CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/ 13 Nov) — Moved by powerful images of Typhoon Yolanda’s devastation in Leyte and Samar, hundreds of residents, among them survivors of Typhoon Sendong in 2011, flocked to the Department of Social Welfare and Development relief centers to help pack food bags for the survivors there.
First to arrive at the repacking center of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Mt. Carmel Church in Barangay Carmen Tuesday afternoon were survivors of Typhoon Sendong who were on the receiving end of humanity’s generosity in December 2011.
“I cannot even bring myself to watch the TV news. It seemed like Typhoon Sendong had come back,” Sendong survivor Lilian Balistoy said.
The 44-year-old Balistoy said she only willed herself to watch television news when she heard the DSWD was calling on volunteers to help repack relief goods for the Yolanda survivors in Leyte.
“When I finally watched the news, I wept. I remembered how my children were swept away by the floodwaters of Typhoon Sendong,” she said.
Balistoy lost two of her five children when Sendong inundated their subdivision in Cala-Cala, Barangay Macasandig on in the late hours of December 16 and the early hours of December 17, 2011.
Balistoy’s 14-year-old daughter, Gretel and Rosalinda, 9, remain missing up to now.
“I know how it is like to lose a child. I share the anguish of every mother who lost a child. It is the most painful experience for a woman,” she said.
Like Balistoy, Vicky Valde, 39 immediately volunteered when she heard the DSWD’s call for help.
“It is through this way that I can repay for all the kindness and the help we got from people who gave when we were victims of Sendong. I do not have much money and this is the only way I can repay their kindness,” Valde said as she slid two cans of sardines into a red plastic bag.
Valde lost her husband, Romeo during Sendong. Rescuers found him floating in Macajalar Bay.
“I never had to go hungry after I was rescued. There was so much food for us,” said Valde who now lives along with other Sendong survivors in a resettlement site in Barangay Indahag.
Valde said people should not think ill of the Yolanda victims who went on a looting rampage in Tacloban city.
“Hungry people can be irrational. Their desperation drives them to do something they would regret later,” she said.
Valde, however, said those who looted appliances and valuables should not be forgiven.
“Why do you steal electric fans? Can you eat them? “ she said.
Sendong survivors Rizalina Avila, 53; Joy Olarte, 43 and Sarah Jaom said they are even willing to go to Tacloban to help the survivors.
“We can help counsel them. We can understand each other because we are typhoon survivors,” Avila said.
Bryan Ecober, a volunteer, said at least 410 Cagayan de Oro residents came to Mt. Carmel Church on the first day after the DSWD issued a call for volunteers.
“Many are students like me. It was better than staying at home doing nothing. We are needed here,” Ecober said.
DSWD region 10 Director Araceli Solamillo said they need more volunteers to pack 50,000 relief bags a day for the Typhoon Yolanda victims in Ormoc, Leyte.
Solamillo said they have set up two repacking centers—at the DSWD regional office in Masterson Avenue and Mt. Carmel Church in Barangay Carmen.
She said they need more open spaces and more volunteers to reach their quota of P50,000 food bags a day.
Solamillo said the national government has provided P12.5 million to buy the relief goods and repack them into bags.
Aside from Cagayan de Oro, she said, Cebu and Iloilo cities are also designated to be logistical hubs for the typhoon-devastated areas in the Visayas.
“We will be trucking them to Leyte from Cagayan de Oro. We are waiting for reports from the field if the roads are safe,” Solamillo said.
Solamillo said the volunteers were able to pack 10,000 bags on the first day of repacking.
Meanwhile, the Army 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evngelista will be sending a company of soldiers –around 100 men—to help in the relief efforts in the Visayas.
Major Christian Uy, 4ID public information said the soldiers are waiting for an Air Force C130 to bring them to their area of deployment.
“They are bringing one month of provisions so they will not use up the meager resources in the area. They are well-equipped with all the tools for rehabilitation,” Uy said.
Uy also said the entire Army Division decided to donate P500,000 equivalent to one day of their subsistence allowance. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)