Heroes

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They never left: Coca-Cola rises with Tacloban

By Danny Petilla |Philippine Daily Inquirer
3:15 am | Sunday, October 5th, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY—One of the most heartrending images to come out of this city when it was ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” more than 10 months ago, unfolded around an iconic building here that manufactures one of the world’s most recognizable consumer products, Coca-Cola.

Dwarfed by three giant soda cans of Coca-Cola’s flagship products (Coke, Sprite and Royal Tru-Orange), a multitude of hungry and thirsty survivors waited in line a few hours after the storm passed, begging for water, while a desperate few looted the back of the manufacturing plant, carting away thousands and thousands of bottles of the prized carbonated drink. Some of the looters even had trucks and other vehicles in tow.

“It was a free-for-all. It was chaos all over,” said security guard Francisco Manzano, 39, who witnessed the mayhem firsthand.

First corporate responder

The plant would ultimately open up all its inventory of water (those three mammoth soda cans were apparently stocked with water) and softdrinks to the survivors. By doing so, Coca-Cola became the first company and the first responder to address the survivors’ pressing need for water.

“They gave and gave until they had nothing more to give,” recalled Jerry Yaokasin, the vice mayor of this city who lives near the plant. Yaokasin barely survived the storm surges that killed more than 2,600 in this city alone.

Fearful that the city’s water, already in short supply, was contaminated and could spawn an outbreak of diseases, the survivors preferred drinking Coke for days and weeks after the disaster. The demand for the softdrink skyrocketed, with enterprising store owners setting up makeshift stalls along the highways, selling the product for as much as P150 for a 1.5-liter bottle.

$15 milllion in losses

The massive looting and physical destruction of the plant, located at an intersection of Fatima Village where the roads of Leyte and Samar meet, would ultimately cost the plant’s new owners, Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines, $15 million.

In January 2013, Mexico-based Femsa, the world’s biggest bottler of Coca-Cola products, acquired 51 percent of Coca-Cola Bottling Philippines Inc. (CCBPI), infusing $511 million into the Philippines, a nation of Coke guzzlers ranked eighth in the world, consuming more than 70 million bottles a year.

“There was no reason for them to stay. There was no point of rebuilding. But they made the hard decision to stay and rebuild. We will not forget this and we Taclobanons will forever be grateful,” said Yaokasin.

Instead of leaving, Femsa invested another $25 million to rebuild the Tacloban plant and transported machinery from its plant in La Union, one of the 23 it operates in the country, to beef up its operations in Leyte, which in its pre-Yolanda peak produced 25 million cases of Coke products each year.

Shortly before noon on Sept. 10, Juan Ramon Felix, the 52-year-old Mexican CEO of Femsa Philippines, pushed a button inside the newly reconstructed plant here and, in an instant, the drought in the East Visayan region’s favorite beverage ended.

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BEFORE AND AFTER. In the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” the Coca-Cola plant in Tacloban isin total disarray after having sustained $15 million worth of damage.

Vote of confidence

Though largely symbolic, Felix’s ministerial act allowed bottles and bottles of the company’s iconic softdrink to roll from production lines for the first time since the 61-year-old manufacturing plant was shuttered by Yolanda on Nov. 8, 2013.

But more important, Felix’s act and Coke’s decision to return here was a powerful gesture and vote of confidence in a city economically crippled and brought to its knees by the massive flight of long-established businesses in the wake of history’s most powerful storm.

Before Yolanda, there were 6,900 registered business establishments in Tacloban. After Yolanda, more than half of them had left, deciding to relocate their operations elsewhere. As of September, there were 3,874 businesses paying license permits in Tacloban.

2nd biggest taxpayer

The decision by Femsa to reopen its Coca-Cola plant in Tacloban reestablished its position as the city’s second-biggest taxpayer, second only to Coke’s former owner in the Philippines, San Miguel Corp.

