Orang Asli Charity Event March 2014

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Reaching out, touching hearts

Joint Philippines-Singapore humanitarian mission effort in typhoon-hit Kinatarcan led by Cebu City’s Basilica de Santo Niño Foundation brings comfort to its islanders

By Tan Chung Lee

It was a scenario that Marilyn Moaña would rather forget.

On November 8, 2013, at 9 am, the sea just a few metres from her coastal home on the idyllic island of Kinatarcan off the main island of Cebu in the Philippines was calm. In fact, when Marilyn looked out of her window, she noted it was low tide then.

As she went about her household tasks, she suddenly heard a deafening whoosh. What happened later was a scene that would forever be etched in her mind.

A storm surge with waves over three metres in height swamped over the island’s shores without warning and a fishing boat carried by the waves slammed right against her house, crushing it. The next thing she knew, she, her disabled husband and their five children aged from four to 18 years were cast adrift amid the floating debris of their home.

With quick presence of mind, she caught hold of two of her children and held up their chins above the fast rising sea water while neighbours rushed in to help pull out her other children and husband, hauling them to safety.

All of them huddled against what was now a howling wind raging across the island, tearing off the branches of coconut palms, ripping off the roofs of churches, flattening houses and damaging fishing boats.

Then as suddenly as it had begun, the wind abated and the waters receded back into the sea. The terrifying typhoon, nicknamed Yolanda, was over in just two hours.

But for Marilyn and the other 9000 islanders of Kinatarcan, the nightmare had only just begun.

Lending a helping hand

It was against this backdrop that the Santo Niño de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation, Inc (SNAF) headed by Executive Director Reverend Father Tito Soquiño, of the historic Basilica de Santo Niño in Cebu City, swung quickly into action to offer assistance to the islanders.

Apart from immediate help in the form of providing food and temporary shelter, the long-term aim of SNAF was to look at the rehabilitation of the island, to help its people rebuild their lives, their homes, and to create alternative and sustainable livelihoods so as to provide for a better future for themselves and their children.

Role of SNAF

As an NGO (non-governmental organisation) working with the Philippines Justice and Peace Commission, and Order of Saint Augustine (OSA), one of Philippines’ oldest missionary organisations, SNAF’s task is to reach out to island communities that have poor access to government services, are vulnerable to natural disasters and are deprived of economic opportunities, hence the birth of its Thousand Island Project (TIP).  This project aims to cover 1000 of the more than7000 islands of the Philippines archipelago that are vulnerable to climate change.

Although technically part of the municipality of Sante Fe in the neighbouring island of Bantayan, Kinatarcan came within the aegis of Cebu – and under the wing of SNAF – due to its closer proximity.

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