Page 1


Humanitarian Affairs


Philippines 2015

2 / The Journey of Love

Connecting People with Communities in Need

Philippines 2015 / 3

4 / The Journey of Love



icture this scenario - You live in a country that is vulnerable to natural

disasters. One day a massive typhoon hits you at a phenomenal speed of 380 km/h. According to the World Health Organization, that sort of typhoon is classified as a Category 3 disaster, at par with the tsunami that hit the Indian

The affected provinces are poorer than the national average, with about four out of ten families living below the poverty line before the disaster hit.

Ocean in 2004 and the earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010. To top it off, this isn’t the first time it has happened. Could you imagine undergoing that? It seems unreal does it not? However, this is no fictional story.

This is the Story of the Philippines. The Philippines is one of the world’s largest archipelago nations. It is situated in Southeast Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean. Because of its archipelagic nature, the Philippines is a culturally diverse country. The country is most notable for its cluster of countless beautiful islands that number more than 7000 - with their grand jungle-clad, mountainous interior, sandy Philippines 2015 / 5

coastlines flanked by aquamarine

out of ten families living below the

waters, colourful coral reefs, emerald

poverty line before the disaster hit.

rice fields, swarming megacities, and

We at Humanitarian Affairs aim

fiery volcanoes.

to keep keep hope on the faces of

But amongst that beauty and vivid

the survivors and support them in

colours of the landscape is a disas-

rebuilding their lives. For this rea-

ter waiting to happen - quite literally.

son, we conduct programs in disaster

Its location on the Pacific Ring

struck areas in Tacloban - Philippines,

of Fire makes it extremely vulner-

where our international volunteers

able to natural disasters, especially

can work with the local communities.

earthquakes, cyclones, and volcanic

Humanitarian Affairs has been

hazards. These wreak havoc when they strike but they also leave a cruel legacy of strife and despair in their aftermath. What follows is acute poverty, despair, the devastation of losing the chance at a normal life.



recovery in the aftermath of disasters. Besides providing necessary aid in terms of clean water and






ippines in recent years. Its merciless effect has hit the poorest and most vulnerable people the hardest. The affected provinces are poorer than the national average, with about four

6 / The Journey of Love


Our work has focused on continuing


series of crises affecting the Phil-


address some of these challenges.


yphoon Haiyan is the latest in a



volunteers projects rebuild


that their


enable lives,

livelihoods, and communities.

We at Humanitarian Affairs aim to keep the smile on the faces of the survivors and support them in rebuilding their lives.

This is Tacloban

City. Philippines 2015 / 7

This is Tacloban City.

8 / The Journey of Love

My Experience

“RESILIENCE” Valerie Elouize Cortes


ever have I before used nor thought of the word “resilience”, yet I realized the

power of such word and how it pertains to a sense of hope, a sense of faith and a sense of life to so many people. YES, I was intrigued by such word and I was changed by its power after having a life changing experience ban



volunteering with





Affairs UK (HA). In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan or the local called it “Yolanda” claimed the lives of countless peoples. Many lives were ruined, families destroyed and houses shuttered. However, the things I am sure of were that HOPE, COURAGE, and FAITH in the positive, beautiful future of life were never lost – in fact these were made stronger after such calamity that put many lives in misery.

This is Resilience! My volunteering experience with HA in Tacloban has impacted the way I live my own life and got me into the realization of how blessed Philippines 2015 / 9

I am to be living the life I am now living.

or any piece of memorabilia they

But the one most important realization

would hand to me are treasures

I gained from such experience is the

I will forever keep. These kids made

thought that - I can implement change

me realize that I should not worry

in the world and provide happiness to

about small problems, that there is

others in my own little way - implant-

so much more to life even after the

ing all over me “resilience”.

worst of all the bad storms. Again,

The full HA Team spent eight full days in Tacloban. We spent a lot of

resilience shown by the young souls of this generation!

time with kids -- heard their stories,

I was also heavily moved by the

laughed with them and built very

dedication the elders have for the

strong relationships with them. It

future of the children in Tacloban.

was always so hard to have to say

I spoke to many teachers of the

‘goodbye’ to them at the end of each

schools we visited (which mostly are

day. Initially, I thought that these

in the mountainous areas) sharing to

kids - who were once victims of the

us their life stories. These teachers

miseries brought by Yolanda - would

were given opportunities to live and

stop seeing the bright light at the

earn way better in the city proper,

end of the tunnel. But my thought


was wrong!

have they decided to remain in the

All the kids in the city were very positive, loving, sweet, nice, and hard working. The calamity they experienced





drance to living the rest of their lives happily and full of love. Every smile I get from them constantly melts my heart. All the letters, flowers 10 / The Journey of Love






mountain schools. They believe that the “kids need us (them)” and that they “won’t leave till we (they) see that the kids are all well settled.” I was so moved and inspired by the teachers and I am very thankful that these teachers really do love their jobs. Again, resilience!

