When Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name “Haiyan”) pummeled the Visayas in 2013, Filipinos united to help each other. Foreign aid poured in cash and kind, along with the arrival of volunteers.
The Peninsula Hotels chain raised funds through its “Hope for the Philippines” campaign. The initial goal was to raise $500,000 but they eventually reached over a million dollars. Nine Peninsula Hotels joined thecampaign: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Bangkok and Manila.
The proceeds were earmarked for projects that would rebuild houses and communities in the worst-hit areas.
“All the hotels joined hands to contribute to this project,” said Peninsula Tokyo general manager Sonja Vodusek, who was GM of Peninsula Manila when “Yolanda” struck.
Last December, Peninsula Manila and Gawad Kalinga (GK) turned over 50 houses to the beneficiaries. An additional 25 were completed and turned over on Jan. 27. The Peninsula-GK village site was built near the municipality of Tanauan, one of the most devastated towns in Leyte.
The 10,000-square-meter village has 75 typhoon-resistant houses, with another 25 houses planned for a future expansion that will include a playground and a town hall.
“Our focus is not just on housing but also rebuilding lives. We will establish education and livelihood programs along with our housing project,” Vodusek said. “Town mayor Pelagio Tecson Jr., the local government agencies and Gawad Kalinga deserve acknowledgment in the success of our campaign. Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto and their executive director José Luis Oquinena also helped in our project.”
In his speech, Oquinena said that the idea of working together to build communities, homes and lasting friendships is something that is at the core of GK.
“Together with the Peninsula, it’s really about this aspiration. This is not a one-time intervention but a lifetime of empowerment so that, one day, these families will really be able to stand on their own and eventually help others as well,” Oquinena added.
The turnover ceremony was a simple affair, with the beneficiary families in their Sunday best receiving the keys to their houses, with huge grins on their faces. The Peninsula staff members present at the ceremony were all smiles as well. The spirit of giving and hope was palpable throughout the event.
Peninsula chief operating officer Peter C. Borer also attended the gathering. “The Peninsula Manila has a long heritage in the Philippines. The hotel opened in your country in 1976, and we are delighted that this project will highlight the 40th-anniversary celebration of our hotel,” he said.
“Philanthropy has long been a cornerstone of our philosophy, so when a disaster happens in or near one of our hotel locations, all the Peninsula sister hotels get together to help out. I am proud and humbled to see the fruition of our project, and to see the smiling faces of all the families who received their new homes today,” he added.