WHEN typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas and Palawan a year ago, altruism became a trait shared by many.
That helps explain why Gawad Kalinga (GK) got a million volunteers who repaired and rebuilt houses and classrooms, and distributed relief goods to the thousands of Filipinos who survived the super typhoon.
Some 36,000 volunteers helped GK build houses, refurbish classrooms, conduct medical missions, plant mangroves and clean coastal areas in northern Cebu during the Bayani Challenge.
The volunteers got the chance to be heroes for 60 days in areas that Yolanda had ravaged.
GK volunteers repaired 211 classrooms in 32 barangays in 11 local government units in northern Cebu. They also planted 120,000 mangrove propagules, repaired 10 fishing boats, conducted livelihood training to 50 locals and trained 40 day care teachers.
Their efforts were replicated in various scales in Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Capiz, Eastern Samar, Iloilo, Leyte, Palawan, Negros Oriental and Zamboanga.
Antonio “Toby” Florendo, GK Cebu head, said the group aims to hold another Bayani Challenge next year with a more ambitious goal: tapping volunteers and helping those in need in 25,000 barangays all over the country.
“For me, volunteerism is not just helping out, it’s about nation-building,” Florendo said.
Apart from labor, private corporations and foundations also poured in resources to get damaged schools functional again.
The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. and its partners aim to rehabilitate 300 classrooms every year in the next three years all over Cebu, said Anton Dignadice, Rafi education development unit executive director.
Rafi turned over 212 classrooms—50 were repaired, 162 were newly built—in Daanbantayan, and in the island towns of Madridejos, Bantayan and Sta. Fe. It also built eight new day care centers and repaired 12 such facilities for pre-school children.
The target for the next three years falls under Rafi’s School Rehabilitation Project.
“RAFI’s aim is (to reduce to zero the number of) dilapidated classrooms, which is a common problem for public schools in Cebu and to provide school children with a
conducive learning environment,” said Dignadice.
Bantayan Mayor Ian Christopher Escario said he was thankful for the non-government organizations that have been helping rebuild the town’s classrooms.
In Madridejos, a total of 173 classrooms were destroyed or damaged. At least 42 have been either repaired or newly constructed, along with three day care centers, courtesy of RAFI.
Such repairs were crucial because Madridejos also relies on these schools as their evacuation centers during calamities.
Aside from RAFI, Madridejos also acknowledged the help the town received from Marlou Navigation (sponsored the completion of three classrooms in Madridejos Central Elementary School or MCES); Amosup (built three classrooms in MCES); Caritas (constructed 14 classrooms in Malbago Elementary School); and Vision Help International (completed five classrooms in Madridejos Community College).
The rest of the classrooms in the two towns still await rehabilitation funds from the National Government.
While some heroes have huge resources, like actress Sharon Cuneta and corporations that poured in donations for rehabilitation and recovery projects for Yolanda survivors, some lent a helping hand even when they had little to spare.
James Philip “JP Lakwatsera” Lao’s family lost their home when Yolanda made landfall in Bantayan Island. The Laos had a house near the Sta. Fe port.
Lao, an anchor for Radio 5 Cebu, said he rushed to Bantayan when he learned that his hometown was in Yolanda’s path. But he was stuck in Hagnaya Port for a day because all boat trips were canceled.
When he finally arrived in Sta. Fe, his mother and siblings were among those without a roof above their heads. The Laos were taken in by a relative.
Lao said that he promised to help others if his family gets through the storm unscathed. After making sure that his mother and siblings were all right, he volunteered to help in relief assistance.
As a correspondent for TV5 Cebu, he was able to facilitate donations for Yolanda survivors in Bantayan Island. He also served as a bridge between donors and survivors.
Among the donors he assisted was the Investment and Capital Corporation of the Philippines, which conducted relief operations in Hilantagaan Island in Sta. Fe. In Hilantagaan, Lao helped repair classrooms of the elementary school.
“Moreklamo gyud si Mama kay nganung naniguro ko’g tabang sa ubang tawo kaysa akong pamilya (My mother sometimes complained that I put others before my family’s needs),”he said.
But Lao said nothing is as fulfilling as helping others. Nakarealize ko nga bisag tabangonon mi, naa’y mga tawo nga naglisud pa kaysa namo (I realized that although my family needed help, there were others in more dire situations),” he added.