From earthquake survivor to disaster resiliency and livelihood champion

Sandra ‘Sandy’ Sanchez Montano

Sandra ‘Sandy’ Sanchez Montano

Sandra “Sandy” Sanchez Montano’s story may not be that of rising from rags to riches, but she did literally rise from the rubbles, from a major catastrophic earthquake that is.

Her story began in July 16, 1990. Montano was a nursing student when the earth-shattering quake killed thousands in Baguio City.

When the building she was staying at collapsed from the intensity of the quake, she was pinned down. Her body was hauled from the rubbles three days after, surviving without food or water during those agonizing days.

“I believe God still has a purpose for me that is why I survived,” shared Montano.

The bracing experience opened her eyes to the importance of being prepared both before and during the strike of a disaster. A more enlightened Montano then emerged, bearing the desire to help fellow Filipinos and Asean citizens avert potential disastrous impacts caused by nature’s calamities, not just earthquakes.

Indefatigable and persevering despite the odds, Montano has become a beacon of light for many Filipino women like her, whose lives she has touched, desiring to find purpose in their lives within their own sphere of influence.

For years now, this is Montano’s commitment as the reverberating voice and founder of Community Health Education Emergency Rescue Services (CHEERS), a social enterprise put up to meet the challenge of better equipping communities in the occurrence of natural disasters. Additionally, Cheers empowers Asean citizens to be globally competitive and highly skilled health care practitioners from the organization’s internationally certified training on Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) Global Disaster Preparedness Program (GDPP) to Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Partnering within APEC economies in nation-building, Cheers aims to reduce the vulnerability, developing resilience through a Disaster Recovery Framework on Business Continuity Resiliency Planning; and assist communities and workplace today for tomorrow’s uncertainties on safety and security through the Occupational Safety and Health programs.

From being a certified provider of quality training on health, safety and paramedics studies, Cheers expanded its emergency-related services and delved into the production of Emergency Food Reserve (EFR/MRE) to be placed and preposition inside a Go Bag. Asia and the Pacific is the world’s most natural disaster prone region and accounts for more than 60-percent of the world’s hungry people.

A public private partnership with ITDI and DOST, Cheers organizes disaster stricken calamity communities. The survivors composed of farmers, women, children, displaced individuals encourage them to plant climate resilient crops such as cassava, sweet potato, mung bean and moringa which will be dried, pulverized and processed into tropical flour.

With continuous research and development they were able to come up with different recipes such as Chocolate Energy Bar, healthy polvoron, nutritious porridge for feeding program to combat hunger and malnutrition and organic natural gluten-free flour substitute for protein rich food essential for health and wellness.

She’s a believer of the Hippocrates mantra that the human body has an innate capacity for self-healing. “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” the mantra says.

Using her time, energy and even personal resources to support the marginalized and those who need to have a voice or support, Montano said, “This goes beyond the call of duty for me, as I am now devoted to helping others, especially women become empowered and successful.”

Montanos’s inspiring transition from a killer earthquake victim to a passionate life saver bagged her an award as the first Asean Woman Leader in Asean Business Investment Summit 2014 in Naypyi Taw, Myanmar.

Her altruistic efforts to provide sustainable livelihood on EFR/MRE towards resilient community were likewise recognized by Asean Women Entrepreneur Network 2015 (AWEN), which awarded her Outstanding Asean Women Entrepreneur.

Her valuable contribution to society in MSME Inclusive Growth, mobilizing highly skilled talents as part of APEC Global Value Chain, and her outstanding work performance in pre-hospital care was recognized by the Filipina Women’s Network as among the “100 Most Influential Women in the World for 2016” in “Behind the Scenes Leader” category.

Being invited to moderate and also present her own business at the 2016 ASEAN-JAPAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Linkage Program highlights her role and significant contribution as a Filipina, braving, hurdling and overcoming all kinds of obstacles to be able to make her own voice heard in the boisterous jungle of a male-dominated environment.

She considers the AJWELP as an excellent avenue for helping Asian women like her find support and in a sense, vindication for the past hardships they have experienced, trying to rise “above the rubbles” of their own marginalized existence.

“For my part, my business is my mission field. Lives lost due to ignorance, lack of preparedness or insight and unheeded warnings on potential or nearing catastrophes can be avoided with proper and continuous education,” she affirmed.

Cheers continues in progressively informing, educating and empowering people on disaster preparedness, first aid tips and emergency assistance.

“It is my life goal, to help save lives. I am sharing the vision, the life skills and knowledge because we are all in this together. Survival is a must. Helping each other survive is Cheers’ primordial task,” Montano concluded.

Her noble goal can be summed up as giving back what God has given her back: her life. And she is making it count.


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