Jumpstarting Faith in Tacloban with help from FECGP and PNASNJP

Baglieri.888.Mayette Calleja-Baglieri, FECGP Recording Secretary wrote: Thank you to all my friends and supporters of FECGP and PNASNJP for all your donations! At our Wine and Cheese Fundraiser held last January 12, 2014 you helped us raise:

At 44 pesos to a dollar, you raised P71,607.00 Philippine pesos! Having added that to our personal donations, that translates to 15 families in the Calleja clan directly receiving an assistance of P13,000.00 ($295.00) to P18,000.00 ($409.00) pesos each depending on who had the most damage and need for recovery.

Not only did your donations extend our personal dollars that we contributed to my Tacloban family members severely affected by killer storm Yolanda (Haiyan), but also, together, we gave hope where there was very little and helped restore the faith in themselves that they can be back on their feet.

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Family #1. Cousin Leah Calleja Engao replaced the tarp that her family was using to protect herself and her children from the weather with a roof and walls made of G.I. (galvanized iron) panels and wood. We bought the materials needed, also saving the G.I. sheets that could still be salvaged and reused, and hired 2 carpenters to do the work at P600.00 a day. It took 8 sunny days. On the 9th day, it rained. It was perfect timing. We got to see where the leaks from the salvaged sheets were and used ‘vulcaseal’ to seal up the holes. It worked as expected.

Leah also saved her daughter, 19 yr. old Mila who had newly given birth via C-section to a son a couple days before killer storm Yolanda (aka Haiyan) struck by helping/carrying her daughter up steps to the top most floor of the birthing center and temporarily “storing” her newborn grandchild on the highest shelf she could find at the nurses’ station where the fast-paced rising waters couldn’t get to. Her instincts were right. Many infants died who were on the lower floors. This family needed the most help. Her husband is not present in her life.

Two other daughters Mica and Mykiel attend Panalaron Central School which is FECGP’s (Filipino Executive Council of Greater Philadelphia) recipient for their $2000.00 (P90,000.00 pesos) donation. With the assistance of two Panalaron Alumni, we bought backpacks at a good wholesale price for 785 kids kindergarten to 6th grade, and had the packages shipped to Tacloban, for distribution in June when the new school year starts.

Family #2. Cousin Betbet Calleja, my deaf and mute cousin who so bravely and steadfastly clung on to a roof top post for dear life as tsunami-like waves threatened to pull her away into the ocean got separated from her son and husband. When the waters subsided she managed to climb down and join an unknown family. For 4 days she thought she was the only one in her family who survived. And for 4 days, everyone else in her family thought she was dead. She had no house left. When the family became reunited, she decided to join her son and daughter-in-law at the also damaged house of her daughter-in-law’s parents. So she used your donations to pool this money with the in-laws’ already in progress work to get their roof repaired and their walls erected.

She also just lost her husband January 30th, 2014. He was already ill before Yolanda hit but, undoubtedly, the stress worsened his condition. This family needs a lot of help too.

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Family #3. Cousin Lorna Calleja Tragura and her husband ran a small sari-sari neighborhood store. They lost the store and all its contents. She still had her house with half a roof. Her sister Leah’s younger children were in her care on higher ground when Yolanda surged. The children too have scary stories to tell. But wonder of wonders, childhood gets to see the wonder of “firsts”. Their first big, bad typhoon, their first time to travel out of Tacloban ever! via a bus and ferry, their first Manila experience, so many….. only a child or someone child-like could see.

Lorna used your donations to fix and raise their damaged roof, and to restart and restock her store so she has some income again and her purpose in life back.

Family #4. Cousins Nancy and Roland Calleja have a 3- storey sturdy cement house in the middle of the town of Tacloban. Oceans border Tacloban on 3 sides. That fateful day of November 8. 2013, strong winds heavily damaged many people’s homes, their 3rd floor roof included. Their living quarters on the 2nd floor approximately 25 feet up from the ground became a Noah’s Ark. Everywhere around them was water. They witnessed vehicles, uprooted trees, and parts of houses float past their windows. But, most amazing was when a random family of 3, soaking wet and holding on to some sort of wood floated by and desperately clung to their window grills. Roland and Nancy immediately flew into action. With just a tiny saw that was even missing a handle, and just with pure adrenaline, they vigorously cut the window grill work previously meant to keep intruders out. At some point, they had some 35 people in their home- to whom they handed towels, dry t-shirts and served hot soup until the waters subsided.

They took in my cousin Ester whose sister, Teresita drowned in the storm surge. Ester struggled to stay alive by keeping her head above water clinging on to their floating upturned table for what seemed to be eternity for he; until the waters in her house subsided.

Your donations helped my beloved cousins and their families in more ways than we can imagine.  Maraming Salamat po!

Contemplating the concept of the intertwining of poverty and corruption is difficult for me. Would Yolanda have been less damaging if many Taclobanons were not already struggling to live? Why do the very poor continue to have loads of children? Is it because they consider their children as their wealth?

Calleja Mayette quote

Why do many of the people in power and politics have the need to further stomp on the already down and poor? Is it because they themselves would rather not be confronted with this situation called poverty? Is it because their own inner souls feel so very poor? So, they keep for themselves the material things and contributions meant for those that are without in the hope of feeling satisfied?

I am not naïve to believe that our assistance has even begun to scratch the solution to Tacloban’s social ills. I do know at least one thing for sure. Although the need is great and still ongoing, our direct financial assistance to each Calleja family and my presence there as their caring cousin and as your representative brought a ray of hope and helped jumpstart their faith in themselves so that they can begin to work again at being okay with the struggle of everyday.

So, thank you.


Mayette Calleja-Baglieri and Frank Baglieri


2 thoughts on “Jumpstarting Faith in Tacloban with help from FECGP and PNASNJP

  1. Pingback: Jumpstarting Faith in Tacloban with help from FECGP and PNASNJP | FECGP

  2. It is an amazing story. Think of your family’s horrendous experience and multiply that a thousand times and you somehow could imagine the extensive damage of this natural disaster. Your personal assistance and presence surely was a gift from Heaven.
    Dr. Almario


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