Officials distribute Noche Buena stuff to ‘Sendong’ victims in Cagayan de Oro

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews/24 December) — Amid the desperation and anxiety in the aftermath of the flood caused by Typhoon Sendong, the national government handed out Christmas packages containing beef ham and quezo de bola for the Noche Buena tonight of thousands of flood survivors in jam-packed evacuation centers.

“You will have your Noche Buena tomorrow. In your small spaces celebrate Christmas tomorrow night,” Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman told flood survivors at the Barangay Macasandig evacuation on Friday.

Loud cheers broke out as soon as Soliman and Rodriguez announced the gifts at the Macansandig basketball gym where 500 people filled the converted gym.

“I thought my wife and I would have a bleak Christmas. We have now something to share,” 25-year-old Bernard Testa said.

He said he and his wife, Eileen, will spend Christmas alone for the first time. He said his wife’s 19-year-old younger sister, Aime, was still missing.

Even children who were deeply traumatized by last Saturday’s disaster are not too keen in celebrating Noche Buena tonight, according to Crislyn Felisilda of the World Vision, a nongovernment organization.

Felisilda said many of the children wished they could go back to their houses and celebrate Christmas.

“The children told us they wish they can go back to their homes and want new school supplies for their presents but most of them no longer have homes to go,” she said.

Noche Buena tonight will be neither blue of merry for Cagayan de Oro tonight where as many as affected 36,000 families have no homes to celebrate Christmas tonight.

Ann Ato, proprietor of Brewberry Café, said many of her customers had cut down on their orders and instead asked for dinner packs in time for the distribution for the Noche Buena.

“Instead of their usual order of 20 meals, most of our customers order 70 or 80 meals choosing the simplest food  so they can stretch their budget. Many plan to distribute it tonight at the evacuation centers,” Ato said.

On Thursday night, Philippine Navy ship BRP Dagupan arrived at the Macabalan pier bearing a macabre gift for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Felix, chief of the 4th Infantry Division said the navy ship carried 450 coffins which were donated by the League of Councilors in Pampanga province.

Felix said 200 coffins will be given to Cagayan de Oro, another 200 to Iligan, and 50 to Misamis Oriental province.

Using “askal” dogs (mongrels), Army recovery teams dug up two more bodies along the banks of Cagayan de Oro River on Friday morning.

Officials said they hope the dogs can lead them to more bodies which they believe are still buried in the mud along the river banks. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)