“We have been witness to stories of courage and selflessness at the height of Supertyphoon Yolanda. It is with deep gratitude and great pride that we mark our return to Tacloban,” Felix told more than 200 cheering employees, wearing the company’s trademark red shirts.

In his inaugural speech, Felix also paid tribute to local Coke employees Pedro Navarro and Procopio Ballon, who both perished in the storm surges.

Femsa’s move was immediately hailed by city officials, still smarting from the capital flight and hemorrhaging of its tax base.

“We welcome your reentry into our business community. Only the international community and our corporate partners saved us from falling flat on our faces,” said Bernardita Valenzuela, the flamboyant and oft-quoted spokesperson of Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

Illustrating Coke’s enduring appeal through generations of Filipinos, the 85-year-old Valenzuela admitted to having been a Coke drinker since she was 15 years old.“My children tell me: ‘Mommy, stop drinking Coke, it’s bad for your health.’ But thank God, I’m still here,” Valenzuela said.

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In September, less than a year after Yolanda, the first bottles roll off the reconstructed plant.

Coke’s real formula

In 1927, San Miguel Corp. (then known as San Miguel Brewery) became the first international bottler of Coca-Cola. In 1981, San Miguel spun off its soft-drink businesses into a new company named Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. CCBPI was a joint venture between San Miguel Corp. and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) of the United States.

In 2007, TCCC acquired San Miguel’s majority shares in CCBPI. In 2012, it sold its 51-percent stake in CCBPI to the Mexico-based Coca-Cola Femsa. Since 2013, CCBPI has been jointly owned by the TCCC and Coca-Cola Femsa.

The year 2014 is Coke’s 128th year as a global icon and the world’s favorite soft drink, serving 1.9 billion globally everyday since American pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton mixed a flavored syrup with carbonated water in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1886, giving Coke its distinctive taste.“A lot of people are wondering about this formula. But Coke’s real formula is believing in our people,” said Juan Dominguez, Femsa Philippines corporate affairs director.

Recently, Femsa Tacloban promoted security guard Manzano, who lost his entire family—his 39-year-old wife Alma and daughters Ma. Lyn, 15, and Arlene, 13—as Yolanda’s storm surges swept away their house in San Jose village.

Little Red Schools

Femsa, whose Philippine venture is its first in Asia, also announced that it has donated more than $70,000 to Yolanda-rehab charities in Leyte and Samar through its Femsa Foundation. Two of the 100 Little Red Schools they plan to build in the country are in Tacloban and another one in Samar.

“Since Day 1, we never left Leyte, we have decided to place our stake here,” said Dominguez.“Coke is part of our past, our culture and history as a people, we in Tacloban are happy that they are going to be part of our future,” Yaokasin said.

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Wonder Foundation in UK

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Luz and her very lovely family – supporting another tailor

Originally posted on Helping hands for Tacloban:

Until now I’ve told you mostly about the follow up work I did with Jackie’s beneficiaries.  I met new people though, and I’d like to start telling you about them.  I need to explain though, that I didn’t get the same detail Jackie did on a lot of the people I met.  It was hard to ask questions, have them translated, have the person answer, have the answer translated, make notes and then ask the next question.  It was especially hard when these were incredibly personal questions and it was clear I was assessing whether we would or wouldn’t help.

Personally, I also found it really difficult to see the levels of poverty people were surviving in.  I’ve never seen anything like it before and a lot of the time I was just trying to hold it together, to not react so that people didn’t feel judged by this white…

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Leyte

Originally posted on Awkward...:

My trip to Tacloban was a few months overdue. My friend Emma and I initially planned the trip on December 2013, but I did not have enough funds back then. I finally got to save enough to be able to give something to some typhoon survivors by April.

I was nervous when I left home for Tacloban. The money that I had set aside for our activity was not in my bank account. I later found out that it was just because of the bank’s system maintenance. Later in the day, the money in my bank account even doubled. I thought it was a miracle! Ha! Everything was corrected after the maintenance.

