Monthly Archives: November 2013

Philippines: what the world is forgetting

On November 8, 2013, one of the most violent typhoons ever known slammed into the Philippine coast. Winds of over 300 km/hr and waves rising three meters tall swept away frail homes within a matter of hours. Today, nearly 10 million residents have been affected by this natural disaster, including 4 million children.

Dominating news headlines, the Philippines are the focus of a major mobilization on the part of emergency NGOs who are currently providing shelter, food, water, and first aid to all devastated areas (Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Bantayan, Negros, etc.). But the Philippines humanitarian emergency is only just beginning. In a few weeks, Typhoon Haiyan will become old news. Yet each and every affected Filipino will have to fight for the survival of himself and his family. Tomorrow, the real reconstruction struggles will emerge. It will no longer be a matter of delivering food and water, but rather of equipping each and every family with the means to rebuild their homes and support themselves through decent work. Also facing this uphill battle are thousands of orphaned children, left isolated and destitute. The life, integrity, and innocence of these children are now in jeopardy.

For 18 years, Children of the Mekong has been committed to providing hands-on support for the people of the Philippines. A development NGO specializing in educational sponsorships, Children of the Mekong supports nearly 60,000 children in Southeast Asia and sponsors 3,500 in the Philippines. In the field, Children of the Mekong teams are devoting their knowledge of the devastated areas and their network of contacts in order to support and guide emergency NGOs, while also assessing the damage and organizing the next phase of reconstruction.

1404921_629638597075217_179410467_oMost houses in areas affected by the typhoon are now destroyed. But the hard-working people of the Philippines have already begun to rebuild their houses with materials recovered from the rubble, says Antoine Besson, who is on a fact-finding mission this week on the islands of Cebu and Bantayan on behalf of Children of the Mekong.

Right now, donations can make a major difference in the Philippines and save lives. By sponsoring a child, you have the ability to provide shelter for that child and fund their education so that this natural disaster does not condemn its youngest victims to a life of misery and a lack of education.

To provide even greater assistance, Children of the Mekong has set up an emergency fund to provide support for the reconstruction of homes and to give people the resources for a small domestic economy (such as fishing boats, livestock, and seeds) so that every family can soon return to a semblance of dignity and financial independence.

“The children we help today 
will save their country tomorrow!”

This is the conviction that drives Children of the Mekong. And this is why the NGO is calling upon the generosity of its supporters to sponsor a new generation of Philippine children over time and to fund the reconstruction effort through this emergency fund.

Please donate online at

Children of the Mekong/Enfants du Mekong in the Philippines:

–        Operating for 18 years

–        3,500 sponsored children

–        17 overseas volunteers

Need for reconstruction: £500,000

Example of support:

6 hens: £25

1 pig: £120

Build a new house: £420

Buy a fishing boat: £840

My survival journey… A testimony of Marife Pinero, PA to our country manager in the Philippines

On our way to Tacloban City on November 7, 2013 from Catarman, I told Kuya Emmanuel [country manager] it was my first time to be in the place and it was also my childhood dream to be able to visit the longest bridge (San Juanico Bridge) in the whole Philippines. When we are so close with the bridge, we were talking that if in case we will not find a pension house to stay; we will just stay in a 24 hours Jollibee and order my favorite palabok (small strand of pasta with a yellow sauce, dried shrimps, popped port fats and small amount of meat) which I offer to eat per strand until the following day. We just laugh for we knew it will never happen.

When we arrived in the city proper, we walked from one street to another to find a place to stay. Unfortunately, all are fully-booked. On the ninth hotel we went, though they are also fully-booked, the security guard told us to go Casa Anson and even called a tricycle to bring us to the place.

Emmanuel inquired in the front desk while I am still in the tricycle. I got the chance to have a short talk with the driver which I forget to ask his name. He is a tricycle driver for seven years now and has two daughters both are working in Sacred Heart Hospital in Tacloban City as a nurse. The driver say goodbye after he is sure that we have a place to stay. We thank him for the good deeds he did to us. We got our room at 11:00 PM.

