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Last October 2023, representatives from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) National Headquarters and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) visited Bungkaras Evacuation Center,  the remaining evacuation facility in Albay for families affected by Mayon Volcano’s ongoing unrest. The purpose of the visit was to determine the specific areas where additional assistance could be provided.

Among the families they met are the families of Rona Villanueva, Lorna Padilla, Amy Nabor, and Abby Solano who were then taking turns cooking in the community kitchen set up by the PRC. They were frying tuyo (salted dried fish) and sautéing sweet potato leaves for their children’s first meal of the day. The food they had prepared was only enough to get them through the day, but they still shared the food with the visiting staff. 

“Every day I keep worrying and thinking if Mayon will erupt. Our life since June is uncertain,” said Amy Nabor, a mother of three, in Filipino.

“I had to transfer my two children to a school within walking distance of the evacuation center. For them, this means adjusting and adapting to an environment entirely new to them,” Rona Villanueva, a mother of five, shared in Filipino. 

“In the previous evacuation center, we had to share a room with ten other families. I was worried that my children would get sick because of the crowded spaces,” Lorna Padilla, also a mother of five, said in Filipino. 

“I did not grow up here, so I am worried for my baby because this is our first time to evacuate,” said first-time mother Abby Solano, as she related in Filipino. 

Mayon Volcano’s effusive eruption in the first week of June has forced thousands of families to leave their homes and livelihood in the mountain’s foothills. While majority of the population who preemptively evacuated have already returned home in September, there are 50 families from Barangay Anoling, which is within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone of Mayon, whose lives are still far from normal as they huddle in Bungkaras Evacuation Center because of the volcano’s continuing unrest. 

The PRC, in partnership with IFRC, continues to support the provincial government of Albay in providing crucial aid to families who were evacuated from the danger zones. The following humanitarian aid was given to over 10,000 individuals since Day 1:  90,000 hot meals; over 3,050,000 liters of water; 900 loaves of bread; four community kitchens; sleeping kits and jerry cans to approximately 2,500 families; 3,662 feminine kits; and 1,210 hygiene kits. 

“The hot meals help me in breastfeeding my baby, while the community kitchen helps me cook food for my other children before they head to school, a food that can hold them over until the next mealtime,” shared Lorna.

Rona, meanwhile, expressed her gratitude for the aid, especially for the provision of clean water: “Volunteers refill this [water bladder] daily. Because of this, we have access to clean water every day.”

The PRC also conducted  Psychosocial First aid to 1,521 individuals, facilitated child-friendly spaces to 4,426 children, organized menstrual hygiene management to 1,389 women, conducted hygiene promotion, provided medical care to over 700 persons, demonstrated first-aid skills to 500 individuals, and provision of health awareness through the distribution of 5,700 brochures and posters on Dengue, Leptospirosis, and cough and colds. 

“The volunteers gave the children storybooks and drawing materials. As a mother, these are important for me. Although my child is only one year old and cannot read yet, I still read the storybooks to him before we sleep at night,” said Abby.

PRC Chairman and CEO, Dick Gordon, said that the organization will provide assistance that goes beyond immediate response efforts, adding, “We will continue to collaborate with the provincial government of Albay in the next phase of aid and recovery for evacuees until normalcy is restored.”

The Research Division Chief of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), Eugene Escobar, mentioned that a number of families residing within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone of Mayon volcano had been permanently relocated years ago. However, over time, generations of these families returned to the area when they started their own families, as they did not have their own land to build their homes.

**This article was written on November 20, 2023. The remaining evacuees returned to their houses last December 8, 2023.

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In September 2023, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the employment rate among the youth, aged 15 to 24 years old, was 86.9%. 

With that, 13.1% of Filipino youth were unemployed. Youth unemployment is higher than overall unemployment, which is 4.5%.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC), in partnership with TESDA, technical-vocational schools, and the Spanish Red Cross, is making strides in helping the youth and other vulnerable groups gain skills for employment or self-employment. The PRC project covers the tuition fees for the beneficiaries and also provides them with meals and transportation allowances. 

“We are committed to assisting the youth and other vulnerable groups among our kababayans in finding employment or engaging in self-employment,” said PRC Chairman and CEO Richard “Dick” Gordon.

