Beyond the Practice

by Jul 1, 2021Stories To Live By

Padre Rubinos Social Charity Institution Headquarters / Elsa Urquijo Architects

Padre Rubinos Social Charity Institution Headquarters / Elsa Urquijo Architects

(An edited version of this article was published in The Manila Times, Business – Build Design Section, a popular Philippines tabloid, on 06 July 2021)

Through the passing years I am astonished at our United Architects of the Philippines –Kuala Lumpur Chapter for not only being a unique one of a kind, memorable organization, but it also serves as a vehicle for us to tell our own indelible public-spirited stories.

In addition to contributing individual professional services to prominent architectural firms in Malaysia, UAP-KL members are also empathetic advocates for Community Social Responsibility (CSR) activities especially amongst our ‘kababayan’ communities in Kuala Lumpur.

As one knows, community involvement and engagement is one of the key pillars of an organization’s social responsibility and can take on many forms. The purpose – to give back to the community, providing positive social value, and eventually promoting change and progress – hopefully throughout the world.

Past Chapter President and former President of the KL badminton group, Ar. Anthony Mar Darilag, being an avid badmintonist, thought one great day of sharing his talent with the Filipino community through UAP-KL. So from 2014 to 2019, he amazingly spearheaded 7 yearly, at times bi-annual, charity tournaments, participated in by an average of 150+ Filipino players, and a whopping 5 major open tournaments entitled ‘UAP-KL Badminton Super Liga’ that attracted not only Filipinos and Malaysians in KL but players from Singapore and the Philippines as well with an average of 250+ badmintonists per tournament.

And because of all these, word-of-mouth spread within the community like wildfire resulting in an increasing number of Filipino household helpers, waiters, and factory workers wanting to engage in the sport. Ar. Darilag addressed this scenario in his own words:

With joyful verve I conducted training clinics of once-a-week for 5 weeks free of charge for these ‘kababayans’ and prepped them to be ready to join the tournaments.

Now this is where UAP-KL’s charitable heart shows it’s true form – All proceeds of charity go to various charitable organizations, orphanage centers, assistance to distressed members, and as of late to UAP-KL’s established perennial recipient – the alternative learning center ‘Stairway to Success’ – a member of UNICEF’s program of schools for undocumented Filipino and Malaysian children in Sandakan, Sabah.

We architects have an enormous opportunity to make contributions to the community especially with our knack of critical-thinking. That opportunity amplifies when it comes to bringing that added bliss to our lesser privileged ‘kababayans’ who eke out a humble living in a foreign land.

Being a former communion minister in Kuala Lumpur’s Cathedral of St. John, I used to mingle among members of the Cathedral’s Filipino Migrant Workers Community (one of many other nationality communities in the church). When the parish priest asked me to take charge of organizing the church’s first family sports day – ‘Pesta St. John’s Cathedral 2006’, I roped in the Filipino migrant community to partake and compete with the locals in the basketball and volleyball events.

That parish day was so successful, beyond our expectations, that it inspired me to organize basketball and volleyball grassroots-events the following years. From 2009, before UAP-KL’s chartering in 2014, senior Filipino architects who eventually became the founding directors, assisted me in the succeeding tourneys. I named the league ‘PIGA@KL’ an acronym for Philippine Integrated Games and Amusement. As an acronym, ‘Pigá’ is a Filipino word for ‘squeeze’ – reminding everyone of the hardships of life and work that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) goes through abroad.

The games are a whole day affair, held every Sunday, (a day-off for majority of migrant workers), run for an average of 2 months, and participated in by 8~12 teams composed of 15 players each team.

As it happens, there are no entrance fees to the tournament. I, together with a few Malaysian companies, co-sponsor all tournaments. During the 2009 league we even managed to hand out free lunches and mineral water to participants every single events day.

Officiating is done by licensed Malaysian referees and as the years progressed, the tournament setup went full-throttle, balls to the wall, equipped with pro video equipment, PA system & boom mikes beneath ring posts, 24 shot clock digital monitors above backboards, and a 3’x4’ portable electronic scoreboard that is remotely controlled. Future UAP-KL members or selected volunteers handled the table officiating.

In 2013, wherein PETRONAS Malaysia was the co-sponsor, UAP-KL posted all of the games on You Tube immediately after each Sunday event and opened a Facebook page where the games’ scoresheets and videos were progressively uploaded as they unfolded. These sites are still up and running and still garnering views & ‘Likes’ as of today.

This endeavor of posterity was the first of its kind and gave the families and friends back home in the Philippines an opportunity to repeatedly watch their loved ones participate.

Yes, as tiring as it may seem, anyone might crimp at just the thought of organizing games as it is never easy with all the weeks of planning, management and administration, running logistics, and what have you. But as architects this is where that expertise of critical-thinking comes in and the rewards are worth the time spent planning.