Also, after seeing news and me-

exhausting each day have been for

dia stories of what happened to

all of us, we never felt it mentally

Tacloban, I was in expectation of tragic

and emotionally, this is because of

ruins everywhere. When I got there,

all the laughter and crazy times we

I was amazed of how quickly the city

had together and the fact that for

recovered from the calamity.


each of the days we were in Tacloban,

is another sign of resilience. I was

we somehow managed to impact

very impressed of how the people,

someone’s life – made them smile



and made them see the bright future

communities helped to get the place

ahead. It was a very rewarding life

back to normal – even not in full










Hearing the Mayor spoke about the actions done right after the disaster such as getting rid of taxes, building transitional shelters for the victims and having the Vice Mayor at our feeding program, made me restored my faith on politics. I could well feel the care and love the leaders of Tacloban have for their members. This again is resilience by their leaders! Another highlight I had in Tacloban was meeting and spending a lot of time with the other volunteers. I was so inspired and motivated by these

There is so much to tell about such trip that it will make this journal endless but rest assured I have them all in my heart as keepsake memories. It has been an amazing experience and in fact a life journey for me. I would not have it any other way and I will definitely continue to do whatever I can for humanity with the best of my ability. Thanks a lot to HA, my fellow volunteers and most especially to the resilient people of Tacloban. You all have changed my life!

people who share the same passion as I do. No matter how physically Philippines 2015 / 11

I am passionate in volunteering and humanitarian works. That’s why I always grab the opportunity to volunteer. The Tacloban reliefs has been one of my best volunteering experience by far. Hearing the news about the strong typhoon that hit Tacloban has been heart-breaking, but seeing it up close and personally was even worse than I expected. Sarah Maglaque

12 / The Journey of Love

Philippines 2015 / 13




or many people attending their first humanitarian program, being nervous and even a little scared is not

uncommon. A team of 15 volunteers from different countries came together with a mutual passion to serve. We could not expect what new challenges awaited us, but we were all excited and shared the same anticipation that this humanitarian







we would never forget. Our first day here in Tacloban was all about immersing ourselves in Filipino culture so we could learn about the people and their way of life. We started our day with a Filipino-style breakfast at a local cafĂŠ; rice, fried chicken and omelette. It was simple fare and different to what most of us were used to. We would learn that rice is the staple food in the Philippines and was going to be in 99.9% of our meals here.

14 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City.



ur first destination was the

which speaks of his compassion

Tacloban City Hall, where we

and dedication to the livelihoods

had the privilege of meeting the

of the survivors. It seems like fate

Mayor of Tacloban, the Honour-

that he would be the leader to

able Alfred Romualdez. He gave us

serve his people during typhoon

some amazing cultural insights and

Yolanda. He was a certified diver

shared with us personal experiences

and captain, with significant knowl-

surrounding the Typhoon Yolanda

edge about weather patterns that



helped guide his judgements when

priority and great effort is put into

the typhoon was approaching. It was


particularly inspiring to hear that

The the





physically and spiritually.

he regularly attends international

After Yolanda, Mayor Romual-

conferences and training in the area

dez chose to forgo collecting tax from his people for eight months,

of disaster management. Philippines 2015 / 15


We stood together in emotional pr

16 / The Journey of Love

rayer for the lives of those lost, and for those left behind.

Philippines 2015 / 17


fterwards, we were faced with a solemn reminder of exactly what

was lost during the disaster over 12 months ago. We laid white flowers by the crosses of victims at the Holy Cross Memorial Cemetery, one of the mass

Our perspectives were also changed; we became more thankful than ever for the privileges we enjoy in our respective countries.

graves. Our team were struck by the resilience and hope of the Filipinos, to be able to pick themselves up and move forward. The atmosphere was chilling despite the heat. It was clear that we did not comprehend the full effect of Typhoon Yolanda back in our home countries. Desensitisation to the media is effective in hiding the same truth that it is trying to portray. We spoke with a Filipino family, who told us their heartbreaking story of loss, having finally accepted the death of a loved one whose body was never found. One of our Filipino volunteers,

18 / The Journey of Love

translated the daughter’s words, but the emotion the daughter’s voice was enough to bring us to tears, even for those of us who could not understand. We stood together in emotional prayer for the lives of those lost, and for





harsh reality of life was fully illuminated by this experience. It was a sobering reminder of how real people were forever changed. Our perspectives were also changed; we became more thankful










respective countries.

Philippines 2015 / 19

20 / The Journey of Love








of protection from the sweltering

visit to a coastal village and

days or future storms and floods, but

the team saw a huge ship that

many of the families do not wish to

was washed ashore during the


typhoon, a children’s mass grave, a

On this day, we found the Filipino

pottery district, and the McArthur monument. We received a solemn reminder that the ingenuity of man is nothing to the fury of nature as we sat by the vessels. Yet here, we found a silver lining in our day from the simple joys of playing with the local children who live in rebuilt shacks by the ocean. Jenna, Nicole and Stephanie joined a mother and her young daughter in one of their make-shift homes built over the water, and learnt about their lives. These one-room wooden dwellings offer little by way

spirit weave its way into our hearts. We prepared ourselves for the days ahead that we knew would be incredibly





also physically and mentally exhausting. It was important that we bonded as a team to enable us to serve others better. We learnt more of the city that we are to serve for the next seven days, and our team mate Ira made a fitting comment, that “to become fully human is to fight for the survival of others”. Philippines 2015 / 21

22 / The Journey of Love

OUR MISSION The mission of Humanitarian Affairs is to empower young

people and facilitate those youth who are passionate about positive social change. The organisation was established with a vision to set an action based example for young people interested in making a difference to those less fortunate than themselves. It aims to translate their intentions and ideas into action, and provide comprehensive exposure for the development of well-rounded future leaders. Humanitarian Affairs seeks to create a drive and sense of purpose in young leaders by equipping them with the rights skills and tools to spark a generation of dynamic individuals paving the way for the larger social good.

