“Understanding is the first step to acceptance.” —J.K. Rowling
The beautiful island of Siargao is a guiding example of how resilient Filipinos can be, and how, through supporting one another, we can recover from the greatest challenges that life throws our way.
Only a bit over seven months since the Category 5 Supertyphoon “Odette” ripped through the entire island, most of the houses in General Luna have been repaired and the chill island life has returned for its fun surfing community.
My daughter Jordan Valdes has been active in helping the islanders restore their homes and their community. She’s been living in Siargao for more than a year now and is proud to call Siargao her home.
Nowadays, she keeps herself busy with surfing, writing, community service and designing her upcoming line of swimsuits for surfing. Driven as always by her passion for helping others—a trait I modestly attribute to my influence on her—she is creating a line of sustainable surfwear geared towards women. The brand she envisions will prioritize environmental preservation, body inclusivity and philanthropic donations to the local communities in Siargao. Stay tuned!
Thanks to my good friend Millet Simeon, who led us to apply for the LG Electronics charity project LG Ambassadors Challenge, Jordan and I are now able to help even more typhoon victims in Siargao.
Earlier this year, LG Philippines collected entries for the first ever local iteration of the LG Ambassador Challenge. Their charitable initiative, which was started with Korea Friends of Hope International, is a first in the Philippines, and affirms LG’s commitment to help deliver sustainable growth to local communities in the country. After reviewing all the entries, LG selected “Roof for Siargao” by Red Charity Gala and “Ride for Hope” by Bahay Aruga. They donated P500,000, allowing us to repair and refurbish a local daycare center in the northern town of Burgos, which has not been receiving as much aid as General Luna due to its location.
After shortlisting different roofing projects, Jordan found Nature Kids of Siargao Community Centre, an association that supports children and their families in Siargao through various programs related to education and the environment. It aims to promote eco-kindness and create employment opportunities for locals. Founded by Sanne Sevig, a very charitable Swedish lady, the Nature Kids Community Centre educates, feeds, and supports local children, all for free.
Involving more than 100 families on a weekly basis, the center provides free hot lunch, a kids’ club and free laundry service five days a week. There are educational programs for kids in math, language and the arts, as well as classes for the parents about private economy, family planning and other life-changing skills. Their goal is to empower the entire community, and they can now do that in a posh sala sponsored by LG Philippines (If you would like to donate to this inspiring charity, here are their channels: BPI Savings: Sanne Sevig, account no. 9389-2554-21; GCash: 0933-3355513, Sanne S.; Paypal: Hi@naturekidsofsiargao.com).
Even if our Red Charity Gala is on indefinite hold, my partner Kaye Tiñga and I are grateful to LG Philippines for their generous donations of a TV, refrigerator, washing and drying machines and cash for the upgrade of the entire center as well as learning materials for the kids. We are delighted to help rebuild a community that protects nature and educates the future keepers of the island.
At the tail end of my healing, I have come to accept my new life, one that thankfully has resumed its busy schedule. It truly helps that many events are now in-person and social life is alive again. Additionally, instead of riding out my emotional rollercoasters, I have paid more attention to my spiritual grounding and yoga practice.
Food therapy also helps! I was delighted to accept the invitation of Charisse Chuidian to celebrate the birthday of awesome events director Javi Martinez at Nobu Restaurant in City of Dreams.
Due to the pandemic’s reset of our daily schedules, I feel that all of us, in some shape or form, have reevaluated our life purposes and how we spend our days. Instead of dwelling on negative emotions that are toxic and troubling, such as anger, hatred, fear and shame, we can all learn to utilize them as catalysts for our transformation.
There is a great need for all of us to become more observant and familiar with our own and other people’s emotions. Improving our emotional intelligence has the ability to profoundly impact our relationships at home, at work, in our community, and to the world at large.
Healing power of the ocean
All spiritual traditions raise up the value of forgiveness, but many people still find it to be a nearly impossible thing. Sometimes, when things seem impossible, the secret is to just start somewhere, no matter how small it may seem.
Look truthfully at the hurt lying inside you. Identify any associated feelings you might have, such as anger, denial, guilt, shame or embarrassment. Imagine what it would be like to live without feeling this offense. Then let it go.
I felt this emotion at the recent art exhibit of H. Marella Ocampo, his first one-man painting exhibit in the Philippines.
Ocampo lived in the United States for almost 20 years, and it was there that he continued painting. His exhibit reminded me of the healing power of the ocean, of the beautiful sea creatures that live in it, and of our collective responsibility to take care of nature and heal it from all of humanity’s wrongdoings.
We can all do our share in making this world a better place for all. Through understanding and accepting that we only have control over our own selves, and not those around us, we can let go of the anxieties that do no good to our psyches. Focusing only on what we can control lets us make the most out of our time, and allows us to live more purposefully here on earth—meaning we don’t just survive, but we thrive!
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