Shannon Stansell had heard a lot about PSHF during the pandemic from PSHF trustee Rhiza Ciudad and become a sponsor. In early February he had the chance to visit the Philippines and see things for himself. He and Rhiza met up in Iloilo city and took boat trips to the neighbouring islands of Guimaras and Negros to visit PSHF projects.
Shannon shares his thoughts and memories………….
My 12 days in the Philippines went by so quickly. My experience begins in Iloilo, the home city of my host Rhiza. After a couple of days of adjustment to the time difference between the Philippines and my home state of North Carolina, Rhiza and I embark on our first journey. We are taking the ‘Ocean Jet’ for the 90 minute journey to Bacolod. This is the city where PSHF originated.
We are met on arrival by Warlita, the PSHF field worker and the three of us squeeze into a tricycle to take us to her home in the centre of the city. She and her family happens to live in a squatter community not far from the biggest shopping mall in the city. We get off the tricycle and walk down an alley to get to Warlita’s home. I am shocked and saddened by the living conditions of the people I see; they live in frail make-shift tiny houses and there is a heavily polluted creek right in the middle of the community. We visit Warlita’s twin daughters’ home; each of them occupies a single room with their respective families.
We drop by later to see Randy Cosino who took out a loan to buy an E-bike but he is not around. Instead we talk to his wife Julie Ann who sells cassava cakes and sweet potato snacks from her home-front window.
In the afternoon, we board a bus to go to Miranda, an hour’s bus ride out of Bacolod. This is where the PSHF office is located and here we meet Sherry, the office administrator and her sister Jacqueline who was the PSHF relief coordinator after super typhoon Odette struck the central Philippines in December 2021.
The two of them take us to see Junjun Kilayko and his family. They are a family of 4 who received a housing grant from the PSHF after typhoon Odette. Their main source of income is a small vulcanizing business – a tiny roadside tire repair shop.
We then visit Sheila Villan whose home was also completely destroyed by the same typhoon. She also received a housing grant to rebuild, but she tells us her location near the beach is a problem as sea water can enter her home at high tide.
Two days after the visits to Bacolod and Miranda, Rhiza and I are again embarking on a journey but this time just across the strait to the neighbouring island of Guimaras. We are there to meet up with Isabel and Serapion, both in their early 90s and the parents of Bernie, a coordinator for the PSHF for over 30 years who tragically died during the pandemic of unclear causes. Her husband Joe is with us today; he shares his time between Guimaras and Iloilo where his siblings live. Isabel is frail and wheelchair bound but she has a sharp memory; she cheerfully recites some poems she remembers from her days as an elementary school teacher.
After leaving Isabel and Serapion, Joe takes Rhiza and me on his tricycle to visit Bernie’s grave. Rhiza has often talked to me about Bernie and how they were life-long best friends so it was special for me too to visit her grave in their company; it was a touching and solemn time.
I am approaching the end of my stay in the Philippines and my last day is marked by a visit we make to Oton, just outside Iloilo city to visit Christian, aged 33, a nephew of Joe’s and the most recent grant recipient of the PSHF. Christian is suffering from cancer of the liver that stemmed from contracting hepatitis B that runs in the family. What is so tragic is that his brother Raymond died of liver cancer in 2018. Rhiza and I get to meet Christian and his sister Rowena as well as other family members. Rowena is the one coordinating with doctors for her brother’s treatment. I feel for the family; before leaving them, I say a prayer for Christian with everyone gathered around. I sensed that they all felt encouraged and Christian’s spirits were lifted.
My twelve day stay in the Philippines has come to an end and I feel grateful for all the experiences and the people I met. Thank you Rhiza for giving me this precious opportunity to learn a little about your country; I have been most touched by the kindness and generosity shown to me. I have also been blessed by seeing PSHF in action helping the poor and caring for the sick.
left his full time job as a sales person to prioritize his chemotherapy. He instead opted for a part time electrical job for now.
Joe reminisces the happy memories of his 15 years of marriage with Bernie.
We joined the family for a photo at the end of our visit.