Blog written on the plane on my recent trip home - Thanks so much Byahe Pinoy
Blog written onboard Etihad airways, Monday 12th November en route from London to Abu Dhabi on my way to the Philippines:
I always believe in life, everything happens for a reason. Over the last couple of months, I have had this burden to do more for the country and people I love so much. I started to film a documentary called Proudly PINOY, trying to showcase all that is good about the Philippines, the Filipino people and of course the some 11 million OFW's around the world. Thanks so much to my friends involved in this project, Dean Justin Reeve and Evian Cafun.
I attended the World Travel Market last week and the inaugural flight receptions of Philippine Airlines first flight from London to Manila and vica versa. I have to admit, as I was walking around the Philippine stand as well as meeting the guys from PAL, I was missing home real bad!
When I was about to leave the WTM, was networking with attendees at a cocktail reception when I met Imran from Byahe Pinoy. Byahe Pinoy is part of the 360 travel group. I had seen the guys from Byahe Pinoy around at various Pinoy events including Miss Philippines. Imran told me about the company and informed me that they actually have an office in Makati as well, I became really excited to travel out to Manila and actually meet the team there and hopefully find out more about their work. Having spent an evening with Imran at the reception for the first London to Manila flight at the Corinthia hotel, I am really excited to hang out with these guys!
In fact, as a result of our conversations, Imran has seen my passion and love for the Filipino community and what I would like to achieve that they have very kindly helped me with my trip! Guys, I am truly overwhelmed. Thank goodness that guys like you are around. The booking and ticketing process was incredibly easy as well, the massive advantage is that they have an office in the country they serve. Awesome guys, exciting times!!!
To find out more about Byahe Pinoy please visit their website, www.byahepinoy.co.uk or search for ByahePinoy on Twitter or Facebook.
Due to work commitments, I was only able to spend a couple of days in the Philippines on this occasion, so I guess I was searching for a purpose, particularly after reading and seeing so much on TV about the devastating effects of Typhoon Yolanda. I find it heartbreaking to see so much destruction and hear about such terrible circumstances and I feel totally helpless, what could I do to help in some way?
Over the last few days, I have been receiving loads of messages on Facebook asking me which charity should people donate to, that would be meaningful and helpful for our kababayan's affected by the typhoon. I would personally recommend Sagip Kapamilya, part of the ABS-CBN foundation. They have goods already in stock and an extensive distribution network.
Right now, I am flying over Turkey on an Etihad flight bound for Abu Dhabi on my way back home to the Philippines and I am sitting next to a group of truly remarkable guys. They are volunteers with a charity called #ShelterForHumanity. When they heard about the typhoon and the terrible carnage that it had left, they decided to take a risk and fly straight over and help out on the ground. I say take a risk as they are are a very small charity who has very little resources, what they do have however, is a dedicated team of volunteers who want to help to make a difference to the lives of those affected and made homeless by the typhoon.
As we sat down together, they began to tell me that they had been monitoring the situation and due to the enormity of it, they took a gamble and ordered and paid for 200 tents from a UK company called VanGo, they were given these by the company at only 25 percent of retail price!
This is an amazing gesture and just shows that the hearts and minds of Brits as well as our kababayan have been touched to do all they can. In fact the team flying out on the same flight as me, all Brits, just dropped everything and left the UK to help. They tell me that they also have on board, much needed tools as well as equipment to help rebuild homes in the very worst areas affected.
Their strategy is to focus on areas which are overlooked by government and large agencies, they are hoping to seek out such areas and will be working with locals from Manila who understand the needs and internal transportation networks.
Shelter For Humanity also tell me that to fly the 200 tents over here, they have had to pay £15,000 air freight charges, without even having the money available, they have taken a big risk and paid for this, leaving them indebted. I have just been told by John Henderson, the son of the founder of the charity and one of the deployment team that these tents, strong family tents, each hold between 6 - 8 people, so the 200 tents will home between 1,000 to 2,000 people!!!
I know that there are several aid agencies and indeed other larger charities who are also on the way to the Philippines as we speak to bring aid, what I find significant however, is that the majority will be bringing tarpaulins, which seem very temporary to me? What happens, during heavy storms and winds, these might not last as long. What John tells me, is that this charity is in their for the long term and indeed, John has designed and produced some transitional shelters, almost like modular houses.
The tents that John and indeed the rest of his team are flying over as I write this blog, will be of massive benefit to many Filipino families affected.
I am simply overwhelmed and indeed close to tears as I write this blog and felt the need to tell you guys about their work. Their website www.shelterfor.org is accepting donations. Please log on to www.shelterfor.org/donate or if in the UK call +44 (0) 1326 368 698
Even if you are only able to follow their work on social media, please do so:
Maraming salamat po friends, truly appreciate you reading this!!!
Pinoy at Heart, on board Etihad Airways, flying home!!!