This is Tacloban City.

Philippines 2015 / 23

Tacloban was a life changing experience, full of laughs, tears, challenges and Spending time with the children was a calling that means so much for th all people need to be reminded that they are loved. My greatest hope is that dep my fellow Filipinos on this trip will make way for new volunteers to con passion of helping the people of Tacloban. 24 / The Journey of Love

Kristoffer Ryan Diocampo

d inspiration. hem and parting from ntinue our

This is Tacloban City. Philippines 2015 / 25




ur volunteer team was nervous as we piled into the bus. We were to embark on our visit to the inhabit-

ants of an evacuation centre in Barangay Caiibaan that houses Typhoon Yolanda survivors to this day. As we stepped off the bus, whatever unease we felt was quickly alleviated by the dozens of young children that ran up to greet us. How can anyone feel nervous with so many little hands reaching out for yours? They made us feel incredibly welcome as we began our preparations and even helped us carry cooking utensils and pots to a nearby cooking area. Today, we are doing a mass feeding.

26 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City.



ne of our volunteers, Kris, was

Our mission to serve the people

rushing to complete his tasks

of Barangay Caiibaan involved prepar-

quickly. One of the children noticed

ing a Filipino favourite called Chicken

the sweat pouring down his face as he

Aroz Caldo, a kind of rice porridge.

worked. The child shyly approached

Imagine preparing a meal that most of

and attempted to wipe Kris’ sweat

our team had never had, and serving

away with a small napkin. The child’s

that meal to over 1,500 hungry chil-

face lit up with pure joy when Kris put

dren and adults. Yet, our team did not

his hand on the child’s shoulder and

hesitate. We had tasked ourselves

said “salamat”, which means “thank

with bringing a small ray of sunshine

you” in one of the local dialects,

to people that are largely forgotten

Tagalog. It was clear that no matter

by the rests of the world, now that

the language you speak, kindness

the crisis care in Tacloban has ended.

is universal.

Philippines 2015 / 27

As we prepared the food, many children lined up for their share with delighted smiles on their faces. Despite everything that has happened to them and their families, these children watched us cooking and waited patiently for their meal. The scars of Yolanda almost seemed non-existent to these children, and it was incredibly








Filipino people. They epitomise the saying that “there are a hundred ways to move forward, but only one way to stand still.� The people in Barangay Caiibaan continued to work ceaselessly to rebuild their lives, and it was a privilege to provide them with a small gesture of hope.

28 / The Journey of Love



nitially, serving the meal was a great

cleaning up. The stove burns and the

challenge. We determined that chil-

food scorched onto the pots did noth-

dren should be served first, before the

ing to dim the spirits of the team. As

adults. Immediately, more than a hun-

one volunteer, recounted the story

dred hungry little mouths came up

of one child, who, upon seeing the

with bowls and


cups to share in

had in scraping

the meal we pre-

the pots clean,

pared. Our team

grabbed a scrub-

worked cease-


lessly to do what

over in a beau-


tiful gesture of



keep pace, and





to help fulfill our

We then spent

purpose in this beautiful country.

some time playing with the children,

Our team was also greatly privi-

with basketball games, hair braiding,

leged to meet Tacloban’s Vice Mayor,

and lots of hugs, laughs and smiles all

the Honourable Jerry Yaokasin, who

around. The hardest part of the expe-

joined us in his eagerness to help.

rience was having to finally leave and

His dedication to the cause was

we could not help but feel that a piece

nothing short of inspirational for us,

of us was being left behind. The waves




of goodbye from the children and




their parents were a force of hope and


delayed to

serving food to his people.

joy that will tower above any waves

After we finished serving lunch,

brought on by Typhoon Yolanda.

our group began the arduous task of

Philippines 2015 / 29

30 / The Journey of Love



hysical and emotional fatigue had started to set in as we

travelled to our next destination. None of us were ready for the breath of inspiration that was to come from Ms. Eden Garde, the Project Manager of Tacloban’s United Nations Development Project (UNDP). None of us could have imagined how her incredibly ambitious vision could be achieved by someone so humble and kind. She welcomed us to sit around her office. It was immediately clear that she had substantial experience in mobilising teams such as ours. Ms. Garde described the UNDP’s threeyear goals for Tacloban in meticulous detail. As we listened avidly, the great complexities of disaster management struck us.

