Category: Philippines

Ash cloud from Mount Mayon, Philippines.
Jan 23 2018

Families in Philippines anxiously wait as Mayon Volcano threatens to erupt


On Wednesday, the Mayon Volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines continued to spew lava and ash, signifying that a major eruption may be imminent.

“Almost every five hours, Mayon Volcano is erupting with lava fountains and spewing mushroom-like ashes,” said Unbound staff member Klaire Perez. “The ashes are being carried by the wind to the southern part of Albay [province]. Yesterday, I was home and I had experience of one of the worst ashfalls. It suddenly went dark and it literally started raining ashes. It’s a bit scary, but it’s more scary for communities just below Mayon Volcano.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has set the threat level at 4, the second highest, and more than 56,000 people living in the area have now been evacuated, according to news reports. As of Friday, the evacuees included at least 193 families served by Unbound’s program in Legazpi, coordinator Angie Bermas said. But with the widening of the evacuation zone to a 5-mile radius over the weekend, the number has likely increased.

The volcano is in the Albay province in the Bicol region, in the east-central part of the island. Flights in and out of Legazpi have been canceled, and schools throughout the province are closed.
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Jan 13 2018

Our house dances with the wind

This is the first in a series of stories focusing on the challenges of finding adequate, affordable housing in the economically developing world. It originally appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of our print publication Living Unbound.

An image of a squatter village in Metro Manila, Philippines.

Sponsored child An-An and her family live in this flood-prone squatter village. The high-rise buildings of Manila loom nearby but are, in some ways, a world apart.


The United Nations estimates that at least one in eight people living on Earth today resides in a slum. A high percentage of those are squatters, dwelling without permission or legal protection on land they don’t own. Left with little or no choice, some erect makeshift housing on public properties, some occupy abandoned buildings and some inhabit any space they can find. Most live in extreme poverty and are, for all practical purposes, ignored by their local governments.

Calvary Hill is a street that winds along the banks of the fetid Ermitaño Creek in the heart of metropolitan Manila. This is a squatter village and, as the name suggests, it’s a place of hardship. A row of ramshackle dwellings stacked two, three and sometimes four or more stories high stretches around the creek bend and out of view, like a house of cards made from a thousand crumpled, mismatched decks.
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An elderly woman stands outside her home.
Dec 23 2017

A simple Christmas wish

An elderly woman stands outside her home.

Sponsored elder Salvacion stands outside her home in Zambaoanga, Philippines.


Throughout the year, Unbound’s communications liaisons interview dozens of people to help us share the stories of the people we serve. Sometimes, they meet someone who inspires them in unexpected ways. That’s what happened to Tristan John Cabrera, who is based out of an Unbound office in Quezon City, Philippines, when he visited 84-year-old sponsored elder Salvacion in Zamboanga. Salvacion has been sponsored by Stephanie from Louisiana for almost 16 years.

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” (Psalm 71:9)

On a recent visit to our program in Zamboanga, in the southern part of our country, I felt so touched by a particular elder from there. Her name is Salvacion, or “Lola (Grandma) Salvacion,” as they call her. Many residents of Zamboanga, including Salvacion, speak a Spanish-based language called Chavacano. Visiting the city, I heard, “Bienvenidos de Zamboanga,” which means welcome to Zamboanga. I don’t understand much of the Chavacano language, but since some residents also speak Filipino, which I speak, we can still communicate.

Here in the Philippines, we are very caring toward our grandparents. We take care of them no matter how hard it is, most especially if the elder is bedridden or unable to walk anymore. I remember my “Lola” (grandmother) who took care of me when I was a child while my parents were working. I wasn’t able to take care of her when she was really weak because of her age, as I was only 7 years old. I wished I was old enough at that time to give my Lola all the best care that I could give.

Salvacion lives in a small home made up of scrap materials that might collapse anytime. The pathway going to her house is flooded with thick mud, and I myself was actually hesitant to walk on it. She just wears her old boots and washes them out as she goes back and forth.

According to her neighbor, who also happens to be a sponsored elder, Lola Salvacion is a strong woman. She lives independently. She doesn’t bother her neighbors just to ask for food or drinking water. They just check on her every morning to see if she is still OK, and sometimes they give her food.

It must be really hard for Lola Salvacion to live alone in the area, especially considering her age. At 84, she can still walk, but you can see she is already struggling. Her voice is husky and dry, with teary eyes. I notice her back is already bending as she stands and walks. But seeing her without anyone who could hold her hands while walking is very painful for me. Everyone with me is looking at her as she walks in the mud, thinking she might fall.