On 13 November 2023, 54 youth and members of other vulnerable groups from Manila, Caloocan, and Pasay received their certificates from TESDA for completing courses such as baking, housekeeping, and caregiving. The graduation ceremony was held at Manila Atelier of Food Arts and Hospitality, Inc. in UN Avenue, Ermita Manila. 

“The primary goal of PRC’s Employment Project is to enhance the connectedness of urban poor communities to better access economic opportunities,” explained the PRC Secretary-General, Dr. Gwen Pang.

“In this country, every day, I witness a disaster,” Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman and CEO Richard “Dick” Gordon remarked on the pressing issues of food insecurity and child malnutrition in the Philippines.

According to the 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) by the Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), two percent of Filipino households are severely food insecure. This translates to over 500,000 households, as indicated by the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2020 Census of Population and Housing (CPH). UNICEF reports that every day, 95 children in the Philippines succumb to malnutrition.

Addressing agricultural scientists from Southeast Asia at the International Society for Southeast Asian Agricultural Sciences (ISSAAS) conference on November 8 in Manila, Gordon urged them to collaborate with humanitarian leaders, including himself and the government, to “wage a war” against food insecurity and child malnutrition and emphasize the urgency of addressing these issues.

“PRC will concentrate on tackling malnutrition among zero-to-five-year-old children, a critical phase in a child’s development. During the first two months, the PRC plans to distribute food to children aged zero to five and those from impoverished households using its fleet of food trucks. Simultaneously, the PRC will train mothers or guardians on how to prepare nutritious food independently, providing them with sustainable livelihoods.” Gordon explained.

Gordon shared some of the PRC’s ongoing interventions related to food security and nutrition, including hot meal distribution during disasters through PRC’s Hot Meals on Wheels, food distribution to impoverished communities through the Food Donation Law (which he authored), the establishment of vegetable and fruit farms nationwide, and the deployment of payloaders to clear farms inundated by mud after typhoons or flooding.

Today, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) joins the country in commemorating the 10th year anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan, which buried numerous parts of Luzon and Visayas in rubble along with livelihoods, homes, schools, belongings, and people.

“Gusto naming iparamdam sa mga kababayan natin na hindi sila nag-iisa,” is a statement that has driven PRC Chairman and CEO Dick Gordon to intensify the organization’s ten-year relief, rescue, recovery and rehabilitation efforts in the region.

Apart from the provision of food, non-food items, and cash assistance to millions of individuals, the PRC built over 80,000 houses with toilets, with support from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, in Leyte, Ormoc City, Western and Eastern Samar, Cebu, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo, and Palawan. The organization also built schools, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities for over 100 schools, 1,168 community-based WASH facilities, and vocational training centers and rehabilitated almost 100 health facilities.

These provisions were made while responding to Filipinos affected by the Zamboanga siege and the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol, crises that struck the country months before Yolanda made landfall.

“How we simultaneously responded to these crises made the PRC a preferred partner of choice of donors and RCRC [Red Cross and Red Crescent] National Societies through the years because we can get the job done. We show the donors their contributions,” Gordon added.

Ten years after Yolanda, the PRC called on every Filipino to be “ahead of the curve.” “People should not build houses in the shoreline nor near any fault line. Practice the 4Ps (Predict, Plan, Prepare, and Practice),” said Gordon.

Gordon also advises relevant government agencies and humanitarian organizations to take into account livelihood opportunities and access to roads and public transportation when transferring families to a relocation site. “People will just return to danger zones if half-baked relief and recovery efforts are going to be provided,” he added.

The PRC Secretary-General, Dr. Gwen Pang, also shared that the PRC is now intensifying its climate-resilient development practices: “To reduce community vulnerability to disasters, we’ve embraced streamlined approaches like Early Warning Systems, Anticipatory Actions, Nature-based Solutions, Climate Change Education, Food Security, and Waste Management, among others.”

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) joined the World Mental Health Day (WMHD) Celebration on 10 October by organizing training events for staff and volunteers on Psychological First Aid (PFA) across its chapters nationwide. WMHD’s thrust is to raise awareness about mental health issues.

“We have trained staff and volunteers who provide psychosocial support to people affected by disasters. We are continually training more, so that people will have this needed support available in case a disaster strikes, especially because the Philippines is disaster-prone,” said PRC Chairman and CEO Dick Gordon.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), PFA involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings suffering serious crisis events. PFA is part of PRC’s package of services provided to people affected by fire, typhoons, earthquakes, armed conflict, and other crises. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PRC operated the national, toll-free COVID-19 Hotline 1158 dedicated to providing callers with PFA. In the aftermath of a crisis event, the PRC sets up child-friendly spaces where trained staff and volunteers facilitate activities for children designed as PFA. 

