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Faces of Cebu People and Ideas

FACES OF CEBU: Rhee Telen Jr., giving LSIs a home away from home

With his Sinulog headdress and festive Sinulog and Visayan Pop music, Rhee Telen wants to remind  arriving LSIs that Cebu is still the gateway to a thousand journeys, their festive home, despite the pandemic.

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Terminals are a familiar, yet not so pleasing, sight for Rhee Telen Jr.

Telen, 27, spent the last 20 years in about 20 residences. He and his family moved from different towns and provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao regions to follow his father who is a priest in Aglipayan Church.

Coming to a new “home” or going back to the old one, for Telen, entailed long travels and a terrible motion sickness ending in terminals or ports.

His experiences from traveling and having to move in places came rushing back as Telen was assigned last August to Cebu Pier I as part of the team from the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) assigned to receiving the incoming locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from other provinces.

Read: FACES OF CEBU: Mary Jean Elisio, 47, devotee of Snr. Sto. Niño

Seeing his experiences in the arriving LSIs, especially the children, prompted Telen to convert the receiving areas as “homey” as possible during the duration of his assignment last August.

“There is something in me that is bothered by terminals and mao na akong nakita sa mga bata when they come to the holding area…Considering nga these kids are from [Cebu province], mo-travel pa ni sila og another pila ka hours na pod. I needed to give them a break at least,” he said.

Telen’s gesture of welcome for the kids started with the offering of some candies at the holding area.

“First is from the concept of energy, sugar. Give them sugar, simple sugars,” said Telen who is a teacher with a specialization in Biology by profession.

Telen’s welcome candies for the kids, and sometimes for the adults, eventually grew into bite snacks, toys and even educational materials with the help of his friends and sister.

Completing the child-friendly corner were some coloring books given by Rhee’s sister for the LSI children.

“I just wanted to display the toys for aesthetics at first. Something that the kids can look at while waiting for their parents. Then I decided just to let them play with it and take it home with them and I’ll just buy more when I have the means,” Telen said.

Keeping Cebu the ‘happy home’

Aside from setting up the child-friendly space, Rhee also wanted to make the LSIs feel that the Cebu they are coming home to is still the home that they are proud of marked by its festive mood and spirit.

To keep this mood alive despite the pandemic, Telen wore the headdress which he used in Sinulog last January as he welcomes the LSIs.

“Cebu is Cebu. It should be festive mao na nga naka-Sinulog costume ko, with the headdress, and I wear it all the time. I want to make sure that this is still the Cebu nga ilang ulian. It is still your home, still the gateway of a thousand journeys. I want to put the smile in their faces,” Telen added. /bmjo

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