For take-home, badminton winners are awarded medals and trophies, at times a small token of prize money, that are handed out by either the Philippine Ambassador himself or by embassy officials who make it a point to grace the events. As for basketball & volleyball, each player receives a Certificate of Participation with their full appellations while stating their team’s overall standing in the tournament. These official documents are endorsed by the ambassador, the main sponsor’s rep, and by UAP-KL.

For me, though seemingly trivial to others, these mementos of achievement form part of the migrants’ personal stories of accomplishment while working in a foreign land. It is their reminder that while overseas they had achieved something more aside from the regular remittances to the family. It is their tool to tell their stories to their parents, their children, and future grandchildren. For UAP-KL it is our way of doing something for the betterment of our kababayans.

And what better way to express that yearning for betterment of others but through the act of unsolicited charity during times of trials. During the past quarantine months, UAP-KL’s ardour strengthened through architects Juz Santos & Mildred Lam’s self-initiated ‘KaLinga 2020’ project. The program Kalinga (meaning solicitude, support, or assistance in Filipino) managed to raise Ringgit 10,055.00 (Phil Peso 120,000.00) from 43 donors and assisted 176 deserving Filipino recipients plus 9 other nationalities.

Former chapter presidents, Ar. Santos (also previously UAP B3 district director) and Ar. Lam worked with the KL Filipino badminton club and a local golf association to gather all the much needed solicitations. For members who could not assist monetarily, they generously contributed their time assisting in the distribution and spreading the word.

Pitiful enough, the selected beneficiaries were unable to avail of any government assistance with the embassy’s POLO office already coping with 6,000+ applicants by then. It was a dire situation for those in need who were in an extreme state of consternation during the imposed lockdowns not knowing how to survive while stretching their meager savings since most of their income was already remitted.

Not a great deal of money but the financial assistance helped them weather the storm and put them back on track until the lockdowns were lifted. It was an act of ‘Giving a little, Changing a lot’.

In my book, it was a glimmer of hope for victory that at least enabled the community to turn a page on the exigencies of the pandemic and its sad chapters of our history.

And have you ever heard this nugget of wisdom –‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’

Well, what was started by UAP-KL architects spun-off into a fecund of smaller clusters with the same benevolence that supplemented similar programs of other organizations and that of the Philippine Embassy in KL and its POLO/OWWA offices.

The Kalinga spirit raised awareness and triggered a succession of others to follow suit that as of today the spirit still continues tenfold in KL,

But in general, architects, whose profession has an underlying purpose to improve the man-made environment and consequently the people’s quality of life, have a natural predilection to realize those goals achieved only through the actual building of their projects. In a sense, architects can only do ‘good’ or make an ‘impact’ when they get paid for it … but that’s not always the case.

You see, with participation of some future UAP-KL members, I initiated the ‘pro bono’ design and its construction for the renovation of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. This was undertaken way back in 2011 under the term of Ambassador Eduardo J. Malaya and this unprecedented contribution was in fact featured in the April 29, 2019 Build & Design Section of The Manila Times e-journal issue.

I saw this as a window of opportunity to give-back to my country and the society that granted me my status as a professional. The resulting new image of the embassy once more reawakened the deserving pride and dignity amongst the entire Filipino community in KL.

There are yet so many other significant community works under the Chapter’s belt – Ar. Santos’ UAP-KL jointly organized 2014 charity golf tournament which coincided with the 116th Philippine Independence Day celebrations and with proceeds going to the ‘Stairway to Success’ school, or even the very first Filipino Heritage Day held in conjunction with the 2016 ASEAN Basketball League at Kuala Lumpur’s stadium, co-sponsored & organized through UAP-KL architects Bart Vista & Ian Gerapusco. It allowed the Filipino community to watch for free their idol PBA players and some young PBA hopefuls in action.

There definitely are still lots and lots more of UAP-KL’s public-spirited activities but too numerous to be story-told here. Yet still, after all is said and done, I suppose the message here is the science of generosity – volunteering our time, money, energy, our expertise, and our blessings to assist people with few or no resources or for just simply making others happier and in return helping ourselves be happier too.

In W.T. Purkiser’s words:

Not what we say about our blessings but how we utilize them is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

This is the credo that UAP-KL chapter lives by. This is our story.

We all have a story to share and blessed skills that may help make the world a better place. Though as busy as we are, trying to find the time to get our own work done while managing our lives, it actually doesn’t take much effort to make a difference. When the time presents itself, it just takes an amount of certitude, some commitment, and a little bit of action.



  1. ipidimapadong

    Everyone has a story but not many open up their hearts.

    • Assenav Contol

      “Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is a writer, some are written in the books and some are confined to hearts.” Savi Sharma is the author

  2. richard smith

    Silently but certainly,making a memorable difference with the filipino community there.


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