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‘Pablo’ can’t dampen victims’ spirit

When disaster strikes, help is almost always on the way.

On the first run of Inquirer Care’s (INQ.Care) relief goods distribution to Compostela Valley, one of the hardest hit by Typhoon “Pablo” in Southern Mindanao, the team was shocked by the widespread destruction caused by the supertyphoon. Hearts were torn to pieces seeing houses and constructions on Barangay Valderrama—home to 1,000 families—flat on the ground, children lining up along the roadsides holding up sign boards asking for help and food.

No sooner had our vehicles approached the barangay than the residents started pouring in. Soon, we were surrounded by a huge crowd taking turns to receive relief goods.

A system was organized to dispatch the goods in the quickest possible way. Divided into four groups, the team had two groups repacking items and passing them to the third group who added another item from a big truck.

Under the scorching heat, the goods were distributed to about 1,000 families.

On the way back to Davao, the team stopped at the highway connecting New Bataan and Compostela to give away the rest of the relief goods to the residents standing along the roadsides. They no longer have places to stay and totally depended on the emergency assistance distributed by volunteer groups.

Whenever the team made a stop and started giving out the goods, a huge crowd arrives in a matter of seconds.

But it was never enough. We wish we had had more to give.

On the second run of the INQ.Care relief operations, this time at Barangay Mangayon and Barangay Tamia, the team was glad to see that some parts of the town had been cleaned up and there were no more people waiting along the roadsides asking for food.

This time, with the experience from the previous run, the distribution was conducted in a faster and more effective mode. The number of volunteers doubled, too.

The volunteers distributed 2,000 bags of relief goods to those who queued in front of Mangayon National High School, who came from two remote barangays of Compostela—Mangayon and Tamia—with the help of barangay officers and residents.

Seeing the smiles on the Compostela Valley residents and responding “You’re welcome” to their “Thank yous,” gave all Inquirer Care Team members the feeling of fulfillment and happiness.

Where do they go from here?

When asked what their plan was in the days to come, most of the residents did not have a clear answer. What is certain is the need to rebuild their houses and start working again. But then, none of them knows when and how.

For the past three weeks since Pablo, the residents of Comval have been relying on relief goods distributed by different organizations. However, regardless of the number of members, every family receives the same amount of goods and for families with many children, the supply can only last for two or three days. Apparently, it is a struggle if they only rely on emergency assistance.

The family of Reynaldo and Amalia Grafia from Barangay Mangayon, for instance, has five members. They used to have a small store and it was washed away by the flood.

“The water was up to our neck,” Amalia said. Now, they are living temporarily in a tent set up where their house used to stand. They have no idea when they can rebuild their house and open their store again.

Reynaldo, the husband, might be working for some landowners in the area for P150 per day in the next few months to save up the money. The good news is that seedlings will be provided by the Department of Agriculture so they can start planting again by the end of January when the damaged irrigation system will have been repaired and cleaned up.

As of now, the local government of Compostela has been providing work for the farmers. They are hired to clean up the area and the irrigation system for P218 a day. However, the work is limited so the farmers have to take turns to do the job.

“We can do nothing more without the national government,” said Wendell Remulta, son of Barangay Tamia’s captain.

The near future may be uncertain for the residents of Comval but it was amazing to see nothing but smiles on their faces. They talked about losing their houses and properties without a hint of sadness. Seeing their totally destroyed homes, they still managed to laugh, sing, listen to the radio and wave at us while flashing the biggest smiles on their faces.

That is the spirit of the happiest people in the world. Even a supertyphoon cannot destroy that optimism.

The Inquirer would like to thank the following donors who generously responded to the call for help for the victims of Pablo: Metrobank Foundation, Taikisha Philippines, Gemma Chan, Carmelita Go, Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz, Rosanna Pura, Evelina Herrera, Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau, Ceres Doyo, Roseviet Fabroa, Edgar Vince Rimonte, Graciano Lopez, Mr. and Mrs. Salvador Arinzol, Ma. Gemma Chan-Arinzol, Chato Garcellano, Inquirer Group of Companies HR and Administration, Augusto San Pedro, Inocencia Almina, University of Makati Student Leaders and anonymous donors.

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Tags: Barangay Valderrama , Compostela Valley , Inquirer Care , New Bataan , Pablo , Philippine calamity , relief operations , supertyphoon , Typhoon Pablo

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