A Look Back: HAPI’s First Quarter of 2020

Posted by Shane | Posted on April 2, 2020

HAPI’s 1st Quarter, 2020

Written by Shane Haro
April 1, 2020
San Jose, Antique, Philippines

Before we go into the gleaming achievements HAPI has already had in the first quarter of the year, there’s the big news that HAPI just named a new Executive Director in Alain Presillas.

Here are the introductory remarks of our ED himself!

I am deeply honored by the vote of confidence.

I did not expect to be the Executive Director of HAPI. I am already content in working silently for the service of humanity.

I was one person on a list that includes some of the leading figures of HAPI. To you, my KA-HAPI, I look forward to working with you in our shared determination to cultivate Secular Humanism in the Philippines. Guided by reason and logic that centers in the role of right education, we embrace the role of sound scientific goals that will improves man’s purpose in this vast universe.

It is a moment of personal honor for me, but also of deep personal responsibility. I do not take this lightly.

It is also a moment of reflection and respect. These are trying times for the Philippines.

HAPI is just one of the organizations that is not afraid to take challenges head on. We are constantly making our organization better with the superintendence of the Board of Trustees and its founder.

I humbly would like to introduce, my background and my experience for this new role that is given to me. I have the commitment, passion, and humility to serve as the Executive Director of HAPI. I have the determination to achieve results for Humanism. I am sure, each of one of us have the power to do so. We just need to be very smart in our planning and priority setting, and streetwise in our actions and should be aligned with the HAPI MISSION-VISION.

The next decade will remain very challenging for all of us at HAPI with the changing landscape of political as well as social climate of the Philippines. I am confident that we shall be successful in cultivating the seeds of HUMANISM and dealing with every one of the challenges or hurdles that will come our way, as we have always done in the past. Rest assured that I and the Board of Trustees will work tirelessly, with my eyes on the goals we agree on together, my ears open to the voices of all, and my heart committed to the goals of HUMANISM.

Alain Presillas, Executive Director
Humanist Alliance Philippines, International

Michael Sherman, HAPI Chair, also rings in the first quarter via his uplifting words:

Good day and Mabuhay to all our HAPI members and friends!

As we all know, with the COVID-19 virus all over the news and with its impact on our daily lives there seems to be no way to avoid hearing about it every time we turn on the television, radio or jump on the internet.

COVID-19 is in our faces always it seems.  For many of us, this is a time of anxiety and even fear as there is so much unknown about how the virus will affect our lives and the lives of our loved ones.  For many of us, the financial impacts can also be scary, hard on us and our families as the virus itself may be. Businesses are closing, income and salaries are being cut or being reduced. Financial security is in limbo for many. These are hard and difficult times for all of us.

Please know that your safety and health and the health and safety of your family is of upmost importance to all of us at HAPI. Rest assured that even in these difficult times, we remain as determined as ever to continue to implement our vision of a world that champions humanism through common sense, reason, and logic and stay true to our mission; however we intend to do this in a safe and responsible manner for our members and the people of the Philippines.

My encouragement to all of us as it relates to our life in general: let’s try and be patient with each other. Take a breath before we respond. Try not to be quick to anger. Try to have a soft heart towards our spouses, children, parents and family and friends in general. We are in this together. Remember we are a family of humanists; we are a family of humans. And if you don’t see it that way, I hope that if nothing else, at this time we all see our HAPI members and humanity at large as a family. If we can do this, I assure you that this will help us get through this and come out for the better in the end.

So I saw this poem on the internet and yes, I think I said something in a previous email about poetry. And I am sure some if not all of y’all have seen this on the internet as it has gone somewhat viral. But I think it says far better what I am trying to say here:

By Laura Kelly Fanucci

When this is over, may we never again take for granted

A handshake with a stranger

Full shelves at the store

Conversations with neighbors

A crowded theater

Friday night out

The taste of communion

A routine check up

The school rush each morning

Coffee with a friend

The stadium roaring

Each deep breath

A boring Tuesday

Life itself

When this ends

May we find

That we have become

More like the people

We wanted to be

We were called to be

We hoped to be

and may we stay 

that way – better

for each other

because of the worst

I want to personally thank the members of HAPI for what they have done in the past and continue to do for humanity and humanism. Please know that I am here for the organization at-large and our membership individually. This is an opportunity to become better so let’s grab that opportunity and change the world.

