The spirit of sharing and giving in a time of tragedy is under test in this holiday season.
Barely a week before Christmas, aid from Philippine and foreign donors began pouring in Sunday for victims of last weekend’s devastating Tropical Storm “Sendong” that killed hundreds of people in northern Mindanao and the Visayas.
As Pope Benedict XVI prayed in the Vatican for the victims and the United States expressed its condolences, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) sounded an appeal for cash and other donations to help the victims and their families.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also announced it was accepting help for those who suffered.
Over the weekend, the PRC was able to raise P10 million in donations. But with the full extent of the tragedy still being assessed, it appealed to corporate partners to provide “Christmas packs” of food, clothing, sleeping materials, blankets, school supplies and footwear for the children.
PRC secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said the most practical donation would still be cash and logistical or transport aid.
“It’s currently difficult to go to the areas because they’re isolated, filled with debris and the damaged structures are still there. Services in the [locales] have been overwhelmed. We ask if companies can [help facilitate the services of] shipping lines, planes,” she said.
How to help
Pang said the PRC donation facilities, including for online transactions and bank deposits, are listed at http://www.redcross.org.ph/donatenow.
One of the easiest ways for people to donate is through the PRC SMS donation facility. Donors need only text RED<space>AMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4143 (Smart), in amounts of 5, 25, 100, 300, 500 or 1000 for Globe, and 10, 25, 50, 100, 300, 500 or 1000 for Smart.
Deposits can also be made to the PRC’s Banco De Oro peso account 00-453-0018647, dollar 10-453-0039482; Bank of the Philippine Islands peso account 4991-0036-52, dollar account 004994-0103-15; Metrobank account 151-3-041631228, dollar 151-2-15100218-2; Philippine National Bank peso account 3752 8350 0034, dollar account 3752 8350 0042; Unionbank of the Philippines peso account 1015 4000 0201; dollar account 1315 4000 0090.
Donations can also be made to Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshop branches nationwide.
Food, hygiene kits
Donations and pledges have begun pouring in.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is sending in 3,000 food and nonfood parcels and hygiene kits. The Chinese Embassy donated $10,000 while the Smart mobile phone company donated P100,000, along with free mobile calls.
The PRC said the Sulpicio shipping firm had pledged to provide free shipment for the relief goods while PRC governor and former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri donated two water tankers.
“We immediately sent the goods stockpiled in our warehouses, good for 5,000 families, but we need to replenish them,” Pang said. Nearly 500 Red Cross staffers and 143 volunteers deployed in the field were assessing the situation and providing hot meals to the evacuees, she said.
Pang said the Red Cross had set up welfare desks and first aid stations at the evacuation centers.
‘Spirit of Christmas’
The Red Cross said that it welcomed donations in cash for its relief and recovery efforts and that donations may be sent to the PRC headquarters in Manila or to any Red Cross chapters. The Red Cross hotline is 527-0000.
Roman Catholic bishops in Mindanao joined in appealing for help for the victims.
“There are many victims, many lost their homes and we’re helping them,” Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said over Church-run Radio Veritas.
Diocesan social action directors Fr. Albert Mendez of Iligan and Fr. Bong Galila of Tandag said people in Manila may course their help through Radio Veritas, Caritas Manila and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-National Secretary for Social Action.
Mendez said among the items needed were bottled water, medicines, food supplies, like canned goods, and kitchen tools.
Caritas Manila executive director Fr. Anton Pascual said the charitable institution had formed “Caritas Damay Mindanao,” a fund-raising program to help those in evacuation centers.
“In the spirit of Christmas, I am appealing to our countrymen that if they have excess money, they just give it to our countrymen who were affected by the typhoon,” Pascual said. Those interested in donating can find instructions on www.caritasmanila.org.ph.
Vice President Jejomar Binay flew to Cagayan de Oro City and handed out relief goods, distributing 2,880 bags of goods to residents staying at evacuation centers in Barangay Macasandig, particularly City Central Elementary School and West City Elementary School.
Binay directed his office to hold separate relief operations in Iligan City.
He also went to funeral homes and extended cash assistance to families who lost their loved ones.
“Let us pray for our countrymen who were stricken by the storm. Let us help them get back to their feet,” he said in a statement.
Binay also discussed with Cagayan de Oro officials the possible relocation of residents living along rivers and coastal areas.
“In housing, these areas are considered danger zones because they are prone to disasters. We must find a safe place for the residents to stay,” said Binay, concurrently chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.
Pope prays, US condoles
At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday offered prayers for the victims and their families.
“I pray for the victims, many of them children, for the people without homes and for the many missing,” the Pope said in an address in St. Peter’s Square after his weekly Angelus prayer before thousands of pilgrims. “I would like to assure the people of the southern Philippines of my closeness to them.”
In a statement issued in Washington, DC, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to send my deepest condolences for the devastation and loss of life caused by flooding from Tropical Storm ‘Washi’ (Sendong) in the southern Philippines.”
Clinton, who visited the Philippines last month, said the US government “stands ready to assist Philippine authorities as they respond to this tragedy.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected,” she added. With a report from AFP