Blackwater team owner donates payloader
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2013 - 12:00am

TACLOBAN, Philippines - – Blackwater Sports PBA D-League team owner and former PBL chairman Dioceldo Sy turned over the other day the keys to a Heli payloader to city administrator Atty. Tecson Lim, representing Mayor Alfred Romualdez, and said the excavation machine was his initial contribution to the rehabilitation program that will eventually bring the devastated Leyte capital back on its feet.

Sy flew to this city with wife Khristine, daughter Denise, brother Silliman and staff of the Ever Bilena Group for a one-day visit. It took three days to ship the P1.8 Million payloader at a cost of P140,000 from Manila.

“Three weeks ago, I visited Tacloban with PBA commissioner Chito Salud, media bureau chief Willy Marcial and several PBA players and my heart sank,” said Sy. “I didn’t realize the city had been transformed into a vast wasteland by typhoon Yolanda. There was debris all over and I thought I could contribute to the clean-up efforts by donating a payloader. I will also send 50 tents which I’m importing from China early next year.”

Sy, chairman of the cosmetics company Ever Bilena, said his foreign suppliers donated $32,000 for the relief effort and he matched it with a personal counterpart of $32,000. The money was used to buy the payloader and the balance will be for the tents. “My wife and I have known Mayor Romualdez’ wife Cristina for years and we wanted to help out in any way we can,” he said. “As a basketball fan, I know Tacloban will miss hosting the PBA. I went to the Convention Center, formerly the Astrodome, and I couldn’t believe that it is now a refuge center. The hardwood is gone and part of the roof has flown off. We in the basketball family want to do our share in helping to rebuild Tacloban.” Local businessman Kenneth Uy, who has promoted PBA games in the city, hosted Sy and his traveling party.

During his visit, Sy witnessed the turnover of 36 Molten basketballs donated by Anil Buxani of Sonia Trading to Sto. Niño assistant parish priest Fr. Amado Alvero, a secular priest who was ordained 16 years ago. Fr. Alvero also received a P50,000 cash donation from Ateneo star and Sinag national player Kiefer Ravena who raised the money in a recent charity game. Fr. Alvero said he will organize a basketball tournament for the youth to keep the kids’ morale high in the wake of the devastation.

Ravena’s mother Mozzy said the donation came from supporters and friends. The Ravenas are actively involved in rehabilitation efforts in the Visayas. The other day, the family went to Concepcion, Iloilo, to assist in the rebuilding of homes.

Lim said the payloader will go a long way in the cleaning and clearing campaign. “It’s what we need right now, for the medium-term and the long-term, too,” he said. “The payloader’s role is humongous. We’ve been able to clear the main roads but not the interior where 10-wheelers can’t pass. With the payloader, we’ll be able to do the work faster. After the typhoon, it didn’t look like there was any hope for recovery with thousands of lives lost. We estimated 7,000 dead in Tacloban alone and probably 10,000 in Region 8. Now, with help from private organizations and foreign governments, we’re slowly recovering and trying to get back to normalcy.”

Brando Bernadas, the city’s political affairs consultant, said the Papal Nuncio Guiseppe Pinto recently visited and delivered Pope Francis’ message of hope. “The Papal Nuncio came to Tacloban for the first time in November 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee of the Diocese of Palo, now an Archdiocese,” he said. “It was inspiring for the Papal Nuncio to visit again in our darkest hour.”

Bernadas said a memorial ground has been consecrated 15 kilometers north of the city where 200 bodies are now buried after processing and identification. Two temporary mass graves were prepared 17 and 20 kilometers northeast of the city, now holding 2,000 bodies each, stacked 20 in each vertical layer undergoing processing.

Lim said Mayor Romualdez could not receive Sy as he was in Manila conferring with Sen. Panfilo Lacson on a rehabilitation program. “Mayor Alfred wants Tacloban back on its feet within two years,” said Lim. “This is our chance to rebuild the city from scratch. We hope to resurrect a well-planned city with townships and zones. Yolanda was described as a once-in-a-hundred-years storm. Now that it’s happened, we want to leave behind a city for the next generation to be proud to live in.”

Tacloban has produced basketball stars like Ely and Glen Capacio and Ed Cordero while neighbor Ormoc is the hometown of former PBA cager Rey Evangelista and La Salle’s Robert Bolick. The city recently welcomed back its latest sports hero Ramon Franco, Jr. who captured the karate kumite gold medal in the 55 kilogram division at the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar. Franco was training in Iran when Yolanda struck but kept his focus and went on to hit paydirt, beating three straight opponents from Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei. Franco’s family survived the storm surge but their three-bedroom bungalow was turned into a sea of mud by neck-deep waters at the height of the typhoon.

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