NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/20 December) – “Noon, kami ang palaging tinutulungan. Kami naman ngayon ang tutulong” (We were always given assistance before. Now it’s our turn to help).
Officials and employees of Pikit in North Cotabato, traveled 276 kilometers from their town to deliver food packs and medicines for survivors of Typhoon Pablo in this badly battered town in Compostela Province on Wednesday.
Dulia Sultan, North Cotabato provincial board member and wife of Pikit mayor Sumulong Sultan, said they are grateful they have had to deal only with wars and not a disaster wrought by super typhoon Pablo.
Pikit residents fled their villages in the wars in succession – in 1997, in the 2000 “all-out war” waged by then President Joseph Estrada against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); in 2001, in the 2003 war waged by the Arroyo administration and in the 2008 war following the botched signing of the government-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on August 5, 2008.
“Pasalamat tayo, gyera lang. Pwede pa tayo magtago, pwede pa tayo mag evacuate. Dito, paano sila mag-evacuate di naman nila alam sino ang kalaban nila. Akala nila tubig eh bato pala” (Let’s be grateful, we’re only dealing with war. We can hide. We can evacuate. Here, how can you evacuate when they do not know who their enemies are? They thought it was water but it turned out to be rocks and boulders), Sultan said as she pointed to the vast expanse of rocks and boulders where once stood houses and barangay offices.
Sultan had gone to Andap earlier in the morning to distribute relief goods and learned from her conversations with survivors what happened there when Typhoon Pablo made landfall on December 4. She returned at noon with team members assigned to three other areas because she wanted them to see what she saw.
And what they saw shocked them beyond words.
She said they met a survivor who lost all his six children.
Turning to MindaNews, she said, “w`alang namamatay na hundreds sa gyera” (no one dies by the hundreds in war). In Pikit’s experience with war, she says only around 10 civilians are killed)..
As of December 17, the Consolidated Area Assessment Operation Pablo of New Bataan, listed 373 dead and 114 injured. Of 373 killed, 271 were from Barangay Andap and 98 from Barangay Cabinuangan.
An update report of the provincial government as of 7 a.m. December 20 showed a total of 591 persons dead in the entire province, 412 of these from New Bataan.
The “Tulong ComVal” (Help ComVal) relief missionof Pikit, on board a dump truck, three pick-up vehicles and one van, distributed 481 food packs and assorted medicines.
Sultan said the town and barangay officials agreed to cancel their “Christmas party” to help the typhoon survivors because “noong tayo nangailangan, grabe ang tulong sa atin” (when we needed help, much help came to us).
Pikit is predominantly Muslim but Muslims, Christians and Lumads (indigenous peoples) celebrate each other’s festivals and special occasions together, hence the “Christmas party.”
Zarquia Tayuan Pikit treasurer, said they spent some P100,000 for medicines and P300, 000 for the food packs.
Sultan said the employees immediately formed teams to speed up the work of purchasing and packing because “sabi nga namin, noong tayo nangailangan, maraming tumulong sa atin” (When we needed help before, many helped us)..
Municipal social welfare officer Imelda Balios said she noticed some cards for relief assistance do not specify the name of the evacuation center. Listing down the name of the evacuation centers will avoid duplication, she said.
But Balios quickly added she understands the social welfare workers’ situation. “They are overwhelmed. I think this is their first time to handle a major disaster.
In Davao Oriental, a team of doctors and other health workers from Maguindanao, a province that also became the destination for medical missions during the wars of 2000, 2003 and 2008. traveled some 400 kilometers to conduct medical missions in Cateel and Baganga in Davao Oriental, some ten hours away. Dr. Tahir Sulaik, provincial health officer told MindaNews, he brought a team of about a hundred, six of whom figured in a vehicular accident in Baganga afternoon of December 18 and had to be evacuated to the Southern Philippines Medical Center.
Six of his team members were injured in an accident along the national highway in Barangay Saoquege, Baganga at around 4:15 p.m. December 18 while on their way to the Incident Command Post at the DPWH compound in Barangay Lucod. The six- five doctors and a driver – had to be rushed to the Cateel District Hospital and by 10 p.m. moved to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, some 6.5 hours away.
Last week, nurse Mary Divene Hilario, Information Officer of the Department of Health regional office here told MindaNews Muslim doctors and nurses from Maguindanao volunteered to take over on December 18 to 25, to allow the health workers assigned in the area time to spend Christmas with their families.
“They said they don’t celebrate Christmas anyway, so they chose those dates so that doctors and nurses in these areas can take a break and spend Christmas with their families,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)