My first job out of college

The first job holds a special place in every professional’s career.

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My ego took a blow right after finishing my undergrad back in 2004. I graduated at the top of my class at a top university and expected employers to come racing and tearing down my door with a contract, as if I were a first draft pick star athlete waiting for my multi-million dollar offer. But all I got after two months was a job I hustled to get via email, which I quit after working for two weeks without a contract. My boss was a lawyer by the way. I sent scores of job applications, worked my contacts, and got a couple of job interviews to various organizations: government agencies, NGOs, and an urban planning firm. The only thing they had in common were the rejections and unreturned email inquiries.

Six months later I managed to get a research assistant job for a UNDP-funded sustainable agriculture project, “Enhancing Capacities on Sustainable Agriculture for Poverty Reduction”. I got wind of the job posting from my university organization’s e-group, sent by an alumna who also happened to work for the NGO hosting the project. I was invited for an interview, and reported to work a week or two later.

My commute was more than an hour going to work in Quezon City north of Metro Manila (we lived in the south), which included taking a tricycle (like a tuk-tuk), bus, jeep, train, jeep, and another tricycle. Our office was located in the NGO hub of the country close to the University of the Philippines, not too far from what’s now a popular foodie destination. It took a half-hour longer to travel back home. It was also hotter and sweatier. But those didn’t matter. At last I was a productive part of society; I was employed.

As my title suggested, I was responsible for doing research on the sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. Our project helped train farmers to produce their own organic fertilizers, and eventually assist them shift to sustainable agriculture and link them to the national and even international market. It was challenging work not only because of the complexity of the sector, but more so as it was my first job and specialized in environmental planning, and not agriculture. It turned out to be the first of my many future jobs working on agriculture and agriculturists, from policy, markets, and later on directly with farmers.

When not doing online research, I tagged along with our project manager to attend meetings outside the office. We met with other NGOs to identify any common areas we can jointly work on, or complement each other’s activities. There were also the occasional donors’ meetings to report on progress and issues of our project, and writing news articles for our newsletter.

Perhaps the highlight of my stint with the NGO was flying down south, in Cotabato, where we organized a three-day training for farmers to help them shift to biodynamic farming. I remember eating a lean but just-as-good bacon, and visiting the demo-site where it came from- a pig pen that, believe it or not, doesn’t stink. On our last day I joined some farmers for a hike and took a dip at a hot spring.

I never got to see the end of the project, but surprisingly I found a publication about it online. I handed in my resignation letter after three months to work for the government. It was a short three-month gig. But it was my first job where I received my first salary. It was an exciting first taste of the real world, just like with life’s many firsts.

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This is the first of a series of blog posts where I will write about my previous jobs. If you have other suggestions, let me know in the comments section! Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter

Update: This blog post was featured in the online publication The Ascent.

Road trip: How I deal with SLEx on a bus

After moving back to Metro Manila, and to shield myself from the stress-inducing snarling traffic, I’ve pretty much given up on mass transit. I’ve setup a routine, and by way of extension, a life, where I try to avoid all modes of wheeled transportation- even a car- if I can help it.

My daily commute is a seven-minute walk, door-to-desk. For those times I have to go somewhere farther- home in Las Piñas or an aunt’s house in Manila (the city) on weekends- I rely on Uber. Without a driver’s license, a car, and the skills to drive one, it’s the only way to get around in the metro. Taxis, with all the haggling, crime, and grime involved, are now a far, second option. This of course limits my mobility. Save for a jaunt to Singapore in January and to my mother’s hometown in Sorsogon over Christmas, the farthest trip I managed last year was to Los Baños in Laguna, just 68 kilometers south of Manila.

Just recently, I renewed extra-curricular ties to my university, which means making more frequent visits to Los Baños this year. I’m exploring to volunteer in an elderly care program, and have been recently elected as an officer for the college-affiliated professional organization that I helped establish.

More than a decade after graduating from university, I still make that trip south every now and then, just to take a breather from the city. I arrange ‘official’ excuses to go back. I attend alumni meetings in my college, a fiesta farther south in San Pablo City, or do a day trip to Nagcarlan and Pandin. Facebook check-ins garner likes from university friends and other fellow alumni. For sure they would click the ‘envious’ emoji if there was one.

