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“The Filipino people were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the damages brought by Typhoon Haiyan, but we were equally overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and assistance of the Filipino diaspora and the international community for relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts.”  This was the message of Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. during the one year anniversary commemoration of the Super Typhoon at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center last November 7.

He added that “the quick and creative responses from the Filipino Community, non-profit organizations and the private sector, show that even across an ocean, the bayanihan spirit remains solid and true.”

The Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco and its community partners commemorated Haiyan’s anniversary through a photo exhibit, a Eucharistic Celebration and a presentation on recovery and rehabilitation efforts by the Philippine Government, the Filipino American Community and non-profit organizations in the Bay Area.

Left photo: Consul General Henry S. Bensurto and photographer Rick Rocamora cuts the ribbon to formally open the photo exhibit Displaced. Looking on is Ms. MarizaBensurto.  Right photo: some of the photographs in Tacloban taken by Mr. Rocamora that are on exhibit at the Philippine Center.

Displaced, a photo exhibit of award-winning photographer Rick Rocamora while he was on assignment for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), showcases photographs of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Leyte.

During the opening of the exhibit, Consul General Bensurto and Mr. Rocamora recalled the catastrophic impact of the typhoon and emphasized the need for continuous action to help the victims rebuild their lives.

Fr. Mark Reburiano of St. Isabella Church officiated the Eucharistic Celebration, which was offered to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, as well as to those affected by other calamities in the Philippines last year, such as the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol and the conflict in Zamboanga.

After the mass, Consul General Bensurto gave an update on the actions undertaken by the Philippine Government to reconstruct and rebuild communities and lives in the Haiyan affected areas.

Fr. Mark Reburiano celebrates the mass offered for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and other calamities that struck the Philippines in 2013.

He underscored the Build Back Better, Faster and Safer principle of the government, which serves as the guiding framework for rehabilitation and recovery efforts. According to the Consul General, “Building back better, faster and safer entails not just the simple restoration of communities, but fortifying them that they may be ready for future disasters,” he added.

Consul General Bensurto also reported that President Benigno S. Aquino recently signed the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan, which was prepared by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR), which outlines the Philippine Government’s commitment to implement over 25,000 rehabilitation and recovery specific plans, programs and activities (PPAs).  The PPAs are aimed to restore: 1) infrastructure; 2) settlements and basic community facilities and services; 3) livelihood and continuity of economic activities and business; and 4) resilience and capacities of communities in coping with future hazard events.

Consul General Bensurto delivers his remarks and brief presentation during the Typhoon Haiyan Commemoration.

Consul General Bensurto also shared that the observation of some United Nations and Asian Development Bank officials that the Philippines was able to move from relief and recovery to reconstruction and rehabilitation relatively faster than other countries that experience similar catastrophes.

Mr. Radi Calalang of the Philippine Aid Network discusses the rebuilding efforts of various organizations for Haiyan victims.

Mr. Conrad Calalang of the Philippine Aid Network presented the relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts of various Filipino American organizations and private companies in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest.  He reiterated that a lot of work needs to be done to help the victims of the typhoon, and called on the community to sustain their projects in the affected areas.

Ms. Lorraine Bauer, a young Filipina American, shared her experience as a volunteer in the relief efforts organized by the University of San Francisco.  After seeing the effects of the typhoon and interacting with the locals in Palawan, she was hopeful that young generations of Filipino Americans could come together with other generations of Filipinos, embrace their shared culture and help rebuild lives and communities.

The evening wrapped up with a musical performance by Ms. Cielo Northington, a native of Tacloban, who sang a Visayan song.  Ms. Northington offered the song as a thank you to those who offered their solidarity, support and assistance to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  Also presented were We Will Rise Again, the Yolanda anniversary music videoproduced by OPARR, and Yolanda Update,a video from ABS-CBN Foundation in the Philippines.

For more information on the ongoing rehabilitation efforts, please visit the OPARR website

Mr. Rick Rocamora’s photo exhibit, Displaced, will be on display at the lobby of the Philippine Center at 447 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 until 28 November 2014.