A blue Christmas in Siargao but spirit of volunteerism prevails

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 26 December) – It was a blue Christmas for islanders still reeling from the devastation wrought by super typhoon ‘Odette’ but some spent it in a most meaningful way by volunteering to help fellow survivors.

Businessman Jiji Ortiz,  owner of Haole restaurant, suffered depression after ‘Odette’ made its landfall in here on Thursday, December 16.

It did not help that his son Gino, along with his girlfriend, left Siargao for Manila on December 20 to seek the help of relatives and friends.

He said he “felt said living in a roofless house,”  their business shut down, their workers rendered jobless with no other means to survive.

But Jiji did not want to wallow in depression. He volunteered as a driver to help Next Gen For Odette, a group of volunteers carrying out humanitarian work.

Volunteers of Next Generation, a private initiative of good Samaritans in Siargao Island, deliver relief goods on Christmas Day to various parts of Siargao Island. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Next Gen for Odette is a group of individuals using their own personal money to help fellow typhoon survivor recover.

The group has been relentless since Day 1, from rescue to relief and now to rehabilitation.

“We were able to mobilize our cars and available equipment for the rescue operations,” Matt Cuadra said.

Next Gen for Odette sponsored chartered flights of Sunlight to bring in relief goods from Manila and on its return,  fly stranded tourists to Manila.

On Christmas Day, Ortiz volunteered as a driver to run errands and deliver relief goods such as boxes of banana courtesy of the Tagum Agricultural Development Company, bottles of water, and some construction materials loaded on the truck to Pilar town.

“This is a meaningful Christmas to be with the needy and victims of typhoon,” Cuadra said. 

Foreign residents

Richard Sharpe, a resident of Pilar, was stuck in Cebu for some work and made it back to Siargao and  his family on five days after Odette’s landfall.

Sharpe,  who has a dual citizenship (Canadian-Filipino) has been living in the country for 30 years. His famous fishing lodge in Pilar, Lindum Lodge, suffered 80% damage.

“Siargao is my home and I just want to help people first and once they are okay, we will restore our place,” h e said, adding he spent a “most meaningful Christmas.”

Sharpe’s family spent at least half a million pesos to help in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.

“What we need is food and water and construction materials such as tin sheets, plywood to build makeshift houses. We need chainsaws to make lumber out of those trees that fell down,” he said.

Several local and foreign residents also volunteered giving water to residents in other towns, One of the volunteers is Iago Castro, a Spanish national, who volunteered as a truck driver to deliver water to farflung villages.

Castro was tasked to deliver a thousand liters  of water to neighboring areas.

“Awesome deed for the people and we work for the people, muy bien, Adios amigos,” he said.  (Roel N. Catoo / MindaNews)