Philippines 2015 / 31

32 / The Journey of Love



s. Garde’s expertise seemed extremely well suited to

the projects she described to us. In particular, she explained a skills training





mented in Pasè. Simply put, this supports training in skills aside from a person’s original field. Imagine the benefits of having more people continue to work, even after their main occupation were to be compromised by a disaster. For example, some of the many fishermen in Tacloban might also have training in construction, a high demand trade following disasters that could enable them to





contribute to the rebuilding efforts. Ms. Garde’s focus on versatility pointed toward her understanding of human resources, as well as the need for adaptability in order to cope with life. Philippines 2015 / 33

Another of her projects that resonated with us was how they were dealing with survivors who have rebuilt in the ‘danger zones’ along the coast. The UNDP are working toward a radical new housing arrangement, like high rise condominium designs, where those living in danger zones can migrate to. This solution addresses the issues of space shortages and the risk of flooding by building multi-level buildings. The most admirable aspect of Ms. Garde’s

summary of this project was her empathy for the people’s cultural concerns, in this case about ownership of the land to be passed on to their children. Filipinos have an unyielding commitment to family that is nothing short of inspirational, and is rightly being accommodated by Ms. Garde in their plans. Ms. Garde credited a great deal of the strength of the people here to their strong spiritual faith, which breeds optimism and resilience. She seeks to emphasise these attributes in her vision of the UNDP’s goals.

34 / The Journey of Love



s we left the UNDP after a great discussion, we felt better prepared to address the challenges in our lives. We learnt the

following: 1) Be resilient. Our world is always changing and we must keep up or be left behind. 2) There is no substitute for experience. Always drive yourself to experience things for yourself, because the best lessons come from doing...and not just from reading. 3) Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one interest, one skill, one occupation. Be courageous, learn new skills. A person with versatility will always be prepared for change. Philippines 2015 / 35


he acquisition of knowledge through a lived experience is

often the most powerful way of learning. Through involvement in activities such as serving the need of others, volunteers at Humanitarian Affairs are given a myriad of opportunities to obtain lifelong applicable knowledge that the sphere of formal education does not offer. Humanitarian Affairs provides and encourages Youth participation in all realms of society. We believe that it is through these experiences that young people will develop qualities of compassion, kindness and leadership. They will also be able to build their competencies and in turn form aspirations to help those stricken by poverty, illness and disaster.

36 / The Journey of Love

Philippines 2015 / 37




oday we got to witness the stunning Philippine countryside as we journeyed to our first destination, a primary school in the outer

Tacloban City region. The roads took us through many quiet rural towns that still bear the marks of Typhoon Yolanda and of poverty. It was a bumpy ride riddled with potholes, large puddles, loose rock, and many areas under road works. However the views over freshly sewn rice fields and remote villages as we crested hilltops was breathtaking and revealed to us the hidden beauty of this province that exists outside the city areas. As a team, we had committed to bringing a number of things to our interactions with school kids over the coming days. We were to be ‘teachers’ for a day, though we wanted to focus less on lessons in maths or science. Instead, we opted to bring happiness and hope in these children. We felt this to be the best gift we could offer in the short, yet precious time we had. We decided to use games, song and dance to foster love and empathy with these children, hoping that they would take our small gift with open arms and thrive on it. It so happens that they did just that.

38 / The Journey of Love











morning, greeted by excited children who presented each

of us with hand-made “welcome” medallions. They were simple, yet the effort that went into each was clear, and their pride in presenting these gifts to us was unmistakable. We each introduced ourselves and our country of origin to all the children, and they then proceeded to perform a dance for us. As a ‘thank you’ we decided to perform an impromptu dance too, though we clearly needed some practice. After this, the volunteers spent two hours teaching the children in their respective classrooms. Team-building games were such as playing musical chairs. It really highlighted that joy can be shared between people despite cultural, religious and economic boundaries.

Philippines 2015 / 39



he children were treated to lunch

We had a delicious noodle dish, Pancit, w

We all then spent time outside playing many

ter and shared experiences, we created d great pleasure in teaching us some Filipino

A congo line started up, though many of th

favourite volunteer instead. It was a wa

drenched with sweat, but the children did no

40 / The Journey of Love

TO CHERISH that Humanitarian Affairs UK provided.

which the hungry children quickly devoured.

y group games. Through simple games, laugh-

deep bonds with these children. They took games involving jumping over elastic ropes.

he children just wanted to hang onto their

arm and sunny day, the volunteers were

ot tire so neither did we.

Philippines 2015 / 41



words, we watched on in respect and admiration. Upon reading the meanings of these pledges, we realise that

t was a huge privilege to then join all

the words both represent and help to

of the students and staff in a flag rais-

shape the Filipino pride that was evi-

ing ceremony. Kris slowly hoisted the

dent in the voices of the children and

flag to the beautiful sounds of dozens

teachers during the ceremony.

of children singing the national an-

More dancing followed, and as we

them of the Philippines. This was fol-

then started to say our goodbyes, each

lowed by the Patriotic Oath, and the

of us found ourselves

Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. With


most of our team not knowing the


42 / The Journey of Love




onto our arms and legs, wishing for

presence was worth such a great deal

just a little more of our affection and

to them. One student wrote a letter to

attention. As our bus finally moved

Valerie, which read, “ I hope that you

on from the school, all of the children

will come back, and I wish that you’ll

swarmed by the side of the bus. They

be there in (sic) our graduation.”

frantically waved goodbye, hoping to


catch a last glimpse of the volunteers.




