How bayanihan spirit lives on in Ompong-hit areas

As appeals for help increase after the onslaught of Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut), stories of ‘bayanihan’ in the affected communities surface

locals form a human chain by the Chico river to bring the relief aid to higher ground
Locals form a human chain by the Chico river to bring the relief aid to higher ground in Barangay, Lipatan, Santo Nino town in Cagayan. Photo by April Bulanadi/Oxfam

— (MANILA, Philippines) Two weeks after Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) hit Cagayan and other neighboring provinces, residents continue to reel from the devastation.

Typhoon Ompong has affected 2.9 million people according to the September 30 record of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and left P26.7 billion worth of damage to agriculture and 76,000 damaged homes in Cagayan.

But on the brighter side of things, it also brought out the best in Filipinos.

From the far-flung communities to the hardest hit areas, stories of “bayanihan” surfaced.

Human chain

On September 21, international development agency Oxfam, the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center and the Cagayan Valley Disaster Response Center (CVDRC), walked through muddy cornfields and rode a boat for more than two hours to distribute hygienic kits to the residents of Barangay Lipatan in Santo Niño town.

Struggling to transfer relief packs from the Chico River to the assembly area, male residents and some members of the local government formed a human chain to ease the work.

 

Oxfam Media and Digital Influencing Officer April Bulanadi said it was inspiring seeing people reaching out to them when they brought relief goods to remote areas. According to Bulanadi, what transpired motivated them to work on their relief operations even better.

Bulanadi noticed that the Filipino custom “bayanihan” is a common practice in the communities. According to her, because of the muddy road, residents of Rizal helped the team in carrying water supplies for two remote communities.

Lahat ng mga ginawa nilang pagtulong ay sarili nilang initiative kasi parang counterpart na nila siguro iyon,” added Bulanadi. (The help residents have extended were all self-initiated because they were like counterparts of the communities.)

Rhoda Avila, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Manager told Rappler the two municipalities which are geographically isolated were the least served since Ompong hit Cagayan.

Mahirap ang sitwasyon nila. Malayo ang nilalakad pero dahil alam nating may kailangan sila, inaabot natin sila,” said Avila. (They have a difficult situation. They live in a far-flung area but because they are in need, we are reaching out them.)

locals of rizal town led by its officials helped in carrying water supplies for two remote communities
Locals of Rizal town led by its officials helped in carrying water supplies for two remote communities. Photo by April Bulanadi/Oxfam

 

Residents initiate retrieval ops

Meanwhile, in Nueva Vizcaya, hours after Ompong hit, community officials and residents of Barangay Banao in Kayapa town worked hand-in-hand in retrieving bodies buried by a landslide.

Barangay Chairman Romeo Ligmayo told Rappler that officials and residents coordinated with each other after receiving reports that a family of 4 died and were still underneath the ground on the afternoon of September 15.

 

Yung nakita ko noon na nagtulong-tulong lahat ay sobrang halaga kasi kailangan talaga naming magkaisa para mapadali ang trabaho lalo na kung meron pang mga buhay na pwede pang isalba,” said Ligmayo. (I’ve seen a sense of community and cooperation among everyone and it’s very important because we really need to unite in order to hasten the retrieval operations so we can also save those who are still alive.)

As the news on their situation went viral, assistance also poured in for the family and community.

Gusto kasi namin silang tulungan pero dahil walang wala rin kami, humingi kami ng tulong at sobra kaming nagpapasalamat sa lahat ng nakapagbahagi para sa mga apektado lalo na sa pamilya,” Ligmayo shared. (We wanted to help but we are also in need that time, so we asked for assistance and we are thankful to everyone who extended help.)

Ligmayo said that other members of the family are now under the custody of their grandparents.

Students, batchmates unite for Ompong victims

In typhoon-hit Benguet province, law students of the University of Baguio took to the streets of the city to serenade passersby and ask for aid for the victims of Ompong on September 19.

Rocky Ngalob, the one who posted the photo, said students made use of that day to at least help those affected by the typhoon.

 

“It was a celebration day for law schools so instead of doing the usual things, we decided to have the activity of raising funds for them,” said Ngalob.

The group was able to collect P8,382 which was used in buying relief and school packs, according to Ngalob.

Meanwhile, in Camp Dangwa, Benguet, batchmates of Sonny Mojica from different parts of the world was reunited in an effort to help him. Mojica lost three relatives, including his child in a landslide. His loss was the only casualty in the said area.

Susan Ellano, his batchmate said that they felt the urge to help since all of them were friends.

‘Yung tulong namin na maliit lang ay sa tingin ko naman noong napagsama ay malaking tulong at naapreciate niya, lalo na yung mga prayers,” said Ellano. (Ours is just a little help but I think it became big when everything was combined and he really appreciated it, especially the prayers.)

Progressive groups organize relief drives

Organizations like Makabayan – Cagayan Valley and Tulong Sulong Cagayan also mobilized various efforts to provide assistance in affected communities.

Romella Mia Liquigan, Gabriela’s Internal Affairs National Vice President said that the typhoon’s huge damage in Cagayan and Isabela prompted them to start conducting relief efforts.

Alam natin na gobyerno ang dapat na una sa pagpapaabot ng tulong pero dahil nakaugalian na sa panahon ng kalamidad ay automatic ag pagresponde at pagtutulungan, tayo ay nagsimula ng ganitong mga gawain,” she said. (We know that first responders should be the government, but helping others became a common practice, especially in times of calamities and that’s why we started this drive.)

The effort already reached parts of Cagayan and Isabela where various relief packs were distributed.

As aid is continuously pouring, Liquigan also asked for long-term solutions for the problems that the typhoon victims, whom most are farmers, are facing.

Patuloy kaming nananawagan na sana ay makiisa ang lahat sa panawagan sa gobyerno na mawala ang interes sa pautang kasi diyan talaga kakapit ang ating mga magsasaka ngayon na nalugmok sila dala ng pagkasira ng kanilang mga pananim,” said Liquigan.

(We continue asking that everyone may be with us in appealing to the government to remove the inclusion of interest in loans because affected individuals, most of them farmers, will really rely on debts especially now that their crops were devastated by the typhoon.)

Ompong brings out heroes

Amidst the severe desolation, individuals in Cagayan did not turn their back to help.

Among them were Cristalina Morales and Walter Villegas, who, since the landfall of Ompong were already working with CVDRC in their response efforts.

Morales, 63, whose house was destroyed and grandchild got hurt, is helping organizations with their relief efforts.

Meanwhile, Villegas, 21, a graduate of the University of the Philippines Manila said that he could not refuse to extend help to the poor as he believes that they were the most vulnerable.

Makikita mo kapag nakakatulong ka sa kanila na umiiyak na sila kasi sobrang walang wala sila eh and that thing raises my morale to help,” Villegas shared. (You will see someone crying when you’re extending help to them because they really have nothing and that thing raises my morale to help.)

Even if they had various ways of extending help, they continue pleading for aid with goal of helping the victims to have a new beginning filled with hope.


by Kurt Dela Peña | Rappler.com