25 Dec2013

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The smiles and sentiments of the kids in this photo — priceless. Within a week after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Visayas, generous donors of marketmanila.com, those who contributed to The Teen’s indiegogo website, family corporations, strangers, family and friends raised over PHP2 million for folks affected the storm in Northern Cebu and elsewhere. Entrusted with this money, it was our goal to distribute food and water quickly and to many affected parts of Northern Cebu. Last week was our final trip up North (1 of 11 sorties, plus one to Culion, Palawan), and we all agreed we should bring a special dose of holiday cheer to folks who needed it most. So clear yourself of distraction for a couple of minutes, and read through the next two posts… and the extended Marketman family wishes all of you a very special, meaningful, peaceful and totally Merry Christmas!

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Our final journey started from Cebu City at 6am or so. Our convoy included a large construction dump truck, filled with boxes and sacks — a veritable modern day “Santa sleigh” — and we were headed to just two barangays in Medellin with approximately 1,000 families! Can you imagine what Santa’s fleet of C-130’s must look like on Christmas Eve?! We also had two vans filled with family and colleagues from work, a pick-up truck and our vehicle.

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We even brought “Santa” who took time from his busy Pre-Christmas rush (chicharon cook) and 20+ elves all dressed in red… and we all miraculously managed to avoid heatstroke in 95F weather and the searing sun beating down on us all day…

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The trip was planned from the week before, and the barangays had sent us a list of every family unit, child and infant in their jurisdiction. Once we got to our first barangay, we decided to start by distributing our loot bags for kids. The loot bags, with 21 items within, were brought down from the dump truck in sacks. Parents and kids were all lined up and crushed under several tents to keep a bit cooler… and despite please for order and lines, and assurances we had enough for everyone, a bit of pandemonium took hold. But we managed to distribute the bags, and honestly, I am amazed Santa and elves didn’t faint. I had the excuse that I needed to snap these photos for the blog… :)

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BAsed on the reactions we got from kids once they opened their bags, they seemed pretty darned excited about the goodies. The initial rush now turned into a deluge as everyone wanted to make sure they got their loot bag too.

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A few of the recipients checking out the contents of their loot bags.

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I asked several children what they thought of the Christmas present… and let’s just say I got nothing short of “ecstatic” as a reaction. So many kids came up to us unprompted to say a simple but heartfelt “thank you” during the day… it was very humbling. And those thank you’s are really meant for you, you and you, the reader and generous donors.

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At the peak of loot bag distribution, I was concerned that our crew would be smothered and crushed, and that kids and adults might get caught in the crush, so I set up across the street beside our dump truck with a few special boxes and tried to get mothers with infants and babies to transfer over to my side of the road…

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…I had the most fantastic baby clothes and wonderful baby blankets that were the generous gift of a donor, who has a garment company. But I was quickly swarmed, and several hundred garments and blankets were gone in minutes.

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Many, many thanks to the “B” family, who dropped off these disarmingly compact bales of baby clothes and blankets at our home… these weighed perhaps 40 kilos each and contained hundreds of garments/blankets. They were GREATLY APPRECIATED by the folks in Northern Cebu and also in a Palawan distribution we arranged.

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Once the loot bags for kids and the garments for infants were distributed, we headed to a basketball court nearby where the adults were lined up for their Christmas spaghetti boxes… along with a few more canned goods as well. These set packages were meant for their Christmas Eve celebration, though I suspect many would have enjoyed them sooner… and each family was given enough for say 10-15 spaghetti meals.

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Logistics was the key to success or failure in the first few weeks after the storm hit. DO NOT underestimate that observation. Aid distribution is back-breaking work. And we ALWAYS thought we had enough hands on deck and we didn’t. This trip, with 25+ people in our party, the heavy work fell on less than 10 guys, unloading thousands of pounds of goods from a very high truck bed, and opening, assembling and distributing the packages. All of this done in oven like temperatures and the searing sun (we all came back three shades tanner, and I am pretty dark to begin with!)…

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The lines for the adults and elderly were extremely well-organized, and we had four stations to distribute, so we managed to get roughly 500 sets out in less than an hour’s time.

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And please, no comments about the umbrellas, it was REALLY HOT. At least I am carrying my own umbrella. :) And here you should all know, that many of the folks who we greeted a “Merry Christmas!” that day, really want to say a huge thank you to the souls that made this all possible… who donated money and time and effort, and who they didn’t know and would probably never meet. They were thankful, cheerful, hopeful, grateful and positive. I found that amazing in the midst of homes barely cobbled back together, and many with reduced or no incomes post storm…

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The Marketman family distributing goods at one station…

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…Zubuchon crew manning two more stations…

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…and while I was prone to heat exhaustion, the Teen stayed at her line the whole time,here assisted by our Chief of Stuff.

