Thank you to PCAFPD supporters who made special contributions for our scholars and alumni impacted by several crises in the Philippines.  Your generosity has made a real difference in the lives of our alumni and their families.

Responding to Crises

COVID-19 Global Pandemic

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic shut down normal operations of just about every societal benefit worldwide. College students were sent home and were eventually transitioned to virtual classrooms. Our scholars, who have demonstrated financial need as an eligibility requirement for receiving an award, did not have the technology to be able to attend class virtually. The foundation knew action was necessary and ever since have been providing laptops and the resources needed to connect to the internet.

The Siege of Zamboanga

In September  2013 about 180 Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas laid siege to parts of Zamboanga City, including the area of Santa Catalina – home of PCAFPD graduate scholar  Ignacio “Jun” Senara.  PSAA president  Ariestelo Asilo was in touch with Jun during those frightful days when Jun and his family literally had to dodge bullets to get to safety. Aries reported:

 Jun and wife were able to sneak out of Mampang a few days ago, took the boat hastily until they reached Ayala along with 42 other families in the evacuation area. They fear for their lives with helicopters hovering above, mortar bombings, snipers, tanks and raining bullets.  They fear for their house, sure it has been ransacked by the rebels. They are running out of foods. No monies because the banks are closed.

PCAFPD sent Jun some funds to help buy food supplies, and he and his family survived the ordeal and returned home. (See Jun’s article in the Fall 2013 issue of Balitaan for his first hand account of the experience.)

Bohol Earthquake

On October 15, a magnitude 7.2 quake hit the island province of Bohol at 8:12 a.m. An unnamed internet posting reported:

The results are devastating; with 198 people so far reported deceased and considerable damage to roads, houses and buildings. The destruction is widespread…. The bridge crossing Abatan River (on the road from Tagbilaran to Tubigon) collapsed, and about 26 bridges rendered impassable.

Some four months later, aftershocks up to magnitude 4.2 continue fairly regularly.

The quake affected another PCAFPD graduate, Vanessa Cruda, who teaches at Inabanga High School, located less than three kilometers from the earthquake fault line.  She told Roland de Jesus, PCAFPD VP for Philippine Operations:

The shaking brought horror and fear to us but we’re thankful enough no one was injured when debris started falling from our house. After the countless seconds of shaking, walls cracked everywhere, things were thrown in every direction, and we lost our house. We now stay in a tent and a small nipa hut (what used to be a dog house). We were not yet able to build a new house since there are still aftershocks and mainly due to insufficiency of financial resources. 

PCAFPD, thanks to a special fundraising effort, has been able to provide support to Vanessa to help her rebuild her home.

Typhoon Yolanda

On November 8, 2013 super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) came barreling through the central Philippines, causing widespread destruction and more than 6,000 deaths. With wind speeds estimated at 315 km/h (195 mph), it was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall on record.

It aimed straight at the Province of Leyte, where a number of PCAFPD graduates live and work. (No current scholars are from Leyte or attend school there.)  At first, it was impossible to find out what happened to them. Entire villages had been wiped out, there was no electricity in the province and the cell phone relay towers were no more.

Slowly, very slowly, communication channels opened up again.  We first heard on Facebook from Rica Pelicano Abunda, a teacher in Ormoc, whose home had been destroyed. With help from Rica and a posting on the PSAA page on Facebook, we identified two more teachers whose homes also were destroyed, Rosalie Cisneros, and Feljoy Salas Suri. Schools were closed and there were no paychecks until things normalized.   Life literally was on a hand-to-mouth and day-to-day basis. Another Leyte graduate, Mark Ian Calayugan works in Nueva Ecija, but his home in Leyte was destroyed as well.

In Washington, the PCAFPD Board of Directors launched a special fundraising effort that yielded sufficient income to help the affected PSAA graduates to rebuild their homes and lives.

Meanwhile in Manila, Aries Asilo was active in recruiting some 400 volunteers from colleges/universities to help package 120,000 meals for the storm survivors.  The event was sponsored by Stop Hunger Now.  PCAFPD board member Geri Maiatico, Director of Stop Hunger Now/Philippines co-facilitated the actual packing of the meals.

At another Manila event, a fraternity anniversary reunion, PCAFPD board member Hans Groot, organized an impromptu pass-the-hat fundraiser that yielded well over 200,000 pesos (approx. $5000) for both earthquake and typhoon survivors.

There is a well-known song, We Are Family and while it was not written with these calamities in mind, the title seems to be a perfect fit for what transpired.

Many thanks to our supporters who contributed to the special appeal for funds to help our graduates in crises. One of them, Feljoy Suri, expressed the sentiments of all of them when she wrote, “I extend my heartfelt thanks to the foundation.  May God continue to shower more blessings to all those kindhearted people a hundredfold.

PCAFPD Board member Geri Maiatico and many of our alumni in the Manila area worked with Stop Hunger Now Philippines to provide food and supplies to typhoon victims.  Aries Asilo, PSAA President, was indispensable in supporting the this event, volunteering many hours to ensuring all logistics were in place.