A CELEBRATION of the years and life devoted to children's development made this year's 22nd anniversary of Tambayan Center for Children's Rights memorable.
Last February 26, 2017, Tambayan Center for Children’s Rights board of directors led by Norma Javellana, organized children’s group, alumni and graduates of Tambayan programs, representatives of local government of Davao, and school teachers gathered at Balay Tinubdan sa Pag-amoma Training Center in Matina Aplaya, Davao City, not just for the 22nd Anniversary of Tambayan, but to pay tribute to one of three women who thought it necessary to establish a place where street girls can feel safe and find temporary rest from their day's grind and concerns.
That was Edith O. Casiple, Tambayan founder who also served as its executive director from 2006 to 2015.
Edith died of complications from breast cancer last February 11, 2018 at the age of 54.
Casiple's passion and dedication towards her work couldn't be more evident than on the teary-eyed recollection of some of Tambayan's graduates, now mothers who stand as vanguards of their own children's rights.
Belot, a former Tropang Kabataan Iwas Droga (KID) member, said she was a contact of Tambayan, in 2003, 15 years ago.
"We became aware of the dangers of abuse, of vices and so our attention was directed to training-seminars conducted by Tambayan. We really have a lot to thank Tambayan for, especially to maam Edith," she said in the vernacular.
Belot could not help but get teary-eyed recounting how good Casiple was to her and how she became a big part of her life, especially now that she is a mother of two.
"Tambayan molded my mind, as a child, as a leader, and even now when I already have a family and work, I really applied trainings and seminars I've undergone when I was at Tambayan. It made me productive, which is why I am really thankful. To all the children now in contact with Tambayan, please treasure the opportunity because you will really learn a lot," she said.
Aside from Belot, Mae Ann Douglas, a mother of two shared how being able to undergo trainings in Tambayan shaped her respect of children's rights starting in 2003.
"I was once a street child, as I grew up, I realized that I can't stay that way, that there will come a time that we will become adults and have a family. Now I am a mother, I am a single parent, with two children, they are both eldest but I am not ashamed of them, neither am I ashamed of myself because I took responsibility for them. I never attempted to abort them because they are children and I have experienced the troubles being a child, as a member of community and the abuse. I always protect my children, even though sometimes I punish them but that is because they are also unruly," she said.
Douglas advised children now in contact with Tambayan to finish their studies while they can, she said that in her case she was not able to finish elementary but she is doing what she can do now as a mother to teach her kids well.
“Right now I teach my kids properly and I do not have regrets because my children are bright and excellent, they always get perfect scores in exams," she said.
Mae Aquino from the Children's Welfare Council of the local government also attested to Casiple’s dedication to her work.
She said that Tambayan has been the partner of CWC since the center started. CWC was founded in the year 1991, Tambayan, was created five years later.
"She is passionate, humble, and a brilliant woman, and she also has many good concepts on children's programs. She really made a big contribution to the children. We must give her a big hand, because accepting such challenge is not easy especially in Davao City which has huge land area and population," Aquino said.
Aquino said that the city needs Non-government organizations (NGOs) like Tambayan to balance out the efforts given by the government.
"I am hopeful that the smile we can see on Ma'am Edith's picture would become wider as members of Tambayan will continue what it had started and would answer the present needs of the children," Aquino said.
Alex Casiple, husband of Edith, said he saw how Tambayan grew from original staff of three it now has around 35 staff and now gives services to as far as Digos City in Davao del Sur and General Santos City in South Cotabato.
Alex said that Edith spent 20 years her life with Tambayan, and 5 years with another children's organization.
"She was a very dedicated worker. To manage an organization with some 30 staff with different backgrounds is not an easy task if you see her based on three skills of manager: in conceptual skills, you have the ability to conceptualize, analyze things, conceptualize projects; technical skills they are in psychosocial so you need skills in psychology and sociology and human relations skills people from different backgrounds are joining Tambayan. In my own perspective, she nurtured Tambayan, without split and physical divisiveness, I am sure she excelled in all the parameters of being a manager," he said.
He said that the unfinished business her wife left behind after her 16 years with Tambayan and even throughout her battle with cancer is to make Tambayan sustainable through establishing a Children’s Fund wherein regular contributions from local partners, sympathetic individuals, advocates of children rights, to businessmen will be received.
"The contribution will be invested by partner investment manager and the yield will be used in the operations. So, in that way it is sustainable," he said.
It is to allow Tambayan survive amid the issue of foreign donors withdrawing aid to NGOs in the country. This is also the reason why some NGOs already closed down.
"With the fact that the foreign source of funding is declining, many NGOs have ceased to operate. Fortunately for Tambayan, still receives support from organizations abroad, if it doesn’t have that, it would have closed down already like others who closed those as they are purely dependent on foreign grant. There are already changes in the policy sa donor agencies sa Europe. Philippines is now being perceived now as middle income economy, it is no longer least developed country. That is the perception of the donors, the Philippine is no longer indigent," he said.
Casiple shared that up to the end, welfare of other people was the first thing on his wife's mind. She was sick yet she did not want other people to worry about her. Still there was an outpouring of support for her medications.
"When she got sick, we have not posted on Facebook her suffering, our financial need on how to get those millions for her medicine, but the outpouring of support was there. We do not ask for it, but since she touched many lives, due to her legacy, we were well provided," he said
He is grateful for these, he said, considering that retirement benefits of an NGO worker amount to just a little even after 20 years of dedicated service.
Casiple said that coping with his wife's death is a lot easier since they have undergone two weeks of palliative care with the four children.
Casiple during the anniversary received Edith's Posthumous Award.
" In recognition of a dreamer who envisioned a world where no child is left behind, in the fulfillment of their rights; a champion whole relentless commitment and services for the protection of children in Davao lives as a legacy; and a woman who made life worth living, not only for her but people around her," the citation read.
A "tree of Edith", a kamagong or ironwood seedling, was also planted at Balay Tinubdan sa Pag-amoma Inc. It was watered by her family and the Tambayan Board.