The Philippines is one of the most natural disaster‑prone countries in the world. Being on the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Pacific Typhoon Belt, its location has exposed this archipelago and its 110 million inhabitants to a continuous cycle of deadly typhoons, floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, drought, and other natural disasters. The Philippines is the country which experiences the most tropical storms in the world.
Typhoon Rai (locally known as Odette) was the 15th storm to hit the country in 2021 and, globally, it was the strongest storm of the year. Rai strengthened from a Category 1 typhoon to Category 5 super typhoon in just one day, making it difficult for Filipinos to prepare appropriately. With its population of 3.8 million, Cebu was the seventh place where Rai made landfall. From early evening until midnight on 16 December, Cebu felt first‑hand the savage winds of Rai and the typhoon left a trail of destruction all over the island. Over 300 lives were lost and damage to infrastructure and homes in Cebu was catastrophic.
The Don Bosco Technical College‑Cebu
The Salesian Provincial House is located in the city of Cebu. It and seven other Salesian Centres sustained heavy damage from the devastating force of Rai. The Don Bosco Technical College‑Cebu (DBTC‑Cebu) bore the heaviest damage of all these Salesian Centres. DBTC‑Cebu is a school which offers primary, secondary, tertiary, and vocational education to children and youth ‑ not only from Cebu City but to the rest of Cebu Province and its neighbouring islands. Annually, its student population ranges from 1,400 to 1,500.
Typhoon Rai is the latest challenge faced by Filipino students, on top of the continuing COVID‑19 pandemic which has wrought so much disruption and anguish to the mental and physical health of students. For areas damaged by Rai, this has become a double whammy. After 20 months of pandemic prevention measures, amounting to one of the world’s longest lockdowns, only 5,000 students, in just over 100 public schools, have been allowed to go back to class in a two‑month trial programme—a tiny fraction of the 27 million public school students who enrolled in 2021. The Philippines must be one of a very few countries, if not the only country, to remain firmly reliant on distance learning.
Hope to bring back normality
The Salesians aim to repair DBTC‑Cebu as soon as possible in order to bring normality to its educational programmes and ensure the welfare of its students. Delivery of learning is once again in virtual mode this school year and DBTC‑Cebu’s online education has been hugely affected by the loss of internet connectivity and some damage to the school’s recording facilities. The new school year will start in August 2022 and, by that time, everyone is hoping that in‑person classes will finally resume. Meanwhile, the struggle to keep up the repair and reconstruction of damaged buildings and facilities of DBTC‑Cebu continues. In particular, the Students Assembly Area 2 and Gymnasium, a key infrastructure within the school campus which gathers the entire student population under one roof needs to be made functional once more. It is here where a variety of school functions are held and milestones conducted such as graduations, institution‑wide celebrations, cultural programs, and competitive sports. Every day students assemble here to have their morning prayers and listen to short talks before heading for classes.
Help to Repair
The repair of the Students Assembly Area is being carried out with the intention to building it back better. With the whole roof in need of replacement and the façade requiring a major facelift, the engineers want to build to a standard which will allow the refurbished structures to be disaster resilient going forward. Like most settings in the Philippines, Salesian Centres operate an ‘open gym policy’ where the school community lends this facility for persons with disabilities, sporting activities, the storing, packing, and distribution of relief goods during emergencies, as a vaccination site, and sometimes as an evacuation centre.
On our Salesians Ireland website, you will see a video where some young people who attend the Don Bosco Youth Centre in Cebu sharing their experiences of Typhoon Rai. It was very frightening for many of them, with one girl recounting how her whole house was shaking as if in an earthquake, and then the typhoon ripped off the roof and ceiling. However, these young people were able to bring hope to others in several ways: they helped to fetch and distribute water at the Don Bosco Centre, some of them rescued people who had been trapped in their houses, while others gave up their savings to allow their families to buy food. When asked what they had learned from the experience, one young person responded, “It’s not always bright and sunny. Sometimes, you have to experience darkness, sadness, being down. Just never surrender. Still trust in God.”
The young people from the Don Bosco College need our prayers and help to have their school repaired for the new academic year.
Please help the young people in Cebu! Donation form below!