It’s easy to travel to Los Baños. Hop on a bus going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna along EDSA, Buendia, or Alabang and about two hours or so later, voila, you’re in Los Baños. If I’m lucky, I’m able to hitch a ride with a friend who would go home on weekends. Going back from a meeting, for sure a fellow alumnus is driving somewhere to Manila. Otherwise, I don’t have any qualms (and choice) taking the bus.

As a university student, I would travel home on Saturday afternoons after our military training, and be back on Sunday evening or early Monday morning in time for my first class. It was a weekly ritual, a route I know all too well, now hardwired in my body’s internal GPS.

The bus provides few forms of entertainment enough to kill the half-hour stretch of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx). Most air-conditioned buses have a TV (and recently WiFi), which is good and bad. Good because there’s something to alleviate the humdrum of the trip. Bad, because I never got to start or finish whatever is playing. Most of the time, a movie is already playing when one gets on the bus. Sometimes I partly get lucky when the bus conductor starts playing the movie as soon as the bus hits the expressway, only for me to get off an hour later as the movie is about to reach climax. This was right before the time of the iPods and Spotify, when on-demand music meant burning your favorite playlist on a CD.

I recently visited a college friend in San Pablo, further south of Los Baños, who has turned into a regular weekend bus commuter when he started working in Manila full-time. He said you meet all sorts of people on a bus. I encountered one of them that morning.

A time-tested way to while away the time is to sleep, if you have the tenacity to do so. I had planned on sleeping on the bus after a rough night. I could get at least a good hour of shuteye from the two-hour bus ride once I have paid my fare, or so I thought. The lady seating on the opposite side was holding a talkfest. She was already deep into her conversation with her companion as I got on the bus along EDSA in Ortigas. She talked non-stop all the way to Calamba, where she and her companion finally got off. She talked so much that I barely remember hearing the voice of the guy she was with. When they got off the bus, a guy moved to their vacated seats. This time, he was singing along in a deep monotone to Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love All’ as he looked out the window. Sleeping on a bus is not easy to achieve, and that morning it wasn’t happening to me. I started singing along.

Upon leaving Metro Manila, Calamba is the first city that greets motorists at the southern tip of the expressway. It’s the last exit of the SLEx, the gateway to Laguna’s more rustic parts and all things calm and green, past the urban sprawl that has engulfed parts of the province closer to Manila. It signals ‘one more hour before arrival’ to my ultimate destination. The Calamba-Los Baños stretch used to be shorter. The volume of vehicles has unfortunately given way to predictable choke points in Calamba Crossing and the junction going into the UP Los Baños campus. A third one exists in summer, in Pansol, where Manileños troop to swimming pool resorts to cool down.

For someone who has visited six out of the seven continents, I can’t say I’ve always been, or already am, a good traveler. I feel anxious at the thought of air travel. As a child, I would feel nauseous after seating for a while in a moving vehicle. My mother made sure she had a barf bag with her in the unfortunate event that I needed one, which was quite frequent. At times, even up till now, a whiff of a musty taxi or pine-scented air-conditioned bus still triggers childhood memories of motion-sickness, projectiles, and plastic bags.

Memories of traversing the SLEx are nothing but a blur, like a necessary purgatory one has to go through to escape Manila and reach the gates of provincial Laguna. Most times I simply tune out and get lost in the time-space abyss. It’s transit in a trance.

I still squirm at the thought of long land travel, just sitting there in limbo, neither comfortable nor productive, neither here nor there. But for a couple of hours away to escape Manila en route to my happy place, I deal with it.

If you’ve taken a specific route countless times, you more or less can estimate where are you are depending on the time and speed of the vehicle, even with your eyes closed. Approaching Calamba exit, the driver releases the gas pedal and slightly applies the break. The bus slows down as it rounds the exit ramp, the centrifugal force pushing me lightly to the left. I then feel a rush, as if I’m on a plane preparing for landing, banking, gradually descending and raising its flaps to aid its deceleration and finish off with a smooth soft landing. It’s a gentle wake up call to tell me I’m approaching a familiar destination, now one that is part-holiday, part-business, but always like home. It’s a nudge I recognize, a unique one just for this particular bend in the road.

Journey to victory

By Andrew Zubiri

My grumbling stomach was telling me the time—it was almost noon. I decided to go out of our college building to grab something to eat at a nearby makeshift canteen. I was appalled with the throngs of jeepneys lined up on the street surrounding the Oblation as soon as I stepped out of our building, as if a jeepney terminal was relocated inside the campus. Seeing an assemblage of such vehicles inside the vicinity of the university was something peculiar to a naïve college freshman like me back then. I saw one of my blocmates and a couple of her friends in one of them, and jokingly asked her if she knew where the jeep was bound for. She seriously said yes.

Those jeepneys were bound for Edsa. There were about twenty of them, and a batch of almost the same number had already left a few hours earlier.

I forgot all about my hunger and headed straight to my dormitory to see if my roommates were also going. The idea of joining the rally was already abuzz in the dorm since the other night. I found one of them in our room and he told me that our other roommates had already left almost an hour ago to join the rally. I asked him if he was going to Edsa as well, he said no because he has tons of things to do. I invited second thoughts of not joining when I heard those words, for I did not want to go alone in this new pool of experience I am about to jump into. There were a lot of uncertainties playing in my mind, most of which came from what I see on TV or read in the newspapers about people, particularly students, who join rallies: violent arrests, beating up by policemen, or simply a scolding from my parents who warned me to not join such activities. But, fortunately, those remained as just those– thoughts. And those did not taint my enthusiasm and curiosity to join the rally.

I emptied my backpack and dumped in all the things that (I think) I would need: a shirt, a small towel, bottled water, and my allowance for the rest of the week. It felt like I was about to engage in a battle of some sort. I went to a nearby fast-food chain to buy four burgers, which I hoped would last me the rest of the day.

I went back to the place where the jeepneys were parked, but what I just saw was the last of them speeding away. I considered that as a sign that didn’t “deserve” to join a rally yet. I was as fresh as I can be as a college freshman, and I am not “nationalistically mature” yet, whatever that means. I saw a bunch of students wearing loud red shirts who at first I thought were student-activists, but I assumed and later confirmed they were members of a fraternity and a sorority. I overheard them talking about going to Edsa, and I wondered how. The jeepneys had all left, and not even one of them owned a car. My being nosey led me to stalking them. I heard them saying that all the vehicles will first converge in Crossing (Calamba), and from there will proceed to Edsa. My face lit up and I saw a ray of hope as I heard those words; I wasn’t totally left behind after all. They hailed a jeepney bound for Calamba, and I eagerly followed them.

The trip to Calamba was unusually a smooth one. We arrived there in no time. The multitude and convergence of students, professors, and other university constituents in another place outside the UPLB campus was overwhelming. Most of them were crammed inside cars and jeepneys, while some of the activists were spilled on the streets asking some of the manong drivers who have not yet joined the bandwagon (literally and figuratively) if they could go to Edsa. The students were not able to convince the jeepney drivers –but they were able to convince the bus drivers! After a few minutes of haggling and negotiating with the conductors, students started to pour inside nine non air-conditioned buses. Each was packed to the hilt with about seventy students, accommodating more passengers than its usual capacity. As a consolation, they had a television on-board. After everyone has boarded the buses and all were set, we began our pilgrimage to Edsa.

We breezed through the South Luzon Expressway, occasionally stopping for the other buses and jeepneys to catch up with the convoy. On our way, the ‘marshals’ told us we needed to pay about 35 pesos each for the one-way bus ride. The conductor switched on the TV, and the screen showed the impeachment trial court barren with the prosecution panel. We shouted ‘Booooo!’ whenever the irritating faces of the 11 senators who denied the opening of the controversial envelope were put up close the monitor.

I suddenly realized my hunger, and devoured one of the burgers with just a few big bites and gulped down half of the water I brought with me. I felt sleepy afterwards and decided to take a nap.

My adventure in dreamland ceased when I felt the bus stop and switched off its engine. I can’t exactly pinpoint where we stopped, but I know it was somewhere in a tollgate along C-5 road. A small building that housed the policemen and other traffic authorities was nearby. I thought we were there because some of us needed to respond to the call of nature, since there was a public toilet outside the building. Yes, some of us used the comfort rooms, but I later learned that it wasn’t really the main reason why we were there in the first place. I noticed that the marshals were talking to the traffic aides, but I was sure it wasn’t just a friendly chat. I sensed something was wrong. Our marshals eventually told us that the traffic men wouldn’t let us proceed to Edsa since the signs of the jeepneys say we were already out of route. Of course we were out of route, we came all the way from Los Baños! They said that the vehicles weren’t conducive for a safe trip because it was jam-packed. Of course they were jam-packed, would they bother to give us a few thousand pesos to hire a few more buses and jeepneys? They also said that we weren’t on for an educational trip, so why the very large number of students? They were definitely wrong. I know it would be one of the most historic, educational, and significant trips I’ll ever take in my whole life. They gave us various delaying tactics, like looking for protest permits, and threatening us that they would confiscate the automobiles’ plate numbers. I know someone ordered them to prevent such massive mobilizations. I know they were just doing their job, and apparently, they were doing it pretty damn well.