Valerie Cortes described well our different perspectives; we felt as though we couldn’t contribute much to their lives in just half a day, yet we discovered that our

Philippines 2015 / 43

from the primary school, a short drive down the road to the local high school allowed us time to collect ourselves before the next assignment at Antonio Balmes High School. The team members who were assigned to the grade nine class; saw that their classroom was just a wooden building frame with one wall covered in thin wooden boards; the remainder of the building open to the mountainous countryside. Slats of wood were nailed to the frame in a futile attempt at protecting the students from the elements. A barely usable chalkboard was attached to the frame, warped and weathered from the humidity. Their original classroom was a ruin 10 metres away. A constant reminder to the children of the destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda, and all that they had lost. These ruins were a reminder of the strength needed to keep moving forward.

44 / The Journey of Love

This is Taclob

ban City.



ach student in this grade nine class was asked to stand to tell us their name and what they want to be

when they grow up. The children mainly wished to be teachers, nurses, electricians, and policemen, and two others, a doctor and a lawyer. The student who wished to be a lawyer, when asked why this was his goal, said “I think, if you’re poor or rich, you should have fair treatment.” It was incredibly heart-warming to know that these children have lofty ambitions and life goals, many of which are motivated by helping others, even as they sit in a makeshift, rundown classroom. It was crystal clear to us that the future is no dimmer for the tragedy that has befallen these children. They each have hopes and dreams and are well on their way to achieving an education that will support them in chasing after those wonderful visions of the future. The journey can be a difficult one with many obstacles along the way, especially to children living in remote areas. But we can only hope that we inspired them just a little to walk the pathway toward their dreams, to help bring Tacloban City forward into a brighter future.

Philippines 2015 / 45




espite waking up feeling sore

faces, they swayed to and fro, lined

and stiff, we were all extreme-

up nicely in front of their respective

ly excited to meet the new school of

classrooms, waving multi-coloured



flags. It was from this moment that

Elementary School. We jumped on

beautiful relationships began to form.

the bus as if we were school kids

Each class and their teachers




ourselves, and began our bumpy ride to San Roque.

then made their way to the shelter, which had a stage and a lectern, and

We arrived at the school, and began

overlooked the stunning mountain-

to walk up the winding driveway. In

ous terrain that formed the school’s

the distance we could hear the sounds

backdrop. A welcome message to us

of many children singing in sync,

in hand-made sparkling silver letters

with words of welcome and anticipa-

was strung up at the back of the shel-

tion. As we drew nearer, the faces of

ter. It was heart-warming to see the

the primary school children became

children pour out their love through

clearer. With immense smiles on their

songs of welcome to us strangers.

46 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City.



ne of our volunteers, Nicole

at all they had their hands wrapped

took care of the kindergarten

around Nicole, pulling on her shirt

class for the day, which included 27


adorable five year-old children who


couldn’t speak a word of English.

about how many children Nicole

Fortunately, their lovely teacher Miss

had, and others were entranced

Gloria was able to help break down

by her blonde hair, green eyes

the communication barriers that

and pale skin. They were very

existed. The kids slowly but surely

intrigued about where we came

took turns to tell their names and

from, about our families and our

their favourite colours to Nicole.

friends. They asked what life was

Their personalities flourished as

begging play.



another were



like back home.

they began playing games of musical

Many children at the school had

chairs and musical statues. In no time

sad stories to share, of having no Philippines 2015 / 47

parents, having to look after them-

if this information was so vital that

selves, or of not seeing their mother

it needed to be written down and

for five years. Some wore soiled cloth-

remembered. It was a telling moment,

ing and torn thongs, and brought little

highlighting just how important a

food from home, if any. Despite this,

single day can be to these children.

we could see that the kids were well loved and cared for by the dedicated teachers at the school, and had


so touching to see that their school


can be a haven where they feel safe,

but loving gestures made by the

and where they can flourish and learn.

children. Julia Down recounted her

wonderful friends to lean on. It was

o many of our team members came home with stories of small

experience of having a girl fan her



with a book while she was teaching a group of girls. Serene noticed that, when playing games, the children


would choose to let her win. Wei Ying,

interested in our lives. In the

who gained a reputation amongst

afternoon, the grade five class took

us for falling asleep at the drop of a

it upon themselves to ‘interview’

hat, took a snooze while watching a

their volunteer teachers for the

movie with her class. When she woke,

day: Sasha and Sherin. They were

she realised that one of her children

desperate to find out our ages, our

had been supporting her head while

birthdays, if we had boyfriends,

she slept.




what we did back home, and all about where we lived. One child sitting






documenting each of our answers, as 48 / The Journey of Love

Many of our team members came home with stories of small but loving gestures made by the children.

This is

Tacloban City. Philippines 2015 / 49


ignifican of love, Together in with the less

A blessed to the comm serve, these behold.

Together, are inspired

that will nev

50 / The Journey of Love

nt moments are times worth remembering. These are times times of warmth, times of joy, and sometimes even of pains. these moments, we reach out to share an inner part of ourselves s privileged.

d life is one with significant moments. When volunteers reach out munity in need and give their time, energy and hearts to those they e moments crystalize into things of beauty, precious and wondrous to

we can create these significant moments. Together, we inspire and d. Teach and learn. Give and receive. These are the precious moments

ver fade.

