By Pauline Evora
Rica Velasco lived on Boracay from 2007 to 2015 before moving back to Manila, but her love for the island community never stopped growing. She is a “live music” kind of girl, owns the most adorable Dachshund, but most of all, those who know her would agree that her heart is bigger than words can describe.
When the closure hit the island, Rica was approached by the owners of Z Hostel in Manila to create a support group that would help workers and small businesses in any way possible. Of course, she jumped right onboard this new initiative called “Manila for Boracay”.
“We came up with the idea of matching job-seekers with those who are willing to hire even on a temporary basis. We used Facebook pages and groups to connect people in need with those that could help. We also used these pages to help Boracay locals sell perishable items,” Rica explains. She received resumes by email and accepted more during a local job market fair where the company she represented had set-up a booth. She made sure each were forwarded to the Human Resources of Z Hostel. Using her social media presence, her network of friends and her sense of humor, she also relayed and marketed the project.
Most recently, Rica started a fundraising drive for the island community affected by the fire in Ambulong at the end of last October. By the time she set up everything, typhoon Ursula had hit Boracay hard. She decided to combine both tragic events.
“It started as a post on the condominium community page of my complex, asking for donations. Some kind-hearted residents took the initiative of putting boxes in the lobby, and an unprecedented number of donations just came pouring in. I did not expect such massive support and was very grateful and overwhelmed. One island resident connected me to SRB Cargo, and they were kind enough to offer to ship the boxes for free to affected areas. We were able to send 22 boxes of goods to the areas of Boracay, Altavas, Ibajay, Roxas, and Antique. I also started a GoGetFunding page in which we were able to receive some cash donations; these were distributed to individuals whose houses were completely wrecked by the typhoon.” Rica recalls.
She concludes by professing her love for the island: “The community is a cluster of like-minded, free-spirited, environment-loving people that feel like my family. I am so attached and fiercely protective of the island and its residents; it just became really personal for me. When the residents feel elated over good news, I feel the same elation. When residents and the island suffer, I suffer along with them. So, I try to help whenever I can, even if it’s just to inform other Filipinos what the locals experience or go through. We all have this palpable love for this island that has given so much to us; I feel a strong kinship with the residents because of this, it is deeper than what many people will experience in their lifetime. I am truly lucky to have this invisible cord that still keeps me connected to the island and those that live on it.”
Quietly, Rica shares her golden heart with Boracay, and the island loves her back. Thank you, Rica!