Journey Graduates Organize Relief Efforts for Victims of Typhoon Sendong

Last December 17, 2011, Typhoon Sendong (international name: Typhoon Washi) ravaged Mindanao, particularly the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, killing over 1500 people and displacing nearly 20,000 families1. Several graduates of the Ninoy & Cory Aquino Leadership Journey program organized relief operations and fund-raising activities in response to this devastation. Here are their inspirational stories.

Batch 1 graduate Camille Aquino, University Student Government President of De La Salle University-Manila related the efforts of her school. “In times of calamity, DLSU launches its Sagip Metro Operations, which is mainly a student-led and student supported organized relief operation system.” The Sagip Metro was founded as DLSU’s response to the devastation of Typhoon Ondoy last 2009. The DLSU University Student Government (USG) heavily disseminates information, mainly via social networking sites, to the Lasallian community regarding a Call for Donations and a Call for Volunteers from the community to help in the sorting and packing of goods. “Over the duration of Ondoy, Pedring and Sendong, we have had an overwhelming support of Lasallian volunteers – students, alumni, parents and staff – who go to DLSU even if there’s no school in order to just pack, sort, and/or deploy goods,” said Aquino. “Overall, during times of calamities, Lasallians have been responding to the call of our less fortunate Filipino brothers and sisters.”

Batch 1 graduate Louie De Real, along with Jeshamar Villasis, Katrina Ongoco, and Kathleen Rodriguez of Batch 4, organized a relief drive in the University of Sto. Tomas through their school organization The Political Science Forum (TPSF). They went from one classroom to the next to collect clothes and cash donations from their fellow Thomasians. They also used social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to urge their friends to help out. “As a project of our organization’s Community Development Committee, we really do collect donations every month in the event of an emergency,” said De Real. “Our members would usually give small amounts and spare change. Even small donations, when accumulated, will be a big help to those in need. When we heard about the devastation brought about by Typhoon Sendong, we decided to donate our collection to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao.”

Together with her schoolmates, batch 2 graduate Soleil Manara of St. Scholastica’s College Manila also collected goods and cash donations for the victims of Typhoon Sendong. “At first, we were skeptical,” said Manara. “We had no experience in organizing a relief drive, and we were afraid that not a lot of people would be willing to pitch in and donate. But despite our hesitance, we decided to push through with the activity. To my surprise, the students helped out a lot.” St. Scholastica’s College turned over their collection to DLSU, who helped ship all the goods to Mindanao.

Batch 2 graduate Marlon Peralta of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, along with his fellow schoolmates from the College of Education, provided a different kind of support for the victims of Typhoon Sendong. “Our background is really education,” said Peralta. “We looked for a way to put our skills and our knowledge to use in order to help our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao.” The group provides training for volunteers who are willing to go to Mindanao on how to counsel grieving victims. They also provided school materials for students and teachers, and integrated environmental facts and information into the students’ lesson plans. On Monday, January 23, 2012, Peralta and his colleagues will hold another training seminar for grief counselling in the Benitez Hall, College of Education, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Ara Roldan and Marvin Sipin of batch 4 organized a fund-raising activity with their friends in support of those victimized by Typhoon Sendong. Roldan and Sipin, alumni of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (CSB), went around the CSB campus with 5-gallon water bottles, urging their fellow Lasallians to donate. They were also granted permission by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Ayala Malls administrators to stage a mini-concert in Glorietta last December 27-28, 2011. “We accomplished everything at the last minute,” said Sipin. “We rushed everything – from sending out proposals to malls to planning our dance and song numbers for the mini-concert. We asked our fellow CSB students to perform for free during the mini-concert. And at the end of the day, we were genuinely humbled and inspired by the people’s response. Everyone pitched in. It was really a collective effort.”

For Franz Magriña and Jerwin Borres of Batch 4, the devastation brought about by Typhoon Sendong was a lot more personal. Both Magriña and Borres hail from Cagayan de Oro. “I did not expect that such destruction took place during midnight while my family and I were peacefully sleeping,” recounted Magriña. “There was no electricity and my phone ran out of battery.  I was unaware of horrible things that were already happening.” Magriña immediately went to his school, Xavier University (XU), to help out in “Operation: Tabang Sendong”, the school’s relief operation. He and his fellow schoolmates packed and sorted relief goods such as food and water, and helped set up the XU evacuation center. “Our committee was also assigned to lead and debrief deployed volunteers to the evacuation centers, parishes and barangay halls,” said Magriña. “We also took charge in providing first aid in every deployment area.”

To aid her fellow batch mates living in Cagayan de Oro, Quimberly Villamer joined a Medical Mission in two affected communities and for the Maintenance and Personnel in her campus. “We devoted about 10 minutes to pray for the victims of Typhoon Sendong,” said Villamer. “I was amazed to see everyone eagerly praying for the victims. That moved me to do more.” Apart from the Medical Missions, Villamer independently sought donations from her own network. “In a span of 3 hours, I was able to collect enough canned goods, clothing, toiletries, shoes and bags to fill about 4 balikbayan boxes,” said Villamer. “My other batch mate, Gabriel Billones, who hails from Iligan City advised me to send the donations through ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya.” Villamer and Borres are currently in the process of planning an Ed Group which will help students rise from the tragedy through free or accessible education. “We wish to tie up with the Technical Education & Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Education (DepEd). We are really optimistic about this, especially since we are planning to tap our fellow batch mates Franz [Magriña], Ridwan [Landasan] and Gabriel [Billones] to help us form a group which will advocate Education.”



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