In service to humanity,

Michael Sherman, AICP, Chair
Humanist Alliance Philippines, International

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought everyone’s 2020 to a standstill. But as history attests, you had best believe that humanity will always find a pick itself up. As this year wears on, HAPI is committed to delivering its vision of kindness and secular education while aiding Filipinos stricken by the outbreak (at the moment, the focus is on aiding and empowering our frontline medical workers).

As we keep our optimism up, check out what HAPI’s been up to so far this year! Pandemic or no, nothing can stop the fight and the mission!

HAPI Action on COVID-19


Claris Quezon, HAPI Executive Secretary, Central Luzon Lead Convenor, resident Legal Expert and Disaster Preparedness Manager, and HAPI’s own front liner for aid with medical workers, says it best:

“Knowing that our front liners are facing additional burden such as lack of PPE’s (Personal Protective Gear), scarcity of food and other necessities tug at my soul the most. Can you even imagine serving your country and the citizenry without the protection that you need? I can’t! It is an injustice!”

Spearheading the call to action is not new to Claris, but asking others to help her and the rest of the front liners takes a special breed of individuals.

“Having a humanist family is a big help in this crisis. You get to pool resources from individual with similar mindset. Implementing and enforcing the plan is the fruition of being a humanist,” Claris says.

HAPI decided to support the Male Surgery Ward of the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center. Between the diminishing supply of aid, increased rationing of food and tight checkpoints in the National Capital Region, Claris almost didn’t make it to the Memorial Medical Center, but she made it in the end.

“The outpouring of support from the HAPI Community is overwhelming. They deserve our gratitude.”

Apart from the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, HAPI also serviced the following hospitals and front liners in the fight against COVID-19:

1. East Avenue Medical Center Laboratory Department

2. Olivarez General Hospital Parañaque Emergency Room

3. Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu City

4. AFP Reserve Command

5. PNP Southern Police District

Aid for Dumaguete and Cagayan de Oro are also to follow!

A More Colorful Balangaw Project


Free from the confines of school projects and school activities, the Juniors of HAPI gathered up for the “Balangaw Project: Module Making” event at Kapihan Sa Patio last January 11, 2020. With the supervision of Mr. John Albert Pagunsan in coordination with Eldemar Sabete, HAPI Jr. Head, the workshop encouraged the Juniors to research and make modules intended for use in LGBTQ+ education.

At day’s end, they presented their modules to other groups, sparking a dialogue on how to make the modules more presentable and easy to comprehend.

DUYAN: A Love Without Borders


On January 19, 2020, HAPI collaborated with the Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, Inc. for “Duyan: A Love Without Borders”.

As the incidence of the young population infected with HIV continues to rise drastically in the Philippines, so do children born with HIV. Duyan (which means “cradle”) is a program that provides care and support to children living with HIV.

Kates Ante, a certified laughter yoga teacher and currently the projects and logistics officer of HAPI, facilitated a laughter yoga session at the onset of the program. Aside from lowering the participants’ anxiety and stress levels, these laughter exercises became a medium for both participants from Duyan and volunteers from HAPI to connect and engage with one another.

A parallel session with the parents and guardians of the Duyan kids was conducted through peer support and counseling session. They shared their personal stories struggles, largely kept untold from the public for years due stigma and discrimination.

HAPI gave the families gift bags, including needs such as milk formula, school supplies and art materials to facilitate their learning and development. In addition, toys and snacks were also given.

Planeteers Unite! When HAPI joined Planet Cora


Maria Juana Valenzuela, HAPI Secretariat Head of Operations, did not pass up the chance to join the first Planet Cora Coastal Clean up for the year 2020 last January 24th.

Planet Cora is an environmental arm of the non-profit organization, CORA, dedicated to protecting #LifeBelowWater and #LifeOnLand, and empowering everyone to take aggressive #ClimateAction for the future of our youth. This includes environmental education plus action, including coastal clean-ups, tree planting activities, water rehabilitation programs, solid waste management, school tours, conventions, events for a cause, and so much more.

Pictured with her above is Antoinette Taus, Planet Cora Founder, welcoming participants and volunteers from all walks of life as she give insights into Planet Cora and explaining what to expect during the cleanup.

