Days before Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) came into being, we saw and heard on TV and radio, read in newspapers and on the Internet, and talked with family and friends about the path it was going to take, how strong it is predicted to be, and the preparations that were put in place. The President himself went on air to warn us about Yolanda. The Catholic Church advised its faithful to pray the Oratio Imperata to ward against calamities. Everybody knew the typhoon was coming and that it was going to be a very, very strong one.
I texted my good friend and fellow JC National President Jimjim Yaokasin who is based in Tacloban City on Thursday afternoon to say we are praying for them. His reply: “Thanks, Mabs. Bracing for tomorrow. Need it very much.”
Then the strongest typhoon in modern history struck our country. Telecommunication lines were down. It took some time before we knew what happened on the ground and longer still to determine the death, damage and destruction caused.
I texted Jimjim again and again, every time there was news about the existence of intermittent signals. On Monday, another good friend, and also a fellow JC National President, Maeng Penado told me Jimjim and his family are safe, and they were able to evacuate to Cebu, except for his brother Vice Mayor Sambo Yaokasin who was left behind in Tacloban to oversee relief efforts.
I was overwhelmed with emotion to know they survived, including the families of my UP Law classmates Torks Buban and Patrick Santo who survived as well.
Unfortunately, Patrick’s father, Atty. Paping Santo, passed away two days after Patrick got to Tacloban or 5 days after Yolanda. Atty. Paping had aortic aneurysm.
Tales amid chaos
Amidst the chaos, heart-rending pleas for help and vivid pictures of the aftermath, tales of heroism, sacrifice and selflessness abound. Along with cyber-bullying, falsified news and information on social media networks and ceaseless bashing, the “bayanihan” spirit among peoples from different races, political spectrum, beliefs and creed flourish. Side by side with pessimistic individuals, spin doctors and vicious rumormongers, volunteers from all walks of life are overflowing.
From my personal network alone, I have gathered so many inspiring stories.
There is this young lady from Tuguegarao who single-handedly organized a fun-run to raise funds for Typhoon Yolanda victims. Also in Cagayan, the 37,000 students of Cagayan State University have pledged to give at least 1 peso each. A private school, the Medical Colleges of Northern Philippines, didn’t only transport the relief goods from their own students and staff but welcomed those from other schools and organizations which did not have the means to bring their relief goods to Manila.
A visual artist whose advocacy is to energize barangays with the use of solar power immediately got to work to assemble solar-powered cellphone and light chargers. Six days after Yolanda, 10 of these chargers were delivered to the Department of Health command center in Tacloban City, and more are about to be delivered together with solar lamps to provide light in evacuation centers.
A group of professionals from Tacloban but now based in Manila organized their own relief distribution network. Their counterparts in Tacloban received the goods, filled in the gaps and targeted areas that are difficult to reach. This is similar to what a batch of alumnae from a Cebu City executive girls’ school did in Northern Cebu. Instead of complaining, they found solutions to the problem.
While many are focused on Leyte and Samar, two private schools (one in Cavite and the other in Marinduque) have decided to bring the relief goods they have collected to Iloilo. Another group, in the meantime, will bring theirs to Ormoc.
One of the affiliates of a big network is doing its relief efforts quietly away from the limelight. It chartered some planes to deliver relief goods to Ormoc and Kanangga. Some mining companies in Mindanao have also sent trucks and heavy equipment to Leyte and Samar. A company that deals with second-hand vehicles has also deployed some and will be sending more.
A lady executive was one of the first to volunteer at the DSWD National Relief Operations Center. She is a mountain-climber and camping-enthusiast. She volunteered, too, to join a team of relief workers that will serve far-flung villages. A small town in Manitoba, with a population of around 4,000, predominantly Mennonite and only 30 or so Filipino families called Altona, has its own campaign. The Mennonite Central Committee called upon its churches to raise funds and turn this over to accredited Canadian NGOs because the Canadian government has declared it will match dollar for dollar the cash donation of its citizens.
I am sure similar stories are happening nationwide and around the world, and I hope it will continue to spread because relief is only the start. There is also rehabilitation to think about next. Each of us may have our own opinion of how things should be done and complaints of how it shouldn’t be but at this point, our help is what is needed the most.
Thank you to everyone who will share, have shared and continue to share.