The mayor of Cebu City, which was one of those places that were severely hit, sought help from the Embassy of France, which in turn relayed the appeal to Manila businessmen Hubert d’Aboville and André Iconomoff.
At once, the two of them set to work, collecting donations from the French community and funneling relief into the city. Their efforts culminated in the reconstruction of Pulang Bato Elementary School, located about 3 kilometers from the city.
Then some months later, Mount Pinatubo, which had been dormant for hundreds of years, erupted. Provinces in Central Luzon, especially Zambales and Pampanga, drew worldwide attention as whole towns were buried in ash and lava.
Messrs. d’Aboville and Iconomoff again rose to the task of mobilizing their resources and a few others also joined in, including officials of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). Together, the team was able to provide and distribute 17 tons of supplies comprising tents, blankets, potable water, food and medicine as well as medical services to 300 families in temporary shelter.
Realizing the importance of this simple ‘pitching in’ strategy, effectively put to work during the successive onslaught of Ruping and Pinatubo, Messrs. d’Aboville and Iconomoff held on to their newfound passion for helping and encouraged others to join what initially was a band of two. Taking stock of their experience, they believed that, like spokes on a wheel, even a handful of people willing to ‘heed the need’ could move things along and thus significantly ease the burden of many.
In January 1992, with the help of the French ambassador Olivier Gaussot and a number of civic-minded French and Filipinos, Together-Ensemble, a foundation for development and progress in the Philippines, finally came to be. It has since expanded to include long-term interventions with the aim of fostering sustainable development particularly in the rural sector.