They survived Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), considered the most powerful and one of the deadliest Philippine typhoons on record, they worked hard to get back on their feet, and now they are a source of inspiration and hope for other people.
They are the Yolanda survivors and scholars of SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI).
Three months after the onslaught of the disaster, a lean team of seven development workers from SM Foundation went to Leyte Normal University (LNU) to conduct preliminary screening of new scholars for the coming school year.
The snake-like queue leading to LNU was something they had not anticipated. To accommodate everyone, the team had to multi-task: overseeing the examinations, checking the examination scores, and conducting the initial interviews for those who qualified.
When the home visits were conducted, the team had to cover not only Tacloban proper but also communities within the region. Sadly, most of the addresses could not be located because houses were swept away, but with the team’s ardent efforts, they found out that while many were living on make-shift houses located along the roads, some were fortunate enough to live with relatives or friends nearby.
Seeing the clamor for scholarship slots, the executive team of SMFI decided to open more for Region 8. SMFI welcomed 100 additional college scholars from the Yolanda-stricken area into its scholarship program.
Eight years after the onslaught, SM college scholars from Region 8 have already graduated and are now employed and changing the economic status of their families.
“Being a Yolanda survivor and becoming a scholar of SMFI had given me the hope that I almost lost after the devastation of super typhoon Yolanda. SMFI became the light that guided me to where I am now,” shared Denchris M. Lopez, one of the foundation’s scholars.
Lopez finished Bachelor of Science in Accountancy at Saint Paul School of Professional Studies. She now works in the Accounting Division of the Department of Education Regional Office VIII.
“Hopefully in the near future I can be part of the foundation or work under SMFI,” she said.
Felicisimo P. Castroverde is a teacher by profession but has ventured to become an entrepreneur at the same time. Because of financial difficulties, he had to put on hold his college schooling. The devastation caused by Yolanda opened an opportunity for him to continue his studies. Many scholarship programs were offered for those affected by the typhoon, and he qualified to be a scholar of SMFI.
After graduating from LNU with a degree of Bachelor in Secondary Education Major in Biological Sciences, he taught for two years at a private international school in Tacloban and later moved to LNU as an instructor.
Today, he owns a mini grocery and a small resto-bar. “For now, I am focusing on these but I am also applying for a new job. I am looking for a new environment, way different from being a teacher,” shared Castroverde.
The whole journey of being a scholar of SM Foundation is already unforgettable for Camille Malate, a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy graduate from Saint Paul School of Professional Studies. “But my favorite part was when I received the news that I passed the interview and qualified for the scholarship. It came like a life-saving news for me.”
She was among the more than 200 passers in the scholarship qualifying exams who advanced to the interview stage.
“I was on my way home at that time when I received calls from my mom, telling to come home quickly as Ma’am Ling (Lingling Lansang) along with the other scholarship coordinators came to visit our house and gave us the news that I was considered for the scholarship for the second semester till I finish college. I was very much thankful to Ma’am Ling and SM Foundation for the gift of scholarship.”
Now employed, she helps in the family expenses. She is the branch internal auditor of Fast Distribution Corporation-Leyte but will soon join Mancera Group of Companies as accountant in-charge.
“I will forever be honored and grateful to be an SM scholar. I couldn’t be where I am today without the help of SM Foundation,” enthused Malate.