GSP - Then
It took one courageous woman, the suffragist Josefa Llanes Escoda to form and lead the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) Movement after coming from the United States of America to take up basic scouting lessons in 1939. Another woman leader, Pilar Hidalgo Lim, then national president of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, joined hand in hand with Escoda and led the way in further developing the Movement
On May 26, 1940, the GSP was chartered under Commonwealth Act No. 542 during the administration of President Manuel L. Quezon.
The GSP was not even two years old when World War II broke out. It had to stop its formal operations, but vowed to continue its service to a nation in travail.
Helena Z Benitez, Chairman of the first GSP Central Committee, recalled the war years: “As Chairman of the emergency Volunteers Social Aid Committee (VSAC), together with some GSP Central Committee members, the Chaplains/Aides and Junior League Presidents, we worked closely with Tony and Josefa in the grim and critical mission of bringing succor and relief to Death March prisoners in San Fernando and Capas. This brief episode in the life of the GSP Founder must not be overlooked nor left untold.” The wartime services rendered by women leaders and volunteers under Mrs. Escoda included conveying the messages of families to the war prisoners; compilation of names and addresses of Filipino prisoners-of-war who were confined at Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac; collection of foodstuff, medicines, used clothing, old leather shoes and even coconut shells for plates; housing and feeding the stranded students in Manila, and later, as the situation got worse in the city, Josefa and her formidable teams of volunteers came up with community kitchens in different districts, serving rice and mongo and other cooked foods to the poor, hungry and jobless residents of Manila.
Eventually, the heroic underground work of Mrs. Escoda angered the Japanese Kempetai Military Police. She was arrested together with her husband and both of them were thrown into the dreaded dungeons of Fort Santiago, the infamous prison during the Japanese occupation.
In 1946, the GSP was admitted as a tenderfoot member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). It was given the status of full membership in 1948.
The GSP has the distinction and privilege of hosting various international gatherings among which were the Regional Centenary World Camp in 1957, the Asian Trainers Conference in 1961, the International Heritage Camp in 1966, and the WAGGGS–sponsored Public Relations – Finance Seminar in 1971 which was participated in by 13 nations, and the 31st World Conference of WAGGGS in 2002. In turn, the GSP has also been represented at all World Conferences of the World Association, various world training conferences, international camps and girl-level gatherings, among others.
In 1965, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Movement in the country, special events and service projects were calendared year round. The World Chief Guide, Lady Olave Baden Powell, took the salute of more than five thousand Girl Scouts at the “Pasasalamat” held at the Luneta Park, a fitting close to the year-long celebration. The GSP was presented the Walter Donald Ross Trophy Award in 1965 for the outstanding service project rendered to the children of evacuees who were victims of the eruption of Taal Volcano.
After several years of study, evaluation and research, the program of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines was revised in 1968. The revision was approved at the 11th National Convention. Full implementation of the revised program ensued. It was called the Nine Program Emphases (9E).
On June 2, 1975, Presidential Decree 720 was signed, authorizing the restructuring of the GSP. On March 17, 1976, the new GSP Constitution and By-Laws were ratified and confirmed.
In 1990, GSP celebrated its 50th year. Girl Scouts all over the country centered their activities, services, and projects on the Golden Opportunities along six concerns, namely: Environment, Economic Self-Sufficiency, Family Life, Our Heritage, Preparedness and International Understanding.
In the same year, Teresita Bermudez Choa was elected member of the WAGGGS World Committee – a “first” for a Filipino. Another “first” in July 1993 was the appointment of Dr. Amelita Dayrit-Go as Chairman of the Asia Pacific Committee of the WAGGGS.
In 1990, a Task Force composed of experienced Girl Scouts, trainers, leaders, professional staff and consultants started to work on a new program called the EIGHT-POINT CHALLENGE which would help the Filipino girls and young women cope with the changes that surround her in this age of technology.
While the basic cherished values contained in the Promise and Law make the foundation for this Eight-Point Challenge, activities in the new program equip the girls with updated knowledge and skills they need to make the difference in the home, country and the world community.
In 1991, the 16th National Council Convention approved the concept of the revised program. After the approval of the concept, the Task Force fleshed out the concept and their output was pilot-tested in 1992. The new program was launched for full implementation in September 1993 at the Concepcion R. Gonzalez National Program and Training Center in Novaliches, Quezon City.
During the 29th World Conference of the WAGGGS in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1996, Mrs. Choa was elected as Vice-Chair of the World Board (formerly World Committee) and Dr. Go was re-appointed Chair of the Asia Pacific Committee of the WAGGGS.
Dr. Go was elected to the World Board in 1999 and in 2002, was elected 2nd Vice-Chairman of the World Board during the 31st World Conference held in Manila.
In 2001, Dr. Cristina Lim Yuson was elected member of the Asia Pacific Committee and was subsequently elected Chairman in 2004.
At the Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Hongkong in May 2004, two members of the GSP Central Board received recognition. Dr. Kathryn Uy Roa, received the Young Woman of the Region Award and Dr. Estefania Aldaba Lim, the Woman of Outstanding Achievement Award.
Dr. Febe Marl Paat, a distinguished GSP volunteer, was elected as member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) Asia Pacific (AP) Committee for two terms from 2007 to 2013.
Beginning 2009, the GSP aligned its programs with the Global Action Theme of the WAGGGS, an educational program focusing on the Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The GSP is vigilantly working with local and international women organizations to ensure that girl-child and girl-youth issues are raised and addressed.
The GSP also supports the call of the United Nations to place women and girls at the center of the global struggle in the achievement of the MDGs, emphasizing that only with the liberation of girls and women from poverty and injustice would the goals for peace, security, and sustainable development will be achieved.
Atty. Katheri Ann Charcos-Puyo, a former member of Program Committee, became an accredited facilitator of the WAGGGS Leadership Development Program (WLDP). Through GSP and as a lawyer, she worked on Millennium Development Goal 3: empowering women and gender equality, which involves ending violence against women, promoting leadership, and educating girls on female health. She has conducted sessions at the four World Centers of WAGGGS, and at the Young Women’s World Fora in the United Kingdom and in India.
In 2010, she was invited to speak before the Olave Baden Powell Society by its patron, Princess Benedikte, and the esteemed members of the society, during their annual gathering in Bath, United Kingdom. From 2011 to 2012, she became the Development Executive of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) Asia Pacific Region.
The GSP recently launched the STOP THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN CAMPAIGN, and is actively pursuing partnerships with public and private entities toward the achievement of a safe environment for girls worldwide. In 2012, Michelle Alvarez, a young and active volunteer, was appointed by WAGGGS as International Day of the Girl Ambassador for Asia Pacific Region.
In July 2013, Judge Marybelle Mariñas, former Legal Committee Chairperson and GSP Central Board Member, was elected by delegates to the 11th Asia Pacific Conference in Japan to be one of the members of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) Asia Pacific Regional Committee for 2013-2016.
Through the years, the GSP continues to pursue vigorously its character building and youth development programs and is actively contributing to the economic thrust of the country as part of the Movement’s commitment to nation-building.