Philippines 2015 / 51




ucio Vivero Elementary School was the next school on our itinerary that we visited, with the hopes of making a small

but positive impact on the students. Sadly, this site has been overburdened following Typhoon Yolanda and its teachers are hard pressed to provide the necessary care and attention to its students. Lucio Vivero Elementary School initially had capacity for 150 students, but this number tripled to almost 500 with the introduction of temporary housing and the large influx of families with children. There were no extra school buildings to accommodate this amount of children. The teachers do the best that they can in the circumstances, but the challenges of educating a new generation of eager young minds with limited resources is a harsh reality for the school. 52 / The Journey of Love



t the school, we met a grade four

best participants in his class during

student named Jerald, a 9 year

our visit. At the end of the day, his

old boy who lost all of his brothers,

slippers had gone missing. He was

sisters and both parents in Typhoon

forced to walk the arduous road

Yolanda. Jerald told us that in his ef-

home barefoot, yet without complaint

fort to survive, he held onto a steel

Jerald demonstrates remarkable re-

bar for hours to not be swept away by

siliency and determination, making

the torrential waters. Sadly, his family

him a great example of the strength

were washed away. Jerald now lives

of the Filipino people.

with his uncle, and has to walk for about one hour each way to and from school.

Upon knowing about his plight, Humanitarian Affairs bought him a bicycle, so he can cycle to school

Despite all the pain and the loss he

and provided him with a new pair of

has suffered, Jerald is still dedicated

slippers, haversack, books and food.

to his education and was one of the

Philippines 2015 / 53

54 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City. Philippines 2015 / 55



umanitarian Affairs UK arranged for local Zumba dancers to provide both exciting entertainment and a

fitness class for the children. It was awesome to watch all the children participate and get really involved in the performance. The dancing, laughter and cheers around the school hall were proof that it was popular with the children.



difficult challenge that all of our volunteers faced involved the lack of drinking water that was made

available for the children. This experience was simply heart breaking. We were told by our hosts at the school 56 / The Journey of Love

that there was no drinking wa-

students and became fed up with

ter available for the students while

having to plead with his children

at school. As such, the kids were

to go home for water. How can you

expected to go home to get water

refuse children who follow up your

during their lunch break. Yet, the

suggestions with, “Kuya Kris, my

children refused to leave because

home is too far?”

they wanted to stay and make the

With the help of two other

most of the time that they had with us.

volunteers, they walked to a nearby sari-sari store, which is the equiva-

Our volunteers did everything

lent of a village convenience store.

we could to help the children. The

There they found large containers of

extra bottles of water we packed

water and purchased six for the










children and shared around. Most of

teers gathered all of the available

the volunteers even refused to take


water themselves in favour of making

our bus and a system was soon

sure that their children were taken

established where water was distrib-

care of. Yet despite these efforts,

uted to each class. With the limited

the gentle tug on the arms of our

number of cups, students shared with

volunteers by small innocent hands

each other.

continued to occur along with the soft

The most heartfelt moment came

request of “Can I have water?”





from random children walking up to

Finally, one of our volunteers, Kris,

Kris and calling him their “Sangkay,”

could no longer stand idle on the

which means “best friend” in the local

situation. He was in charge of a large

dialect Waray.

grade 5 class with approximately 80 Philippines 2015 / 57

58 / The Journey of Love



ur lovely day was brought to an end

with an exciting game of tug of war. Two of our team grasped each other by the wrists while being backed up by




each wrapped their arms around the waist of the person in front to form two respective tug of war lines. There was laughter all around as both sides fought to claim victory and different teams were made to get everyone involved, like boys versus girls, and volunteers versus school children.

Philippines 2015 / 59



ining up at the bus at the end of the day was a precious moment for all of us. Hugs were shared and you could

see both happiness and sadness warring on the children’s faces as they waved and shouted goodbye to us. Many of the children were asking if we were going to come again tomorrow, or maybe next year. As we were driving away the children were already running down the street after us. The bus slowed down on the road, which allowed the kids to catch up and continue







recognised a little girl in her class who had arrived home and brought out her whole family to wave goodbye. Even though we were exhausted and in need of a good shower, we finished the day with big smiles on our faces and a continued strength to touch more young lives on the last days of our trip. 60 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City. Philippines 2015 / 61




ur team was able to sleep in today, which was a very welcome treat for all of us. Our mission would lead us to The Lighthouse.

Our activities for the afternoon involved a beach picnic, food for everyone, and various games. We were to be joined by about 30 children from the squatter’s community behind The Lighthouse, as well as about 30 children from the SOS Children’s Home in Tacloban. We started the day with a trip to the grocery store where we bought supplies for the day, following by a well-organised assembly line of volunteers working together to make sandwiches for our picnic. We were preparing a Filipino childhood favourite; cheesy spread sandwiches. We picked up bananas and orange juice sachets for the kids too. There is a simple joy in knowing that you will be visiting children. Our previous experiences had left us physically tired, but we could hardly contain our excitement about getting to spend more time with the bright youth of Tacloban, especially in a more relaxed environment than the schools. 62 / The Journey of Love



hen we arrived at the Lighthouse, we immediately started up a big basketball game; volunteers vs. kids.

