(Note: Pilipino Star Ngayon’s Bituin Ng Pag-Asa series celebrates viral stories of hope and inspiration this 2020.)
This 59-year-old vlogger has been dubbed “Pinoy Santa on bike” by netizens inspired by his gift-giving for street children as he pedals around Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Joselito “Tatay Joey” Belo — or Bike Camper JBelo on Facebook and YouTube — has been vlogging on his makeshift camper bike made of recycled scrap and junk materials.
But there’s more to his unique ride than meets the eye. It carries toys he gives away to kids he encounters along the way.
It all started in July when he would document his bike trips using the GoPro8 camera given by his daughter. A few weeks into his newfound hobby of vlogging, one sight became harder to ignore.
“Nung una puro travel lang ang aking vlog, pero madalas ko makita ang mga bata sa kalsada, ‘yung mga walang gamit, naglalaro lang ng mga bato o tsinelas,” he told The STAR.
Tatay Joey admitted he couldn’t afford to give money or food but he had second-hand toys accumulated through the years because of his interest in recycled art. He thought, why not give them away?
He said: “Wala akong pera, di ako makapagbigay ng pagkain. Ang naisipin ko lang po ay toys. Marami po akong toys, may kabataan dito na nakikipag-trade sa akin ng toys, then nag multiply na ng multiply, nailagay ko na sa sako. Hinuhugasan ko, nililinis ko, sinasabon ko po. Yun po yung dini-distribute ko sa labas.”
Tatay Joey used to be a “stowaway” so he knows how these children feel. “Alam ko yung pakiramdam nila na bigyan mo lang konti, isang laruan lang nga eh, naku matutuwa na ang mga yan. Parang therapy na rin sa kanila yun, especially sa panahon ng pandemic.”
In September, an events photographer and social media manager chanced upon the biker-vlogger and decided to share his story online.
Joseph Eliseo recalled to STAR’s Latestchika.com: “Pauwi ako nun from an event dahil photographer ako. Habang naglalakad ako pauwi, I saw him nagbibigay ng flyers. Nagulat ako kasi nagpapa-subscribe siya ng YouTube channel niya, which is very unusual para sa edad niya. Tapos ayun nagkwentuhan kami ganyan.”
Joseph then learned that Tatay Joey wasn’t just any YouTuber with a bike camper. He was also using his trips to hand out toys to street kids. But he was hoping to increase his subscriber count and monetize his account so that he could give more.
“Parang wala pa daw joy yung mga kids nung mga panahon na ‘yun. Yun yung purpose niya eh. Sabi niya, ‘Wag mo ko bigyan ng kahit ano, basta mag-subscribe ka lang dun sa channel ko,’ which I found na sobrang genuine. So, I thought na bakit hindi ko i-post yung story niya.”
As expected, there were those who raised doubt whether Tatay Belo was “legit”. More, however, were touched by the post — including celebs like Gabbi Garcia — that it went viral in just two hours! As of writing, it has over 94K reactions, 90K shares and 7K comments.
Immediately after the post became a hit online, Tatay Joey shared that random people would request for pictures and offer assistance. “May nagbigay sa akin na tricycle driver ng meryenda. Meron din mga cyclist, ini-invite pa ako na ‘dun na matulog sa bahay nila.”
Various media organizations have and continue to pick up his story.
And from around 300 people at the time of Joseph’s post, the number of Tatay Joey’s subscribers leaped to over 260,000 to date!
Joseph, who has stayed in touch with Joey and his family, said that nowadays, the “Santa on bike” has found kind-hearted individuals supporting his cause.
“Lalo ngayong Christmas season, nakita ko yung page niya, ang daming nagdo-donate sa kanya ng toys. Hindi lang toys. Mga pang hygiene kits for kids. Mga snacks for kids, mga food. Yun yung pinaka-okay na change na nakita ko. Hindi niya na kailangang masyadong… Kasi with his age, syempre medyo (delikado) din. Syempre ngayon, (may) COVID-19.”
Established YouTubers also helped the newbie vlogger and his children to improve and edit his content.
Tatay Joey himself has had expressed his gratitude to Joseph for having found value in what he’s doing. Imagine if he didn’t post about it.
But Joseph reflected, “Parang iniisip ko lang na lahat ng glory hindi tungkol sa ‘kin kundi tungkol sa Lord naman lagi. ‘Yun ‘yung natutunan ko rin kasi sa church eh. Parang life is never about you. It’s all about adding value to someone else’s life and it’s all about Him. Walang credit saken.”
One thing is for sure, his viral post taught him about how social media can be used as a tool to inspire and vice-versa, and how anybody can be a “Santa” in his own little way.
“Ang pagtulong wala sa edad ‘yan. Mapabata ka, mapamatanda ka, gagawa at gagawa ka ng paraan para makatulong. You can be a blessing in your own way, yun ang pinaka-takeaway ko,” Joseph said.
Meanwhile, Tatay Joey has continued vlogging and gift-giving. Thanks to some donors and sponsors, he’s been able to give brand-new toys, food and even face masks. He is barely seen in his videos but the look on the children’s faces will also bring a smile on your face.
“Continue ko lang po tung naumpisahan ko hanggang kaya ko po. Hanggang kaya ko po, magba-vlog ako, giving away toys sa mga homeless kids. Yung mga homeless kids kahit di bago ang toys, kahit second-hand ma-appreciate nila. Yun lang ang goal ko to make them happy sa panahon ng pandemic,” he said.
And his message to his subscribers? “Salamat ng marami sa inyo. Huwag nyo akong iwan sa laban na ito! Para sa overstaying kids on the streets!”
Watch the inspiring #BituinNgPagasa video below: