Advocacy runner’s next trek: PH-BrazilBy Rissa M. Camongol
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Not even a killer typhoon could hold him back.
Long-distance runner Cenen “Mac” Milan Jr. has toured the country several times by running in marathons, but he doesn’t just run.
“It has to be for something,” the Davao-based runner said. “As long as there’s a cause, I’m in.”
The idea of running for a cause was what spurred Milan in his 17-day, 1,500-kilometer trek from Davao City to Manila in December last year. It prompted him to launch a book-distribution campaign and a tree-planting program in the Davao area.
Milan was jogging in Compostela Valley when Typhoon “Pablo” struck, forcing him to stop, but only for a day. On resuming his run, he saw the massive devastation wrought by Pablo.
Now, he is aiming for a bigger dream—a longer run starting in Manila in September and ending in Brazil in July 2014 in time for international football’s World Cup.
His aim is to seek international support for 12 local foundations with various advocacies, ranging from caring for the environment to helping children afflicted with cancer.
Stressing the importance of “dreaming big,” Milan wants to share with others the message of “breaking a certain mindset”—that of limiting oneself to modest goals.
It all started for Milan when he joined “fun runs with a cause.” It made him realize that he was not only “enjoying the run [but also] helping other people.”
“I saw myself running with more passion … that I am not only running for myself but for the lives of others,” he said.
Born in Nueva Ecija, the former seminarian said his stint as a campus minister facilitating outreach programs for students of De La Salle Zobel, as well as doing volunteer work for various causes, was instrumental in his decision to run for a cause.
Soon, he set up his own group—Pray, Read, Eat, Play Foundation (PREP).
PREP’s aim, according to Milan, is “to transform the lives of every Filipino family through education and environmental livelihood programs” by working with communities, organizations and the government.
Among its goals are to support the reading programs of public schools in Mindanao, put up a mobile book library, build a school for indigenous peoples, and care for the environment by planting millions of trees nationwide over 10 years.
Following his Davao-to-Manila trek last Dec. 1-18, Milan launched a book-distribution and tree-planting campaign in Davao del Norte.
On March 20, PREP distributed reference and story books to elementary and high-school students of Sto. Tomas Central School in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte.
“No one believed me at first,” he said, recalling the reactions he got when he first pitched the idea of an advocacy run.
Milan initially received a pledge of 1,000 books from the nonprofit group Children International. He said the group was so “impressed” when he finished the run that it decided to increase its donation to 90,000 books.
For his tree-planting project, he has received pledges from individuals, private institutions and local government units.
“The trees will be planted all over Mindanao,” Milan said. “We are coordinating with schools all over the region.”
On top of that, PREP has distributed scholarships to 50 public school students. The scholars, mostly from Davao and Soccsksargen (Regions 11 and 12), will each get a P2,000 subsidy per month for the school year 2013-14.
Milan is a member of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners. His runs are documented by a support crew through photographs, social media updates and a global positioning system tracking device.
Running is not easy, he said. He has encountered many hardships but giving up was never an option.
During his Davao-Manila run, for instance, one particular stretch in Samar proved difficult. He was running for hours without seeing any living thing apart from trees. “I wanted to give up, but I went on,” he said.
Then came his encounter with Pablo.
Kindness of strangers
Milan said he could not have made it without the kindness of strangers. One thing he realized was that Filipinos were always willing to help.
“I saw their generosity,” he said. “Many of them offered us food, water, ice, a place to stay.”
Milan has finished such marathons as the 160-km Bataan Death March from Mariveles, Bataan, to Capas, Tarlac; the 200-km West Coast run from Subic to Pangasinan; a 350-km advocacy run from Davao to Cagayan de Oro; and almost all Milo marathons nationwide.
Milo, he says, has an advocacy of giving away shoes to the less fortunate.
PREP also offers running clinics in public schools for free and provides team building and leadership training services.
Sept. 7 kickoff
Now Milan is training for his Manila-to-Brazil run. He starts his day at 3 a.m. and does six hours of physical training—running 60-80 km a day and swimming twice a week. Apart from having a running mentor, he has a life coach who helps him prepare physically, mentally and spiritually.
Milan’s international run will kick off on Sept. 7 at Manila’s Rizal Park. He will run to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where he will depart for Japan for the first leg of his marathon.
Milan said he may be the first Filipino to accomplish such a feat—a cross-country trek through 161 countries in 10 months.
But he is still facing obstacles, such as lack of funds and doubts among some colleagues that he could do it, he said. He is unfazed, however. His passion to run is perhaps exceeded only by his passion to serve.
“To be able to do this, we need everyone’s support,” he said. Interested parties can contact him at 0906-2281428, prayreadeatplayinc@
yahoo.com or via PREP’s Facebook account facebook.com/prayreadeatplayinc.prep.
The groups Milan is supporting include Switch2Save, Educaid, Aral Pinoy, Wadah Foundation, Dynamic Teen Company, My Rights, Championing Children Community, Hero Foundation, Cancer Warrior Foundation, Natasha Goulbourn Foundation and PREP.