This was not to be a traditional 5 vs. 5 game, our small group of volunteers was quickly surrounded by dozens of excited children who swarmed the courts to join the game. Our team played valiantly (yet maybe a little less competitively), only to lose to the kids 20-10. The rest of the kids cheered on their team from the sidelines, and their expressions when they were declared winners was priceless.

Philippines 2015 / 63



hile some of the male volunteers continued to







ball, the rest of our team took the kids down to the beach to enjoy the waves and the sand. It was a great experience!

Wei Ying and Serene

both had children grabbing onto them as they walked along the sand. Most of us were treated to a special ‘interview’, the kids holding sticks from the beach and holding them to our faces as though they were microphones. In serious tones, they asked about which country we each came from, why we were in Tacloban, and what our favourite foods were. Other children attached small bits of bark at the ends of their sticks. They ran to our volunteers and proceeded to take ‘selfies’ on their ‘selfie sticks.’ As the waves started to grow higher, some of our volunteers bravely chose to challenge the might of the ocean. Koki, Stephanie and Kris took turns swimming to a wooden pillar rising from the ocean 10 metres out, a remnant of the resorts that dotted the coast here before the typhoon and a stark indicator of how much the coastline changed due to shifting sand. On this pillar, 64 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City. Philippines 2015 / 65

Today’s experiences taught the team a powerful metaphor that we took to heart; there were still so many in Tacloban in need of a little “light.”

This is Tacloban 66 / The Journey of Love


the volunteers did their best re-enact-

down. Their voices were powerful,

ment of the Karate Kid crane pose.

yet gentle at the same time. You could

Sarah and Julie soon had lunch

tell from their eyes that they loved to

started and the kids eagerly lined up to enjoy their sandwiches. You should have seen their faces when they saw the cheesy spread treats we had brought for them!




that music was one of the refuges that these children used to cope with the tragedy of Typhoon Yolanda. It was as if their performance could tell the story of their lives; they endured painful struggles and through it have


sing and we could not help but feel


become stronger. had


given us relief from the baking sun,

suddenly turned on us and it began to rain. We quickly packed up, and erything back to shelter at the


Lighthouse. But that did not stop the

Reluctantly and with dragging feet,

fun from continuing! Nicole took

they waved goodbye and thanked

some of the little girls underneath the


shelter of the tree and the children


lovingly began to play with her hair.

powerful metaphor that we took to

The smile on Nicole’s face was radiant

heart; there were still so many in

and more children joined in to watch

Tacloban in need of a little “light.”

and to compliment her beautiful hair.

We each hoped we had spread our

And what kind of event is there

own light to all those who’s lives we

without a song? The team organised

had briefly touched in our previous

some of the kids to sing hymns and


the children helped us bring ev-

other songs as the rain started to die

s darkness fell, the time came for the children to go home.



great taught

day. the

Today’s team


Philippines 2015 / 67

68 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City. Philippines 2015 / 69




aking up on our last day in Tacloban was a curious experience. Our mission for the day was to deliver

much needed supplies to a northern barangay (a barangay is like a village or district). We started the day with the same optimism and excitement as when we first arrived in the Philippines. Our team met and gathered all of the necessary supplies that would be distributed to the barangay, a temporary housing district set up for people who lost their homes in Typhoon Yolanda.

70 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City.



efore we visit the temporary

nights and hot days. There is clean


water but no electricity.



UK treated the team to a sumptuous meal in a popular restaurant in Tacloban. After a hearty lunch, we proceed to shelter, where there are 112 homes and over 500 people living here. The homes are simple but clean, single-room buildings raised off the ground. Their walls are made of a thin woven material, and

We had 117 bags of rice for each families living in the temporary shelter. We left for the barangay with high spirits and, perhaps, just a little sadness knowing that we would soon be departing the Philippines, and our team who had bonded sowell over the last week.

offer little protection from the cold Philippines 2015 / 71

72 / The Journey of Love



hen we arrived in the barangay, we were greeted by dozens of ecstatic children; they

had been expecting us. When we suggested that we should play a game, all the children, and even the whole village, scampered up to the main hall where Valerie Cortes led an enthusiastic game of ‘Fruit Salad’, followed by Simon Says. Before distributing supplies, some of our volunteers took the time to explore the village and take in the sights and sounds of northern Tacloban. There was a kind of freedom in this place, which came from the openness of the countryside, the quiet atmosphere and the stunning views from the nearby hill. Standing in the modest hut at the top of the grassy slope, we could see the beautiful curve of the San Juanico bridge, that connects the Leyte and Samar islands. We looked down upon the barangay, and out to the surrounding mountains, covered in lush tropical forest. The people in this village had little to call their own and uncertain futures, yet there were smiles all around. Here, they had fresh water, a clean environment, a community, and family. Indeed, it became apparent that life, love, and empathy are what truly connect us to other people, and possessions mean little in the end. Philippines 2015 / 73



were given to families with infants, and some snack-sized milk contain-

e needed to deliver 5kg bags

ers were handed to children, though

of rice to each of the homes,

sadly there was not enough to go

and some of the men from the vil-

around. Everyone gathered around,

lage eagerly volunteered to help.

and we were amazed at the courtesy

They followed behind us with bags of

that everyone showed. It was inspir-

rice slung on their shoulders, as we

ing how close knit this village was.

personally provided rice to the fam-

When everything had been dis-

ily living in each house. As we would

tributed, we said our final goodbyes.

approach, genu-

Our team saw no

ine smiles would

tears that day; it



was nothing but

across the faces

smiles and good

of the adults and

wishes all around



within. Calls of “salamat”, “thank you” in Tagalog, could be heard across the village.

