Kapuso Village is the first permanent housing project awarded to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
It was nearing the end of the first quarter of 2014, barely 5 months after the landfall of monstrous Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), when the construction of Kapuso Village in Tacloban City was started.
So much of a giant dream. At first, it seemed like an overwhelming task for the people in GMA Kapuso Foundation. Composed of 25 people, with only three site engineers in the frontlines, GMA Kapuso Foundation was undaunted. Fueled by their intense passion for service, their team pushed every roadblock to finally rooting the first pillar of this major housing project in March last year.
Mel Tiangco, EVP and COO, would always emphasize the importance of credible utilization of donations amassed during typhoon coverages. In a speech addressing the beneficiaries of Kapuso Village, she said, “Walang katapusang pagpupursige dahil napakalaking halaga ang ipinagkatiwala sa amin ng sambayanan. Marapat lamang na ‘yon ay aming ingatan at tiyakin na magamit sa maayos na pamamaraan.” (We will work relentlessly because the entire nation entrusted us with a very huge amount of donation. It is but right that we take care and make sure that the money is utilized properly.)
After all, quick-response rehabilitation and speedy implementation of sustainable projects is tantamount to honesty and credibility, especially in public service. Thus, I believe, is the inspiration behind the expedited construction of Kapuso Village in Tacloban City.
Finally, after a little more than a year, Kapuso Village in Tacloban City was completed. Four hundred three houses stood proud in 3.5 hectares of land. Kapuso Village is the first permanent housing project awarded to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
As of press time, Kapuso Village is also the only completed housing project, and the only fully functional, among all the existing housing constructions in Tacloban City intended for Yolanda victims.
Children during Santa Cruzan inside the Village.
Children during Santa Cruzan inside the Village.
Children during Santa Cruzan inside the Village.
Children during Santa Cruzan inside the Village.
Cristina Romualdez, city councilor and wife of Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, said in an interview with GMA News, “Kasi kayo [GMA Kapuso Foundation] talaga ang unang una na nag-bless sa amin dito na magkaroon ng permanent housing ang mga taga Tacloban. Nagbigay talaga kayo ng hope sa aming mga taga Tacloban, especially sa mga nakatira sa danger zones sa [Barangay] San Jose. (GMA Kapuso Foundation was really the first to provide permanent housing units to the people of Tacloban. You gave us hope, especially those living in the danger zones in Barangay San Jose.)
Twenty classrooms are also expected to rise on the site. Another Kapuso Village, composed of 169 houses, is under way its completion in Palo, Leyte.
With all the peoples’ smile, who would think that they were the same victims that the entire world mourned with, amidst the massive loss of hard-earned properties and death of loved ones, after Super Typhoon Haiyan?
True to GMA’s famous battlecry, this is, without doubt, “Serbisyong Totoo” at its finest. RO
I am proud that I was part of the team documenting the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda on field. The turn-over ceremony was an emotional occasion for me as well, because, finally, I was also witnessing the fruit of our sacrifices during the difficult and depressing coverage of the aftermath. It was an honor being part of the team who was in the forefront of fundraising for this project.
Here is the story that aired on 24 Oras on May 25:
In October 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Central Visayas, Philippines. Cebu and Bohol were the most affected provinces. Bohol suffered most of the destruction and casualties.
I was sent there to cover the aftermath. That was the second time I have been to Bohol. I must admit, the first time I went there, I wasn’t able to tour around that much. Staying there for more than two weeks, the second visit allowed me to wander around more. Some sceneries, even those partially and totally damaged by the quake, remained breathtaking.
Bohol boasts of its centuries-old Spanish colonial churches found in almost every town. Most of these churches were declared as heritage and historical treasures. According to local elders, these churches stood the test of numerous earthquakes in the past. But the recent 2013 earthquake damaged three of the most remarkable ones. One was even totally reduced into rubbles.
In time for the Holy Week, allow me to virtually tour you around these churches ruined by the earthquake in 2013. Come join me in this virtual Visita Iglesia!
1) Baclayon Chruch
This church is also known as La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church. The church was founded by the Jesuit priests in 1596, and was considered the oldest Christian settlement in Bohol.
It was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Baclayon Church was formerly included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List of the Philippines since 1993 under the collective group of Jesuit Churches of the Philippines.
Its Bell tower and Portico were badly damaged by the earthquake.
Check these rare photos inside Baclayon Church taken two weeks after the earthquake when my team was given access inside the church.
2) Loon Chruch
The Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church (also Our Lady of Light Parish Church), commonly called Loon Church, was established by the Jesuits in 1753. Father Jose Garcia commissioned Domingo de Escondrillas to design the stone church which was built from 1855 to 1864.
