Monthly Archives: January 2014

The First Responders

This is a shout-out to the people that responded during the 4-day gap when the rest of the world did not know how badly Ormoc and the rest of the 4th District of Leyte were hit.

We were literally cut off from the rest of the world, with no proper means of communication and no electricity to power up our TVs or radios for news. In these dark hours, there were those who stepped up and took it upon themselves to assist the city and its neighboring towns.

To Manny Cabili, a long-time friend and a man with a heart so big, we can only hope to fill it with gratitude and appreciation — thank you for your efforts!  Everyday you meticulously scheduled the flight route, so that your team could maximize the number of areas in Leyte and Samar that you could reach.  The plane would land, bringing food and fresh bread.  We would load all those in big trucks that we would promptly take to the barangays that had yet to receive any help.









The food and bread you gave filled not only our stomach but our hearts as well. We can never thank you enough for igniting hope during those dark hours.

To Mr. Rami Villavicencio, another man with a soul so kind and compassionate, thank you.  You are admirable —- truly one of those rare souls that help quietly but very deeply.  You generously allowed use of your Flying V planes to bring in relief goods daily, in a constant stream. You also shouldered the fuel expenses for the plane, each day of the relief operations. Please accept our appreciation and gratitude.









Manny and Rami, both of you are angels who looked upon us and brought hope in a time of despair.  You are like the heroes in the movies we all grew up watching.  Thank you!!!


Both these gentlemen made over 40 trips to the Yolanda-stricken areas, 15 of which were to Ormoc.


Rami and Manny were both given certificates by the International Organization for Migration in recognition of their efforts. The IOM is theleading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. The organization has done humanitarian services all over the world and is present in Yolanda-struck areas to assist the displaced victims.





Manny and Rami, may God bless you more and more!

Hope floats

LOVE LUCY By Lucy Gomez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 26, 2014 – 12:00am



Let me share with you a mission — one that involves 6,200 fishermen and a wish their hearts have made.

At the time this was conceptualized our team was ready to supplement the giving of relief goods with something more, even as we were also in the thick of securing as many Shelter Kits as we could. The latter is an ongoing campaign and I invite you to check out for updates and photos. But it was also time to take on the livelihood aspect, to better help and prepare the people to stand up on their feet again and be self-sufficient.

“6200: The Mission Possible Project” started when the IT-EXAD and store operations group of Suyen Corporation, of which Bench belongs, decided to do away with their Christmas party and donate the funds instead to the Fourth District of Leyte.  At that time the wonderful gentlemen of the Rotary Club of Makati South had also just donated funds, specifically for motorized fishing boats. And so despite all the darkness Yolanda brought — the pain, sadness, even despair — a dream was born, one that went beyond the first 57 fishermen our funds could initially help to include, hopefully, all in God’s plan and time, all the 6,200 that needed fishing boats.

We worked on it relentlessly, and every day Richard and I would wake up to find that the project had grown beautiful wings, taking on a life of its own.  When Ben Chan, together with Virgilio and Nenita Lim, found out about what their employees had done, true to their legendary generosity they pledged even more boats.  Initially, 26 seemed to be a significant number for them, one for each year that Bench has existed. But before the conversation ended the number had ballooned up to 50.  And then each time we would meet over the next couple of weeks, the number continued to multiply, until to date the company had already pledged a total of 200 and counting, over and above the seven that came from their employees.  They are also adopting 6,200 as a long-term campaign in partnership with the Bench brand.

For my birthday last December, Richard asked me what I wanted.  Before Yolanda, I was already eyeing several pairs of the famous red-soled shoe brand but after all that has happened, I had neither want nor need for them, beautiful as they were.  It seemed more appropriate to use the funds for more motorized fishing boats instead, knowing especially that for each pair I gave up a livelihood would be restored.  The choice was clear, and so I went on to name the boats.  Two are named after The Philippine STAR— one I dedicate to my boss Miguel Belmonte who has been supportive of Richard’s and my every endeavor; the other is for Millet Mananquil, the nurturing mother, friend, and mentor of the Sunday Lifestyle writers, and my Sunday Lifestyle family.


Under their care, my world has become bigger and definitely more fulfilling and I am grateful beyond words. And then there is a Walang Hanggan boat, after the hit teleserye on ABS-CBN that Richard was part of.


The Chippy boat is a salute to my absolute favorite junk food in the world, the only one that can make me happy in many, many ways — on top of vanilla ice cream, in a sandwich, dipped in spicy vinegar, on its own.  I will never outgrow it.


And then there is the Chuvaness boat, after my favorite blog and blogger, and the pink Shall We Dance boat.


Maybe there is a fisherwoman that will want it.  It is pink and happy and is a remembrance of the show I was happiest to be part of.  I have been working on the boats for several weeks now, and one night while I was at it on my computer, Juliana came up to me and seriously told me she wanted me to withdraw from her savings so she could donate one boat.  I asked what she wanted to name it, and she said she wanted her jersey number instead of a name.  (She has not seen her boat yet, so Juliana, check out your 08 red and blue boat somewhere on this page.)

Other companies and individuals have been so supportive as well, and I am deeply grateful.  There is not a day that Richard and I do not meet with individuals and groups and our commitment to reach our 6,200 target has been rewarded with such a positive response we are all the more encouraged to pursue it full on.  Yes, I am happy to say that each day new boats are added to the fleet.  Each day we continue to fine-tune the details of the project to make the implementation as smooth as possible.

You will see here images of the boats that different companies and individuals have pledged.  The dream is to not only have functional boats that will service the fishermen for many productive years to come but to make them fun-looking as well.  Ultimately, what a joy it will be to see the coast dotted with such happy colors and nice names.  Each boat, after all, is a story in itself.

