Yolanda SM scholar-graduates look back to their stories of hope, triumph

Yolanda SM scholar-graduates look back to their stories of hope, triumph
November 19, 2021

Yolanda SM scholars during the 2018 Presentation of SM scholars to the Sy family at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay (File photo)

In November 2013, one of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines, Yolanda, caused widespread destruction to the country, particularly in the Visayas area.  Aside from winds speeds of more than 300 km per hour, storm surges of more than four meters were also recorded. It left the Philippines ravaged—crops, homes, and lives severely wrecked, leaving a widespread damage worth P95 billion.

Since typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas region, national government agencies, local government units, communities, the international community, and the private sector have been working together to meet immediate post-disaster needs in the area.

The country’s largest conglomerates renewed their commitment to work together to aid victims of one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall in recorded history - and SM is one of them.

Aside from immediate disaster relief, medical care, rehabilitation of hospitals and medical facilities, farmer’s training, construction of school buildings and provision of disaster resilient houses to those who were affected, SM, through SM Foundation (SMFI) also empowered the people of the Visayas region through the gift of college education.

The Foundation’s Journey

To equip the youth of the region with education that they may use to rise from the economic turmoil brought upon by the disaster, a lean team of seven development workers from SM Foundation flew to Leyte to conduct preliminary screening of new scholars for the schoolyear.

When the team from Manila arrived on the earliest flight, they immediately checked in an available hotel and proceeded to the Leyte Normal University (LNU) Auditorium for the interviews.  The snake-like queue leading to the LNU was something they had not anticipated. The auditorium could accommodate only 100 at a time so it took them the whole day to conduct the examinations.  And to accommodate everyone, the team began to multi-task - from checking the exam scores, overseeing the examinations, and conducting the initial interviews.

The following day, the team had to finish the initial interviews to proceed with the home visits for qualified applicants. The lean team were able to cover the Tacloban City proper, and other communities within the region. Sadly, most of the addresses could not be located because houses were swept away; but with the team’s ardent efforts, they found out that many of the scholar applicants were on make-shift houses located along the roads, others are fortunate enough to live with relatives or friends nearby. 

Seeing the clamor for scholarship slots, the senior executive team of SMFI decided to open more slots for region eight. And because of the solid reputation of the said NGO in executing its scholarship program, many individuals - including balik-bayans, decided to have their help coursed through SMFI by sponsoring scholars from the province.

As a result, SM Foundation welcomed 100 additional college scholars from Yolanda-stricken areas into its Scholarship Program.

Eight years after the onslaught of Yolanda, SM’s college scholars already graduated and are now employed and are now changing the economic status of their families. Below are some of their stories.

SM scholar Denchris Lopez

Denchris M. Lopez, one of the “Yolanda scholars,” still vividly remembers SM Foundation’s Lingling Lansang who interviewed her prior to her acceptance as an SM scholar. She described Lansang as “really kind and passionate in gathering information” from her. Days after the interview, she got a call from her aunt that SM Foundation staff visited their house as part of the application process.

“Being a Yolanda survivor and becoming a scholar of SMFI gave me the hope that I almost lost after the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda. SMFI became the light that guided me to where I am now. Big thanks to SM Foundation Inc for the opportunity,” Lopez said.

Lopez finished Bachelor of Science in Accountancy at the Saint Paul School of Professional Studies. She now works in the Accounting Division of Department of Education Region VIII Office. “Hopefully in the near future I can be part of the foundation and work under SMFI,” she stated.


SM scholar Felicisimo Castroverde

Felicisimo P. Castroverde is a teacher by profession but has ventured to become an entrepreneur at the same time. Because of financial difficulties, he had to put on hold his college schooling. The devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda opened an opportunity for him to continue his studies. Many scholarship programs were offered for those affected by the typhoon and he qualified to be one of the Yolanda scholars of SM Foundation.

After graduating from Leyte Normal University (LNU)with a degree of Bachelor in Secondary Education Major in Biological Sciences, he taught for two years in a private international school in Tacloban and later moved to LNU as an Instructor.

Today, he owns a mini grocery and a small resto bar.

SM scholar Camille Malate

The whole journey as a scholar of SM Foundation is unforgettable for Camille Malate, a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy graduate from the St. Paul School of Professional Studies“My favorite part was when I received the news that I passed the interview and qualified for the scholarship. It came like a lifesaving news for me,” Malate recalled.

She was among more than 200 passers in the scholarship qualifying exams who advanced to the interview stage. She enrolled at St. Paul School of Professional Studies, not knowing if she will be awarded a scholarship. No news about the scholarship came and as the first semester came to a close, she was preparing to transfer to another school and pursue another course.

“I was on my way home at that time when I received calls from my mom, telling to come home quickly as Ma’am Ling, along with the other scholarship coordinators, came to visit our house and gave us the news that I was considered for the scholarship for the 2nd semester till I finish college. I was very much thankful to Ma’am Ling and the SM Foundation for the gift of scholarship,” Malate shared.

Now employed, she helps with the family expenses. She is the Branch Internal Auditor of Fast Distribution Corporation-Leyte but will soon join Mancera Group of Companies as Accountant In-charge.

Her message to SM scholars: “Things maybe rough at some time, but we must never lose hope. As the famous saying goes, there’s always a rainbow after the rain. Enjoy the journey and carry all the lessons you will learn along the way.”

“I will be forever honored and grateful to be an SM Scholar. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of SM Foundation,” she concluded.

The strength of typhoon Yolanda that hit the Visayas region was not enough to extinguish the fiery spirit of these SM Scholars. The whole world wept but with the grit of these scholars, they were able to stand and pick up the broken pieces left by the typhoon and start building their lives all over again - together with SM Foundation.


For more information, please contact:

Victor Persius F. Chan
Assistant Vice President for Corporate Affairs
Corporate Affairs & Sustainability
(632) 8857-0100 local 0117