With thousands still huddled at cramped evacuation centers in his city and other calamity-stricken areas, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma is calling on affluent residents and those who escaped the fury of “Sendong” to temporarily take in families left homeless by the tropical storm.
“As we approach Christmas week and the coming of the New Year, may I propose a ‘Family-Adopt-A-Family’program. Families unaffected by the flood can invite to their homes an evacuee family, especially those who have lost their homes or loved ones, for a few days or for a Christmas meal, to share the spirit of the season,” Ledesma said in a pastoral letter issued yesterday.
The archbishop noted that almost everyone in Cagayan de Oro alone has lost relatives or friends in the tragedy.
“Schools have lost some students and staff; officemates have not reported because of the condition of their homes; and a number of unidentified bodies still await a dignified burial in a common resting place,” he said.
As many families grieve, Ledesma added, “the challenge for us now is to help rebuild the lives and broken homes of the survivors.” The task may involve repairing their present houses or relocating them to safer grounds, he said.
Ledesma also agreed to suggestions that the affected families no longer be allowed to return to areas now considered extremely dangerous.
“In January 2009, the city had already experienced severe flooding. Some old-time residents recalled that this phenomenon happens every 40 years. But barely three years after that, Sendong came with greater vengeance,” he said.
The bishop also lauded the volunteers and organizations who have shared their time, energy and resources to help the victims, including the 7,000 families or 43,000 individuals now taking shelter in 14 evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro City.
Students skip break
Assistance of the more secular kind has also shown no signs of waning.
Instead of going home to their respective provinces for the Christmas break, a number of students from the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Los Baños, Laguna province, volunteered to stay and take part in relief missions.
“We have one volunteer who scheduled his flight to the Visayas on Dec. 24 instead of going home earlier last week,” said student volunteer Hani Julien Urrea, coordinator of the Kabataan party-list group in the Southern Tagalog region.
The group reactivated the Serve the People Brigade (STPB), an alliance of UP Los Baños activists formed in the 1970s, which Urrea said had been revived whenever natural calamities struck the region.
Although it was Northern Mindanao that suffered most from the wrath of Sendong, “we still saw the necessity for relief efforts because we, too, have experienced the same during [Tropical Storm] ‘Ondoy,’” Urrea said, referring to the killer storm that ravaged Metro Manila and many parts of Luzon in 2009.
Urrea reported that since Dec. 20, the STPB had raised P10,000 in cash and collected clothes and relief items enough to fill two jeepneys. The brigade had set up drop-off points in Los Baños and San Pablo City with the help of the Kapatirang Pitong Lawa civic group, she added.
While on their holiday break, students from Los Baños National High School were also tapped to help in the repacking of the donations. STPB’s relief mission will continue until the classes resume in January, Urrea said.
Help for unionists
The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) also launched its own relief drive for trade unionists affected by Sendong.
The FFW on Friday said it would conduct relief operations on Dec. 27 in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, starting with about P50,000 in cash and pledges, and used clothing donated by its staff and member groups. The group has opened its central office in Malate, Manila, (Tel. No. 5219434 and 64) for donations.
The FFW president, Jose Matula, said 19 workers from its affiliate groups in the Cagayan de Oro port and wharf had their homes destroyed by the flood. Twelve members of the 350-strong Coca-Cola Free Workers Union in Cagayan de Oro City were also affected.
In the town of Macabalan, Misamis Oriental province, six metal workers lost their homes while 28 members suffered damage to their property, Matula added. In Iligan, the families of three members of the National Steel Corp. Labor Union remained missing, while 39 other members lost their homes.
Despite having its own share of Sendong victims, officials and residents of Compostela Valley province sent help to those who were hit much worse.
Just before dawn on Thursday, two dump trucks rolled out of the capitol in Nabunturan town to bring 200 sacks of rice and hundreds of boxes of bottled water, noodles, used clothing and medicines to neighboring Iligan, said the provincial information officer, Fe Maestre.
In a phone interview, Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said relief goods would also be sent to Cagayan de Oro City in the next few days.
“These two areas suffered much. We have more than enough (for our own residents who were affected) so we opted to send help to those who needed it more,” he said.
At least five persons were killed in Uy’s province during Sendong’s onslaught, mostly children caught in a landslide in Monkayo town. Around 30 houses were damaged.
In Maco, another Compostela town, soldiers from the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion and members of volunteer group Youth for Peace went around neighborhoods and used loudspeakers to ask for relief items.
Inmates make coffins
In Iligan City, a convoy of trucks made a special delivery on Wednesday: more relief goods—and about 100 white coffins courtesy of Zamboanga del Sur.
The coffins were made by inmates of the provincial jail, according to Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles, who also sent a 30-member medical team.
From Davao City, Mayor Sara Duterte and her father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, visited Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Wednesday, bringing with them several dump trucks loaded with bottled water and relief goods. The Davao City officials also turned over cash assistance.
At the Inquirer, the newspaper’s relief drive, which was launched on Monday, continued to receive donations in cash and in kind.
Among the latest donors were Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Madrag Crowne Phils., Fresh Herb Phils., Print Town, Agnes Paras, one Ms Tan, Bernie Nepomuceno, lawyer Frank Chavez, Jackie and Danielle Bianca Chua, Josiah and Carolina Go, Carmelino Alvendia Jr., Mylene de Jesus, Ceres Doyo, Inquirer chair Marixi Prieto, Inquirer.net, Inquirer accounting and editorial departments, Inquirer Group of Companies, and several anonymous donors.
Donations received in kind by the Inquirer will be distributed on Saturday, Christmas Eve, to the flood victims in Cagayan de Oro and other parts of Mindanao through the Philippine Red Cross.
The drive will no longer receive donations in kind, but cash may still be deposited in the Inquirer Help Fund’s Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) current account No. 4951-0067-56, under the name Philippine Daily Inquirer Inc., until Dec. 29.
Interested parties may call Bianca Kasilag or Connie Kalagayan of the Inquirer’s corporate affairs office at 8978808 and 8994426. With reports from Romulo O. Ponte, Inquirer Southern Luzon, and Frinston L. Lim and Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao