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Accounts of a journey

CTALK - Cito Beltran () - December 26, 2011 - 12:00am

Filipino generosity comes unexpectedly.

While waiting to board our flight for Cagayan de Oro, a Pinay mom from Australia who learned of our plans to spend Christmas in an evacuation center handed one of the Nuns of SPC two bars of chocolate.

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Sister Rowena-SPC was busy haggling a discount on the overweight charges for relief goods for kids when an OFW from Butuan quietly slipped her the P1,000 to pay the bill.

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I spotted Lon Fernandez VP for Corp Comm of DBP checking in huge boxes of relief goods to be airlifted to Cagayan de Oro. I learned from her that a second team will be going to Iligan after Christmas. Most of us fail to realize that so many underpaid government employees and officials do help a lot, even during Christmas.

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We met Vice Admiral Alex Pama – Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy at NAIA-2. By GOD’s divine appointment, Sister Eden – SPC linked up with the Vice Admiral who promised to make space for several tons of relief goods coming from SPC.

Vice Admiral Pama decided to fly down to Cagayan de Oro to bring some Christmas Cheer to all the Navy personnel who were working round the clock and will all be away from their own families this Christmas. Vice Admiral Pama told me they were bringing hamon and queso de bola for the Navy crew. I would later learn that they were also bringing in 500 empty coffins. Eerie to think of hamon, queso de bola and kabaongs in one line.

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On board PR-183, we are greeted and thanked by appreciative readers of Philippine Star thanking us for going to CDO. Strange experience to be thanked even before having done any “real” work, perhaps people do appreciate just knowing that you care.

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As we enter Cagayan de Oro our driver points out a bridge where the water rose higher than the bridge. I get out and start taking photos while absorbing the scene. That’s when I realized that the bridge was not over a river but a road. Water simply sought out a path! When we block or divert rivers, the water will come at us.

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As we meet up with other volunteers, several people told us they brought relief goods to LBC and PAL but were told the goods would have to be donated to LBC or PAL foundation in order to be delivered for free to Cagayan de Oro. Individual donors meant to send the relief goods directly to victims they knew and ended up having to paying several thousand pesos more. That money could have helped victims instead of corporate bottom lines.

This is especially unfortunate for LBC and PAL who earned so much goodwill on the Internet and social media after initial announcements. Now they will lose even more because of this miscommunication or misunderstanding.

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Note to donors; please don’t send your garbage to victims! Victims may be desperate but their decency and self- respect remain intact.

A noticeable amount of used clothes, shoes, and household stuff that have been sent qualify as TRASH. When people appeal for used clothes and stuff, they mean something fairly decent and clean, not stained, torn, tattered or fit as rags. Many victims here are educated, employed decent people, they simply got hit and hit hard.

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Operation Blessing of the 700 Club is on the ground and Peter Kairuz informed me that they’ve been handling some 2000 families with the help of donors like Shakeys and Airphil Express.

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Joined first coordinating meeting of DSWD and all participating NGOs. Secretary Dinky Soliman spoke briefly and flew out. NGOs agree to split up evacuation centers based on capability. The SPC sisters from Maria Reyna University Hospital are assigned to North City Central School in Barangay Puntod where there are 55 families with many kids.

The churches have agreed to ring church bells at 8 pm every night to remember the dead, pray for all the affected people and give hope to the suffering. Others have now called it as a protest against illegal logging. They have also asked for the rich and those who were not affected to adopt a family during Christmas. Considering the trauma and utter loss, this would be such a small sacrifice for such a great and life changing impact on others.

I learned that Congressman Rufus Rodriguez has committed P5 million to help build shelters for families that will no longer be allowed to return to riverside dwellings. Meanwhile, the DSWD will “employ” evacuees to maintain cleanliness and help in the relocation centers while empowering them and restarting their lives.

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We learned that the failure to conduct a proper and official census at Barangay levels now make it difficult to determine who are missing or dead. There is no system of reporting for those who survived, and now that relief goods and relocation is being done, the absence of data, makes the work so much harder and longer. Every barangay should have a census complete with pictures and fingerprints for identification requirements. Calling Secretary Robredo…

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Just noticed that there are very few clean cars now in CDO. Water shortage, muddy streets and more important priorities have cured many of automotive idolatry. Many cars were left abandoned as people chose to relocate first.

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I learned that AppledeAp of Black-eyed Peas, Manny Pacquiao and Shamcey Supsup were in town. Pacquiao’s group reportedly gave 300 sacks of rice to Muslim victims while Robin Padilla’s foundation is said to be the first group directly helping “Muslim” victims, of which there is also a sizeable number.

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More to follow this week, particularly on “The Dark side of Disaster”.

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For comments and invites pls email: Utalk2ctalk@gmail.com.

BARANGAY PUNTOD CALLING SECRETARY ROBREDO CENTER CHRISTMAS CHEER COMMAND OF THE PHILIPPINE NAVY CONGRESSMAN RUFUS RODRIGUEZ CORP COMM ORO VICE ADMIRAL PAMA
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