“The PRC interventions in mental health aim to equip community-based volunteers to be able to provide support to people who experience a crisis. It aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and the services available,” Dr. Gwen Pang, secretary-general of the PRC, added.

A scientific brief published by WHO in March 2022 says that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people around the world. 

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman and CEO Dick Gordon and Secretary General Dr. Gwen Pang expressed their gratitude to Tessa Prieto and Kaye Tinga, organizers of the Red Charity Gala, for choosing the PRC once again as one of the beneficiaries of the show’s proceeds. The Red Charity Gala is one of the most awaited annual fashion and fundraising events in the Philippines. 

“We are always grateful for the support of the Red Charity Gala, which is an opportunity for its followers to appreciate fashion and donate to meaningful causes at the same time. Thank you to Tess and Kaye, for bringing together people who care not just for fashion but also for those who need help the most,” said Gordon. 

The Red Charity Gala is named after the Red Cross, which is historically the primary beneficiary of the fashion and fundraising event. The 2023 Red Charity Gala was held at The Peninsula Manila, in Makati City, on 8 October 2023. Gordon and Pang represented the PRC in the event. This year’s gala was the 12th show. It featured celebrity fashion designer Ivarluski “Ivar” Aseron. The event was graced by the Philippines’ First Lady, Marie Louise “Liza” Araneta Marcos.

“We are thankful of course to the Red Charity Gala for supporting the Philippine Red Cross. They can be assured that the donation will reach our kababayans who are in situations of disasters and emergencies,” Pang added.

Philippine Red Cross Chairman and CEO Dick Gordon got a courtesy call on 4 October from Ralph Montehermosa, the only Filipino rescuer with Ocean Viking, a cargo vessel conducting search and rescue activities in the central Mediterranean. The ship is chartered and operated by SOS MEDITERRANEE in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). During Mr. Montehermosa’s latest duty period on the ship, their fleet rescued around 1,000 migrants who experienced mishap at sea. He has been a rescuer with Ocean Viking for six years. Referred to by Chairman Gordon as a hero, Mr. Montehermosa says: “Masaya ako na nakaka-save ng buhay.”

Manila, Philippines – The Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) honored Philippine Red Cross Chairman/CEO Richard Gordon as a “Man of Exemplary Influence”, for his decades-long service to the country as a humanitarian volunteer and leader, and an advocate of legislation supporting humanitarian organizations.

At a ceremony last Sept. 27, PCS credited Gordon’s exemplary leadership that spanned decades of unwavering commitment to serve. Gordon, who was a past member of PCS’ Board of Trustees, explored a possible collaboration with PCS to help the most vulnerable, specifically cancer patients.

“I am deeply honored by this award from the Philippine Cancer Society. My parents instilled in me compassion for other people, and this award is a testament to how my parents brought me up – having the values of kusang loob, malasakit, and kapwa-tao,” Gordon said

“To our kababayans who are cancer patients, know that there are people who are ready to support you, and among them are the people at Philippine Cancer Society and its donors,” Gordon addressed cancer patients.

The PCS highlighted Gordon’s track record of public service. As Olongapo City Mayor and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman, Gordon led a joint Philippine-American civilian and military rescue effort in the collapsed Central College of the Philippines in Cabanatuan City and the rescue of thousands of college students stranded in Baguio City for reunification with their parents after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Central Luzon in July 1990. Food supplies were also airlifted to the affected populations. Gordon also co-led the rehabilitation operations of Central Luzon after the earthquake.

As Department of Tourism Secretary, he led the rescue of kidnapped tourists at Dos Palmas in 2001. As Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross from 2004 to present, he is at the helm of the country’s premier humanitarian organization, leading not just its disaster responses but also its other services, such as blood collection and dispensing and emergency medical services. As senator, Gordon was instrumental in the enactment of a law that requires media companies to allot more airtime to information on emergencies and responses.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Kingdom of Bahrain’s Royal Charity Organization (RCO) Secretary-General Dr. Mustafa Al-Sayed visited Philippine Red Cross Chairman and CEO Dick Gordon yesterday to explore more opportunities for collaboration.