During that night, I wasn’t able to sleep not because of the noisy sound coming from the roof since we are in the 4th floor but because I am trying to picture out the worst possible scenario that will happen the following day and the possible strategies that I will might be doing in case. I received a txt message from my mother at 12 midnight saying that the typhoon will land in Tacloban at 4:00 AM.

I was lying in my bed listening to a local radio on the updates until 3:00 am. I went out to the room just to check the weather and notice that there is already wind blowing slowly. I went back to the room to prepare myself and my things.

At 5:30 AM on November 8, 2013, I called my mother in Dumaguete City to inform them that we are in the safe place. I can feel and sense that my mother is too worried about our situation but try her best to hide her emotions as much as possible and possibly her tears started to fall-down. I assured her that I will never die in a disaster situation for I know my God is Greater than any disaster the world could ever have and promise to communicate her often as possible. During this time, the wind blows harder and started raining. The roof and ceiling started shaking and the glass window too.

At first, I have the hesitation to wake-up Emmanuel for I knew he was so tired. But the wind blows even harder, so I decided to wake-up him, so he can prepared his things and move to other safer place. We stayed for awhile outside the room, suddenly we hear a bang sound and we notice that there is water coming out from the room where we came from. We decided to go down in the first floor passing by broken glass from the window, falling debris and slippery floor.

When we were in the first floor, we saw how the tricycle rollaway 360 degrees, cars and vans moving fast from where they are park with no driver on it.

We hurriedly look for a vacant room in the  first floor where we can hide together with the security guard of the hotel. When we were in the room, the guard told me  there  is small water  coming slowly in the  hotel. When we went out, I saw the water hurriedly entering the  first floor like a one-foot  wave.  Emmanuel and  I knocked hardly all the rooms in the 1st floor as fast as we could to save other guest before running to the 2nd floor.  Before  when  knew  it, there   were   almost  a hundred  people staying in the 1st floor mostly children, sick and elderly. When all the  guests  were  on the  2nd floor, in less than 5 minutes, the whole 1st floor is filled with water.  We moved  to  the  3rd  floor as the  water keep on rising.

 When we were in the  3rd  floor, guests  from the  4th  floor were also rushing to go down since all the rooms are already destroyed.

Photo # 1 Taken at the 3rd floor of Casa Anson
8:15 AM on November 8, 2013 accross is the Regional Home Development Mutual Fund building of Tacloban City which is higher than Casa Anson.

While Emmanuel is monitoring  the  water  continuously  rising, I  had  the  opportunity  to  guide  other guests  to  enter  the  function  room.  I  notice  that  there  are  more  children  and  elderly  in the  room compared  to the  adults.  I met  Bernard who is so terribly scared  with the  situation  and never live my back while I’m busy touching the  head  of the  children and elderly ensuring them  that  we are safe as they enter the room. Like us, he just visited the place for work-related purposes.

When the water  goes down slowly for a meter,  Emmanuel joined us. We got the chance to talk about the situation. He was asking what did I observed, I simply answered;  we are out number by the children, sick people  and elderly. Even if we will carry one child or elderly in case the water  will rise again, the number of adults is not enough.

As I glance at Emmanuel, I saw his eyes are getting red. I asked him if he was crying. He smiled at me and said, he just having a running noise because  of the  weather. I just nodded  and smile for I knew that Emmanuel is not  telling the  truth  to  me  for the  first time  since  I  join him in Children of the Mekong Philippines national  office last October  2013.   I understand him for I knew that  he don’t want me to worry much.

Before we knew it, it was already 3:00 PM and we haven’t eat  our breakfast  and lunch. Other people were already eating their meals. Emmanuel, Bernard and I were just setting down in one place for we don’t have anything to eat. All I have is a less than 500 ml water  that  I brought from Catarman Center which we shared by the three  of us. Suddenly, Loreta is bringing her 9 months old daughter  and joined us. She shared  how scared she was when all the rooms in 4th floor are destroyed. She offered  us one small pack of biscuits which we divided among ourselves.

After a while,  saw a man bringing many junk foods. Emmanuel expressed  that he wanted  to eat Piattos and ask where he possible can have it. He decided to go down in the first floor since the water  already subsided.  After 20 minutes,  Emmanuel went  back and brought  us three  packs of junk foods including Piattos.  The packs were coated  with mad and we clean it using the  water  from the  rain. We enjoyed eating and sharing it with Loreta and her family as if it was coming from the grocery. We are thankful that despite the situation, we were able to eat and share what we have.

