Monday, March 12, 2012

Incredibly long blog break - How I spent Christmas

I mean, I know I just started this "blogging" thing but some of you are probably wondering - what the heck happened to her entries? - right? Assuming people read this blog. har har har. I temporarily lost the will to write for a few months after what happened on December 17 2011. 


I was originally just thinking about taking a two- three week break from blogging when something very unexpected happened to the city I was visiting during the Christmas Holidays. My hometown, Iligan. Where do I start? Since I now live in Cebu, my mother pops up every once in awhile to see how i'm doing here, and on this particular visit, she was here for work and asked if I wanted to go back with her to Iligan. I hesitated because, well, I was planning to go home around the 22nd and she had asked me to leave on the 15th and by boat (takes about 9 hours from cebu-iligan/iligan-cebu). Finally i decided to travel with her by boat. As we settled in our suite the first thing my mom said to me was "I'll check if their spa is open". I just laughed coz i know how that woman loves her foot massages. She also asked if I wanted one but I was being grumpy for being dragged along a few days too early for my hometown trip that I much rather preferred to sit in the corner with my laptop and wifi, sulking. Forty minutes into my moms massage, the public address system went on with a message from our captain saying that there  was a storm coming and though it was only the first warning (signal number 1), he expressed his concern about the possibility of the vessel not leaving the port. The masseuse then said that there was a boat that capsized a year ago even with just a Signal 1 warning, so my mom and I didn't want to risk leaving that night. Of course she had 20 minutes left in her foot massage so we stayed until that ended as I booked early plane tickets for the morning after, hoping the storm would pass by that time.

Now, since Iligan doesn't have an airport of its own (it hasn't had one in years) we usually take the plane to Cagayan de Oro. That's about a 50 minute flight from cebu and then an hour and a half drive to Iligan. Our flight was the last flight allowed out of Cebu and this was at 9 in the morning. I think it had something to do about the storm coming back or it never left and winds were picking up. I don't quite remember the reason. But we made it safe to CDO at least. It was a dreary drive back home, with dark clouds hovering and rain falling halfway through the trip. We even saw a bus toppled down to its side, some kind of accident happened just before we got to that certain part of the road but that's another story. 

I don't quite remember the first thing i did when I got home, I just know that I was extremely tired from all that traveling and was actually a little stressed from the boat ordeal and thinking our CDO flight would be cancelled as well. I think I watched some DVDs but I don't remember. Anyway, later that night, despite text messaging some friends about evening plans, I decided to stay indoors. Rain was pouring down like crazy and around 10 o'clock my mother and I got to talking about how storms never stay in Iligan. You see, Iligan is sort of protected from typhoons and crazy storms cause we're located in a cove or bay (Sorry, I have to ask my dad how that works again but apparently that's what everyone says). In all her thirty years living in Iligan, my mother has never experienced a storm like it, she went on saying that the rain that night was more of a "cebu kind of rain". I stayed up till 11 just listening to the rain and wind unaware of what would be happening a couple hours later.

I woke up the next day to voices and feet shuffling around the room. It was my brother, Teo and my mother talking and hurrying about. I was still groggy but I remember my mom telling me about a flash flood and that there were people who died from it. I immediately sat up, wide awake by now and listened to what Teo and his friend had seen earlier that morning. He told me about lifeless bodies strewn across the highway and tons of mud all over houses, burying cars and people. I had not expected this from the rain the night before- nobody did. The flooding happened at around 2:30 in the morning while everyone was asleep. 


At around 9:30 am on December 17, my mother and I immediately handed out some rice to some people in the less affected areas because that was all we could do then. It was crazy traffic for the next three days around the hardest hit areas but I wanted to do more. When I got home for lunch, my brother showed to me a video of typhoon Sendong's aftermath made by somebody earlier that day. It was heart wrenching to say the least. I texted some friends of mine if they wanted to get together and do something for the storms casualties and they immediately replied. We met that evening to discuss our preparations and after the meeting I wanted to inspect one of the evacuation sites with Teo. We went straight for the MSU-IIT gym where 300 families were held at the time. All I had was a paper bag with old clothes, but I still wanted to hand it over as soon as possible. We got home at 12 midnight and I went straight to bed. I was thinking how a storm like that could happen out of nowhere. Why were we not given any warning? How could something so intense go unforeseen? And then it hit me. This could only be because of illegal logging around the higher areas, that, and also the gov't was warned about a storm but they didn't think anything about it. That's the local government for you. I went to bed angry and heartbroken for my hometown that night.

Our group met early the next morning with donations from other friends. Things we could cook and distribute to refugees and water that we had to pack individually. What we thought would only be a one week thing turned into a month long humanitarian effort. With the help of my dad and some of his friends, we received blankets, tents, and sanitation kits from the UN and Plan International for distribution. With money donations coming from friends and family from abroad and around the country, the team was able to feed hundreds of families both in evacuation centers and in areas up in the mountain that rescue units have not yet reached. There were groups coming in from Manila, Davao, and Butuan who wanted to help the group. We were a team of around 12 who spread the word about our the city needing help and believe me, there was help that came. 

The name Team Pasmo happened when we were so busy repacking goods that we forgot about lunch and some members were becoming dizzy. We laughed about it at the time and the name Team Pasmo stuck. Pasmo means famished or starving in the local dialect.

Time came for me to go back to Cebu around January but the Team kept pushing through with their efforts. Now, there are about six relocation areas for the Sendong casualties in Iligan (I am not certain about relocations sites in CDO). Some containing 300 families in each area. I heard the government is building houses for them and I'm glad that they've finally started on that. It really is devastating with what these families have been through and what their current living conditions are as of the moment.

OH! Did i mention that my boyfriend came to Iligan and helped out with the team? He is wonderful. Christmas was bearable having him and my family around. That was all I wanted.

Here are a few photos of what went on that month of December

1 comment:

  1. great read dai! so proud of you and team pasmo's efforts!



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