Everyone is saying, “Ingat ingat nay,” or “Careful, Mother.”

I am holding my camera because I want to show people how strong she is through the pictures and videos.

As we go along in my interview, I ask her if she has one wish for Christmas, what would it be? She said it would be to eat chicken, either adobo chicken (a Filipino specialty with meat marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and other seasonings) or fried chicken. Do you know what comes to my mind? (And I know if you are in my position, you will do the same thing.) I decided to treat her to lunch, together with the program staff and our driver. It’s a surprise for her.


We visited a food chain serving fried chicken. Lola Salvacion looks so happy seeing where we are heading (going to Jolibee, a popular restaurant in the Philippines). We ordered what she likes with fries and a soft drink. I decided to pack my food and give it to her. She accepted it and told me that she will just eat it tomorrow. She also packed the remaining foods that she had and she said, “I can reserve these foods and eat it when I get hungry.”

After we ate, she confidently smiled at me. She said, “’Thank you very much,’ and I said, “’No, no, no, I must be the one to say thank you. You are really inspiring, you touched my heart, and I know your sponsor and the others will be happy to see your story.’”

Sometimes there’s no need to ask too many questions because the answer is already there in your eyes. The way I look at her, I remember my grandmother and how she would do everything to take care of me while my parents were at work. Lola Salvacion’s situation, living alone, is not common here in the Philippines. We really take care of our grandparents. We do everything we can to assist them until the end.

I know Lola Salvacion she has already found a family through Unbound. Love of neighbor, love coming from staff and parent leaders, her sponsor and love coming from within. That’s what makes Lola Salvacion keep on going strong in whatever challenges she encounters.

Let’s give love to our grandparents. They are also the reason why we are here in this world. They made a lot of history to secure our future right now.

Give love to the grandparents of the world. Sponsor an elder today.

Sep 4 2017

Building up potential

Former Unbound scholar Helen wears her police uniform with pride.


In the United States, Labor Day is meant to celebrate the contributions of workers toward the success and prosperity of the country. It’s a day to rest and say thanks for all their hard work.

Unbound communities are also full of hard workers, from moms and social workers to group leaders and scholars. According to former Unbound scholar Helen from the Philippines, being part of the scholar program even helped instill a stronger work ethic in her and her fellow scholars.

Helen is the second youngest of four siblings. While she was never sponsored through Unbound like her sister Rose was, Helen did take part in the Unbound program for two years when she became one of the service scholars for the office in Zamboanga, Philippines.
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Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.
Jul 1 2017

Parents increase benefits using the power of community

Image of a woman in Uganda shoveling compost.

Maxensia shovels compost made from pig manure produced on her farm in Uganda. She uses it to fertilize her coffee plants. Maxensia’s son, Lawrence, 21, is sponsored by Albert in Washington.

Maxensia, a widowed mother of eight, tends to her coffee plants in a village in Uganda. Nearby, 11 pigs sunbathe in a sty built of rough wood.

At age 50, Maxensia has become an entrepreneur. Her pig farm is growing, and she also runs a small coffee farm.

After her husband died 17 years ago, Maxensia struggled to provide for her children’s basic needs. Her son, Lawrence, was sponsored in 2006, and she joined the Unbound support group for parents of sponsored children. Through the group, she got a boost toward economic self-sufficiency.

“I have gained a lot by being a member of the group,” Maxensia said. “I have been empowered to improve my life and that of my family.”

In Uganda, like in many other countries where Unbound works, parent groups serve as the foundation of the sponsorship program for children. When a child is sponsored, parents or guardians join the local group. They receive training from Unbound staff, save money by making small contributions to the group savings and gain access to loans. In parent groups, the impact of sponsorship is multiplied through the power of community.

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An image of fathers in the Philippines taking a course in water rescue.
Jun 9 2017

Serving communities together

An image of a father in the Philippines rappelling down a building.

ERPAT dad Heracleo practices rappelling down a building, which could help him rescue others in case of earthquakes or fires.


Fathers are expected to be many things. They are expected to be providers, teachers, moral exemplars, and to strike the delicate balance between protecting their children and preparing them for life in a sometimes harsh world.

Responsible fatherhood is difficult, which is why those dads who dedicate themselves to being honorable, life-giving fathers deserve to be applauded. More than that, they deserve to be supported.

Support is especially important for fathers living in poverty. These dads, because they lack material resources, often find themselves in the heartbreaking position of not being able to serve their families as they’d like. They are hindered from providing things for their children that other fathers take for granted, like adequate food, decent housing, and basic education and health care.

