Heroes on the field



Tacloban Surge (from left): Sugbo, Gerado, Ruiz, Malquisto, Relano, Cablao, Diorico, Tumampo, coach Pimentel, and Pongos (photo by Janvic Mateo).

First published in the Starweek, 25 May 2014

Goalkeeper Ralph Relano, 26, was named the most valuable player following an impressive performance that helped his team secure the championship in the recently-held Sama-Sama beach football games in Boracay.

No one would have thought that six months ago, this man – who seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy – felt nothing but helplessness as he watched Super Typhoon Yolanda destroy their house. As he waited for the storm to pass, sitting in a corner of a nearby concrete shelter, he prepared himself for the worst: his father, who was in their house when it collapsed, might have died.

“I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go out and find him,” he told STARweek in Filipino.

As the winds started to abate, Ralph said he spotted his father under the debris, along with their chicken and dog, protected by a small wooden table that served as their cover.

Channeling enough courage to venture outside and face the wrath of the typhoon, Ralph ran as fast as he could to get to his father. The rescue mission was a success, but not without him being slammed by a strong gust of wind into a fallen guava tree.

While this was happening, Ehgie Gerado, 18, was inside their house in Tacloban, watching members of his family crossing a flooded street to get to a safer place.

“My father was walking back towards our house when I saw him slip and get submerged in the (waist-deep) flood,” he said in Filipino.

Ehgie went out to rescue his father, whose leg had become stuck in debris that littered the flooded streets. His father, who sustained a deep cut in his leg, had to be stitched up without anesthesia.

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Futkaleros play – and pay – it forward


Futkal founder Peter Amores and senior futkaleros hold football clinic for DHL Express employees and their children during the Sama-Sama Games 2014 in Boracay. Photo by Bob Manzano/DHL Express

First published in the Good News Section, The Philippine Star, 19 May 2014

Six years ago, Mark Dennis Balbin started his journey in street football when he became a member of Tondo Futkaleros, a team mentored by seasoned player Peter Amores under his Football sa Kalye (FutKal) program.

Now 23, Balbin – like many of his contemporaries – has become a mentor, sharing his knowledge of the game with a new generation of futkaleros, not just in Tondo but in many other disadvantaged communities in the country.

“I guess they are all inspired to teach football to the next generation, and we saw the potential. It’s a good way to get the communities to work together,” Amores said during the Sama-Sama Games held earlier this month in Boracay.

“As the program gets bigger and the kids get older, they pass on and continue with the program,” he added.

Balbin said he volunteered to conduct street football clinics for young children as he understands how it can help develop a person’s values and character.

“The FutKal program is very effective for kids,” he told The STAR in Filipino. “It teaches you discipline, respect.”

“Since I have the time, this is what I want to do – share, share, share,” he added.

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Unedited feature: UP opens exhibit of Yolanda survivors


Edited story published in The Philippine Star, 23 March 2014

When Super Typhoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas in Nov. 8 last year, 18-year old Ernest Reyes Dimakiling was with his family in Palo, Leyte, trying to brace the door of their house and stop it from being blown away by the wind.

For Dimakiling, the door was their primary defense that held their shelter against the rage of the super typhoon. Without it, he said, they would not survive the calamity.

The concept of shelter has gone a long way for Dimakiling, a Biology student who was among the 200 students of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Tacloban who cross-registered to the university’s flagship campus in Diliman, Quezon City this semester.

Last week, the UP College of Arts and Letters (CAL) launched an exhibit of the works of 20 students affected – physically, psychologically and emotionally – of the typhoon.

Some of the participants, like Dimakiling, were in Eastern Visayas when Yolanda struck. Others were in UP Diliman when it happened, but were nonetheless affected as their families are back in the affected areas.

The exhibit, titled Bakawan (Mangrove), contains the output of the series of writing, dance and drawing psychosocial workshops conducted by various experts in the past several weeks. Read more of this post

Dearly departed pets also remembered

First published in The Philippine Star, 02 November 2013, Saturday

Like most Filipinos, Kson Mortera went to visit a dead loved one yesterday to light a candle, offer flowers and relive happy memories when they were together.

But instead of joining the millions who flocked to cemeteries across the country, Mortera was among the handful who visited the graves of their beloved pets at the compound of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) at the boundary of Marikina and Quezon City.

“I’ve had her since I was in second year high school,” Mortera told The STAR, referring to his short-haired cat Chancey that died on Thursday at the age of 12.

“She’s actually the closest one whom I have lost,” he said, adding that he had treated Chancey like his child throughout her lifetime. Read more of this post