Most of us felt restless after a while, and the marshals told us to go down and join them in ‘pleading’ to the traffic authorities to let us go. The marshals told them that we would block the road if they won’t let us leave. But they were unmoved. We started to form a human barricade. With our arms linked together, kapit-bisig so-to-speak, we blocked the northbound lane of the road. Heavy traffic started to clog the said lane in no time, as motorists started to honk their horns. Some of us approached them and explained to them what was happening. Soon, their horns were blaring simultaneously to the tune of “Erap resign” (E-rap re-sign!) we were chanting. We started shouting Palam-pasin kamI! Palam-pasin kami! (Let us pass through!) to appropriately match our plea. The traffic men are (quite) smart: they let the northbound vehicles pass through the southbound lane. But we are smarter. Some of us have already started to occupy the opposite lane, and both roads soon became congested. The traffic men began to call for back-up with their CB radios.

A few minutes later, and not expecting the unexpected, the traffic aides let their defenses down and decided to let us go even if the back-up they’ve called for hasn’t arrived yet. If there’s a will, there’s surely (and literally) a way. We all cheered and rejoiced in jubilation. I was ecstatic. We felt that this was a very good start in anticipation of what was to come. We scurried in our respective modes of transportation, and quickly left and headed for Edsa. I saw one police officer passing by (maybe one of the back-ups) in his patrol car and gave him a thumbs-up sign and a snappy salute.

I can consider this sequence of events was a premonition of what was to unfold in the days to come. This also served as an inspiration that prepared us as we headed towards the historic place in Edsa Avenue corner Ortigas Avenue.

And the rest, not only as the cliché goes, but as we witnessed in Edsa, is history.

Our neighbor lives to tell her supertyphoon Haiyan story

As a mother weathered supertyphoon Haiyan in Tacloban, her daughter chronicled her despair, and hope, on Facebook (texts in box below).

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Malou, a mother of four, arrived in Tacloban on November 5. Her fourth and youngest child, Addy, is a 7th grader at the Philippine Science High School Eastern Visayas Provincial Campus, in Pawing, Palo, Leyte. He asked her mother to come to Palo to pick up his report card scheduled on November 8, the same day the typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) made landfall in central Philippines.

Before she left for Tacloban, Malou’s eldest child, Yssa, told her to take precaution as a supertyphoon was coming. But Malou is no stranger to typhoons. For her, it was a way of life in her hometown of Borongan City, the provincial capital of Eastern Samar. The city is first to take hit from storms entering via the mid-east part of the Philippines which faces the Pacific Ocean. “It was just a supertyphoon. I did not know there would also be those storm surges, water surges. I didn’t know those would occur. I wasn’t really worried as I am used to typhoons,” Malou said.

When her son Addy started high school last June, she decided to move to Tacloban and stay close to him and provide for his needs. Lately, however, she had been shuttling back and forth to their house in Las Pinas (a city in southern Metro Manila), and regularly visiting her husband, Uly, in Brunei as he recovers from cancer. She rented a room near the school of his son who was staying in the dormitory. On November 6, the day after she arrived, the president of the parent teacher association, sent a text message to parents and guardians of students, telling them that afternoon classes had been suspended so they can prepare for the impending storm. The day was still normal with no sign of rain or wind. On their way home, they bought just enough groceries to tide them away when they plan to stay indoors the next day. “Not a lot”, Malou said. “I did not expect the storm would last, and something like that would happen, what do you call that… a catastrophe.” They went back to the room, where her two nieces were also visiting that time. The room is on the upper level of a two-story boarding house about two kilometers from the school. It was also a hundred meters away from the coastline.