Unbound recognizes that we have a particular role in helping to build up fathers and mothers who struggle to provide for their families. We’ve learned over the years that what they need from us is not to take over their lives or do for them what they wish to do for themselves. Rather, our role is to help clear a path for these families toward self-sufficiency, and then let them walk it at their own pace.
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Image = Jeanalyn works on a costume in the costume shop at Gloria de Dapitan.
May 26 2017

Working in a fantasyland

Image = Jeanalyn works on a costume in the costume shop at Gloria de Dapitan.

Jeanalyn works on a costume in the costume shop at Gloria de Dapitan.


Often, when people think of the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, they think of news headlines about separatist groups and violence. And while these are issues residents have to deal with, there is also plenty of joy to be found on the Philippines’ southernmost island.

Jeanalyn is helping add to the joy. The 44-year-old mother of three works at one of the most famous theme parks in the Philippines: Gloria de Dapitan (Gloria’s Fantasyland). The park is about seven hours northeast of Zamboanga, where Unbound’s main program office for Mindanao is located. Jeanlyn’s oldest daughter, Jeanrose,11, is sponsored by John and Mary from Georgia.

If you were to visit the theme park, you wouldn’t meet Jeanalyn as you walk its pathways, but you’d see her creations being worn by performers. As head of the costume department, Jeanalyn is allowed to let her creativity shine.


“My job here is really to sew the costumes of the performers for the show,” she said. “They just give me the skits and looks from the web [for inspiration], and I’ll be the one to think of the way to make it — which fabric to use, accessories to use and the linings to make it elegant to look at. Costumes of fairies, animals, dwarfs, even magicians and dancers, that’s what I do.”

Jeanalyn learned how to sew from her grandmother and has been sewing since she was 15-years-old. Her husband, Roseller, used to be a farmer, but has since learned how to sew from Jeanalyn and now works with her in the costume shop. With the daily wear on the costumes, she needs the additional help to keep them in good shape, as creating new ones takes time.

“It takes just one day [to make] if the costume is not that complicated, but if it is complicated and they need five or more pieces of it, it will take two to three days to finish it,” Jeanalyn said.

Jeanalyn would like to open her own shop someday, but for now she’s grateful for her job and the help she receives from her daughter’s sponsors, which made it possible for her to stay close to her family instead of taking a job abroad.

“There’s a lot of work offered for me abroad, but I didn’t accept it. I don’t want to be far from my family,” Jeanalyn said. “Thank you to the sponsor of my daughter and to Unbound because you’ve been a great help for us.”

Help a family in need. Sponsor today.

Image = Emma with her sons, Jekim and Mark, and her husband, Danilo.
May 24 2017

Living Unbound: It’s difficult to overcome poverty without backup


By Loretta Shea Kline, managing editor for Unbound

One reason it’s hard for families in poverty to get ahead is the lack of a financial cushion.

An illness, a natural disaster or a job loss can mean starting over when you have little or no savings. That vulnerability is something Unbound helps families address with support from sponsorship.

Our programs around the world help families build their capacity for personal and economic growth. Local staff works with families to set goals and make plans to achieve them. The aim is for families to be able to meet their basic needs through a combination of income they earn, access to capital and sponsorship benefits.

A key component on the path to self-sufficiency is savings.
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The Mayon volcano sits at the edge of Sumlang Lake in the Legazpi region of the Philippines.
Apr 19 2017

Caring for the earth through sponsorship

The Mayon volcano sits at the edge of Sumlang Lake in the Legazpi region of the Philippines.

Sumlang Lake sits in the Legazpi area of the Philippines with the Mayon Volcano in the distance.

In the Philippines, there is a strong connection between sponsorship and care for the environment, so Earth Day is an occasion for celebration in the Unbound community.

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Toby the dog.
Apr 10 2017

Pets of Unbound

Tomorrow, April 11, is National Pet Day. This annual celebration encourages adoption from local shelters and is also a good time to reflect on the benefits of having a pet. Not only can it teach children responsibility, but caring for a pet can also teach love, compassion and respect for nature. We’re celebrating by sharing some of the many wonderful photos we’ve received of sponsored members with pets and other animals.
Gloria, the mother of a sponsored child in Colombia, gives the family cat, Chepe, a big hug. Despite what some may think about cats, he does seem to be enjoying the attention.
Gloria, the mother of a sponsored child in Colombia, gives the family cat, Chepe, a big hug. Despite what some may think about cats, he does seem to be enjoying the attention.
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