Nia

The organizers of this charity were inspired by the lives of common Filipino women and men. In particular, Lourdes Ancheta and Antonio Ancheta come to mind.

Back in the nineteenth century, the Spanish colonizers still ruled the Philippine Islands. Education was, by and large, available only to Spanish peninsulares and mestizos, as well as the local chieftains or principales, who were but a few. There was no public education, something that came with American colonialism at the dawn of the twentieth century. In the north of Luzon Island, there lived a clan that pre-dated the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s, but which derived and retained its identity for more than four hundred years: the Luna-Novicio-Ancheta of La Union. The mainstay of this clan was the production of tobacco leaves, and later the sorting of beach pebbles, both of which were exported to far away places.

By the 1880s, the Luna brothers were brought south to Manila for higher education, at the Ateneo de Manila, and later to Europe. Juan Luna polished his artistic skills in Spain and in France. He won top prizes at European painting competitions, so that some of the works are still on display in the Prado Museum of Madrid, as well as in Paris. Juan's brother, Antonio, was more inclined to study history and military science. Eventually, both returned to the Philippine Islands. Juan became the most renowned artist of his native country, a national hero. Antonio, who joined the Philippine Revolutionary Army and its struggle to form a nation, began a military academy, rose to become a general, but whose life was cut short by assassination due to rivalry by the bodyguards of the proclaimed Philippine president. He, too, has since been considered a national hero.

The legacy of Juan and Antonio carried on in La Union. The home stay of Antonio in Namakpakan by the sea was later renamed Luna. His progeny carried the name of Antonio (and Antonia) over the generations. The clan has led politics in Luna continuously. Antonio Ancheta and Lourdes Ancheta are part of this progeny.

Antonio ("Tony") Ancheta and his brother, Francisco ("Paquit"), evolved as leaders of Luna. During the Second World War, they led guerrilla units in La Union. Thereafter, Paquit became mayor of Luna, while Tony moved to Manila to pursue his studies, and stayed there to further his career. Tony became one among the group of developers who built the Project housing complex for the middle class in Quezon City. He also built and led the two largest government workers unions in the country. Tony was one of the developers of Fairview District in Quezon City, the largest barangay in the nation. He was its barangay captain for decades until his death in 2005.

Lourdes Ancheta, or "Onding," was the sister of Tony and Paquit. She was a devout Catholic who led a simple, austere life in Luna. Though fair and possessed of beauty, she eschewed society and preferred to dwell on the comforts of home. Yet, during the onset of the Japanese occupation in the early 1940s, Onding was kidnapped by guerrillas in La Union. She was kept by the guerrilla leader for the duration of the war, and begat two children then, a boy and a girl. Toward war's end she was abandoned with her kids. Onding found her way back to Luna, where her family, especially Tony, helped her care for her children. Onding's children took on the surname of Ancheta. Onding, as a single mother, kept her faith, and educated her children in spite of humble means. The children graduated from university, settled and raised families. Onding also assisted her daughter to raise her six kids. Onding's grandchildren have largely accomplished lives, with children whose achievements reflect those of their ancestors.

Throughout their lives, Onding and Tony espoused a sense of community and concern for common folks. In a country wracked by the effects of neocolonialism, they sought to uplift lives, by encouraging family and others to seek education and build honest livings.

"Lolo" and "Lola" mean grandfather and grandmother. They are used as terms of endearment by the young to show respect for the elders.

Those who know the lives of Lola Onding and Lolo Antonio have chosen the province of Palawan as a place to endow children with education and health care. Palawan is the largest province in the Philippines, yet the least populated, considered the last frontier as it is still largely undeveloped. It is comprised of a long, slim island and surrounded by a few hundred smaller islands. It is flanked by the Sulu Sea to the east, and the South China Sea to the west. Palawan's soil is much like that of northern Vietnam, the only part of the Philippines with such features. The north of Palawan is rich in natural gas and birds' nests; the south is possessed of various minerals. Its population is comprised of indigenous tribes, Moslems, Christian Tagalogs and Visayans. It is befitting for the foundation, whose namesake Onding and Antonio were Ilocanos of the north, to make the choice as a gesture of the family-centered Filipinos to think of themselves as one nation. Palawan is a good place to do this as the native gentleness and transparency of its people still pervade the land.

Though only an hour's flight from Manila, Palawan in essence still feels like a land forgotten. There are very few books in the schools there. In most parts of the province, electricity is not round the clock. There are very few health centers. The LOLA Foundation aims to change that.









Palawan photos brought to you by http://www.ourworldtravels.com.