They were surrounded by swimming pools, stunning views of the ocean and of the Laguna bay, classy restaurants, and lavish accommodations. But the students were at Thunderbird Resorts for a different purpose: to write essays on the environment to win P100,000 pesos and P50,000 for their schools.
WHAT TO WRITE? La Union finalists write the essays that they hope would win them the P100,000 cash prize.
Last March 26, 50 third- and fourth-year high school students participated in the first ever Thunderbird Resorts Efforts on Environment Sustainability (TREES) On-the-Spot Essay Writing Contest. The contest was held simultaneously in Thunderbird Resorts in Binangonan, Rizal and in Poro Point, La Union.
After listening to lectures given by environment experts from Haribon Foundation, Earth Day Network, and ABS-CBN Foundation – Bantay Kalikasan, students were given two hours to write an essay on what they’ve learned that day, on how they will share their learnings with their fellow youth, and on the steps they will to help save the environment.
The finalists wrote furiously. Most didn’t eat their lunch until they had finished penning the essay they hope would win them the prize.
In the end, Exelle Anne Garrido, a senior from St. Rose of Lima Montessori School, and Jason Madrid, a junior from St. Louis College High School, bagged the grand prizes for Rizal and La Union, respectively. Both ran and hugged their teacher coaches upon hearing their names, and were teary-eyed as they received their mock checks onstage.
Rizal winner of the TREES On-the-Spot Essay Writing Contest Exelle Anne Garrido (3rd from left) from St. Rose of Lima Montessori School receives her P100,000 check. In the photo (L-R): Voltaire Alferez of Earth Day Network Philippines, teacher coach Lani Gamboa, Exelle, Angel Sueiro of Thunderbird Resorts, Rizal Schools Division Superintendent Aurea Sto. Domingo, Darryn Santiago of ABS-CBN Foundation Bantay Kalikasan,
Khrysta Rara of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication,
and Jenny Sumulong-Ledonio of the Rizal Tourism Office.
La Union winner Jason Madrid of St. Louis College High School (4th from left) receives his P100,000 check. In the photo (L-R): Christine Cenal of the Haribon Foundation, Mary Jane Ortega of CITYNET, Mike Walker of Thunderbird Resorts, Jason, teacher coach Jane Espiritu, Damian Ball of Thunderbird Resorts, Niña Terol-Zialcita of Writer's Block Philippines, and project head Jocelyn Henares.
The other finalists, though deflated, didn’t go home empty-handed: they received P5,000 while their schools were given P10,000 each.
This contest marked the culmination of the provincial essay writing contest that Thunderbird Resorts spearheaded with the help of the Department of Education Center for Student and Co-Curricular Affairs (DepED CSCA).
On-the-Spot Writing Contest
Prior to the contest, DepED CSCA required third and fourth year Rizal and La Union high school students to write an essay on the theme “My Community and the Environment”. Schools then selected one student to be their representative. From the representatives, organizers selected 25 finalists each from Rizal and La Union to participate in the on-the-spot writing contest.
Representatives from the environment and public sector, as well as writing experts, gave lectures and judged the students’ entries. For Rizal, speakers and judges were Thunderbird Resorts vice president for design and construction Angel Sueiro, Earth Day Network executive director Voltaire Alferez, ABS-CBN Foundation - Bantay Kalikasan senior mobilization officer Darryn Castillo, professor Maria Cristina Rara from the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, and Rizal provincial tourism officer Generosa Sumulong-Ledonio. Also present were Thunderbird Resorts food and beverage manager Jean Paul Capitaine and former Binangonan mayor Russell Ynares, who gave a message in behalf of Gov. Jun Ynares.
In Poro Point, speakers and judges were CITYNET Secretary General and former San Fernando mayor Mary Jane Ortega, Haribon Foundation head of corporate partnership division Christine Cenal, and Niña Terol-Zialcita of Writer’s Block Philippines. Thunderbird Resorts gaming manager Mike Walker delivered the closing remarks.
TREES, which stands for Thunderbird Resorts Efforts on Environment Sustainability, encompasses the company’s global efforts to promote and use green technologies, minimize the ecological impact of its properties on the environment, and foster community relationships through employee volunteer programs and medical missions.
“We organized this contest to increase awareness of the environmental problems we face today, and to highlight the role of local communities in creating and implementing environmental initiatives,” said Damian Ball, hotel general manager of the Thunderbird Resorts – Poro Point. “Most of all, we wanted to spark a partnership with the youth, who are strong, dynamic excitement-seekers [and] agents of change. We see our company in them.”
In his closing remarks, Thunderbird Resorts vice president Angel Sueiro reminded students to be disciplined and to always do the right thing. “Discipline involves thousands of hours of hard work, betting on the long term instead of the short term, failures, trying again, and faith. But there are no shortcuts in life. Choose to do something that you can contribute to the world. Choose the right thing, and then be disciplined enough to excel in that.”
TREES On-the-Spot Essay Writing Contest finalists and their teacher coaches pose with the judges at the Thunderbird Resorts Event Center in Rizal.
TREES On-the-Spot Essay Writing Contest finalists and their teacher coaches pose with the judges at Thunderbird Resorts - Poro Point.