Jing Castañeda-Velasco: The heart of ABS-CBN Ball 2019 beneficiary Bantay Bata is in the lives it changed and improved

As the ABS-CBN Ball 2019 unfolds and dedicates proceeds to Bantay Bata 163’s Bantay Edukasyon program as its main beneficiary, we put the spotlight on the person currently overseeing the welfare of disadvantaged children under the care of ABS-CBN Foundation’s child rescue and rehabilitation initiative—program director Jing Castañeda-Velasco.

Many of us might have probably been wondering how, from being an omnipresent broadcast journalist and news anchor, we eventually began to see her less frequent on television in the recent years, aside from her hosting stint in the weekend medical program Salamat Dok.

What happened? She revealed it in this Entertainment.ABS-CBN.com exclusive interview, wherein she shared her transition from being one of the reputable broadcast news personalities in the Kapamilya network to becoming the head of Bantay Bata 163.

On her career as a broadcast journalist

Before sharing how her journey began and went on at Bantay Bata, Jing also took us back to her journey as a news presenter for almost two decades.

“In that 17 years, I’ve done full circle. ‘Yon namang apex of our careers is when you get to cover already political stories, when you get to cover the President, you get to go abroad and cover international events, when you already have your own program, when you anchored din, so medyo na-full circle ko na ‘yon,” she said.

It’s indeed every aspiring and budding journalist and reporter’s dream, but she asked the management to bring her back to stories, reports, and beats on family and children issues since she’s already a mom by that time. Besides, she also felt burned out of the similar faces and similar issues that she used to usually encounter, thus, she pondered on taking a U-turn.

Parang feeling ko I’d like to do naman public service in a different way. Kasi you still serve naman the public by covering political story, especially if you’re not in the payola of any politician. Public service pa rin naman ‘yon. Kaya lang parang mas gusto ko na ‘yong direct impact, lalo na kapag may pamilya ka na. So I asked to be transferred back to that beat,” she stated.

On how family and children issues are close to her heart

Being assigned to beats and being a host or anchors of programs that tackle family and youth welfare, is just one reason why Jing has a heart in that aspect, not to mention that she already has a family of her own.

But unbeknownst to us, she and her husband Emmanuel “Nonong” Velasco, have long been advocates of it.

“‘Yong children and family, those are the advocacies of my husband and myself eh off-cam. We are volunteer caretaker couple sa Gawad Kalinga in Payatas. We have a community there, ‘yong Ateneo-Gawad Kalinga Payatas community – Ateneo Alumni Association and we’re also active with the Center for Family Ministries sa Ateneo rin,” she imparted.

Then she added, “So si Nonong, my husband, he’s actually a certified counselor, but he’s a businessman. So again, ‘yon ‘yong passion nga. Ako I’m enrolled hanggang ngayon ‘di ko pa natatapos sa dami ng trabaho rito.”

Apart from these humanitarian projects, they also run a social enterprise that distributes the natural and organic produce of their farmers-cum-agri-entrepreneurs in supermarkets in Metro Manila and surrounding areas.

The beginning of her Bantay Bata journey

“Well, it’s Gina Lopez and Susan Afan, the managing director for the foundation who invited me to head Bantay Bata. I’ve been in ABS for two decades this August. I moved to Bantay Bata October of 2016 so mag-three years pa lang ako,” she enthusiastically began.

She used to only meet and talk with GL everytime she covered her and the foundation’s events during her time as a reporter. But their relationship got stronger by the time she was hired to anchor the DZMM Teleradyo program of the network’s socio-civic arm.

“When Maricel Laxa left the ABS-CBN Foundation DZMM Teleradyo program Kapamilya Konek, they were looking for a new anchor. So they offered it to me and when I accepted that, I guess that brought me closer to GL and Tita Susan. We would [also] talk about what I do off-cam,” she related.

Jing had been juggling her career as a reporter program host and being a doting matriarch to her husband and three children when a new opportunity came into her lap – the program director post under Bantay Bata.

