SOS stands for Save Our Souls. Its meaning became more significant with the establishment of SOS Children’s Village by Dr. Hermann Gmeiner in Austria at the end of World War II.
Orphaned and displaced children roamed Vienna, surviving amid the rubble and chaos, and in many cases succumbing to famine and disease. A kind hearted man, Dr. Gmeiner, who himself was in dire economic straits, began to shelter these children.
This is how the first SOS Children’s Village came about. Given due recognition and the project being worthy of emulation, SOS villages began to sprout all over Europe, and consequently in every corner of the world. One doesn’t have to wait for war or destruction to assuage the plight of the vulnerable.
The first SOS Children’s Village was established in the Philippines 45 years ago in Lipa, where the archbishop at that time was Msgr. Ricardo Vidal, later to become the cardinal-archbishop of Cebu.
I met Dr. Gmeiner and his assistant Helmut Kutin in 1979 when they were invited to Cebu by Vidal’s predecessor, the late Cardinal Julio Rosales. The purpose of the visit was to set up an SIS village here, located in Talamban.
When Dr. Gmeiner passed away, his place was taken by Helmut Kutin, who headed the operations worldwide, and is now president emeritus of SOS Children’s Villages International. He has traveled the world, wherever there is a SOS village, and continues to do so.
Helmut has been to Cebu several times, and his most recent visit could well be his most unforgettable. He was made a Son of Cebu Province. It was a happy celebration at Casino Español de Cebu hosted by Cardinal Vidal, chair of the board at the Cebu SOS Children’s Village.
The citation was presented by Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and provincial board member Gigi Sanchez. With Helmut was Bienvenido Delgado, director of SOS Children’s Villages in the Philippines, as well as Subha Murthi, deputy secretary of SOS Children’s Villages International.
From the Cebu end was Omar Maxwell Espina, secretary of the SOS Cebu board, with his sister Filna Espina and Brother Yumi Espina, architects like him. Present were the Cebu SOS village director Mario Victor Baang and Delia Saberon.
Lianne Sala sat at the lead table. She has recently set up Sistemang Pilipino, patterned after Venezuela’s “El Sistema,” to teach children from all walks of life to learn how to play musical instruments and eventually excel. She is working with the SOS village in Cebu with terrific results.
Glimpsed: Yuki and Adela Kono, Renato Avila, June Layao, Ronnie Diongzon, Siegfried Sia, Chit Sia, Fred Abalos, Mr. and Ms Jeffrey Villa, Lorna and Pat Niñal.
Friends of Spain
How do you say earthquake in Spanish? “Terremoto” was the collective answer from the 25 Amigos and Amigas de España who attended the regular meeting on Oct. 17, at noon, at Casa Amparito.
That was barely two days after an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude devastated Bohol and Cebu. It caused great loss of life, the collapse of infrastructure mostly in Bohol, and the destruction of heritage sites like churches and ancestral homes.
Amigos president Amparito Llamas Lhuillier, and the restaurant’s general manager Marina Codina prepared a special lunch that delighted everyone. Plated were the pumpkin soup and salad of lettuce, ampalaya and fried dilis. On hot plates at the buffet were fried fish fingers, chicken fillets in white wine sauce, and beef caldereta.
Leading the group were vice president Susan Sala, secretary Myra Gonzalez and treasurer Julina Muertegui who right then and there assisted in gathering funds for the earthquake victims. The collected amount went to Doctoras Vivina Yrastorza and Lourdes Narcise who immediately sent it to Bohol.
It happened to be Fe Sala Villarica’s birthday, and so she was asked to come up front, and blow a candle on a wedge of chocolate cake, as everyone sang the birthday song, “Cumpleaños Feliz.” Asked to give a message, Fe appealed for support to her Metropolitan Ballet Theater.
Birthday greetings were also extended to Pilar Cusi and Kingsley Medalla who would celebrate theirs in coming days. Welcomed after an extended stay in Las Vegas were Teresin Mendezona and Carmen Campbell who the day of the earthquake were aboard a plane.
Everyone had an anecdote about the earthquake, and so we listened to Marichu Garcia, Diana Belaunzaran, Pacita Medalla, Angie Mathieu, Mem La O, Conchita Taylor, Vilma Ouano, Margot Larrañaga, Julie Gandionco, Annie Aboitiz, Chinggay Utzurrum and Cecilia Rodriguez who said the intensity duration had seemed an eternity.
Architect Tessie Javier knew whereof she spoke when she said 10 seconds more of the earthquake would have been fatal; strong buildings couldn’t have resisted, even trees would be uprooted, with untold numbers of casualties.
The Psalm on the following Sunday was most appropriate: “Your are our help, Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”
The priest where we heard Mass exhorted everyone on the fourfold process of prayer: worship, praise, petition and thank God.