Volunteer Champion 2020: Building Communities and Reshaping Lives with Tatay Anton

Starting 2020, iVolunteer annually celebrates the International Volunteer Day by recognizing exceptional volunteers called the iVolunteer Champions. These are individuals who’ve made extraordinary contributions in their advocacies and they embody iVolunteer’s core values: Integrity, Professionalism, Inclusivity, Nationalism and Change Leadership. Each of them is a living proof that everyday heroes do exist.

The 2020 iVolunteer Champion for Integrity is Anthony Santos, better known as “Tatay Anton”. He’s been working as a college teacher in Cavite for the past 13 years while being an active volunteer for community enhancement. Even without being part of any formal volunteer organization, Tatay Anton has been consistently helping various communities in Cavite. Volunteers who champion integrity are morally upright and show consistent adherence to their principles while selflessly devoting their time to improve their community.

Tatay Anton regularly organizes feeding programs, tutorials sessions, disaster relief operations and other community enhancement activities. Although he did not come from a well-off family, giving has been a way of life for him since childhood. His father was an electrician and a jack-of-all-trades who was always ready to help their neighbors—from changing light bulbs to flood controls. Since childhood, his father has ingrained in him the idea that being part of a community means helping build that community even in small ways.   

Before becoming a teacher, Tatay Anton first dreamed of becoming a DJ. When financial difficulties made it impossible for him to push through with this track, he shifted gears and took up an education course when he was already 22. While being a teacher wasn’t his childhood dream, he now considers it his calling. He takes pride in being able to help shape the minds of the youth and inspire his students to take part in community enhancement.  

Like many volunteers, Tatay Anton started out with small things within his immediate community. He would usually organize these activities with the help of volunteer students, and students from his school’s NSTP (National Service Training Program) Department. Two of his most memorable activities are the Beautification of a Daycare Center and the Tsinelas (Slippers) Campaign.

As a teacher, Tatay Anton believes that daycare centers greatly influence the way children value education, particularly because these kids will stay there during their formative years. Seeing a daycare center in a bad shape motivated him to make a project out of renovating it. During this activity, both parents and students helped decorate, organize, paint and repair. Their collective efforts symbolize the collective efforts that a community puts in as investment to their children’s future.

For the Tsinelas Campaign, Tatay Anton was pleasantly surprised to have received boxes of slippers as donations. Before giving these slippers to the children, they conducted lectures and fun games to make their interactions with the kids even more meaningful. This project was done in partnership with the NSTP Department.

Apart from these activities, Tatay Anton also actively helps during disasters. During the 2020 Taal Eruption, he was quick to organize a donation drive that was participated by hundreds of students, including those who already graduated. During the height of the pandemic, he started a program called Bayanihan sa Bayan ni Juan which is basically a mix of different volunteer works all geared towards helping fellow Filipinos. The initiatives under this campaign include the community pantries and Christmas gift giving activities.

In spite of a hectic schedule balancing his responsibilities as a full-time teacher, Tatay Anton continuously does his best to allot time for volunteer work. He emphasizes the importance of time management and discipline to ensure that he can attend to all his commitments. Just this year, Tatay Anton organized relief operations for victims of Typhoon Paeng. He also takes on speaking engagements to help inspire the youth towards leadership and volunteerism.

Tatay Anton encourages aspiring volunteers to do three things: magmasid (observe), magtanong (ask) and pakiramdaman ang sarili (introspect). He believes that the world will never run out of opportunities to help, and because of this, volunteers should be proactive in searching for ways to help. He encourages everyone to start small, and to start within their communities.

Until now, Tatay Anton still finds it overwhelming and deeply humbling to receive recognitions for his volunteer works. But these recognitions always remind him of the impact that he is making and the lives that he is inspiring.

Indeed, there are infinite ways to help others and countless people needing help in different ways. The key is to observe your surroundings, ask what help you could offer, and know yourself enough to know the things that you can readily give. Like Tatay Anton, being extraordinary is oftentimes about doing ordinary things consistently well.

Written by: Lorraine Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines

Photos from: Anthony Santos

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