What is Project B.O.N.G.?

And why it should not be associated with Bong Go, Bong Revilla or any famous Bong for that matter.

Filipinos have a penchant for creating acronyms out of the most disparate words. So it did not come as a surprise to me that the “BONG” in Project B.O.N.G. actually meant something more than its literal meanings and close associations.

B.O.N.G is an acronym for “Bringing Order to the Nemesis of Gangs” which sounds like an installment of a trilogy of young adult novels set in a not-so-distant dystopian future. I give credit to our local police force for coming up with another creative title alongside “Oplan Tokhang” which is a portmanteau of ‘tuktok’ (knock) and ‘hangyo’ (to plead/to persuade). But unlike ‘Oplan Tokhang” which has left around 4,000 to 20,000 dead, including innocent children and drug suspects alike, Project B.O.N.G. is an intervention program targeting children at risk so that, with the grace of our dear Lord, they do not add up to the statistics.

What it is like working with Project B.O.N.G. and children at risk

I set out to write a laid-back feature on my experiences of working with Project B.O.N.G. not expecting that it will digress into a rhetoric so I return to my original intention.

Instead, I will focus on the transformative power of art and relate how art can be a refuge for troubled teens and how we can share our experiences with others.

The members of Project B.O.N.G. are mostly adolescent boys from the many gangs of the seven districts of Iloilo City. On regular days, most of these kids would be involved in high jinx, hooliganism, and vandalism among other dangerous habits. One boy was imprisoned for allegedly stabbing a member of a rival gang. Others were charged with petty theft and violation of curfew for minors. They were a rambunctious, motley crew of young boys with overflowing energy and motivation. When left unacknowledged and misled, this excess energy could be channeled in the wrong direction. And Project B.O.N.G., with its creative programs and initiatives, might just help them enhance their psycho-social wellbeing.

Presented with the prospect of creating a collaborative mural, the boys set out to outdo the other groups, by expressing themselves through creative means. In our first meeting, they sat around in a circle to discuss their plan, producing sketches, discussing color schemes, introducing the concept and weaving personal narratives into a visual story, albeit amateurish at best. Regardless of their efforts, these activities were a far cry from their days of mischief and delinquency.

This project was a novel and a noble undertaking. For once, different sectors of the community came together to produce a commendable result. The local police force, with their authority, assembled the most vulnerable children. Paints and materials from private companies were coursed through the local government unit. Volunteers poured in from various directions; from a club of esteemed women, online support groups, graffiti artists, and total strangers.

Ultimately, local visual artists donated their precious time to provide inspiration, motivation and technical assistance. Within a month of our first meeting, they were able to produce designs for the mural and execute the plan into a painted visual narrative of their own vision. The result was nothing short of a work of an extraordinary community effort.

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