Hope floats

Let me share with you a mission — one that involves 6,200 fishermen and a wish their hearts have made.

At the time this was conceptualized our team was ready to supplement the giving of relief goods with something more, even as we were also in the thick of securing as many Shelter Kits as we could. The latter is an ongoing campaign and I invite you to check out www.rebuildormoc.com for updates and photos. But it was also time to take on the livelihood aspect, to better help and prepare the people to stand up on their feet again and be self-sufficient.

“6200: The Mission Possible Project” started when the IT-EXAD and store operations group of Suyen Corporation, of which Bench belongs, decided to do away with their Christmas party and donate the funds instead to the Fourth District of Leyte.  At that time the wonderful gentlemen of the Rotary Club of Makati South had also just donated funds, specifically for motorized fishing boats. And so despite all the darkness Yolanda brought — the pain, sadness, even despair — a dream was born, one that went beyond the first 57 fishermen our funds could initially help to include, hopefully, all in God’s plan and time, all the 6,200 that needed fishing boats.

We worked on it relentlessly, and every day Richard and I would wake up to find that the project had grown beautiful wings, taking on a life of its own.  When Ben Chan, together with Virgilio and Nenita Lim, found out about what their employees had done, true to their legendary generosity they pledged even more boats.  Initially, 26 seemed to be a significant number for them, one for each year that Bench has existed. But before the conversation ended the number had ballooned up to 50.  And then each time we would meet over the next couple of weeks, the number continued to multiply, until to date the company had already pledged a total of 200 and counting, over and above the seven that came from their employees.  They are also adopting 6,200 as a long-term campaign in partnership with the Bench brand.

For my birthday last December, Richard asked me what I wanted.  Before Yolanda, I was already eyeing several pairs of the famous red-soled shoe brand but after all that has happened, I had neither want nor need for them, beautiful as they were.  It seemed more appropriate to use the funds for more motorized fishing boats instead, knowing especially that for each pair I gave up a livelihood would be restored.  The choice was clear, and so I went on to name the boats.  Two are named after The Philippine STAR— one I dedicate to my boss Miguel Belmonte who has been supportive of Richard’s and my every endeavor; the other is for Millet Mananquil, the nurturing mother, friend, and mentor of the Sunday Lifestyle writers, and my Sunday Lifestyle family.  Under their care, my world has become bigger and definitely more fulfilling and I am grateful beyond words. And then there is a Walang Hanggan boat, after the hit teleserye on ABS-CBN that Richard was part of.  The Chippy boat is a salute to my absolute favorite junk food in the world, the only one that can make me happy in many, many ways — on top of vanilla ice cream, in a sandwich, dipped in spicy vinegar, on its own.  I will never outgrow it.  And then there is the Chuvaness boat, after my favorite blog and blogger, and the pink Shall We Dance boat.  Maybe there is a fisherwoman that will want it.  It is pink and happy and is a remembrance of the show I was happiest to be part of.  I have been working on the boats for several weeks now, and one night while I was at it on my computer, Juliana came up to me and seriously told me she wanted me to withdraw from her savings so she could donate one boat.  I asked what she wanted to name it, and she said she wanted her jersey number instead of a name.  (She has not seen her boat yet, so Juliana, check out your 08 red and blue boat somewhere on this page.)

Other companies and individuals have been so supportive as well, and I am deeply grateful.  There is not a day that Richard and I do not meet with individuals and groups and our commitment to reach our 6,200 target has been rewarded with such a positive response we are all the more encouraged to pursue it full on.  Yes, I am happy to say that each day new boats are added to the fleet.  Each day we continue to fine-tune the details of the project to make the implementation as smooth as possible.


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