Golden Opportunity

“We will be celebrating our golden wedding anniversary—50 years as a married couple—on 29 April. We want to use this occasion to help the people affected by the disaster in Iligan City. Is this possible?”

Background. On 16/17 December 2011, a tropical storm led to severe flooding and landslides in Northern Mindanao, Philippines. Approximately 1,500 children, women, and men were killed. More than 400,000 persons were displaced. 1,100,000 persons were adversely affected by this disaster. Hardest hit were two major urban areas—Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City. Nearby provinces were also badly affected, some of which were previously affected by recurrent armed conflict over many years. Already working in the conflict-affected areas out of an office established in Iligan City more than two years before this disaster struck, CFSI immediately scaled up its humanitarian operations in Northern Mindanao, extending its services to the disaster-affected areas, in close cooperation with its partners.

New York City-based Board Member Sheila Platt, a highly-skilled social worker and trainer, was asked to come to Northern Mindanao in late January to train newly-recruited CFSI personnel in managing some of the stress that is associated with working long hours under difficult conditions in such tragic circumstances. As usual, Sheila covered the costs associated with this mission—one of her many, and varied, contributions to CFSI. Her only request was an opportunity, at the end of her time in Mindanao in early February, to see close friends in Metro Manila from her period of residency in the Philippines—1987-1991. Amelita and Cards Guevara were on her list of close friends. Cards is a well-respected lawyer; Amelita a distinguished musician. They have four children and five grandchildren. It was Amelita who asked Sheila the question about the golden anniversary.

A meeting was held. Plans were made. Friends were asked to help. A golden anniversary became a golden opportunity…to serve.

The invitation sent to loved ones and friends starts: “We take pleasure in inviting you to share with us our joy in celebrating the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Cards and Amelita Guevara….” It ends with: “In lieu of gifts, donations to CFSI for Typhoon Sendong victims in Iligan City will be deeply appreciated.”

Update. I met with Amelita and Cards in their home yesterday afternoon. Merienda was served, as is the custom in most Filipino households. We chatted about the wonderful golden anniversary celebration, the many relatives and friends who participated, the special homily by a beloved retired Cardinal, and the tribute to the happily married couple uploaded to YouTube by one of their sons. I learned that Cards, who grew up in Metro Manila, first became involved with Northern Mindanao, specifically Iligan City, in the 1950s. Encouraged by then Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, the family of Cards established the first private sector industries in Northern Mindanao, two corporations that became hugely successful. “It is payback time”, said Amelita.

And then, these new friends of CFSI handed me checks totaling P327,500 (roughly US$7,616). “This is what our friends helped us raise for the victims of the disaster in Iligan City. God is good. Use this to help those affected by the disaster in Iligan City.” And that is exactly what we will do.