According to Mr. Reigh Monreal of the Municipal Tourism and Culture office of Loon, the church was made of coral stones contributed and constructed by the locals.
The entire building of the church collapsed. Only the main archway leading to the church’s vicinity was left. The image of patron saint, Nuestra Señora de la Luz, was saved. But according to devotees, the image of the saint, now displayed under the shade of a nearby tree, appeared sad after the earthquake. This image is believed to be miraculous.
Nearby, there is another heritage treasure slightly ruined by the earthquake. The grand Inang-angan is a centuries-old majestic staircase also made of coral stones. Monreal says that according to historical records, the staircase was built earlier than the church. It was build to facilitate trade among the local people. It served as the main pathway that connected people from the lowlands to the Poblacion where market was found.
A walk down the stairs is like a walk down memory lane. Monreal says, “Of course we walk with history kung dito kami naglalakad. Dahl nasira siya, parang a part of us was destroyed.” (Of course we walk with history everytime we walk though the staircase. Because it was ruined by the earthquake, we feel like a part of us was also destroyed.)
3) Loboc Church
This church, also known as The San Pedro Apostol Parish Church, was established in 1602. After the Jesuits established the Christian community in Baclayon, they moved to Loboc and established a second Christian settlement in Bohol.
The church was classified as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. It was considered for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines.
The church was severely damaged by earthquake.
Facts and pre-earthquake photos of three churches lifted from Bohol.ph .
Home is not even about sturdy structures. For people living in Typhoon-vulnerable provinces like Eastern Samar in the Philippines, home means stronger SPIRIT
Taken in December 2014, this photo captured 11 year old Marco Playon finishing his self-made Christmas lantern. Typhoon Ruby pounded into rubbles around 200 houses in Brgy. 6 in the town of San Julian, in Eastern Samar.
Their home may have been ravaged, but the Christmas spirit was not. Amidst the plethora of loss, he says, “We just lost our home. My family is complete, that’s more than enough to celebrate Christ’s birth.” He was that eager to finish the lantern to hang it up in time for Christmas.
This photo was taken in one of our field productions. I was documenting stories on typhoon victims’ plight to survival. The stories I produce are humanitarian in nature, as they are intended to call for help to pool in much needed funds for relief and/or rehabilitation efforts.
Out of hundreds of photos from all over the world, this photo was among the runners-up of a photography competition of The Guardian Witness, one the online platforms of the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian. The theme was “home”. The Guardian page specifically stated this: “We asked global development workers to share photographs on the theme of ‘home’ – whether it’s a tent in the middle of the rainforest or an apartment in a bustling city.” This is how it appears on their site. You can check my photo and the other winners of the competition here.
(UPDATED) I can clearly remember. I walked into muffled gunfires. A little boy cowered behind an overturned wooden chair, avoiding the blows. I heard the other boy’s loud breathing as his small feet dashed. With his frail hands, he fired back. The other boy got shot, fell down, and played dead. I raised my hand, pointed my index finger, pulled the invisible trigger in my thumb, then aimlessly fired everywhere. Everyone laughed. Perhaps, those kids thought, “who’s this ridiculous grown up man spoiling our baril-barilan?”
I dearly treasure this fun encounter with kids in one of the evacuation centers that I documented during our Zamboanga City crisis coverage in 2013. Covering disaster and humanitarian response beats for 24 Oras , I was sent there shortly after ceasefire was declared in September 2013.
This, and a couple more encounter with kids in conflict-torn Zamboanga City changed my life forever. I never looked at children the same way again.
A Child’s Promise
It has been raining for days in Zamboanga City. Mud splattered my cargo pants as we tiptoed across the muddy entrance of Talon-Talon National High School evacuation center. Families were sprawled across the flooded floor of the school’s gymnasium. Flooded, crowded, and extremely humid amidst the gloomy weather—difficult is an understatement to describe the evacuees’ condition. One resident told me that most of them were sleepless as bursts of the heavy downpour last night entered their sleeping quarters.
Cecil Tigo, a Christian, was among the parents I talked to. Her face was so gentle. The dark circles under her eyes looked swollen, perhaps because of crying. She walked us through the classroom where her entire family has been living for three weeks. We set up, rolled the camera and started the interview. She smiled in between tears as she told me about her eldest child, nine year-old, Lea Grace. In that evacuation center alone, there were 1,057 children, Lea Grace, among them.
Matalino po ‘yon. Lagi po yung section one. Lagi siya may award.” Lea Grace promised Cecil that she would study hard. She would be a scientist. She would build her a glass house so they won’t be bugged by mosquitoes at night.