Beyond Ourselves


For five HAPI Junior members last February 3, 2020, the month of love began with learning the value of self-love.

Held at the Bacolod’s New Government Center, facilitators Kates Ante and Maria Juana Valenzuela of HAPI-Metro Manila gave an open lecture and discussion on self-care to the teens.

After the workshop, Kates and Maria Juana invited the kids to dinner and discussed HAPI Jr.’s forthcoming events this year, as well as in celebration of the Chinese New Year 2020.

TAAL Relief Operations: The HAPI Way


Everyone was shaken when Mt. Taal finally showed its wrath. For days after its eruption, families were evacuated and calls for donations from those affected circulated online. HAPI Executive Secretary and Disaster Preparedness Manager Claris Quezon personally coordinated with HAPI HQ and reported what she and her connections in nearby Talisay experienced so that the Leadership Council could decide how best to aid victims.

Hence, after the assured number of gift packs, the HAPI Leadership Council together with volunteers coordinated and decided to visit spouses Mike and Anne Julian at West Iruhin, Kabangan, Tagaytay on February 2, 2020 to extend help to 163 families.

The Council held a short program and activity for the children in West Iruhin during their visit in a gesture for education and awareness.

Donation packs consisted of mosquito nets, blankets, personal hygiene kits and pre-loved clothes arranged and prepared by HAPI members, with active leadership council participation. Transport was also provided by a volunteer member.

A Life Well-Lived: HAPI Founder Retires


Marissa Torres Langseth, HAPI Founder and Chairperson Emeritus, was the first to openly advocate for a more secular Philippines in the public stage.

As Langseth (or “Ms M”, as she is lovingly called) officially retired in March, her legacy lies in the ongoing operations of the Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI), her publication of the From Superstition to Reason series of books and her autobiography No Outside Intelligence… not to mention all the doors she has kicked down for the advancement of atheism, secular humanism, and freethinking in the Philippines.

A Short Trip to Dumaguete


HAPI-Bacolod Ambassador Alvin John Ballares paid a short visit to Dumaguete in early 2020.

“My mission was to meet with the amazing youthful members of the HAPI-Dumaguete chapter. I just felt that it’s my duty to check on them, discuss updates, guide, and lay out plans, as a kuya would to his younger siblings,” he said in his retrospective.

Forbes Magazine once named Dumaguete one of the best places in the world to retire in 2014. The city is dubbed a University town, as a large chunk of its population is composed of students from different parts of Visayas and northern Mindanao. Its youthful demographic makes it fertile ground for propagating secular ideals and progressive thinking.

Alvin’s meeting with HAPI-Dumaguete members was held at Buglas Isla Café, a popular coffee joint with a good view of the nearby boulevard. Javan Lev Poblador, HAPI Youth head, opened the discussion on their planned activities for 2020.

So far, that involves creating documentaries highlighting the significance of a safe space for non-believing youth in the country. Ultimately, this aims to build an avenue for the younger secular population where they could feel a sense of belongingness and at the same time learn from each other’s experiences.

HAPI-Dumaguete plans to release 6 documentaries to encapsulate the struggles of growing up as an atheist in the Philippines.

HAPI National Leadership Council Meets Up with HAPI Cebu


Even as COVID-19 swiftly and infamously swept the nation in early March, Arlene Murillo, HAPI Cebu’s Assistant Lead Convenor, was surprised to find that the HAPI National Leadership gang was pushing through with their scheduled visit to the Queen City of the South anyway. “[T]he pandemic  could have hampered all our travel plans, but these people were unstoppable,” Arlene said.

Apart from the laughter-filled food trips and conversation, the visit peaked with the monumental surprise announcement that Alain Presillas would become HAPI’s new Executive Director.

Corona may have cut the visit short, but it’s not cutting HAPI’s vision anytime soon.

And with that, HAPI’s 2020 continues!

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About The Author

Sherwin Dane Zauro Haro

Sherwin Dane Zauro Haro (“Shane”) is a campus journalist and host devoting his voice to the advancement of secularism. His religion oscillates from “Madonna” to “Lana Del Rey”. If he could have more of anything, he’d choose “height”. He recites iconic dialogue from Game of Thrones to kill time.

Instagram: @shane.zauro

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