NESTOR MANIEBO PESTELOS, one of the country’s community development pioneers, wishes to retire from what he continues to do best at age 72.
This, after nearly four decades of working on projects for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in South Pacific atoll countries and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in the Philippines.
But he can’t close his eyes to the problems that Bohol province, where he rebuilt his life, faces today.
Bohol, one of the country’s premier ecotourism destinations, has been rocked by a spate of drug-related killings in recent months. It was also hit by a magnitude 7.2 quake in 2013.
Men and women, young and old alike, were shot dead in the streets of Tagbilaran City and towns in broad daylight, and the number of young people getting hooked is alarmingly growing, Pestelos said.
A drug-dependent youth disrespectfully warned his own parents he would blow their heads off if they disclosed his vice to the authorities, a priest based in Bohol said.
Pestelos, the older of two siblings, originally came from Tiaong, Quezon. After graduating from the Quezon Provincial High School, whose school paper he edited, he went to the University of the Philippines in Los Baños in 1958 to study Development Communication, but he dropped out.
In 1974 he got involved in Project Compassion, Green Revolution Program, and Environmental Center of the Philippines. His boss then was Ramon P. Binamira, father of Philippine community development.
Pestelos’s involvement in Unicef projects in the Philippines gave him opportunities to pursue his studies.
In 1981 the Unicef sent him to Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development to study Integrated Rural Development and the University of Bradford to further study a similar discipline.
When the establishment of the Ilaw International Center in Bohol was approved, the Unicef recalled him from England to become the resource center’s resident director.
Pestelos said, “At that time, the Unicef was trying to apply the basic-services strategies, which, in effect, encouraged community development globally.”
The Ilaw International Center implemented community development projects not only by the Unicef, but also by AusAID, USAID, World Bank and other foreign institutions that offer aid.
Through his scholarship sponsored by the Unicef, Pestelos obtained a Master of Management degree from the Asian Institute of Management in Makati in 1987 and a doctorate degree from the University of Bohol the following year.
From 1989 to 1994, he worked as community development specialist for the projects of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Fiji Islands and Maldives.
He was participatory development specialist for the Pacific Regional Integrated Atoll Development Project of the UNDP from 1994 to 1997, providing technical inputs for training, advocacy activities and practical approaches to participatory planning, implementation, monitoring and assessment in 10 South Pacific atoll countries and Maldives in the Indian Ocean. In 1997 he became chief technical adviser of a UNDP project in Solomon Islands.
After his retirement from the UNDP in 2002, he assumed various posts in a number of local government and non-governmental agencies. He was consultant (2002) and later head (2003) of Bohol Poverty Reduction Program.
He joined Habitat for Humanity International in 2005, assuming the post of regional manager for Southeast Asia. Two years later he was appointed director of a project funded by the UK Economic, seeking to strengthen local governance for sustainable economic growth and effective delivery of social services.
He led several recent community development projects, including construction of core houses through Bohol Local Development Foundation, which he currently presides, for the quake survivors in the province.
After building over 100 core houses, Pestelos wished to retire. But the former activist could not just ignore the growing problem of illegal drugs in Bohol. A mother was raped by her own son, who mutated into a beast by drugs. To help address the problem, he proposed with the New Day Rehabilitation Center (NDRC) in Davao to set up similar drug-recovery facility in Baclayon, a town immediately next to Tagbilaran City.
Eyeing to accommodate a total of 100 patients, 50 for drug-related cases, the other 50 for patients who need psychiatric care, the project, which may cost P40 million, will not only rehabilitate victims of drugs, but also forewarn the Boholano youth of the evil effects of drugs on the individual, family and community, which, at first try, may lead to addiction and, eventually, all sorts of drug-related violence.
Sustainable programs to educate the youth on drugs will be intensely pushed in the community level, Pestelos said.
In partnership with NDRC-Davao, BLDF, which Pestelos currently presides, will set up drop-in centers, where parents, who suspect their children are doing drugs, can seek initial assistance, in the barangays of the province.
“Since rehabilitation is expensive, which only the rich can afford, the New Day Rehabilitation Center—Bohol will cater to poor victims of drugs,” he said. The project may raise a trust fund to subsidize poor clients, Pestelos said. It may tap corporations, government agencies, local government units and other institutions.
With a population of about 1.2 million, Bohol currently has no existing rehabilitation center, he said. Victims of drugs and individuals, who need psychiatric care, are brought to Cebu, Davao, Tagaytay and Manila, which is costly to the poor.
Pestelos, an outstanding alumnus of Quezon Provincial High School, authored the Old Warrior and Other Poems launched in April 2014.
Image credits: Oliver Saamson