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A second and similar scene on another basketball court would follow an hour later, as another 500 families or so lined up for their holiday spread. The second barangay was a few kilometers away from the first, and we were told that this was only the SECOND time they had been visited by outsiders in 5 weeks. The first time was a food distribution by RAFI (The Aboitiz Foundation) and ours. There was a palpable urgency in this barangay, and folks seemed just a bit more aggressive than we had experienced elsewhere…

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…the children’s loot bag distribution went well, and our crew worked hard to keep things in order and moving quickly.

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I ended up on the Senior Citizens line, which was nice and calm, but it’s hard to hand a 85 year old lady 2 or 3 spaghetti packages (some 8-10 kilos in weight) while they manage with their cane! The elderly were also claiming the goods for some of their children, who were working the fields or out fishing during the day. Marketman trivia, can you spot the link to James Bond in this photo?

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The agony…

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…and the ecstasy.

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We also had some other goods to distribute at this barangay, and dozens and dozens of rubber slippers were in huge demand. So much so our Zubuchon GM and folks from Mrs. MM’s office were literally surrounded and crushed in the rush to claim them. Our GM had to throw the slippers out beyond the crowd to prevent a melee.

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A wonderful anonymous and generous donor dropped off boxes filled with goods at our Zubuchon Mactan branch and the boxes contained slippers, panties and men’s briefs. I cannot tell you how useful and sought after these were. Salamat to the quiet donor.

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But I must close this “PART I” with a bit of humor… a photo of the men’s briefs we distributed that day… “BINCH BODY” — I think they meant “BENCH BODY” — a local underwear brand with a copycat runway show patterned after Victoria’s Secret’s annual extravaganza. You have to be Cebuano to get the accent joke… Part II next. And why I wished I was wearing a pair of BINCH BODY briefs. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. ami says:

    Merry Christmas MM and family! Your family really get what Christmas is about. Kudos!

    I believe the James Bond connection refers to the JB007 embroidered at the back of your hat.

    Don’t worry about the umbrella. At least it was daytime and scorching hot and not night time and dry.

    Dec 25, 2013 | 5:34 pm

     
  2. besYS says:

    I am thanking you MM + family and Zubuchon staff for a job well done!!!
    Cheers to you all! :-)

    Dec 25, 2013 | 6:04 pm

     
  3. millet says:

    hahaha…Binch jud!

    Dec 25, 2013 | 10:42 pm

     
  4. natie says:

    Ay, ka tonto.. Bisaya Binch… This is a heart warming post! Thanks for your untiring work and for sharing with us the happy scenes,,

    Dec 26, 2013 | 12:32 am

     
  5. Thel from Florida says:

    Thank you kindly for such amazing job! I am very happy to be able to help.

    Dec 26, 2013 | 1:48 am

     
  6. JSmith says:

    So heartwarming!

    Dec 26, 2013 | 4:25 am

     
  7. JB & Renee says:

    What an awesome family. Merry Christmas! :)

    Dec 26, 2013 | 7:12 am

     
  8. Mimi says:

    Merry Christmas! I think everyone who gets a Binch underwear will truly be happy.

    Dec 26, 2013 | 11:52 am

     
  9. Netoy says:

    After shedding tears just by looking at the pictures, I let out a loud laugh upon seeing the Binch briefs.. Thank you MM and your family and crew for bringing joy to these less fortunate people.

    Dec 26, 2013 | 12:26 pm

     
  10. mini says:

    I had a good laugh with the last photo :) God bless you always!

    Dec 27, 2013 | 4:26 pm

     
  11. scott says:

    MM..such a great story of the generosity of your readers, the zubuchon family and many family and friends I am sure…the “binch body” underwear was the icing on the cake..brought a big smile to my face

    Dec 27, 2013 | 5:20 pm

     
  12. corrine says:

    Well done! Cheers!

    Dec 27, 2013 | 5:46 pm

     
  13. Chinky says:

    Love the last photo, MM! Congratulations and a happy Christmas to you and yours. May 2014 be a better year for all!

    Dec 28, 2013 | 7:00 am

     
  14. Helen says:

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, Mrs.MM, Teen and all your staff for the selfless generosity and heart you have all shown.

    Thank you and Cheers!!

    Dec 28, 2013 | 11:40 am

     
  15. Cwid says:

    Hats off to the MM family, Zubuchon crew and the people of Medellin. The best Christmas story I have read this year.

    Dec 28, 2013 | 3:25 pm

     
  16. La Emperor says:

    I agree with you Cwid. It’s so much better than the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”, because this story is so true and is happening in real time. Now if only James Bond could be Caesar as well….. ;)

    Dec 29, 2013 | 4:06 am

     

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