RCO is known globally for its development and humanitarian assistance not only to the people of Bahrain but also to communities in developing countries. In 2014, RCO funded the construction of two PRC vocational training centers – one in Leyte and one in Subic – to help the Filipinos strengthen their economic capability and resilience against hazards.

Bahrain is our friend and an active ally. As you know, together with the Royal Charity Organization, we constructed two training centers in Subic and Tacloban. This is the commitment of Bahrain to help the Filipinos, especially the Typhoon Yolanda survivors. We are truly grateful for the support and the friendship we built. I’m excited to work with RCO again after our collaboration for recovery and resilience,” said Chairman Gordon. 

Dr. Al-Sayed also invited Chairman Gordon to visit Bahrain to evaluate opportunities for collaboration.

The PRC Secretary-General, Dr. Gwen Pang, said the training centers were instrumental to the recovery of typhoon-affected Filipinos. “We were able to provide various programs and courses that enhanced their knowledge and skills needed to land a job or start a livelihood. We are not only fighting poverty here, but also promoting literacy,” PRC Secretary-General Dr. Gwen Pang added. 

The PRC Vocational Training Centers in Subic and Tacloban were constructed to alleviate poverty and lower unemployment by providing accessible, high-quality vocational training and job-creation projects for unemployed and underprivileged Filipinos, especially those from historically disadvantaged communities. These infrastructures, which cost USD400,000 in 2014, were donated by the people of Bahrain, through the Royal Charity Organization of the Kingdom of Bahrain. 

September 4th marks the birth anniversary of a remarkable figure in Philippine history, the incomparable Mrs. Amelia J. Gordon. Revered as Olongapo’s pioneering female mayor, Amelia’s enduring legacy shines as brightly as her lifelong commitment to children, adoption, and humanitarian causes, which earned her the prestigious Pearl S. Buck International Woman of the Year Award, a distinction shared by only two other Filipino women.

A beacon of compassion, Mrs. Gordon profoundly impacted the lives of countless individuals, adopting more than 50 children and establishing the Boys Town and Girls Home in Olongapo City. These sanctuaries provided shelter and hope to orphaned Filipino children of American descent, etching Amelia’s name in the annals of philanthropy.

Beyond her maternal endeavors, Amelia J. Gordon played a pivotal role in her son Dick Gordon’s journey, who would later become a prominent figure as the Philippine Red Cross Chairman and CEO. Her devotion to humanitarian causes was exemplified by her role as the founder of the Olongapo Chapter of the Philippine National Red Cross.

Amelia’s legacy was not confined to her philanthropic endeavors. She valiantly championed Olongapo’s quest for independence from American rule and played an instrumental role in the city’s elevation to cityhood in 1966. Following the assassination of her husband, James Gordon Sr., in 1969, Amelia became the city mayor, displaying her indomitable spirit and compassionate heart.

During her tenure as mayor, Amelia competently managed Olongapo City during the tumultuous period of the Vietnam War when it served as a recreational refuge for American soldiers. Her strong leadership ensured peace and security for the city’s inhabitants.

Driven by her humanitarian principles, she launched one of the city’s most significant housing development programs, affirming the human dignity of Olongapo’s burgeoning population. Her political acumen culminated in her election as Assemblywoman to the Batasang Pambansa in 1984.

Even in her retirement from formal politics, Amelia remained devoted to serving her fellow Filipinos, actively contributing as a Red Cross volunteer. She spearheaded blood donation programs and led relief operations in response to disasters, including the Cabanatuan earthquake and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

Amelia’s achievements and dedication garnered her more accolades, including the Silver Humanitarian Service Cross Award from the American Red Cross, the Gold Humanitarian Award, and the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Medal award from the Philippine National Red Cross. She was also honored as a Gintong Ina Awardee and received the Philippine Centennial Commission Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award.

Today, as we commemorate Amelia Gordon’s birthday, we celebrate not just a date on the calendar but a timeless legacy of humanitarianism that continues to inspire generations. Dick Gordon and the Philippine Red Cross carry forward her torch, ensuring that the spirit of compassion and service blazes brightly in Olongapo and beyond.

Philippine Red Cross

Born officially in 1947, but with roots that traces back to the revolutionary days, the Philippine Red Cross has truly become the premier humanitarian organization in the country, committed to provide quality life-saving services that protect the life and dignity especially of indigent Filipinos in vulnerable situations.

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