One good deed at a time, 75-year-old Alan McFarlane has done more than most for the people of the Puntod District of Cagayan de Oro, which is situated on the southern island of the Philippines.
McFarlane has frequently visited the less fortunate in the Philippines over the past eight years, spending approximately $1000 a year out of his own pocket on providing groceries, clothing and most recently, bowls uniforms.
With the aid of his home club St Johns Park who have helped with similar arrangements in the past, he arranged to have all the club’s old uniforms shipped over to the tiny district on the southern island, much to the local’s delight despite being foreign to the sport.
A bowler of more than 25 years in his own right and still rolling them down weekly, his ultimate goal is to establish a bowls club in the region, not deterred by the obstacles.
The accessibility and price of land is the major hurdle, with the area also prone to flooding, while the costs of building and then maintaining a club (memberships, green fees), would be major challenges for such a poor population.
Nonetheless, it’s the incredibly unique culture of the Puntod people that continue to drive McFarlane to dream bigger.
“When I first went over there about 10 years ago, I saw a little girl sitting on a concrete step and she looked not real clean and a bit thin,” he said.
“So I stopped at a chicken place down the road and I bought her four pieces of chicken.
“Well her eyes lit up like you wouldn’t believe. She picked it up, ran straight next door and shared it with the kid next door.
“I saw how poor they were and how happy and grateful they were… That’s what they do. They share everything. They don’t waste anything.”
McFarlane’s charitable deeds were surprisingly not sparked from a first-hand experience but by that of a friend, who spurred on the 75-year-old.
“A mate of mine was over there doing some flood mitigation works,” he said.
“He saw this woman who was crying and he asked her why she was crying and she didn’t have enough money for a birthday cake for her daughter. It was her 10th birthday.
“He was telling me about it so I sent over $100 so they could have a party.
“Then I went over and saw her, and the daughter wasn’t going to school because they didn’t have any money. So I said, well now you’re going to school.
“So I sent this particular girl to school and I’ve put three other kids (different families) through university so far.”
St Johns Park has been instrumental in McFarlane’s long-time dedication to the cause in the Philippines, helping most recently with the uniforms and also with books and clothes from past years.
Despite living off a modest pension, he continues to send goods over to his beloved Puntod people and will once again venture there in September.
He also involves himself in a feeding program when he goes over for 400 kids and while the area is literally starved of any major infrastructure, McFarlane will continue playing his part.
“Their houses are built out of firewood [in a flood-prone area), but they make the best of it.”
“The only thing they’ve got in Puntod is a concrete basketball court and they had a big celebration there last week because the council put a roof over it!”
(Typhoon damage to the region in 2016)
A further endorsement of McFarlane’s character came from his home club, with St Johns Park Bowls Manager Brett Murphy, who also said the club would certainly continuing helping their prized member.
“He’s great. He always offers to help out… If there’s anything to be done he’s pretty good to put his hand up,” he said.
“He’s here two to four days a week playing bowls. He’s one of the good guys.
“We would help (with the bowls club in Puntod). It’s only really scratching the surface at the moment. We haven’t got any of the logistics or costs of what it would take overseas to do it, but we’d be willing to assist with donations and gear or whatever.”
While the dream of a bowls club in Puntod and the greater Cagayan de Oro may be unreachable in the eyes of some, McFarlane continues to chip away at an idea that he hopes will one day come to fruition.
His go-getting attitude was typified in his parting words of the interview.
“I have not given up on a club in Cagayan de Oro. There are lots of hurdles to jump, they are put there only to slow you down, not to stop you.”
If you, anyone you know or your club would like to help Alan with donations and the like, you can email him at [email protected]
Featured Image – Alan with some children of the Puntod District in Cagayan de Oro (top left), the recipients of the old St Johns uniforms (bottom left) & Alan with one of the students he funded through university (right)