Members of her family- her husband Uly in Brunei, and three children left in Las Pinas- held a video call on November 7. It was the day before the storm, and Uly told her that they should have a lot of food ready in case power goes out. She cooked a potful of rice, and adobo from a whole chicken. She also boiled some eggs in case they finish the chicken adobo. The first drops of intermittent rain arrived that same night. “True enough, the electricity was already out in the morning, when the wind started to pick up”, she said.

Good morning text kanina ng nanay ko na nasa Tacloban. (Good morning text of my mother who is in Tacloban. Stay safe guys. Anh (sic) lakas na ng ulan at hangin dito sa Las Piñas. (The rain and wind are too strong here in Las Piñas)

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In the eye of the storm

The boarding house is barely a year old. Unlike many of the houses made from light materials, and later on trampled by the storm surge, theirs had perimeter walls and foundations made of concrete. Metal trusses supported the roof, while double-walled plywood panels partitioned the upper floor into four separate rooms. Malou, a civil engineering graduate, thought they would be safe in the house. “I trusted that even if a storm came, it won’t get destroyed,” she said.  The wind pounded the house as it did the rest of Tacloban and central Visayas. It was the ultimate test to the design of the house, and to Malou’s will to live. The latter succeeded, but the former failed. The roof lost to the beating of the wind as it came off. The ceiling, now their only shield from the storm, soon gave way to the wind’s relentless force. “That was what I was really afraid of… when our roof is gone, for sure (debris) will hit our heads”, she added. With no roof over their heads and now exposed to the elements, the rain drenched them and their belongings. Meanwhile, water started to accumulate on the floor. Addy, however, insisted to step out of the house. Malou hurriedly followed and called out on him to come back. When he did, he was already wounded, whereas she and her nieces came out unscathed. “Had they been on their own, they would be dead,” she said. “There was no one older to instruct them”.

Oh my God. These kids. I don’t give a flying fuck if you’re praying or proud to be a Filipino. Just don’t use #RescuePH as your hashtag. There are real people who actually use that hashtag to look for someone.

The whipping of the wind went on for hours, and it posed another danger. Its brute force was pushing one of the plywood partitions to lean toward them. “I was estimating its height and the length (of the room), if the whole plywood would crush us,” Malou said. She saw it was high enough to for the concrete wall to break its fall. The heavy partition leaned slowly, until it hit the concrete wall. For now they were safe.

The gusts of wind, however, continued to gallop the fallen plywood, which weakened its attachment to the beams as it starts to flail. “We will lose our shed!” Malou said. From hunkering down, she stepped on the lower bunk bed to hoist it and keep it from wavering. “I thought we would die if the wall fell on us. It was really heavy. I thought that would be our end,” she recalled. The ominous wall which has now become their proverbial shelter from the storm, was also about to go.

“My hands were already hurting”, she said. Malou became more animated as she told her story. “I was really fighting the wind”, she said as she raised her hand as if to stop and prevent something from falling. She held the wall in place for almost four hours. “I told my niece: Yvonne, it’s your turn. I’m already shaking, give me some water”, she added. Her niece took her turn but soon cried out, “Auntie, it’s too strong!”, referring to the wind.

Hi friends, I need a favor. I can’t watch every news channel in the country so please please please, if you hear or read the names Marilou (Malou) Alemania, Alessandro (Addy) Alemania, Jelyn Cervantes, and Yvonne Buna, please please call me or message me via facebook. Thank you!

Malou already worried about the strong winds and rain, yet saw another cause for concern as she got a view through the window. Water was starting to rise, reaching the ceiling of the first level of the houses and huts. She saw people next-door, all men, held on to the trusses of a nearby house, and for their dear lives. She wondered where the people who lived downstairs have gone. She did not notice anyone go up, and assumed they were dead from the strong current. Out on the street, the rushing water brought garbage and two cars. She did not know anyone nearby who owns those cars. As the flood rushed, she asked herself, “Why is there flood, when the sea doesn’t bring floods?” After about half an hour, the water started to subside. The men who clung onto the trusses swam the flood water and climbed up their window to seek refuge. There were other residents in the boarding house. A couple lived next door downstairs. The roofs and ceilings of the restrooms are gone, except theirs. Inside, she found another couple with an infant only a few months old who took refuge with them upstairs inside one of the restrooms with an umbrella in hand.  “It seems the Lord gave the baby a roof to take cover”. She said. They stayed there until night fall.

