An Appeal For The Students of SFCS

Mostly Warays, the natives of Eastern Visayas are accustomed to the harshness of the weather but early morning on the 8th of November (2013), they were not prepared for the devastation that was about to come. Internationally named Haiyan, Yolanda was the worst typhoon most people have seen in their lifetime: lives were lost, properties destroyed, hope nearly crushed and dreams almost shattered. The first few days after Yolanda’s landfall were the hardest. The typhoon survivors felt isolated with no electricity and phone signal, food and water almost gone. Surrounded with mountains of garbage and corpses on the streets, most Warays felt as powerless as the remnants of their homes crushed to the ground by the strong winds. But as they say, no adversity can ever defeat the Filipino spirit. Filipinos worked together to help the survivors, not just in Eastern Visayas but other places as well that Yolanda has wrecked. The Bayanihan spirit once again came alive. Donations came pouring in. The spirit of volunteerism was overwhelming. Also, international aid was significant and greatly helped the survivors. Everyone pitched in. Though a lot of political bickering ensued, in the end, the Warays came through.

Life still has not gone back to normal but slowly, the Warays are trying to recover and rebuild their lives. Students returned to school as early as December. Small businesses are trying to get back on their feet. Electricity has been restored. Cellphone signal is back although land lines are still dead. Those who became homeless are now staying in bunk houses, while others are still seeking shelters at some schools. One of these schools is San Fernando Central School (SFCS) in Tacloban City. This public school is situated at the corner of Real Street and Lukban Street, approximately 100 meters away from the shore. SFCS was one of the many schools in Tacloban that sustained heavy damage with 14 classrooms that collapsed and more than a thousand students displaced. After Yolanda, the classrooms that withtood the typhoon became evacuation centers. Until now, some rooms are still used by homeless survivors.

Mr. Ted Failon Image source: Ms. Imelda Gayas

Mr. Ted Failon

My cousin, Imelda Gayas, is SFCS’s school principal. After Yolanda, I was amazed at how she got right back to attending to her duties in school despite what her family went through. Her duties as a leader and an educator came on top of her priorities. Fortunately for SFCS, help came pouring in. Ted Failon, a popular news anchor and a proud Waray, visited the school and with the aid of ABS-CBN helped the rebuilding of some classrooms. They also provided chairs and school supplies for the students. Also worth mentioning is the Adopt A Child program of DepEd that ensures each child is provided with his or her daily needs and can attend school regularly.

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Almost a month ago, Ate Melda (as I fondly call her) and I were catching up on Facebook and I asked how her school is coping after the tragedy. They seem to be on track to recovery and she is grateful for everyone who has and is helping SFCS. She mentioned though that some of their newly built classrooms are still empty because most of their chairs were swept away by the storm surge. The school is asking donations so that the students would not be sitting on cold concrete when school starts again in June. Hence, I am posting this to appeal to generous individuals who may be willing to help SFCS students. These children, early on in life, went through a horrifying experience but slowly, they are trying to rebuild their lives. They realize the value of getting an education and they are desperately holding on to their dream even if Yolanda threatened to take it away from them. Let’s help them hold on to their dream.

Ms. Gayas overseeing the distribution of relief goods at SFCS

Ms. Gayas overseeing the distribution of relief goods at SFCS

Your donation will be used to buy plastic chairs. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. For those willing to donate, you may contact me at:
mobile: +63906-487-3234
email: 7pmtrain@gmail.com
facebook: facebook.com/jobetisonthetrain
Twitter: twitter.com/trainrides

You may also contact Imelda Gayas at:
mobile: +63915-417-8527 and +6349-172-5424
email: melda_gayas@yahoo.com
sanfernandocentralschool_tac@yahoo.com
facebook: facebook.com/imelda.gayas
facebook.com/sfcstacloban

In behalf of Ate Melda and the San Fernando Central School, damo nga salamat!

Note: Photos courtesy of Ms. Imelda Gayas.

Yolanda Book Drive

I didn’t have Barbies when I was a kid, nor did I have stuffed toys, except for that one owl holding a diploma, which was my parents’ gift back in fourth grade. I didn’t play with the owl because it didn’t look friendly and the diploma doesn’t exactly look like a playdate invite. So it stayed wrapped in a clear plastic sittting, collecting dust in one corner of our wooden divider. Instead of toys, my parents bought a lot of books for me and my brother along with sporadic toy purchases from Tupperware, of which my favorite was the red and blue shape sorter. That’s how my love affair with the printed word started (no, not with the shape sorter, the books).

Until this day, I can still see the white paper with colorful images of blond children kneeling beside their beds, reciting their nighttime prayers while an angel hover above them; or the brownish paper with Jonas inside the stomach of the big whale or of baby Moses in a basket floating in the river. Yes, my first books were Biblical stories and prayers. Then as I started school, I got introduced into the local classics like Ibong Adarna, the fables like Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing, then Pambata comics and other educational comics. Then when I was 7 or 8, my mother would take me with her to our local bank (a credit cooperative) on weekends and there I started to read The Philippine Free Press. I read about the Allan Gomez-Aileen Sarmenta case on The Philippine Free Press, as well as the Angel Alquiza rape case. My parents didn’t enforce censorship as long as my reading materials were seemingly legit. So yeah, you can see where and how my trust issues started. (Hah!)