We felt we had accomplished our mission successfully by bringing a little bit of joy to a side of the world that is in desper-

We brought many HA pencils,

ate need. We wish we could say that

to give to the children. Their faces

there was much they learned from us,

brighten up when we started giving

but as a matter of fact, all of us agreed

the pencils, some kids ran away car-

that we have learned more from them

rying many pencils in their tiny hands.

and their overwhelming hospitality,

Sasha then led the distribution of the

kindness and undying spirit.

goods she brought. A few blankets 74 / The Journey of Love

Philippines 2015 / 75

76 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City.

Philippines 2015 / 77

78 / The Journey of Love

This is Tacloban City.



ur week in Tacloban was everything and more that we wished it to be. We bring home stories of our adventures, to inspire others

to make the same leap of faith. We bring home new perspectives through which we see our privileged first-world lives. We bring home new bonds with our team mates, built on laughter, shared experience, and appreciation for what each of us gave to the cause. We also bring home life lessons, which are these:

Be Resilient. For those who are curious about taking the challenge of a trip like this... just commit. Do whatever it takes to make it happen. Do not hesitate or second guess yourself. We learned from the people of Tacloban that life does not always go our way, sometimes it can be downright awful, but there is nothing that cannot be overcome by the strength of the human spirit. Hope, empathy and determination are the key.

Be Faithful. Our team included young leaders from different countries, religions and cultures. Yet faith was a fundamental aspect of our success, and a valuable lesson that we drew from the hearts and actions of the people of Tacloban. Be faithful in your works and your words. Allow your actions and decisions to reflect your beliefs, whether they be in your God or your personal ideals. And remember to be faithful to one another. Generosity, kindness and sacrifice were three of the most powerful traits Philippines 2015 / 79

we came to see in the people of Tacloban. During the horror hours of Typhoon Yolanda, filled with howling winds, torrential rain and rising water, many of the people of Tacloban found refuge in God, and in each other. The stories of death, destruction, and misery that we heard were time and again overshadowed by the love pouring from the hearts of the Filipinos. We spend too much time doubting the world and other people. Be faithful to others and trust that most are sincere and kind. Most importantly, be faithful to yourself. You can accomplish more in life than you realise.

Be Human.

The people of Tacloban were a reflection of each of our inner selves.

As we travelled this beautiful country, we saw the same ambitions, fears, desires and humour in the Filipinos that we see in ourselves. Our adventure showed us that we are all alike in some way. We all desire meaning in our lives, family, friends, and love. There is nothing wrong with being human. The desire to travel abroad and see the world beyond our backyard may not be a wild ambition, but a calling to pursue your humanity. Companionship and adventure, challenges and opportunities, growth and change, it is these things we find when we choose to give of ourselves selflessly, even if for just a week in a little piece of the world called Tacloban.

80 / The Journey of Love

PhilippinesCity. 2015 / 81 This is Tacloban



re you interested in meeting

offer a staple, supplementary feeding

the basic needs of those struck

program for those who are malnour-

by disaster? Here is your chance

ished and effected.

to assist and develop local com-




into the lives of the locals and are

integration and volunteerism. With

involved into their everyday way



through Affairs,

82 / The Journey of Love










TH COMMUNITIES IN NEED relentlessly upbeat, it is the locals

provide encouragement, give skills

who captivate and ultimately ensnare

and instil in them the love of learn-


ing so that they continue towards a

You can provide inspiration, ed-

better path. You can make an everlast-



ing change in the lives of the children

who suffer from the effects of a

by giving them self-belief so that they


can stand on their own feet and survive.

and You

support can




Philippines 2015 / 83

84 / The Journey of Love



















Affairs volunteer






of that

enrich the lives of volunteers and locals alike. Volunteering in the Philippines offers a meaningful, crosscultural experience like no other. Our volunteers make a real and lasting difference to the lives of the country’s most disadvantaged people. The country which has to year after year conquer its odds and emerge from a new disaster has a lot to teach us. At the same time it offers




you to build a better future for the country. Our volunteers help make this a reality by enriching the lives of thousands of adults and children each year. Philippines 2015 / 85

86 / The Journey of Love



umanitarian Affairs has established a H.A. Scholarship Scheme to recognise and

support needy students who are academic inclined in the City of Tacloban. After realising, that many students have lost their bread-winner after the disaster caused by





initiated a ten-year Scholarship Scheme and provides funding of USD100,000 to support students facing financial hardship. The aim of this H.A. Scholarship is to enable students from socially deprived family background







bread-winners during the disaster, the opportunity to complete their education and lessen the number of out of school individuals in the locality. The recipients of this Scholarship must also be certified by the City Social Welfare and Development. This






administered by the Local Government of the City of Tacloban.

Philippines 2015 / 87 This is Tacloban City.

Connecting People with Communities in Need

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Journey of Love - Tacloban City 2015