Where there is a community will, there is definitely a way. In less than a year after Typhoon Pablo hit the town of New Bataan and the villages of Poblacion and Andap in Compostela Valley, the survivors are slowly and bravely rising up from the tragedy. Picking up the pieces and the lessons left by a shattered past, those who once lived hopeless and homeless in devastated neighborhoods are now focused on rebuilding their lives — and they are not alone to face the daunting task. Working for the fulfillment of this beautiful beginning is Berjaya Philippines, Inc., as it recently led the formal turnover of its 100 sponsored Gawad Kalinga (GK) housing units in the province.
Coordinated under the auspices of GK and the local government of Compostela Valley, the home-building initiative of Berjaya Philippines has provided a total of 100 duplex-type homes for the indigent families. The units — 50 of which are located in Berjaya S.O.P. Kahiusahan Uswag GK Village Osmena Compostela Purok 8 and the other half, located in Monkayo — completed the company’s pledge during the Gawad Kalinga Bayani Challenge 2013.
Brightly-colored, practically designed and more importantly located on safer grounds, the Berjaya-GK homes stand firmly as a solid testament that a strong will, combined with the synergy of minds, passion and commitment, can withstand the strike of any calamity.
One of those lucky and thankful for his new home is Alfredo Fuentes, the head of the GK Kapitbahayan in Berjaya S.O.P. Kahiusahan Uswag GK Village.
“I never dreamed I would have my own home again after the tragedy. I thought it was the end of it all, with my house and farming livelihood destroyed by the floods. Now, I am looking forward to start a new life here in my new GK home,” says Fuentes.
In recognition of their support, plaques of appreciation were given to Berjaya Philippines and Berjaya Malaysia. Paul Soo, country head of Berjaya Philippines, personally accepted the tokens from Compostela Mayor Lema Bolo and Gov. Arturo Uy. Also there to witness and participate in the historic rites are GK Founder and Chairman Tony Meloto, GK Executive Director Luis Oquinena, Tan Eng Hwa, Berjaya Director; Iannis Hanen, CEO of Friendster; Leo Laca, HR Senior Manager of Philippine Gaming Management Corp.; Gie Sibulo and Rodney Mallari, both of PGMC, Ralph Garcia, Marketing Manager of Mazda Philippines and Dave Macasadia, Aftersales Director, also of Mazda Philippines.
In his speech, Soo said the Group is very happy to become part of the mass housing project, which he said is the top priority of Berjaya Philippines.
“This is indeed a very festive occasion for the entire Berjaya Group. We are blessed to be part of the solution, in turning around the lives of the Typhoon Pablo victims by giving them homeownership opportunities. Seeing the joy in so many happy faces is enough encouragement, motivation and payback for us. We are glad to be of help in our own little way,” added Soo.
“We hope that through our efforts, we can inspire other private entities to take the opportunity and do their share in making lives better for the needy through housing,” he stressed.
Bayanihan spirit lives on
Despite the long and challenging journey as more remains to be done, the flicker of hope ignited by the efforts of Berjaya Philippines, GK and the local government of Compostela Valley was enough to give residents a real fighting chance to provide for their own families through decent means of living. Running cohesively along the advocacy Tindog ComVal: Walang Iwanan (Stand ComVal: Leave no one behind), partners remain together and steadfast in bringing about the needed change.
To fast-track the residents’ recovery, GK has assigned a “caretaker team” which role is to put in place a wide array of supportive livelihood and pertinent social services, including organizing the communities into GK Kapitbahayans (GK neighborhood associations), delivering the values formation program, implementing the community development plan and GK programs and mentoring the community leaders towards self-governance.
“The Monkayo GK has a communal site for Bayan-Anihan, which will cater the livelihood program of the whole province. We have also began mass production of mushrooms which yields are sold to private partners. We also have extensive training on crab culturing and woodworking,” said Arceli Timogtimog, PGSO-ComVal Shelter Head.
The Berjaya housing initiative not only sprung better life for the beneficiaries, as the positive change brought by the philanthropic efforts has rippled far beyond the GK Villages, and right into the consciousness of the giver.
“It’s important for families to have a safe, comfortable place to live to help restore some sense of normalcy in their lives, especially for the children. The new units will make a very nice and safe home for each family. You can tell by their smiling faces the sense of joy and pride of owning them,” notes Macasadia of Mazda.
Strength in Unity
Governor Uy, for his part, has nothing but high praises for Berjaya Philippines for cementing its partnership with Gawad Kalinga which has provided quality, permanent home-builds in the entire Compostela Valley.
“In seven months’ time, who would have guessed Compostela will muster enough strength to bounce back to life? Though we still have a very long way to go, I’m optimistic that we can recover from all of this through continued support,” he said.
The beneficiaries in Monkayo had an emotional rendition for their words of gratitude, as they let out a song of remembrance, hope and thanks to their GK and Berjaya Philippines supporters. Sealing this pact even more is the Unity Dance, which brought out the resilient and fun-loving Filipino spirit at its best shining moment.
“To actually witness the turnover is an exciting and emotional experience for me. I am truly overwhelmed and humbled by the show of gratitude of the residents. This event was truly one of the most memorable and stirring ones I had thus far,” said Garcia of Mazda.
As concluding activities to the event, an Andap ng Liwanag (Flicker of Hope) woodwork — a lamp made by the victims of Typhoon Pablo from the debris left in the wake of the heavy flood and mudslides that swept the village
of Andap and the town center of New Bataan last December 4 — was each given to the GK and Berjaya officials. GK Uswag also gave out “pabaon” starter packs to the residents, which are comprised of rice, canned goods, clothes, and other household cleaning tools.
For his part, Meloto said the foundation was delighted to partner with Berjaya Philippines to deliver decent shelter to the typhoon survivors. “Our message is simple. We just want to show that it can be done,” he stressed.
“If we start treating our poor countrymen as family, as friend and as equal members of society, we help them gain hope and dignity. More people are willing to help. And the event with Berjaya just shows the change that arise from the power of solidarity,” Meloto concluded.
In the months and years to follow, the flames of hope from Berjaya Philippines aim to spark more participation in worthy initiatives, as the company’s volunteers will soon embark to another series of GK-partnered homebuilds for families in need in various parts of the country.
Berjaya Philippines is composed of various companies including Papa John’s, Friendsters, MOL, PGMC and LoadCentral, Berjaya Makati Hotel, and Berjaya Auto Philippines (BAP). BAP is the new exclusive importer and distributor of Mazda automotive products in the Philippines. BAP imports and distributes Mazda2 subcompact, Mazda3 compact, Mazda6 executive sedan, CX5 compact SUV, CX9 large SUV, BT50 pickup and the iconic roadster MX5 in the Philippines through 14 dealerships throughout the country.
For more information on Gawad Kalinga, kindly visit http://www.gk1world.com