It was almost evening when one child almost seven years old asked me if I could help her to look for her favorite toys which she left it in the dark place at the 3rd floor. I was able to find it and gave it to her. She thanks me for what I did in saving her life and her favorite toys. I’m confused of what she was saying. She told me that  she was the same girl whom I went  back to  carried to the 2nd  floor when I saw her crying in the first floor upon seeing that the water was already in her knee when she was looking for her family and could no longer see them.  I just smile and hug her and told her to be nice to all the people she will meet in life. I went in the dark room and cried for the first time since the disaster happened.

When I joined Bernard, I saw him crying with a plate in his hand half-filled with rice and ¼ can of sardine sauce.  He told me that  a girl who approached me earlier is also the  one telling him that  she saw the three  of us haven’t eat our lunch and dinner yet and instructed  him to get some food which her family prepared before the typhoon. The three of us happily shared the meal.

At around 8:00 PM, Emmanuel was asking me if there  is possibility that we can reach Cebu on Sunday. I told him directly that I don’t have doubts that tomorrow  afternoon we will be in Cebu by all means. He just nodded and asked how. I told him that we will go to the airport and wait until there is flight going to Cebu. Bernard told us that the airport is totally devastated and suggested to stay since we are safe in the hotel.

I informed Emmanuel it is a protocol that within 24 hours relief goods should be airlifted to the area. We both agreed that we will go to the airport the following day. Before I slept, I look at the sky and saw few starts while looking for a song that fit our experience  and found the song “The Journey” by Lea Salonga. Looking for a song is my way of putting  closure on the  unusual  experience  I had. I went  to sleep  for three hours in preparation of our long hours walk for surely I will be catching up the steps of Emmanuel.

At around  5:00 AM on November  9, 2013, Loreta invited us to come to the  office of his husband  so we  can  eat  and  do  personal thing.  We  left  Casa Anson at 5:30 AM leaving all the fears for we knew we  will be  seeing  the  real  and  true  meaning  of catastrophe and devastation.

Photo #  2  Loreta with her entire family members who  provided food for us most of the time.

Photo # 2 Loreta with her entire family members who
provided food for us most of the time.

Along our way to the office, we seen school, houses, buildings and establishment totally destroyed. Many people are trying to enter  the groceries store to get some food. When we arrived in the office, a nearby salon invited us to eat  with them  for they found a big freezer with full of frozen food on it which they can probably consume three or more weeks.

After the  breakfast,  the  husband  of Loreta decided  to  go to  the  big mall to  get  some  food  which Emmanuel volunteered to join him. They arrived at around  8:15 AM with so many foods. He decide to just bring with us six cans of pineapple  juice and small container  of biscuit for our trip and left other goods  to  the  family of Loreta. We thank  the  family for accommodating  us and  we  did not  commit verbally to help them but deep in our hearts we want to help them and the people in Tacloban City.

At 8:30 AM the three  of us started walking and facing the real scenario. All the hotels that  Emmanuel and I went a night before the typhoon are all destroyed and many are wounded.   Houses that are made with light materials are vanished in the map of the city. Concrete houses are totally destroyed  living just post and few debris and even the big establishment are not spared of it.  

As we walk, we saw families looking for food while others  are looking for their family members. Establishment were  forcedly open  hoping that  there might  be  something   to  eat.

Photo #  3  Victim survivors forcedly open the grocery  store to look for food.

Photo # 3 Victim survivors forcedly open the grocery
store to look for food.

Hospitals  are   totally damage,  pharmacies  are  lack of medicine  and  even medical practitioners are wounded. We saw the astrodome were most of the people evacuated a day before   the   typhoon   housing 2,000  or  more.   The water  level reaches  almost  half of the  height of the astrodome. Emmanuel walk few steps ahead  of us, each time he saw  dead   bodies   lying  on  the   street,   he  would instruct  us not  to turn  our head  to that  direction.  I simply hold  his backpack  and continue  walking while looking back to that direction, starring and counting how many dead bodies I saw. In total, I counted  60 dead people mostly children before we reach the Coca Cola Bottling Company. I stop counting when we pass by a place where water is one-foot  high and no more structure standing not even a single electric post. A passers by simply told us that it used to be a community with many people living and they don’t have ideas if all of them went to the evacuation center.

