(The following entry is written as the first of four entries about my recent trip to the Philippines and the Bayanihan Foundation’s efforts to help in the long-term sustainability efforts in the Philippines after the devastating typhoon Haiyan hit the islands last November 2013)
On August 18, 2014, I visited Samar, Philippines to follow-up on the Bayanihan Foundation’s recovery efforts and to donate laptop computers to the Giporlos Central Elementary School in Giporlos, Samar, the second town hit by the powerful Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded in history to hit landfall. The foundation is trying to make long-term, sustainable impact in the islands devastated by the typhoon and show the power of Filipinos abroad helping Filipinos at home.
I was pleasantly surprised that Leyte was bustling with economic activity. The local jeepneys were overflowing with passengers. Even the San Juanico bridge connecting Samar and Leyte islands is newly repainted in bright orange.
I arrived in the town of Giporlos, Samar, a town of 15,000 people with 75% of the population suffered heavy losses of lives and property after Typhoon Haiyan. I was also pleasantly surprised that the town’s municipal hall is also being rebuilt and repainted.
I stayed at the home of Evelyn Castillo, the foundation’s Philippine Liaison. In November 2013, Evelyn lost the entire roof of her home and almost all her belongings, due to the ravages of the powerful typhoon Haiyan. I sighed with relief and was happy to see that her home has a new roof and I don’t have to sleep out in the open like the last time I visited her.
Slowly but surely, Evelyn and the residents of Giporlos, Samar and the devastated towns of Samar and Leyte are slowly rebuilding their lives, a sign of the resiliency of the human spirit. It’s hard to imagine the powerful force of this devastating typhoon until you see for yourself the damage it has caused. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana with winds gusting up to 175 miles per hour. Typhoon Haiyan was recorded to have wind gusts to 230 miles per hour. Despite the fury of the storm, Evelyn and the residents of Giporlos, Samar are picking up the pieces and recovering slowly but surely.
In November 2013, Ms. Marlefe ‘Bobit’ Lo, Evelyn’s sister-in-law invited me to visit her devastated school, the Giporlos Central Elementary School. I saw the ravaged classrooms, the flooded library and the devastated school. She requested that the Bayanihan Foundation donate at least some books and dictionaries to her school and help her students recover from the typhoon.
In August 2014, the Bayanihan Foundation, in addition to the requested dictionaries, donated six used laptop computers to the Giporlos Central Elementary School to help the teachers and the students recover from typhoon Haiyan. A big thanks to donor Will Dix for donating the used laptop computers. The teachers were excited to receive the laptop computers to help them with their administrative paperwork and with their teaching. The teachers were still using typewriters to send their paperwork to the school district. In September 2014, Evelyn Castillo of the Bayanihan Foundation is planning a series of computer literacy training for the teachers to learn how to use and provide sustained care for the laptop computers. In the coming months, the teachers will learn how to use the laptops and then train their students on hands on computer training as well. The Bayanihan Foundation is also slated to donate more used computers to the Giporlos National Trade School, the local high school in Giporlos, Samar.
I am glad that the Bayanihan Foundation, in its small way, could make sustainable impact in helping the residents of Giporlos, Samar recover from the devastating typhoon. A big thanks again to Will Dix for donating the used laptop computers. Otherwise, they would have ended in a landfill in the US but the Bayanihan Foundation put them to good use and poised to help teachers and students in Samar. It’s a fine example on how Filipinos abroad can help Filipinos at home.