Reverse Brain Drain: Young Fil Am Gives Back To Out-of-School Pinoy Youth

by Joseph G. Lariosa

FIL AM WITH OUT-OF-SCHOOL YOUTH:  Marc Monsod (fourth from left) smiles as he reacts during tutoring of out-of-school youth in the slums of Cavite City in the Philippines for the entire month of August.CHICAGO (jGLi) – Young American-born-educated-and-raised (ABER)* Filipino students of middle-income family might just be contented with spending their summer in the friendly confines of their homes and their haunts.

But not for be-spectacled Marc Monsod, a 20-year-old Los Angeles, California native, who made plans six months ago of travelling to the Philippines to spend a worthwhile and meaningful summer that paid off.

Summer for Marc was not a month of frolicking under the sun amidst the white beaches of Boracay and other tourist spots in the Philippines. But a volunteer service — tutoring grade-school age out-of-school youth in the slums in outlying southern suburb of Cavite City in the Philippines.

Marc went to the classroom building for tutorials from Monday thru Friday, and on Saturdays, pushed the kariton (classroom cart) to the palengke (market) and slums to help bring education to the unschooled kids.

The turning point of the young Monsod’s decision to give back his talents and his time to the out-of-school kababayans (country mates) of his parents came a year before when he got wind of the inspirational and jaw-dropping feats of Filipino Efren “Kuya Ef” Penaflorida, Jr., who captured the attention of many people when Penaflorida was adjudged the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year.

Realizing the value of the civic-minded plans of Marc, his parents Godofredo “Bong” and Teresita Monsod were immediately hooked on Marc’s plans just soon after Mr. Penaflorida’s Dynamic Teen Company responded to a letter Marc wrote in December 2010 of his interest of volunteering his tutoring services in the Philippines.

Reporting for his volunteer service in the three-storey building in Cavite City last July 30, Marc, accompanied by his doting parents, was excited to meet his hero, Mr. Penaflorida, for the first time.


The knowledge that Marc absorbed from his International Relations major (he starts his junior year this September) at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island was immediately put to good use when he was assigned to teach from Monday thru Friday students in English comprehension and mathematics. These tutorials supplement the knowledge of these poor kids and orphans, who need solid foundation in basic education.

The tutorial classes are held in the newly built 10-M Philippine peso (US$200,000) school building funded by US$100,000 (4.5-M Philippine pesos) Penaflorida received from CNN and other donors.

Then, on Saturdays, the karitons are rolled out on the streets to reach out to the out-of-school youths. Two of these four karitons go out to the palengke (market), cemetery and squatter sites that teem with numerous children, who do not attend regular school.  So the kariton is a mobile classroom that brings education to these unschooled children because these kids, due to poverty and neglect, do not go to school. The kids are taught basic skills and are encouraged to return to school to keep them off the streets.   Kuya Ef’s organization, the Dynamic Teen Company, evaluates these kids and determines who have learned enough to move up to the next level and eventually  enter the regular school with their help and support.  

Mark With Ef PenafloridaMarc was not scared nor has second thoughts of teaching young children. He was just thinking how he can share his blessings with the less fortunate children. Marc has been tutoring here in the US since he was seven years old.  Teaching has always been his passion.

Marc did not have a problem connecting with the kids as he is fluent (verbal and written) in English, Tagalog (he has slight American accent) and French. He is also conversant in Italian and Spanish and is also able to write in these languages that should be handy if he works in the Foreign Service or pursue a law program.


Marc has nothing but admiration for Penaflorida’s persistence in helping the street children despite the odds he faced. The feeling must be mutual because Penaflorida’s group was also impressed with Marc’s soft spot on Third World issues.

Penaflorida was 16 years old in 1997 when he joined a band of 20 high school classmates to divert their fellow students from violent gangs and notorious fraternities brewing out of the campus. They taught youth awareness to nurture their talents for self-development and community services.

Two years later, Penaflorida, who was living near the city dumpsite, began to reach out to slum kids. This marked the emergence of the “Kalingain Batang Mahirap” (Care of Impoverished Children), DTC’s feeding project for children, who scavenge for leftovers and spoiled food from the dumpsite. When the group had a hard time involving older people to the cause, they trained themselves to be self-sufficient and taught the young kids themselves.

The group was able to support itself and its projects by showcasing their talents as they stage concerts and other presentations. They also sell old newspapers, bottles, and recycled products. This enabled DTC to train more potential youth leaders and eventually led to a purchase of a pedicab for its literacy and feeding projects.

*It was Los Angeles community leader Bobby M. Reyes, who coined ABER (American-born-and-raised) Filipinos.

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