Erwin Dolera, one of the three boys that then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presented to the public during her first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2001, passed away this morning. He was 24.
According to a report by DZMM’s Dennis Datu, Dolera died of complications from pneumonia. He has been confined to a hospital in Manila for the last two weeks.
Dolera, together with Jason Vann Banogan and Jomar Pabalan, used to live at the Payatas dump site in Quezon City but was forced to leave the place after the 2000 tragedy. The local media gave them the moniker “Bangkang Papel” boys because they attempted to send letters to Arroyo via Pasig River, hoping that those will reach Malacanang.
It was later clarified by the President herself that she reached out to the boys’ families after she read about the letters through news reports. One article at that time described Dolera, Banogan, and Pabalan as the “new faces of poverty in the country.”
The media occasionally checked on the boys’ plight as Arroyo’s term of office came to a close. Newsbreak Magazine, for example, reported in 2009 that the government’s livelihood and educational assistance for their families continued years after they receded from the spotlight.
Dolera took up Mass Communication at the Trinity University of Asia, where he graduated in 2012. He went on to work for the television network TV5.