“Malapit po kasi ang pagsabog sa amin eh.” Cecil audibly gasped as she tried hard to keep her body from trembling. “Naririnig niyo po?” I asked. “Opo, parang yumayanig pa nga po ang building. Okay pa ang katawan ng anak ko noong galing kami sa bahay. Dito na po siya, nagluya siya tapos nanghina. Siguro dinibdib nya ang takot niya kasi hindi rin siya nagsasabi.”
A week earlier, Lea Grace who was born with congenital heart disease, spit blood, fell unconscious inside that very classroom we were in, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Cecil wailed as she showed us what was left of Lea Grace’s memories, her school ribbons and certificates.
I was also shaking. I was honestly keeping myself from sobbing. I looked back to Kuya Dani, my cameraman, then pretended to check if we were still recording. He looked emotional as well. That was the only time when I realized that everyone around us inside that room was crying. After our shoot, back in the van, no one dared talk. It was until we reached our hotel room that I told Kuya Dani how heavy I felt that time. He told me that he felt the same.
Writing this, I thought, maybe when Lea Grace reached heaven, she was the first to ask Jesus Christ what that little girl in University of Sto. Tomas dared ask Pope Francis. “Bakit po pumapayag ang Diyos na may ganitong nangyayari dahil walang kasalanan ang mga bata?”
Today, more than a year after the standoff, 1063 displaced families are still living in shanty bunk houses—made of tarpaulin, plywood, and nipa—and in the bleachers of Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex. Grandstandas popularly referred to. Locals already dubbed the place “Brgy. Grandtstand”.
Most of the families stuck inside the grandstand are residents of Brgy. Mariki and Brgy. Rio Hondo, both muslim communities on stilts. When we were allowed access to the area back in December 2013, the majestic archway was the only living proof of a once vibrant community. Most houses were burnt during the standoff.
During my last visit in 2013, my team was bombarded by complaints from the evacuees that the government’s ration of relief goods was already stopped.They were told that the government did so because all humanitarian efforts were centered to Yolanda victims that time. They were completely horrified when told that even the water facility was to be pulled out. Thankfully it was not, but I did not know for how long.
Walking around, the grandstand looked more like a slum community from the inside. Roads were flooded and muddy. Invisible embers of fire seemingly filled the inside of the tarpaulin shacks. It was that hot. Naked children were walking around. Residents complained that a lot of their children and elderly get sick. Many were suffering Diarrhea.
According to the latest data of Zamboanga City Social Welfare and Development Office, a total of 226 people have already died in the evacuation centers. Eighteen of these deaths were newborns. The number one killer is pneumonia.
I have been keeping in touch with one of my previous case studies in the grandstand, who refused to be named. He told me over the phone that every day they are counting deaths inside. “Hindi naman na bago sa amin Sir, pag may nagsabi na may namatay ulit. Noong una, galit kami. Pero naging parang wala na lang. Sa sobrang dami, immune na ba,” he said in his squeaky regional accent.
Wisdom in innocence
After visiting the grandstand, we proceeded to the next evacuation center. Displaced children, both Muslims and Christians, happily chanted Jingle Bells as they ecstatically marched after the military truck entering Zamboanga National High School-West evacuation center. The truck was loaded with green and red bags that I fondly call kapusong aguinaldo, which was part of Kapuso Foundation’s Give-A-Gift Christmas project. That was such a happy time. For a moment, children forgot about their situation.
As a producer primarily doing stories on children, my production will not be complete without candid, undirected shots of smiling kids. During this shoot, I asked my cameraman to set up and just let children play in front of the lens. Let them smile, make faces, get crazy. Children did as expected.
I got my phone, joined the fun, and snapped some photos. But when every child started flashing this two-finger pose—sign of peace—in front of me, I got goosebumps all over my body. Yes, perhaps not one of them know the exact meaning of that gesture, but these children left me in awe. I was actually witnessing a subtle delivery of a herculean message. I thought, it is true. In a child’s innocent implication is where we find the world’s greatest wisdom.
So to help you answer the most popular question on social media today , “All-out war?” Consider these children, who suffered the cost of the conflict, as they take their stand. They might have the most sensible answer after all.
Did you also receive this funny text message? It is all over the news for the past couple of days. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is being considered as standard bearer of Partidong Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) for the 2016 Presidential Elections.
During the 33rd anniversary celebration of the party on February 21, Sen. Koko Pimentel III confidently told the members of the press that Duterte is a strong contender for the Presidency. “I think sa Visayas, may market si Mayor Duterte because he speaks Cebuano, and a little bit of Ilonggo, and coming from Mindanao, mayroon namang natural identification ang Visayas at Mindanao,” he further said as quoted in some reports.
