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Amazing stories keep coming from the remote island nation of the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda.) Since the typhoon wreaked havoc there in November recovery hasn’t been easy. Heifer staff has been hands-on and working around the clock to ensure that project families have the resources they need to begin rebuilding and overcome what seems like impossible odds and obstacles. 

Susana Talle and her husband Florencio are among the 618 project families in the Philippines. They have seven children and live in Leyte—the area hit hardest by the storm.

The memories of those scary days and nights are never far from their minds. “The wind was so strong, it was the strongest I’ve ever experienced in my life,” recounts Susana, “Our house was destroyed; we lost all of our possessions.” 

But they’re rebuilding—and right now at Christmas, amidst the loss and devastation surrounding them, Susana and Florencio share with us that there is still hope—coming from a most unlikely place. 

Five-year-old Jay-ar holds the family pig, Angelica
Five-year-old Jay-ar holds the family pig, Angelica

A pig. A pig named Angelica. 

While the sow quietly snuggles in the arms of their fifth-born son Jay-ar, Susana shares, “She is our only hope now, the name we gave her is very appropriate.” The sow is very close to all of the children, but has developed a special bond with Jay-ar. 

Like most families in Leyte, the primary source of money for their family was their small fishing business. Following the typhoon, when nets and boats and everything for that business was destroyed, they rebuilt the pigpen first. They even repaired it before starting on their home. They salvaged materials and debris left over from the storm and had a new pen for Angelica in less than four days. “We immediately fixed the pigpen. Angelica is our hope.”

Livestock continue to be instruments of resiliency for families. They’re mobile and provide immediate resources to the families since crops in the fields were flooded everywhere and will take months to restore.

The Talle family and fellow members of their self-help group (SHG) are silently rebuilding their lives, dreams and hopes. And their livestock will be the key to attaining them. “We will forever be grateful for the gifts we received from the project. Livestock may seem so insignificant to others, but for families like us who have been through the worst of times, they give joy and hope. I know our family will rise again,” Susana shares while hugging her children. 

Since November, Heifer has raised its goal of $250,000 to help rebuild in the Philippines. It is all thanks to our amazing donors’ response and generosity. 

So this Christmas when cuddled near your loved ones, in your warm homes with plenty of food and presents, remember Jay-ar and his precious pig and the whole Talle family rebuilding in the Philippines. They don’t have much, but they have hope. Because of you—and Heifer—and a small pig named Angelica, they have hope. 

The Sustainable Livelihood Enterprises for the Marginal Farmers in Calubian, Leyte Project is co-funded by Heifer International and DISOP, a Belgian International NGO. The Talle family received various trainings including the 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development and Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR.)                                                              

Story and Photos courtesy of Rico Locaba, Regional Program Manager, Heifer Philippines 


Jessica Ford

Jessica Ford serves as the Global Communications Manager for Heifer International at its headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ford joined Heifer in 2007 and soon transitioned into the executive office as Manager of Operations and Assistant to the COO. In 2012, she was relocated to Heifer's country office in Peru, as part of Heifer's first leadership development program giving her the unique opportunity to dive head first into Heifer's work "in the field" for a year. Now she is in Arkansas with her family where she loves watching her son play baseball, reading, rowing crew and drinking Dr Pepper.