A beautiful partnership for 'Yolanda' victims

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I AM writing this article to share the beautiful story of collaboration between The Dream Project PH and celebrity photographer Niccolo Cosme, and how our partnership, along with other groups, is helping the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda."

We met world-renowned Filipino conceptual photographer Niccolo Cosme only last January 5 in Manila. But we have met his "dream" last year.

It was so inspiring that we e-mailed him a few questions to get to know his life story better. That was in June 2013. Since then, his bold dream has been one of our 10 inspirations behind The Dream Caravan, and his life story traveled across 1,515 kilometers with us, reached 19 municipalities and cities in Negros Occidental, visited 37 high schools and inspired more than 7,102 students.

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What defined our committed relationship with Niccolo Cosme was the seven months between June 2013 and January 2014.

While we were enabling dreams with Negrense youth, super typhoon "Yolanda" hit our province, Negros Occidental. Cadiz and Sagay cities were hit hard, and these are two of the 37 cities and municipalities which we had in our The Dream Caravan.

The call for help was deliberate that we had to challenge ourselves to raise relief goods in Manila for eight days through "Negros Needs You" campaign. And we did raise more than P2 million worth of relief goods, shipped from Manila to Bacolod, transported from Bacolod to Sagay, and motorized boat-carried from Sagay to the three island communities.

"Yolanda" was the worst time. But for community initiatives like us, it was also the best time to challenge ourselves to fight for a cause greater than one’s self. From "Negros Needs You," we saw other basic needs which were initially overlooked but creatively enabled dreams.

If it weren’t for "Yolanda," we will never know how our relief goods gave joy to the kids of Suyac Island in Sagay for their first toy trucks and dolls since the super storm.

If it weren’t for "Yolanda," we will not have known that they badly need a more concrete day center center. And because of "Yolanda," we met beautiful and heroic stories of Yolanda survivors in Suyac, Molocaboc and Matabas Islands in Sagay City.

We even met the mangroves which bled and turned the waters of Molocaboc and Suyac Islands red when they lost their bark protecting the island communities from "Yolanda’s" intense wind gusts. We met fishermen who not only saved their families and fishing boats, but their mangroves which happened to be their most-prized inheritance from their forefathers. These mangroves are the oldest in Asia, ranging from 200 to 300 years in age.

Together with Facial Care Center, Project Headshot Clinic of Niccolo Cosme, and Climate Change Commission, Earth Faces was formed.

More than just a national campaign project to uplift 100 Filipinos by sharing their personal Yolanda stories through headshots and a video, it ambitiously aims to weave together the stories of those who lived through the storm, and those who did their best to help them.

The Earth Faces Team consists of NJ Torres of Facial Care Center; Niccolo Cosme, photographer Dwight Bayona and make-up artist Kay Arias of Project Headshot Clinic; environmentalist Anna Oposa of Climate Change Commission; and videographer Antonio Dimaguila Jr. of the creative team of Mike Carandang.

For seven days, from March 2 to 8, they traveled to Tacloban (Leyte), Malapascua (Cebu), Suyac Island (Sagay City) and Coron (Palawan) to capture the photos and stories of Yolanda survivors and heroes.

For Sagay City, two families (13 members) from Barangay Bulanon, and one family (5 members) from Molocaboc Island went to Suyac Island to join the four families (13 members) there.

The century-old mangroves of Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park witnessed how Earth Faces Team took the physical challenges of heat and waters to capture the photos, stories and videos of families, and the test of resourcefulness on how to print and frame photos in an island where electricity is still dependent on borrowed generators and crude oil.

After a day’s work in Suyac Island, Earth Faces Team felt extraordinarily blessed to bring with them to Manila untold but inspiring stories of unsung Yolanda survivors and heroes.

But it was not only Earth Faces Team who was blessed extraordinarily. Like them, the Yolanda survivors and heroes also took home with them an eternal gift of dreams and happiness.

Because in island-communities outside Old Sagay Proper, there are families who never had a family portrait hanging in their homes, before and after Yolanda broke their homes, boats and dreams.

More than the many firsts – to be made up, photographed, interviewed, hugged and loved – they brought home with them their first-ever family portrait that now lights their simple homes that will constantly remind them that a family who fought together a "Yolanda" stays and dreams together. (Prim Paypon -- Founder, The Dream Project PH)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 11, 2014.

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