“When sina GL offered it, by that time ano na e, Presidential elections. So nakalinya na ako to cover the Presidential elections so ayaw ako payagan ng news department. When I told Ms. Gina and Tita Susan, they agreed naman to wait for me. So sabi ko kay, Lord, Ikaw na lng ang mamili kung alin do’n sa dalawa. Any naman of those is okay. It’s really more on what you want to do in the long term,” she recounted.

Then she continued, “And then no’ng natapos na ‘yong election, and’yan pa rin si GL. Lahat naman no’ng hiningi kong sign e binigay ni Lord, and then sabi rin ng husband ko and sabi rin ni GL, ‘maybe it’s high time that your off-cam and on-cam advocacy are aligned. It’s high time na when they see you, it’s because you believe in something, you promote something, and you don’t just talk about it, but you walk the talk’.”

That’s when she accepted the position. She might bade the grueling fieldwork goodbye, but they agreed that her on-cam presence would have to continue because it adds credibility to Bantay Bata. And she’s able to attest to it as she observed how personality-oriented most Filipinos are, which made it easy for her to communicate with donors who are happy about her presence. Besides, that also helps build and fortify the trust of the people not only to you, but to the organization too.

The program director also imparted how alongside ABS-CBN’s transition to digital, Bantay Bata is also moving towards that same goal as they began to change a lot of things, move forward, and change the way things are done.

But of course, there have been a lot of challenges along the way. That’s why she’s so grateful to GL and Susan because if not for their unwavering support, she wouldn’t be very successful in the past three years she’s been in Bantay Bata.

“Humility aside, I think I’ve contributed to the good name and strong foundation na inumpisahan ni Tina Palma, ni Gina Lopez, kasi nabuksan namin ulit ‘yong Children’s Village ng Bantay Bata, medyo marami kaming funds na napasok, marami kaming on-air activations, kaya bumalik ‘yong recall ng Bantay Bata. So maraming innovations and we’re able to revitalize the Bantay Bata, we’re able to renew the ties it had with previous donors and other supporters. Of course marami pang dapat gawin, ‘di naman nagtatapos ‘yon doon. Pero malaking bagay na GL was there to support,” she conveyed.

On her relationship with Gina Lopez

From being mere colleagues in the foundation, Jing and Gina found a dependable friend with each other, who would not only be there for the fun times, but to join and lift you up from the struggles you’re in.

“In fact no’ng nasa DENR siya, she would always still consult with me kasi part ako ng media for the longest time. So magtatanong siya kung paano ba ‘yong statement, anong pwedeng gawin, basta humihingi lang siya ng advice,” she recalled.

Jing also has also considered her as an inspiration and a living instrument that God used to direct her to the right path He wanted her to be.

Kaya nga ngayon, kahit na wala siya, talagang very grateful ako kasi I really, really feel that the Lord used her and it’s not figuratively na nasasabi natin na the Lord uses things, people as instruments. Pero ito talaga literal. She was the one who picked me up from the News Department and until now the Lord continuously sends me signs every now and then ‘pag napapagod na ako [at] kapag maraming stress to confirm, to validate na “tama ‘yang desisyon mo. D’yan talaga Kita gustong ilagay.”

But apart from the late environmentalist and philanthropist, she also owes her success as Bantay Bata 163’s administrator to the equally-driven and passionate staff who’s been playing a big role in achieving the goals of the organization. This is not in terms of reaching a certain ‘quota’ since, she said, “the heart of Bantay Bata is in the number of lives it has been able to change and improve, especially when it comes to children”.

More power to you, Ms. Jing!

The 2019 ABS-CBN Ball is part of ABS-CBN’s celebration of 65 years of serving the Filipino. After last year’s affair that helped reopen the Bantay Bata 163 Children’s Village, it continues to support underprivileged children with Bantay Bata 163’s Bantay Edukasyon Scholarship Program as this year’s beneficiary.