Richard and I are lucky to be given the chance to work with such a great team.  I have one of my best friends, Denise, to thank for linking me up with all the right people.  We were looking at wooden boats initially, and we ordered the first 50 boats from a town two hours away from Ormoc by land first, and then by boat.  We were promised delivery early January but unfortunately it did not materialize.  The boat makers had trouble securing the wood and typhoon Agaton also added further delays.  With the volume we need to produce, we had to have something more consistent in terms of production speed because that will in turn allow us to schedule delivery and distribution timelines accurately and efficiently.  Thankfully, we met Mike who not only makes fiberglass fishing boats with ISO gelcoat for longevity but does them in large scale, too.  The technology is derived from speedboat technology.  A fiberglass boat can last 20 years, it is lightweight and fuel-efficient, maintenance and repair costs are low, and it is eco-friendly.

I would also like to thank Rambo Ortega and his team in Forthinker Inc. Graphic Design Team — Allan Chavenia and Orville Victo.  The boats look fun and pretty because these guys translate our jumble of ideas and lay them out creatively on paper.  Thank you very much, young men — you have worked many late nights on this project, sometimes we need a design at a moment’s notice, yet you always come through for me.  I am very grateful.

Here is a special shout-out also to all the companies and individuals that have jumped in to keep the project very much afloat — Bench, MyPhone (which is also adapting 6,200 as a long-term campaign), Rotary Club of Makati South, Rotary Club of Bagumbayan, Rotary Club of Manila, Resorts World, San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation, Sen. JV Ejercito, Lisa Gokongwei, PLDT Smart Foundation, Boca Raton Greens Country Club, Metro Pacific, Metro Pacific Tollways, Philex, US Philippine Society, Tender Juicy Hotdogs, Bon Fortuna and Cachalet of Ridgefield Connecticut.  Warmest thanks also to Chairman Margie Juico of PCSO for being most helpful.  Not only is she helping us with boats, her office has been the most quick to respond in terms of helping indigent patients get proper medical care.  Thank you very much, PCSO!

This is an appeal for help. It is my fervent hope that you, dear reader, and your friends, would partner with me in making the simple and beautiful dream of all 6,200 fishermen come true. With each fishing boat given, a livelihood is restored immediately. This is perhaps the best form of relief and rehabilitation assistance as it enables the fishermen to earn decently again by the work of their hands.  Over and above that, it liberates them from a culture of dependency on dole-outs.

As donors you can name the boat after a company, your child or sibling, the love of your life, a thought to live by, a happy place, anything and anyone special to you. The donated motorized fishing boat is, through and through, a gift from the heart.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach me at Know that with your help, the fulfillment of this mission will be possible. 

Thank You, Tzu Chi!

Dear Tzu Chi,

Please accept this our message of deep gratitude. Because during some of the darkest hours after typhoon Yolanda, your group was one of the very first to heed Ormoc City’s cry for help…


After the first series of phone calls, I sent this email to Mr. Benson Lao.


And then I made my way one evening to a very peaceful, quiet, and orderly place in Quezon City where, during the conference chaired by Mr. Alfred Lee, I made an appeal for help.  I gave you all an overview of the situation on the ground.  You asked, and I told you what the people needed —– food, shelter, hope.


That same evening you made plans to go and assess for yourselves the extent of the tragedy, and a few days later you arrived in one big group, sans fanfare, and requiring no special treatment whatsoever.



You met the people of Ormoc City.  You surveyed the different barangays.  You held a series of medical missions.








Your first beneficiaries were the people of District 29.  Nine hundred fifty individuals were blessed with relief packs that included the special Tzu Chi blanket made out of recycled PET bottles and 5 kilos of rice.




Next stop was Brgy. Bantigue, where you again made all households very happy






Your sincerity, the compassion you showed, the constant kindness brought tears to people’s eyes, a smile on their lips.  You kept hope alive in everyone’s hearts.





And just when we thought we could not get any happier, you outdid yourselves by choosing 10 barangays, namely Can-Adieng, Camp Downes, Ipil, Punta, Curva, San Pablo, Simanagan, Biliboy, Linao, Liloan.  In all of these barangays you gave each household 20 kg. of rice, the special Tzu Chi blanket, and cash that ranged in amount from 8k-15k, depending on the size of the beneficiary’s family.


There were a total of 9000 families that you helped in Ormoc.  You gave over P108 Million in cash plus blankets and clothes and relief goods.  WOW.

But it wasn’t just the material goods you gave that made each visit special. Each time we all came together, we would sing songs as one family. You made us all remember core values that time has almost forgotten. You refreshed what we were taught in Kindergarten about humility, love, charity, and humanity.




Yes, maybe we were brought together by tragedy, but we will rise again because of love.

The love and compassion that flowed out from each of you to each of us Ormocanons inspires us to be grateful, and to pay it forward.  Because one day, it will be our turn to help.  And when that time comes, may we remember you, our dear friends of Tzu Chi, for all that you have taught us.  About help.  About hope. About love.  You have asked for nothing in return, other than that love and kindness thrive everyday.

And that the generous amount of cash you gave to each household be used by the recipients, not for gambling, or smoking, and other such vices, but to buy materials to rebuild homes.  Here is a happy shot of the recipients promising to do just that, right hand raised





Thank you, Master Cheng Yen, for treating the people of Ormoc like family.  We will not forget.


To our dear friends of the Tzu Chi Foundation, Thank You.



Days after you left, these are just some sights that could be seen in random areas around the city.














Again i say ‘Thank You, Tzu Chi, thank you Master Cheng Yen’.