With my over 30 flights to and fro Davao City, especially during Typhoon Pablo coverage in 2012, I have always loved Davao City. From the moment I rode on a pleasantly groomed taxi with its very gracious driver, to the praiseworthy traffic regulations, and the impressively disciplined people, Davao City is a consummate❤.
I personally heard a lot of great stories about Duterte from the locals. I was on a weekend late-night party with some friends who are from the City. It was almost 4 AM when we parted ways. Not able to bring me back to my hotel, one of them was assuring me that I was beyond safe to walk my way back to the hotel. And she began lecturing me about the almost-zero crime rates in her city, how Karaoke is “party-poopingly” banned beyond 9 PM, how stringent speed limits reduced road accidents, and how someone is severely punished for any illicit act. She boasted that Davao City is the safest place ever. “Takot lang nila sa suntok ni Inday Sara,” she joked in her squeaky Bisaya accent.
I just love Davao City. I adore Duterte for his effective leadership skills. He is someone who has gracefully walked all his talk between the thin line of charisma and fear. He is so loved as much as he is feared by everyone in Davao City. But hey, whoever is behind this text scam, this is just beyond desperate. I mean, you need not suspiciously spam everyone about what we think of Duterte running for President in 2016. You are disgusting people, in a way tarnishing Duterte’s image. And please, compose your message adequately. What’s up with all these jejemon-ness? If we are on Twitter, I would understand given the character limitations. Simply put, if you want a serious answer on your survey, send out a decently composed question! Though a bit relevant of a survey, I deemed this spam is a huge joke. And sorry I was so bored that I played along. Gave this spammer a run for his mountebankery. I replied this: Few minutes after, I received a message from a different mobile number which appears to be a response to my reply to the other number. Apparently, the SMS is computer-generated and requires a formatted response, either a YES or NO. But, no thanks! Had you replied STOP to my HUGOT DAILY SUBSCRIPTION, I would have gladly responded a resounding YES to your shoddily formulated query. So will you, please?
I was using my iPhone 5 for two years . It was my cousin Rose who told me to name my iPhone. She believes that if we associate names to valued things, we will treat them with extra care. I do not believe, but I guess, I was too stressed to argue that time. I reluctantly followed. I instantly quipped that I will be calling my iPhone 5, “Neggy”. Neg in reference to its color (Others might have issues with the name. But hey, you dirty mind! No pun intended. “Neggy” is just so adorable of a name to let go.). Because of some minor problems, I had a couple of replacements from my network provider Smart. Thus came Negneg Jr. and Negneg III. I called the latest “Thirdy”.
In my ultra fast-paced work, Thirdy proved to be my best asset. Emails would run so swiftly should I need them. My Notes was my off-newsroom iNews. Scripting remotely on field was that easy. And the best thing about Thirdy was, she provided me with high quality photos and videos whenever I needed them for ambush field broadcast.
Believe it or not, I aired a lot of stories on national TV news with some materials taken with my iPhone. The underwater videos, the money shots, in my favorite mini-documentary were shot with iPhone 5. Yes! The story came so unexpectedly. We have not secured a GoPro for the underwater shots. But I could not afford not to have cutaways underwater! Thirdy was so game to impress. And we were not failed. After our initial preview of the videos, I was making punches in the air and I was kissing Thirdy! The quality of image and the Natsot (natural sound) were brilliant!
I have also delighted my followers on Instagram with magnificent shots taken with Thirdy. I received a lot questions, flattering remarks like if I were using some sophisticated DSLR. From portrait shots, landscapes, macro, panorama, up to unmounted spur-of-the-moment shots, Thirdy never ceased to perform.
Now that I surrendered grandma Thirdy as she paves way to “Portia” , my iPhone 6, let me showcase 10 of my Favorite #NoFilter Snaps with grandma Thirdy. In case you missed it, #NoFilter! (I resized and added watermark, that’s just it!)
1) Inagta Sano Dancer. Buenavista, Bohol
2) Dew Date. Malolos, Bulacan
3) I love Hue. Palo, Leyte
4) Wrinkled. Pinatubo, Zambales
5) First Day Low, Tide. Bagangga, Davao Oriental
6) Bubble Wrap. Buguias, Benguet
7) Ode of a Faithful
8) Muffled Marches of the Brave. MacArthur Shrine, Leyte
9) Plunge for Purge. Masinloc, Zambales
10) Moistly Deserted. Bokod, Benguet
Let me tell you my other stories that did not and will never reach your TV screens.