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Story from an unreached village

/ 12:12 PM November 21, 2013

I’m writing this article while talking with Christian “Tintin” Abello, whose family lives in sitio Patao in Bantayan island in northern Cebu, the section of the province badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

The situation in Patao, a fishing village with a population estimated at 5,000 deserves attention because while the provincial government ramps up distribution of relief goods, the Capitol has yet to penetrate many far-flung areas especially in Bantayan island including towns covering the fourth and fifth districts.

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Logistics remain a challenge but fortunately, many nongovernment organizations and civic-minded citizens are filling the gap not only in raising and sending relief assistance but also in mapping recovery efforts for the typhoon-ravaged areas.

One such village is Patao, a community which is in limbo after Yolanda damaged and wrecked close to 20 fishing boats owned by local fishermen. Fishing vessels provide employment and livelihood for thousands of people – from actual fishing, sorting and selling of the sea produce to local vendors who also process the making of dried fish on site.

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The supply chain includes markets in Metro Cebu and one’s choice of fish, crabs, shrimps, shells and other kinds of sea foods including dried danggit and squid from the nearby public markets or supermarkets must have come from Patao.

The devastation of Bantayan’s major fishing village has crippled the local economy. Houses, commercial buildings, schools, and practically all commercial fishing boats in the area have been damaged or destroyed. Electricity was also cut off. Nowadays, people rely only in marginal fishing (panginhas) and what makes matters worse for the villagers is the sudden increase in the prices of basic commodities like fuel, rice, cooking oil, candles, etc.

I happened to get wind of the situation in Patao through my friend Joyce Yang, chairperson of the Business Administration Department of the University of San Carlos (USC). Joyce and I are volunteers in the Catholic Schoenstatt Movement Philippines and last Sunday we caught up with each other after the Mass held at the Schoenstatt Shrine in Lawaan, Talisay City.

Aside from academic responsibilities, Joyce is also the executive director of Ambit Foundation, Inc., a private organization that helps in sending indigent but deserving students to high school and college. Ambit (a Visayan word that means “to share”) is also active in extending humanitarian aid to victims of natural calamities, thanks to my friend’s and her co-workers’ commitment, zeal and able handling of resources donated by generous professional friends here and abroad.

Tintin Abello works as secretary for the BA department and their close professional relationship made it possible for Patao to suddenly appear in the radar of Ambit Foundation, Inc. I think it is just as well because at some point, the sending of relief goods will stop and people will have to find ways to recover their lives.

For the 20 to 30 fishermen owning and operating fishing vessels in Patao, the challenge is finding resources to repair the damaged pump boats or buying new ones. However, practically all of them are paralyzed because they don’t have savings or money from insurance as they rely mainly on day-to-day income. With fishing vessels gone, the engine of Patao’s economy also conked out and the lives of thousands of people now hang in the balance.

Relief assistance are provisions that enable people to cross the bridge of recovery, but from where I sit, the people of Patao will not be able to go the distance on their own because the cost of repairing one fishing vessel amounts to P100,000.

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Here’s the breakdown of the repair works, as forwarded to this corner by Ambit Foundation. I’m not conversant with fishing jargon, so please bear with me:

3 rolls of very thick rope with tingga & sako- P55,000

3 units Tarik – P8,500

20 units Katig – P8,000

30 units lumber, 2x4x16 – P15,500

3 bundles fishing net (18 x 7) – P7,000

Miscellaneous (glue, big basin or banyera, nylon, galvanized nails, plywood) – P6,000.00

A new fishing boat would cost anywhere from half a million pesos (for small boats made of ordinary lumber) to P1 million for a sturdy one, medium or large size.

The recovery of Patao is doable. Even a small amount will go a long way so please contact Ambit Foundation through 0922-604-7117. You may also send a private message to the group’s Facebook page.

***

By the way, Tintin Abello was preparing to go to sitio Patao to reunite with her family and distribute relief goods when we spoke on the phone yesterday.

Upon her representation, the Cebu provincial government gave 75 sacks of National Food Authority rice or 1,125 packs to be distributed to some 2,000 people living in sub-sitios Dapdap, San Juan and Caotanaga. USC employees chipped in to pay for the van rental to bring the relief goods to Bantayan.

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TAGS: Bantayan Island, Cebu, column, opinion, Super Typhoon Yolanda
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