Her other niece, Janine, cooped up in the cabinet under the laundry sink made of concrete. She heard a screeching sound, not realizing another wooden partition fell on the other direction, its base now wedged against the base of their protective wall. They were practically trapped, save for the sliding glass window in their room, which fortunately didn’t break. “That became our house, that’s where we stayed for five days, six days. We couldn’t really do anything, there’s no text (messaging), no communication. What can we do, but wait?”

She thought about the worst-case scenarios. Water could reach the second level, or worse, way above their heads. “Do we have to go up the trusses? We were still far from the sea, that would have been impossible”, she thought to herself. As they sought refuge under the collapsed partition, and in the midst of the roaring wind and pouring rain she knew they were at least safe inside. They subsisted on the adobo, rice and eggs she cooked, which soon ran out. Their neighbors who lived next room work at the nearby Oriental Hotel gave them four cans each of sardines, corned beef, juice and water bottles.

Ted Failon’s report just broke my heart. I sincerely hope that my family members and relatives are okay.

The day after

The next day, Saturday, the sun was up. Malou asked Janine to join her as she stepped out of the house to survey the damage in the area. She worried about her best friend, Janeth who lived in a bungalow just a few blocks away, much closer to the beach. She knew Janeth and her youngest child have evacuated to another friend’s house in Barangay San Jose near the airport, but what about the husband and the nephew left behind in their house.

The main door of the house was gone. She went at the back and found the van’s windshield broken, its body, crushed. The motorcycle was still upright but covered in trash. She asked Janine to look for her friend’s husband inside the house. “Tito Zaldy, Tito Zaldy!”, Janine called out. There was no response. Malou started to entertain bad thoughts, “What could have happened to them?” She later learned from two women who lived across their street evacuated to a covered court whose roof was also ripped off by the storm. That the husband and nephew left behind clung on to the trusses. On their way out from the house, her best friend’s husband’s hand got trapped, cutting the pinky finger off, as they swam to safety on an elevated concrete water tank.

It all seemed like a war zone. The damage went far and wide. I thought to myself, “Hala! What happened to this, I can’t believe this.” Malou said. The eye of the storm was blind to social status. “There was no rich or poor”, she added, referring to the people debilitated by the storm. The beautiful houses were not spared. “There were even some made of concrete, but even the concrete crumbled. Was the quality of the construction sub-standard? But the combined force of the water and wind were to blame as well.

They walked a little farther, only to see trash blocking the roads. “At that time I cannot smell anything foul yet, but I already saw eight dead bodies,” she said. Amid the apocalyptic destruction, she still found time to do some household chores. “We just dried our clothes on a clothesline because they didn’t have mud, unlike downstairs where they did nothing but to leave their belongings”, Malou said.

At one point as she was drying their wet clothes, she looked through the window and saw a procession of people carrying dead bodies, each wrapped in a white sheet tied to poles, carried by two people each. In her barangay, there were at least 20 fatalities.

On Monday night, three days after the storm, she was able to connect to the outside world albeit indirectly. Kathy, a sister-in-law of Malou’s nephew, Dudu, was lucky enough to get on a C-130 plane to Manila. Dudu asked Kathy to look up Malou’s eldest child on Facebook, and send her a message. It was the first smoke signal to her daughters. Their mother, brother and cousins are alive.

My mother, brother, and cousins are safe!! Thank you, Lord! And thank you all for your prayers and concern.By this time, Malou’s husband, Uly, has flown back to the Philippines. He told his daughters who already bought tickets to Tacloban that he will join them. “I’ll join you to look for her, even just to find her dead body,” Malou said as she recounted her husband’s words.

Baras to Apitong: The long road to safety

Six days after the typhoon, and after drying their clothes and other belongings, Malou packed their bags and suitcase to transfer to the house of her best friend’s relatives, (Tan-Carvajal family) who were not severely affected by the flood. Getting there, though, was a bit more complicated. Buses and jeepneys were already plying the roads, but people who wanted to escape their ravaged town filled them to hilt. Everyone was only after one’s safety. Private cars won’t stop to give a ride. “People here are so selfish”, Malou said to herself. So with their luggage in tow and under the heat of the sun, Malou, with her son, nieces and her best friends sons, plodded by foot from coastal Baras to upland Apitong, a four-hour, eight-kilometer journey.

