5th Anniversary Special
By Marivir R. Montebon
I call her my twin, Merly Christina Barrete-Barlaan, the Filipino woman who struts the east and west of the world where she both rightfully belongs. Twin Merly was the first main feature in when OSM! was delivered in the digital world five years ago. Having the vision to do ground work for the advancement of women and children, she flew back to the Philippines to do just that.
But to rewind, and for the record, we did enjoy selling fashion jewelry and clothing in the Big Apple to raise funds to build a children’s library and school in her hometown in Montesunting in Bohol.
Five years later, Merly is seeing the fruits of her labor thriving, both economically and spiritually.
She returns to the US every year, and we keep each other posted of our lives, usually in our favorite thrift shop in Elizabeth. And as we are both so adept at multi-tasking, we discuss about world politics, family, and our entrepreneurial endeavors, while minding the things to shop as well.
Here is my twin Merly, five years after she went home to the Philippines to make a difference.
New York City – The newest feather on the cap of woman leader Merly Barrete Barlaan is her election as Quezon City Women Sector Representative to the Council of Sectoral Representatives of the QC Development Council. This is taking her advocacy for women and youth development to the political structure of governance.
She was the Lead Convenor of the Quezon City 2017 Women’s Leaders Summit which represented 1,300 civil society organizations of Quezon City.
In the US where she worked for 21 years, Barlaan played an active role in the United Nations not-for-profit community, working as assistant administrator of the Women’s Federation for World Peace’s UN Liaison office in New York.
She has a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Bohol, and a Certification in Philanthropy and Fundraising from New York University, New York. She is currently working on her Certification at the World Coach Institute – Florida to be a certified “Youth, Parents, and Family Coach”.
Barlaan is a founding officer of the Filipino International Community of America (FICA) which is based in New Jersey.
Believing in a bottom-up development for her home country, Barlaan decided on a journey to back home in 2012 to help uplift the status of women and families, with her four small children in tow.
In these past four years, Barlaan witnessed first-hand the breakdown of families as a result of out-migration, systemic corruption, and sub-standard education in the marginalized remote villages, particularly in her own home province.
Not to be cowed by the systemic problems, she created several organizations that helped women help themselves and their families. In the span of five years, Barlaan developed three landmark programs.
In June 2014, the Mothers’ Hearts Network (MHN) was organized as a grassroots-based project, designed as national campaign to provide vision, educate, inspire, and empower women to exercise their role nation-builders by creating a community of peace-makers, using a feminine and holistic, soft power leadership paradigm to end all forms of corruption and promote social development.
About 13,000 women leaders from 21 countries gathered to launch MHN’s national campaign on the theme “Mothers Leading the Way in Raising Patriots for the Nation” at the Cuneta Astrodome.
She also organized the “Patriots of the Nation Scholarship Program” – a holistic leadership training program for the youth stressing on the values of love, piety, and patriotism in its projects.
Finally, there is that “Peace Village Movement” which is a family-centered, community-driven development program based on organizational principles of interdependence and mutual prosperity.
In select villages of Quezon City, Bohol, Isabela, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, these programs help create healthy families by providing mentoring, skills training, small-scale family-based livelihood, responsible environmental management, beautification and promotion of green tourism industry.
“Eventually we are raising the standard of living and quality of life by empowering each family to become prosperous and dynamic, peace-loving global citizens, transcending poverty,” she said.