. We have brothers and sisters who have their own share of problems, and I think we should share in those problems. We should look into [giving] them back their dignity, their freedom.”
“What I mean is, let’s get involved.”
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