“Yolanda” academics share their stories


They survived Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), considered the most powerful and one of the deadliest typhoons ever recorded in the Philippines, they worked hard to get back on their feet, and now they are an inspiration and hope for others. These are the Yolanda survivors and academics from SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI).

The beginning

Three months after the onslaught of the disaster, a small team of seven SM Foundation development officers traveled to Leyte Normal University (LNU) to make a preliminary selection of new students for the academic year at to come. The snake-shaped queue leading to LNU was something they hadn’t anticipated. To accommodate everyone, the team had to multitask: overseeing exams, checking exam results, and conducting initial interviews for those who qualified.

SM Foundation scholars (left to right) Denchris Lopez, Felicisimo Castroverde and Camille Malate.

During the home visits, the team had to cover not only Tacloban itself, but also the communities in the region. Unfortunately, most of the addresses could not be located because houses were washed away, but thanks to the team’s ardent efforts, they discovered that while many lived in makeshift houses along the roads, some were fortunate enough to live with relatives or friends nearby. Seeing the clamor of scholarship slots, the SMFI management team decided to open more for region 8. SMFI welcomed an additional 100 scholars from the Yolanda affected region into its scholarship program. Eight years after the attack, SM academics in Region 8 have already graduated and are now employed and are changing the economic status of their families.

The trip

“Being a Yolanda survivor and becoming an SMFI scholar gave me hope that I had almost lost after the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda. SMFI became the light that guided me to where I am now, ”said Denchris M. Lopez, one of the foundation’s academics. Lopez received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Saint-Paul School of Professional Studies. She now works in the Accounting Division of the Regional Office of the Ministry of Education VIII. “I hope that in the near future I can be part of the foundation or work within the framework of SMFI,” she said. Felicisimo P. Castroverde is a teacher by profession, but also ventured into becoming an entrepreneur. Due to financial difficulties, he had to suspend his college studies. The devastation caused by Yolanda opened up the opportunity for her to continue her studies. Many scholarship programs were offered to those affected by the typhoon, and he qualified to be an SMFI scholar. After graduating from LNU with a Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in Biological Sciences, he taught for two years at a private international school in Tacloban and then moved to LNU as an instructor. Today, he has a mini-grocery store and a small restaurant-bar. “Right now I’m focusing on those, but I’m also applying for a new job. I am looking for a new environment, very different from being a teacher, ”said Castroverde. The whole journey of being a SM Foundation scholar is already unforgettable for Camille Malate, a Bachelor of Science in Accounting graduate from the Saint-Paul School of Professional Studies. “But my favorite part was when I found out I had passed the interview and qualified for the scholarship. It came as news that saved my life. She was one of more than 200 passers of the scholarship qualifying exams who moved on to the interview stage. “I was on my way home at the time when I got calls from my mom telling me to get home quickly as Ma’am Ling (Lingling Lansang) and the other coordinators scholarship came to visit our house and announced to us that I was considered for the scholarship for the second semester until I finished college. I was very grateful to Ma’am Ling and the SM Foundation for donating the scholarship. Now an employee, she contributes to the family’s expenses. She is the internal auditor of the branch of Fast Distribution Corporation-Leyte, but will soon join Mancera Group of Companies as an accountant. “I will be forever honored and grateful to be an SM scholar. I couldn’t be where I am today without the help of the SM Foundation, ”said Malate enthusiastically.

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