I read practically everything then, Readers’ Digest, Health & Home (The Seventh Day Adventist’s magazine), Philippine Journal of Education, The Modern Teacher, Women’s, The Woman Today, Mod Magazine, Sweet Valley (SVH and SVU), Sweet Dreams, Mills & Boon’s, Harlequin, Sillhouette, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, Liwayway Magazine, Tagalog pocketbooks, the Nido classic fairy tales (loooove those), Arthur Maxwell Bible Stories Vol. 1 to 5, my father’s Teacher’s Board reviewer, film synopses on VHS tapes and so on. My parents blamed my poor eyesight on too much reading.

Back in 2009, the apartment I was staying in, in Marikina got flooded. The place was submerged in water and so were my clothes, photographs, my books (my printed and hard bound college thesis, my classics esp, Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby and my friend’s Murakami), a few furniture and DVDs. After the flood, there was an outpouring of support from my friends and family. A lot of people donated clothes, money, food, furniture and most of all, books. I remember how happy I was when my friends gave me the books. I mean, after a disaster, the usual donations are for basic needs to help you survive and get back on track and then they gave me books. After Ondoy, those books became a promise to me, a well of hope that things will be back to normal, if not better.

When I learned about Air Juan’s book drive for Yolanda kids survivors in Eastern and Western Samar, as well as Iloilo, I just knew I had to get involved. I could only imagine what the world of literature can offer a young mind who just went through a tragedy. Maybe it can offer relief, healing, hope, a chance to dream, knowledge or if they’re not into reading, maybe a page they can tore and make paper planes with. Well, hopefully, not.

If you would like to donate books, (textbooks, children’s stories, dictionaries, young adult fiction, etc.), you may drop them off at these locations:

NFR, Rm. 205, PHILDHRRA
59 Salvador St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City

ESI Bldg., Miriam College (Mar 24-28)
Quezon City

Handuraw Pizza, 1A Masunurin St. cor. Anonas Extn
Sikatuna Vill., Quezon City

You may also email me at 7pmtrain@gmail.com or text at 0906-487-3234. I can pick them up wherever it’s convenient for you, granted, of course, you’re based in Metro Manila 🙂

 

 

UP Tacloban Survivors Trying to Survive the Holidays

More than a month after Haiyan, the survivors are now starting to rebuild their lives. It’s a tough road ahead but they are not alone. Filipinos from all walks of life have reached out to the survivors be it through financial assistance, food and clothing donations, prayers, while some have volunteered services. The Filipinos are also very grateful of the outpouring of help from other countries.
Pen, Moi, Yo, Boris and Mom not in the photo: Junella

Pen, Moi, Yo, Boris and Mom
not in the photo: Junella

Last Saturday, my colleagues and I visited the UP Tacloban students who relocated to UP Diliman who won’t be going home for the holidays. These students will be spending Christmas and New Year in Diliman because they’ve lost their homes in Eastern Visayas and for some, even their families. Kalayaan and Molave Residence Halls are their temporary homes under the supervision of Sir Gerry Lanuza, the current head of the Office of Student Housing (OSH). Female students are staying in Kalayaan while guys are in Molave. They take their meals together though: breakfast at Kalayaan, lunch at Molave and dinner at Bahay ng Alumni.
kalay sign

Mr. Joseph Torrecampo, a faculty of the Department of Psychology (CSSP -UP Diliman), together with his wife who’s a professor at College of Arts and Letters, are organizing tutorials and non-academic activities for the students while the they are on holiday break. Mr. Torrecampo approached us thinking we were from McGraw-Hill Education. McGraw-Hill, as known here in the Philippines, is the “encyclopedia company.” Our parent company is McGraw-Hill, but we are from the other side of the fence, McGraw-Hill Financial, to be specific: Standard & Poors. Anyway, he explained that they need materials for the quasi-remedial English classes. They need books, journals or magazines with content that they can use for the tutorials.

Mr. Joseph Torrecampo and some of the student survivors during tutorials

Mr. Joseph Torrecampo and some of the student survivors during tutorials

I know we are all busy with the Christmas preparations and we may have drained our budget with buying gifts, but if you have books and other literature you can share with these students, they would really appreciate it. You can also donate money and Mr. Torrecampo and his wife will use the funds for the materials.

UP Tacloban students

UP Tacloban students

If you’re willing to donate, you can reach me at:
+63-906-487-3234
7pmtrain@gmail.com
facebook.com/jobetisonthetrain
twitter.com/trainrides

Thank you in advance and happy holidays.

Note: All photos taken by Ma. Junella Gazmen.