As we are heading to Coca Cola, the water did not subside yet and still until one-foot. Even though there is still water  on the road, I saw countless  broken bottles  scattered everywhere  from the company and San Miguel Corporation in which we might not be exempted to get wounded if we will not be watchful.

On our way to Barangay San Jose which is said to be the most affected  areas in Tacloban, we saw the backhoe cleaning the streets to somehow the military cars can pass by and we were able to go ahead of the backhoe. It came to our information that Barangay San Jose is categorizes as a barangay for rich and wealthy  people  of Tacloban.  It  used  to have mansions  and  concrete  houses  but  to our surprise,  the entire houses are dilapidated and no longer safe to stay.

We have to climb in a toppled  electric post  and trees,  tangled  cable wires, debris and others  just to pursue our way.

As we are already few kilometers  away from the  airport,  we were asking the people  for the  direction when suddenly a C130 plane passes by. We walk as fast as we could to reach the airport. Our arrival to the airport was so timely when the soldiers are done hauling all the goods from C130. They just simply check our bags, listed our names and we belong to the first 30 none wounded survivors who are airlifted to Cebu airbase at 10:55 AM. We landed safely in Cebu at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2013.

With the two days experience  in Tacloban during the super typhoon Haiyan as a victim’s survivor what else can we not surpass as an EdM Philippines national team? Emmanuel and I knew that in some points in our life we become  victims of catastrophe and yet we chose to become  b ave enough  to face the challenges and to do our best to help others  as what Children of the Mekong taught us when we accept to do the mission.

Photo #4  Emmanuel Roy and Marife Pinero  poses bravely in one of the main street of  Tacloban City on November 9, 2013. Emmanuel Roy and Marife Pinero  poses bravely in one of the main street of  Tacloban City on November 9, 2013.

Photo #4 Emmanuel Roy and Marife Pinero
poses bravely in one of the main street of
Tacloban City on November 9, 2013.
Emmanuel Roy and Marife Pinero
poses bravely in one of the main street of
Tacloban City on November 9, 2013.

In the aftermath of Haiyan Typhoon, our students in Cebu centre are taking part to the relief aid

Dear Sponsors,

 Thank you for all your messages, which I have given to your sponsored children, and for your very real presence despite the distance that separates us.

This is a quick message to give you some news, and to ask for your help if you don’t mind!

The typhoon didn’t cause any damage to the Cebu centre. We were very frightened three days before the typhoon hit, but in the end we were quite fortunate. We can now give thanks for having been spared and turn our attention to all those who were affected by the typhoon – and there are many.

Today local groups began the mobilisation to provide emergency assistance: on some islands everything was destroyed (this was the case on Bantayan, where 90% of homes were demolished, and in Northern Cebu where a number of sponsored children live). Since these populations have nothing left, the most immediate priority is to provide them with food and water as quickly as possible.

The centre’s children immediately joined in these initiatives, and this afternoon the strongest among them were carrying 5 or 10kg bags of rice, while others were opening plastic bags to fill them with cans of sardines, cans of beef, rice, etc. Everything was perfectly lined up in very neat piles, ready to be transported and distributed! Here are a few pictures from this day, which will remain engraved in everyone’s memory.

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All this hustle and bustle took place in an atmosphere of good cheer that was as surprising as it was infectious. There was no trace of the anxiety everyone felt on that uncertain night when anything could happen. Nor could you see any of the distress the children were feeling on behalf of those who had lost everything. Their smiles were indelible and never left their faces. And these smiles were the most powerful weapon of all, driving all their efforts to help their neighbours near and far, both geographically and emotionally.

That being said, the distress here is very real. And even though the international community immediately sprang into action, Children of the Mekong remains a key resource for the families of the sponsored children who have been affected.

If you’d like to help Children of the Mekong in the Philippines provide emergency aid to families affected by the typhoon, you can make a donation:

Thank you.

Geneviève Patier, Manager of the Cebu Student Centre, Philippines 2013-2014