TACLOBAN CITY-For couple Jerry and Jean Canonigo, supertyphoon “Yolanda” was a blessing to them rather than a curse.
From a measly P15,000 starting capital putting up their lumber business, the Canonigo couple now counts their money in the hundreds of thousands of pesos, if not in the millions.
Their good fortune started with Jean trooping as early as 2 a.m. to the Leyte Progressive High School to receive along with tens of thousands Yolanda survivors of financial assistance extended by the Chu Tzi Foundation on January, 2014.
The Taiwan-based group, one of the first to arrive in Tacloban after it was pummeled by Yolanda on November 8,2013,provided, among others, financial assistance to every household in the city in the amount ranging from P12,000 up to P15,000, depending on the number of children. For having three children, the Canonigo couple received P15,000 from the Tzu Chi Foundation. Jean received her share by past 12 noon on that day.
“For some reason which I could not understand, I felt relax all the time. I did not even touch the sandwich I bought with me along with bottled water. When I received the money from then, I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I will use it to put up a business, any business that could provide good future for my family, especially my children,” the 41-year old mother said. And she did.
Armed with the money and strong determination to make it good, the couple decided to engage in lumber business, a good move considering of high demands of woods needed in the repair of houses and buildings destroyed or damaged by Yolanda.
They first bought 400 coconut trees that were fallen due to Yolanda from a friend at P6 each; cut them to pieces and sold them at P10 per board feet.
The couple earned P34,000 as their first income.
Their first customers were their neighbors and friends at Kassel City in Barangay 91, Abucay district, Tacloban.
And to meet their growing clients, the couple decided to rent a vacant space measuring 400 square meters located along the main road in their village at P2,000 per month.
They also hired six workers to help them cut the lumber and deliver the items to their customers. The couple bought a chain saw out of the financial assistance they received from the company where Jean’s younger brother, Aldin, works.
They now have two chain saws and two circular saws which they use in cutting the cocolumber.
With a very strategic location, their business started to grow steadily and fast, in the process, giving them earning that they only thought on their dreams.
Before Yolanda, Jean worked as a real estate agent receiving a commission ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 every time she could close a deal which she said “very rare,” while her husband, Jerry, 46, was once an overseas worker based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a diesel mechanic.
They have a small sari-sari store where they get their daily sustenance and in raising their three children: Japhet, 20; Michael Jay, 18 and Jay-ann, 13.
When Yolanda struck Tacloban, not only they lost their house but even their sari-sari store.
But as they say, there is an opportunity even in a disaster.
“We are determined to rise from the disaster. We want to make things better not only for ourselves but more especially for our three children,” Jean said.
Thus, when the opportunity came, the Canonigo couple was firmed on their faith that they would do everything they can to ensure that their endeavor would turn into a success.
In so short a time after they put up their lumber business, their lives took a “drastic change,” Jean said.
“We could really say that Yolanda was not at all bad. It provided us a chance to do better. It turned out to be a blessing for us,” Jerry said.
Not only they were able to repair their typhoon-damaged house, they also bought a Hi-Ace van which they used in their business but also put up a 13-room boarding house which is almost fully occupied with boarders.
Their three children are now studying in private schools from being previously enrolled in public schools.
Anytime this year, the couple plans to put up same lumber business in Cebu where demand for cocolumber is high and cost higher compare to Tacloban. They, too, hope to replicate their success in Tacloban once they decided to put up a business in Cebu.
Jean said that during their first few months in lumber business, they were discouraged by some that it would not last long.
“They say that it is only good because of the ongoing rehabilitation works. But we did not mind them at all. We just continue our business which up to now, still doing well,” she said.
When they started last year, there were five lumberyards located within their village that were operating. Now, only two exists, to include that of the Canonigo couple. From getting their cocolumber from a friend’s backyard, the couple now gets their supplies from several Leyte towns like La Paz, Jaro, Tolosa and Jaro.
Today, they now count several humanitarian groups that have resettlement projects in Yolanda-hit areas as their customers.
Among these groups are World Vision, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Red Cross.
“We also have a customer from Cebu. It was this customer which gave us an idea to put up a lumber business there,” Jean said.
The customer, whom the couple identified as Engineer Marlon Delobyo, is engaged in construction business.
With their fortune changed for the better, the Canonigo couple said that they could not forget the goodness that they received from the Tzu Chi Foundation.
Jean said that they are now regularly donates to the Tzu Chi Foundation as they constantly remind their children to give once they are being sought for assistance by their friends.
“We are so thankful to the Tzu Chi Foundation. For without their help, we cannot have this business of ours. And we promise to them that their help will not be wasted. We will ensure that our lumber business will continue to thrive so in our own way, we can also help them who are in need,” Jean said.xxx