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Salud Catandunganon - a project by GM Bicol and Y-PEER Pilipinas, in Virac, Catanduanes

By Ger Evan

October 16, 2021

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” is a lesson that taught me as a volunteer of GM Bicol, in my own ability, to be able to serve and give back to the community. As a young person, I believed that becoming part of a greater purpose will enable to become a better person.

(Project Implementation: June 25 -September 30, 2021)

“Serving the young key affected population

As we aim to become a strong organization, I learned as a volunteer in GM Bicol that working with allies in the public and private sectors through training and education, community organizing and mobilization, and policy advocacy, we can achieve greater lengths. Never did I imagine I would be able to work with various groups in serving the youth communities in Bicol.

In April 24, 2021, three youth volunteers including me joined the HIV Combination-Prevention of Y-PEER Pilipinas. It gave us a deeper understanding about HIV/AIDS, taught us more effective ways to prevent having HIV through HIV Combination-Prevention techniques, introduced to us PrEP and PEP – what happens when you are under PrEP, how it works and how it defends the body and the importance of treating treatment as Prevention (TasP) were introduced and discuss to us.

Holding on the principles of servant leadership and life-long learning, I must say, these experience in the field and training opportunities we received really prepared us to becoming a better version of ourselves.

“Salud Catandunganon

It is not often that we get to be dead serious about making assignments. But with the pandemic, and the feeling that we can do more for our fellow youth, we cracked our brains in making a project proposal for a Call posted by Y-PEER Pilipinas – the “Salud Catandunganon: A sustained advocacy for local SRH Advocacy through community participation” project. Fortunate and very excited, we get to make our ideas into reality.

This initiative further strengthened the CBOs’ efforts in Catanduanes through multi-level advocacy: community level, population group level, and in the level of government through the SKs. It opened opportunities for CBOs to create linkages with LGU and village levels through SKs, and, ultimately increase CBO/CSO participation in social accountability along HIV advocacy, and transforming a political environment supportive of SRHR.

“Voluntourism: the volunteers visit the Island Province of Catanduanes

Project Salud Catandunganon: A sustained advocacy for local SRH Advocacy through community participation which aims to build consensus to strengthen community participation in HIV and Sexual Health and Rights advocacy, raise and promote HIV Combination Prevention of young leaders for empowerment and to fill the gaps in HIV services in selected areas.

The projected was implemented in Virac, Catanduanes from July 11-17, 2021 and targeted 39 SK Chairpersons out of 60 barangays of Virac, Catanduanes and was done through peer-education symposium on HIV/AIDS with particular emphasis on HIV Combination-Prevention using an outreach guide and prepared scripts to ensure accuracy of technical information provided to those outreached. The highlight of the peer-education symposium was when 39 chairpersons signed a pledged of commitment to support and implement projects/programs and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights particularly programs in HIV/AIDS Prevention, Teenage Pregnancy, Gender-Based Violence and Sexually Transmitted Infections and to support the existing programs , projects and activities of the department of health as it strives to open a wider horizon for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law on the grassroots level and the creation of their own training design for their own barangay.

Courtesy Visit to Office of the Mayor, with Faye Pastor (Municipal SK federation President) and Ms. Mariel Tabuzo-Torzar LYDO Coordinator

Alongside the capacity building for the SK chairpersons through peer-education session, the GentleMen Bicol also got the full support of the Municipal Government of Virac, Catanduanes headed by Hon. Mayor Sinforoso M. Sarmiento Jr., Hon. Vice-Mayor Arylnn H. Arcilla and the whole members of the Sanggunian. The Provincial Health Office, headed by Dr. Hazel Palmes and the Rural Health Unit of Virac headed by Dr. Elva Joson strongly showed their willingness to help socio-civic organizations to help and full support on the implementation of sexual and reproductive health and rights programs in the municipality of Virac. The SK Municipal Federation headed by Hon. Faye Louise Pastor and the Local Youth Development Office assured us of the willingness of the council to support SRHR projects that could be very beneficial to the young key populations on combating reproductive health problems such as teenage pregnancy, HIV Transmission and the like. “Maaasahan nindo ang suporta sa saindong project kang bilog na konseho kang Sangguniang Bayan ng Virac – Hon. Vice-Mayor Arylnn H. Arcilla”.

The team were also able to offer Community Based HIV screening to around 85 different types of clients where one tested reactive and was immediately counseled and linked to care.

“Moving forward

The project was concluded with 5 SK Chairpersons re-echoed the HIV/AIDS Combination-Prevention training as part of their celebration of the Lingo ng Kabataan, Other SK councils promised to uphold their pledged commitment and will still implement SRHR Advocacy to their respective barangays once they were able to source out funds for the said activity.

I personally think that the experience is this project is fun yet challenging given the current health situation, but as a student who does volunteer work with my friends in a CBO, we can only do as much. But definitely, this won’t be our last!


Special thanks to volunteers who were with us during the implementation. Dios Mabalos!

  • Sir Chad, Sir Peds Ate Kath

  • Christian Mamansag

  • Melanie Matienzo

  • Justine Tabo

  • Keith Dominguez

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