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In its  continuing commitment to advocate for the significant role of volunteering in mental health especially among youth, nonprofit organization I am MAD (Making A Difference) Volunteers Inc. recently gathered for its ‘MAD Talks Padayon’ event at the Centennial Auditorium of Jose Rizal University (JRU).

For the second year in a row, I am MAD teamed up with Teatro Rizal, the official performing arts organization of JRU, to stage its 'Ultimate Hugot Event.' The event provided a platform for its advocates, amplifying awareness about mental health and volunteerism, framed under the theme “Nagmahal, Nasaktan, Nagvolunteer, at Padayon.” Here, personal stories and captivating performances took center stage, creating a powerful and thought-provoking experience.

"We collaborated again with a university-based organization, expanding our efforts towards a younger audience, especially the students. Our objective is to provide them a platform for hearing inspiring narratives and visual performances that can offer support for their mental well-being while simultaneously encouraging the spirit of volunteerism," said Maco Ravanzo, co-founder and chief executive volunteer of I am MAD.

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Drawing a crowd of approximately 300 participants, including  delegates and representatives from various school organizations, youth leaders, and young professionals, all gathering in support of the World Mental Health Day in October.

Prior to the main program, participants experienced some magic from the mysterious acts and mind-reading talent of The Mentalist, Emmanuel Espiritu. Following the captivating opening performance by Teatro Rizal, who enthralled the audience with their original composition 'Hala Padayon,' Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan delivered her heartfelt welcome remarks. With a message of hope and inspiration, she emphasized the importance of persevering at our own pace in the journey of life.

Meanwhile, Ariane Rose Maghanoy from Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA), presented the benefits of volunteering and a range of volunteer programs and opportunities. It was followed by a compelling message concerning the current state of mental health in the Philippines by Nikki Lizarondo, Deputy Head of Communications at #MentalHealthPH.


Stories of struggles, moving forward

The narrative of volunteerism commenced with Christian Marx Rivero's “Kwento ng I am MAD,” wherein he recounted the organization's humble origins and the individuals who have propelled it with resilience, empowerment, and inspiration over the years.

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Global Youth Leader and ASEAN Youth Advocates Network founder Emmanuel Mirus Ponon, shared his story of 'Nagmahal,' centering on his profound love for the country that started during his involvement in the church.

Conversely, children with autism advocate and creative lead of MAD Talks Padayon, Lyman Hansel Gerona, narrated his deeply moving journey on finding himself through pain in the 'Nasaktan' segment while BiDA para sa Dumagat lead convenor, Mayo Ceazar Mendoza, revisited his 'Nagvolunteer' quest on discovering his true north for community service.

Before each sharing session began, Teatro Rizal treated the audience to a range of performances, featuring the skit ‘Sa Registration Booth, Palista’ written and directed by Ejay Villafania, the evocative spoken poetry with an ensemble ‘Bisita sa Kalaliman ng Gabi’ by Armando Mansilungan and a compelling digital art story titled ‘Draw My Life’ created by Mary Ann Rosario.

After a short break, participants engaged in a lively "MAD Talk Padayon, Tumindig Ngayon" last-person-standing game, with five fortunate winners receiving prizes courtesy of Power Mac Center. The forum then resumed with Youth Mental Health coach and co-founder of Happy Hearts Initiative and Introspect PH, Ymari Kristia Pascua, highlighting the importance of open dialogues on mental health issues and the role of a strong support system through her sharing in "Kwento ng Padayon."


Bringing families closer 

Concluding the inspiring narrative segments, Ravanzo presented his talk on “Kwento ng Bawat Volunteer” which culminated in a heartwarming surprise for MAD Talks Padayon project lead, Edwin Basa. It was an unexpected and emotional moment when his mother, whom he believed could not attend, made a surprise appearance at the event.

"Despite MAD Talks Padayon being not a regular event, our aspiration is to have touched and inspired individuals who will, in turn, propagate the message of hope to others, starting with our own families," remarked Basa.

For their closing performance, Teatro Rizal showcased a melodious finale, a Ruiz and Llano's Quest theatrical medley. The event concluded with recognition and photo opportunities for the speakers and performers, followed by a community singing session, accompanied by a same-day edit video.

MAD Talks Padayon was hosted by Mister Grand Philippines 2023 candidate Jesus Guinto aka Jesse G and I am MAD’s lead writer and resident podcaster Jake Villanueva (Catriona J of La Union) together with The Js of I am MAD — Minette Geñorga (Minette J-Park of Albay), Kaye Maguddayao (KJ of Laguna), and Jonald Fabia (DJ Jo of Pangasinan).

The event was made possible through the help of its partners including CID Communication, #MentalHealthPH, Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency and Youth Organization Registration Program of NYC (YORP), together with its sponsors CEMEX, Creative Adobo, Ginhawa Red-G, Motivo Philippines,  Photo x Media, Power Mac Center, Print & Mount, and RiteMed.

The organizers of MAD Talks Padayon have introduced a digital opinion board. If you were fortunate enough to be part of this remarkable gathering, visit bit.ly/MTPadayonWall to write your feedback. For updates, partnerships, and volunteer opportunities, follow and message I am MAD on Facebook (fb.com/IamMakingADifference) or send an email to [email protected].


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