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If each of us takes part in caring and sharing, the overwhelming challenge of poverty can be addressed. Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.

Soong Ching Ling is a name highly revered in China and all over the world. More than being the late Honorary President of the People’s Republic of China and the wife of Sun Yat-sen (founding father of the Republic of China), Soong Ching Ling devoted herself to social progress and enhanced understanding between people of different lands. Early this year, Soong Ching Ling’s name found its way to Cateel, a relatively unknown municipality in the southern part of the Philippines – a municipality that only made national headlines when Typhoon Pablo devastated it along with the entire province of Davao Oriental and nearby Compostela Valley last December.

On January 29, 2013, a delegation from China that included China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) Secretary General Li Ning arrived at the Kaisa Heritage Center in Intramuros to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Gawad Kalinga. This MOA for 40 homes to be built in Cateel, Davao Oriental was matched by CSCLF’s Philippine counterpart, the Philippine Soong Ching Ling Foundation (PSCLF). PSCLF is headed by successful Filipino-Chinese business tycoons like Honorary Chairman Lucio Tan, President Carlos Chan and Vice President Alfonso Uygonco, who signed the MOA for the other 40 homes.

MOA signing with the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, the Philippine Soong Ching Ling Foundation, Kaisa Para sa Kanularan, Inc. and Gawad Kalinga

The combined donation of 80 homes was coursed through Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran, Inc., an early Gawad Kalinga partner that true to its name, has been connecting GK to its own wide network of partners through the years. Because of them, approximately 400 homes have already been built for GK communities in Baseco and Parañaque. “Kaisa is unity, being one with the rest of the Filipino people, and Kaunlaran is progress for the Philippines — the dream and aspiration that the Tsinoys hold dearly with their fellow Pinoys. The name speaks of the need for unity to push forward development and to rebuild the nation.” (Source: Kaisa has made it its mission to play a role in bridging the Chinese and Filipino cultures, and now we see these fruits multiplying with the engagement of CSCLF and PSCLF.

During the MOA signing, CSCLF Secretary General Li Ning said, "We feel sorry for the sufferings of the affected Filipinos, so we want to do something in our capacity to help them. It is the tradition of Chinese to give assistance to people in trouble, and we hope that the affected Filipinos will rebuild their hometown as soon as possible with our little help.” (Source:

CSCLF Secretary General Li Ning speaks about helping the victims of Typhoon Pablo

Moved by this commitment, GK Executive Director Jose Luis Oquiñena responded, "It's taken Pablo for us to realize the already sad state these people are in: poverty. As we build our friendship and more positive moments together, we look forward to more collaboration between the two nations towards realizing our dream of ending poverty in this country." CSCLF, PSCLF and Kaisa are the first to commit to the reconstruction efforts in Cateel. Since CSCLF was established in 1982 to give honor to Soong Ching Ling, this prestigious Chinese foundation has made remarkable achievements in the areas of international friendships, health for women and children, and poverty alleviation. And now, it has found its way to Cateel. "In the future, we hope our joint efforts help the people of our two nations,” Li Ning also remarked.

The China Soong Ching Ling Foundation finds its way to Cateel and commits to GK's reconstruction efforts

(Photo from the CSCLF website)

Breaking Ground in Cateel

A few days after the MOA signing, on the morning of February 5, 2013, GK Executive Director Luis Oquiñena together with Davao Oriental Governor Cora Malanyaon were in the Cateel relocation site identified by the local government unit (LGU) as safe and secure land that has been cleared for building.

GK Executive Director Luis Oquiñena breaking ground in Cateel with Davao Oriental Governor Cora Malanyaon

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the “Bayanihan Village” that will be built by GK and its partners. This is still part of Operation Walang Iwanan: Typhoon Pablo, which was activated last December when the typhoon left a trail of devastation that wiped out the entire province of Davao Oriental. Davao is an area not prone to typhoons, which makes a disaster of this magnitude all the more challenging. This is aggravated by the extent of damage to the coco and banana plantations, which are integral to the economy of the province and the livelihood of the people. Indeed, much work needs to be done and much hope needs to be restored. We are hopeful though that the heroic response we saw from local Team GK and the spirit of bayanihan that we saw since December will carry on until these survivors regain a fighting chance to live a full life once more.

>> Read more about Operation Walang Iwanan: Typhoon Pablo and the spirit of bayanihan that has characterized GK’s relief and reconstruction efforts

The symbolic acceptance of the challenging work to rebuild Cateel

The Cateel groundbreaking is a symbolic acceptance of the Davao Oriental LGU, Gawad Kalinga and its partners of the challenging work ahead, but it cannot stop there. We need the help of many more volunteers and partners like CSCLF, PSCLF and Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran who despite the walls that divide us walls of nationality, culture, class and background have come together and responded in unity.

Perhaps the walls that divide can also be the walls that unite, and it is this unity that can bring a name like Soong Ching Ling all the way from China to typhoon-torn Cateel. With this unity we continue to send a message to the Typhoon Pablo victims that we will not leave them behind, and ultimately, it is this kind of unity that will end poverty and rebuild the Filipino nation.

Gawad Kalinga is not a charity, rather, it's an organization that aims to end poverty by building empowered and productive communities. This would not be possible without the partners who have journeyed with us in changing the lives of others. Like Kaisa Foundation, China Soong Ching Ling Foundation and Philippine Soong Ching Ling Foundation, you too can be a hero to the poorest of the poor and partner with us in making sure that no one is left behind. Walang Iwanan!

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