“There was nowhere to take cover and rest, everything was down”, she said as she showed her sunburned forearms. Skin damage was the least of her worries, however, as a more serious type of damage was seen on the way to Apitong. Addy’s school was destroyed, its roof already missing. Only the skeletal structure remained of the new gymnasium. At one gasoline station, people young and old were freely taking gasoline. They would dip pieces of foam into the hole of the gasoline storage underground, and squeezed out the gasoline into soda bottles, for personal consumption or commerce at PhP300 per liter. Soldiers secured the area and asked people to line up to give a general sense of order. As they made their way to Apitong, they no longer saw visual signs of death, no bodies laying on the ground, yet the stench of death and decay lingered in the air.

Watching Jeff Canoy’s report breaks my heart all over again. McArthur Park is just one kilometer away from where my mother is staying. Yes, Palo is just beside Tacloban but they haven’t received any goods yet. Something has to be done now. Na-survive mo nga ang bagyo, pero gutom ka naman.

They spent two days at her best friend’s relatives’ house in Apitong. Survival instincts took over sense of propriety “I knew them but we were not close”, Malou said. They were also from Eastern Samar where Malou hails from. “We just had to be shameless”, she added. They consumed their food supply, slept in their extra room, and used their cellphone. Her best friend’s daughter sent a text message to Yssa to tell her that there is a cellphone signal where they were. Their host has been recharging the cellphone using the car battery. On Thursdays night, almost after the storm struck, Malou heard her daughters’ voice.

Finally heard my mother’s voice!!! Thank God!!!!

Coming home

Malou met Jury (in law of Tan’s family), an acquaintance back from Divine Word University in Tacloban (Malou’s alma mater) who now works as supervisor at Philippine Airlines, Tacloban base. They hitched a ride in his car to the airport. On November 16, a week and a day after Haiyan hit Tacloban, with tickets bought by Yssa online, Malou and Addy flew back home to safety. Upon arrival at the airport, despite having heard each other voices on the phone, her daughters shed tears of joy as they saw with their own eyes their mother and brother in the flesh, safe, and alive.

Several ways you can help Sendong disaster victims if you’re outside the Philippines

Updated*. You’ve read the newsseen photos, and watched videos of the disaster as a result of tropical storm ‘Sendong’ (international name: Washi) that trampled southern Philippines. Local relief efforts have begun and you want to help. But you are outside the country; one of the millions of Filipinos in diaspora or perhaps a foreigner who simply has a soft spot for the Philippines and its people. Despite the distance you can still lend a helping hand  Here are a few ways, and we thank you in advance.

1. Look for a Filipino. Chances are, you or a friend of yours know a Filipino who is flying home to the Philippines for Christmas. Get in touch with them and ask them a favor to bring a small amount of money or goods. If you decide to donate goods like food, clothes, and blankets, tell them to drop off your donations to the nearest LBC station. It is a courier company in the Philippines which will send the goods for free to the hardest-hit areas.

@LBC_Foundation said they will start receiving donations in their drop off points in the US and Canada as of today (December 20):

https://twitter.com/#!/LBC_Foundation/status/148946998337347585

Their other offices abroad are also open to donations.

https://twitter.com/#!/LBC_Foundation/status/148947224385171456

2. Donate through your credit card. You can do so via:

GMA Kapuso Foundation
Worldvision (Thanks to my friend Thea for the heads up!)
Philippine Red Cross

3. Donate via Paypal through one of the members of Iligan bloggers: http://bit.ly/oneforiligan-donate

4. Make a wire transfer. You can also wire your donations through the following bank accounts:

•METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST COMPANY (METROBANK)
Peso Savings
Account Name: GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 3-098-51034-7
Dollar Savings
Account Name: GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 2-098-00244-2
Code:MBTC PH MM

•UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK (UCPB)
Peso Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 115-184777-2
: 160-111277-7
Dollar Savings
Account Name: GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number: 01-115-301177-9
: 01-160-300427-6
Code: UCPB PH MM

GMA Kapuso Foundation has other bank accounts, but these banks deduct service fees.

BANCO DE ORO (BDO)
Peso Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number:469-0022189
Dollar Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number:469-0072135
Code: BNORPHMM

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK (PNB)
Peso Savings
Account Name :GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Numbe:121-003200017
Dollar Savings
Account Name:GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc.
Account Number:121-003200025
Code:PNB MPH MM

Philippine Red Cross bank accounts (via the Philippine Daily Inquirer):

Deposits can also be made to the PRC’s Banco De Oro peso account 00-453-0018647, dollar 10-453-0039482; Bank of the Philippine Islands peso account 4991-0036-52, dollar account 004994-0103-15; Metrobank account 151-3-041631228, dollar 151-2-15100218-2; Philippine National Bank peso account 3752 8350 0034, dollar account 3752 8350 0042; Unionbank of the Philippines peso account 1015 4000 0201; dollar account 1315 4000 0090.

