News Articles

Vincentian university rebuilds
By Camelia Rodriguez
(published in the October 19, 2009 issue of The DePaulia)

On Sept. 26, Filipino forecasters reported that there would be some rain across the Metro Manila area. They did not expect that "some rain" would actually be a month's worth pouring down in just nine hours.

"The rain started around 8 o'clock in the morning and by the time I left my house at 9:00 a.m. it was already pouring heavily," said Fr. Gregorio L. Bañaga, Jr., C.M., president of Adamson University (DePaul University's sister school in the Philippines). "The problem in the Philippines is that the forecasting system is not sophisticated so they didn't know how much rainfall would actually accumulate."

Bañaga said that the Philippine weather bureau was aware of the typhoon, but underestimated it.

"In the Philippines when you talk about a typhoon it usually means strong winds and less rain," he said. "But this time it was the opposite. There was hardly any wind and just strong rain."

Adamson University is located in Manila, the region hardest hit by Typhoon Ondoy (international codename: Ketsana). According to Bañaga, every building of the school was flooded with water. A lot of Adamson's equipment was damaged, including laptop computers. The gymnasium floor (made of wood imported from the United States) was submerged in water and completely ruined. The floodwaters eventually receded within a few days.

Bañaga said that Adamson students reflected true Vincentian values and immediately went into action to help people affected by the massive flooding. Fr. Nonong Fajardo, C.M., director of the Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) at Adamson University, called an emergency meeting that many faculty and students attended. Fajardo organized three main activities for the volunteers to undertake: "Relief Goods Distribution" (giving out food, water, blankets, etc.) , "Operation Linis" (cleaning up the homes damaged by floodwater), and "Medical Missions" (treatment of skin diseases and injuries by Adamson nursing and medical students).

Adamson University grief counselors have also made themselves available to speak with the typhoon victims who may be experiencing trauma. They are especially concerned with the mental state of the young children.

"Two days after the typhoon hit it began to rain again, but only lightly. Many of the children were scared because they thought another typhoon would be coming." said. Bañaga.

As of right now, Adamson is focusing on giving aid to the residents of the community known as Northville 4-B in Marilao, Bulacan. The families living in this community were formerly inhabitants of homes along the railway track in Tondo, Manila.

"When there are disasters like typhoon Ondoy, a lot of aid comes from international agencies. But after that, people are left on their own," Bañaga said. "This is when they need a lot of help. We want to be sure that at least in this community that we are helping that we will be there for them way after the relief services are over."

Bañaga said that he hopes the people of the Philippines will not turn a blind eye to the lessons that can be learned from this ordeal. He said he especially hopes that the government will insure that every town and city will be equipped with lifeboats and machines to lift heavy objects.

"We cannot fool around with what we call climate change. People must realize that this is a reality," Bañaga said.

"The big lesson here is that you must always be prepared for anything."

Bañaga expressed his gratitude to the DePaul University community for showing their support for the typhoon victims in the Philippines.

"I just want to thank everyone for helping and for Rev. Holtschneider's kind gesture of writing to the DePaul community. It is a great example of St. Vincentian solidarity," he said.

Call for help from the Philippines
By Camelia Rodriguez
(published in the October 12, 2009 issue of The DePaulia)

On Sept. 26 tropical storm “Ondoy” (international name: Ketsana) hit the Philippines’ Metro Manila region and a large part of Luzon. The Philippine Daily Inquirer News Service reported the storms' winds to have been 85 kilometers per hour with gusts of up to 100 kph. The storm is said to have affected millions of people leaving many homeless and without food. Ondoy dropped more than one month’s worth of rain in just twelve hours and is the worst storm to hit the Philippines in forty years.

The country was overwhelmed by the storm and the government immediately sought help from the world community. “We are appealing for international humanitarian assistance… for (relief from) the effects of Tropical Storm Ketsana,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a nationally televised briefing (Philippine Daily Inquirer News Service).

The government has placed Metro Manila and 25 provinces under a state of calamity.

After more than a week, floodwaters have not yet receded in the province of Laguna. According to a report from the Laguna Lake Development Authority hundreds of lakeshore villages were swallowed by Laguna Lake. Town and cities have “virtually disappeared” from the map (Philippine Daily Inquirer News Service).
Japan and the United States are two countries among others that instantly sent aid in response to the Philippine government’s appeal for help. Japan sent emergency relief goods worth about 20 million yen ($220,000) and the United States sent $100,000 worth in disaster relief assistance (Philippine Daily Inquirer News Service).

Here in Chicago, DePaul University is also doing its part to help those in Manila where DePaul’s sister school, Adamson University is located. DePaul president, Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., released a statement asking the DePaul community to take part in the efforts to help the victims of Typhoon Ondoy.
In an email to Rev. Holtschneider, Adamson University president, Fr. Gregg Banaga, C.M., said that the school suffered severe damage due to the storm. “The gym floor was the worst hit. It is made of imported wood and it got submerged in water,” said Fr. Banaga. “If I am not mistaken that cost us something like 3 million pesos [roughly $64,000 USD] around 7 years ago.”

Fr. Banaga said Adamson University is currently serving as a relief center. "The organizations that are helping are mainly from the South Manila Inter-Institutional Consortium, an association of 11 schools that includes Adamson, and some companies owned by Adamson alumni and friends," said Fr. Banaga. "All the cash and kind that Adamson receives is brought to Northville and other places that are in need. Faculty and student volunteers bring the goods to the residents who need them most."

The DePaul student organization, Asian Cultural Exchange (ACE), has also taken it upon themselves to help those suffering in the Philippines because of the typhoon. “ACE will be having a bake sale and clothing drive at the Student Center the week of Oct. 12 to help the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines,” says Kathleen Mordini, junior, president of ACE. “I am of Filipino descent like many of the other members of ACE and this is our way of reaching out to our fellow Filipinos who desperately need our help.”

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