During my brief layover in Cebu on my way to Tacloban, I had to meet my coolest friend in the world Jersie. She took me to breakfast and I had to give her money for the hotel reservation…

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Cebuana Lhuillier donates 10,000 pcs. of pavers in Tacloban

Originally posted on ka-Cebuana:

Tavloban pavers donation

TACLOBAN CITY–Cebuana Lhuillier, the largest microfinancial company in the Philippines, once again extended its help to the city of Tacloban. Together with Unilever-Surf, and Smart Communications, Cebuana Lhuillier donated 10,000 pieces of cement pavers to Dr. AP Bañez Memorial Elementary School and Cirilo Roy Montejo National High School, two public schools in Tacloban.

The partnership of the three leading companies gave birth to a sachet recovery program which aims to collect empty Surf sachets, which a consumer can exchange for free Smart texts in any of Cebuana Lhuillier’s more than 1,700 branches nationwide. The program was able to collect over 12 million empty detergent sachets during its first two years which were converted to cement pavers and other useful materials.

“Almost a year ago, our place has been hit by the Typhoon Yolanda, which killed thousands of people and left us hopeless. Our school’s properties including classrooms and facilities were…

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Eastern Samar Savings Group Starts Feeds Store

Originally posted on CCT Savings and Credit:

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Members of a savings group in Cabay, Balangkayan, Eastern Samar have opened a feeds store in their community.

The setting up of  savings groups in needy communities is a program of the Center for Community Transformation Group of Ministries.

Members of the groups meet regularly for Bible study and to deposit their savings.  The savings are accumulated to allow the members to eventually start micro enterprises as individuals or as a group.

Cabay is one of 15 barangays in Balangkayan, a fifth-class municipality in the province of Eastern Samar.  After the province was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, four staff of the Center for Community Transformation whose family roots are in the region were relocated from Metro Manila to help with relief and recovery.  Among the recovery efforts is the organizing of savings groups among the residents.

The feeds store sells chicken and hog feeds,  growers, and vitamins…

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Cha Cha Bantayan

Originally posted on Cha Cha Bantayan:

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Welcome to my new blog Cha Cha Bantayan, a site to profile the post Yolanda recovery efforts of the NGO, Young Pioneer Disaster Response.

YPDR was founded on Bantayan, an island in the Visayan Sea which experienced massive devastation due to a direct hit from the eye of Super Typhoon Yolanda.  In December of 2013 a group of friends mobilized a relief effort to offer simple help, but with grassroots backed momentum, in the Winter of 2014 we decided to stay long term and founded the NGO Young Pioneer Disaster Response.

Currently operating with over 130 local paid employes and 12 unpaid foreign volunteers, in just 6 months YPDR has a post disaster response resume to be proud of.  In December we partnered with Polish Humanitarian Action to start a massive emergency phase shelter project in which we trained community based carpenters, built model houses, and oversaw the…

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The Tacloban that I saw

Originally posted on Helping hands for Tacloban:

I have posted the story about one family already but now that I am back in the States and am about to write about all the rest, I wanted to take a step back and tell you about the Tacloban I saw. Perhaps that will help paint a better picture as I start telling the other stories, and showing you the photographs I took.

The devastation is still literally breathtaking. Yes, compared to what I saw in December, there has indeed been some progress. But it has been molasses slow in a lot of the places, especially in the ones I visited. Sure, my mother’s neighborhood already has electricity (they got electricity back in March, a little over four months after the typhoon), but most of the households I went to still did not have any. Did I dare go there at dark? No way. So you will not see…

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Rebuilding Lives

Originally posted on The CEBUANO:

More than one month after Typhoon Yolanda pummeled the Visayan islands, the remaining refugees from Tacloban were finally moved to the Family Rebuilding Center at the South Road Properties. Prior to this transfer, the refugees were housed in different barangay gyms all over the city. The Cebu City Government, in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross, set aside a lot at the SRP to build a tent city that is not only clean and safe but also complete with cooking areas, restrooms, and enough breathing space.

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