Sagip Kapamilya (via ABS CBN News)

BDO Peso Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 39301-14199
Swift Code: BNORPHMM

BDO Dollar Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 39300-81622
Swift Code: BNORPHMM

PNB Peso Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 419-539-5000-13
Swift Code: PNBMPHMM

BPI Peso Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 3051-1127-75
Branch: West Triangle, Quezon City
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM

BPI Dollar Account
Account name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Sagip Kapamilya
Account Number: 3054-0270-35
Branch: West Triangle, Quezon City
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM

Philippine Jesuit Foundation (via Emett de Guzman)

You can make a tax-deductible donation for those affected by Typhoon Sendong through the Philippine Jesuit Foundation (PJF). PJF will issue you a receipt and ensure that your donation goes to the proper beneficiary.

 1. Online Donations: Click on Ateneo de Manila University and pick DREAM, Disaster Response and Management Fund.
https://www.phjesuits.org/pjf/share.php

2. By check, address it to PHILIPPINE JESUIT FOUNDATION, write Ateneo de Manila-Dream Team on the memo line, then send it to:

Philippine Jesuit Foundation
P.O. Box 312
New York, N.Y.  10028
USA

For more information, contact:
Ms. MARGARET LLAMAS
Executive Director
pjfexecdir@phjesuits.org
Telephone number: (646) 370-1526

*Please let me know if this list is incomplete and there are other ways for people outside the Philippines to help our brothers and sisters.

A party, Pacquiao and Peyups

I was Filipino-ed out over the weekend. While the EU member countries held an open house of their respective embassies last Saturday, I was in a different sort of open house, but not of the European type. I had a view of an embassy and I was in a house, or at least on the rooftop of one- on the apartment of a Filipino diplomat whose wife celebrated her birthday (which was last month). As the saying goes, better late than never.

I again had another- small-world experience. I bumped into Crissy, a co-volunteer at the WWF-Philippines in 2003. She turns out to be in D.C. over the weekend after attending a retreat of their organization in North Virginia the past two weeks. She turned out to be a friend of one of my current colleague, Jeneen, also a Filipino.

Later that night, I was in the company of another group of Filipinos from work. We watched the boxing fight of Manny Pacquiao against Shane Mosley. I’m not a big fan of boxing, but kudos for winning the fight. It was worth the five-hour stay in the sports bar!

And yesterday I attended the PeyUPsbook gathering at the Lincolnia Senior Center (!), Thanks to Ferdie who invited me to a carpool and off we went to the suburbia of North Virginia. PeyUPsbook is a portmanteau of Peyups (which is the inverted way to say UP, which stands for University of the Philippines. The inverted wordplay was a slang and popular way of speaking in the 70’s ) and you guessed it right, Facebook. There I met members of the UP Alumni Association Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia Chapter (UPAA DC-MD-VA). They come from different campuses but a majority are from Diliman. It was nostalgic to listen to my university hymn, and a handful of OPMs (Original Pilipino Music). The event was also a tribute to the choir master who is leaving soon for professional pursuits in Bangkok.

There was good food, good music, and good company. If it’s from UP, it must be good. I recorded a video of their performance, but my filming talent does not do justice to their musical talent:

I can now proudly say that I am a published author. I did not write a book or publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal. It was an essay included in a book called 50 Kwentong Peyups (stories of UP)- a collection of stories about experience of past UP students.

It was first published in a newspaper three years ago as part of a series of essays called 100 Kwentong Peyups in celebration of the UP Centennial in 2008. A lady emailed me some years back informing me that my essay was selected for inclusion in this collection, and requesting for my permission to publish it. I never heard from her again, and the book project, until I received an email in the UPAA DC-MD-VA about the book. I googled about the book and after my frantic search learned that it was in March last year. I traced a Facebook page of 50 Kwentong Peyups, left a question on its wall inquiring if my essay made it to the select 50, and it (he? she?) replied a few days later that it was indeed, part of the collection.