Stewing hens for PHP10 each anyone?! A week earlier, on November 10, 2013, less than 48 hours after Typhoon Yolanda hit Bantayan island, our Zubuchon GM riding with a GMA Foundation convoy, managed to reach the island aboard one of the first ferries from the mainland. They were one of the first, if not the first, food aid to arrive from the main island of Cebu. The landscape on Bantayan looked literally wiped out. And food was in short supply. And after that visit, which took hours in travel due to the bottleneck at the ferry, we KNEW WE WANTED TO GO BACK FOR A SECOND PASS TO BRING A LOT MORE aid packages. So a week later, we set off on another convoy, this time armed with a ten-wheeler truck donated by a kind soul, and packed in over 2500+ aid packages from marketmanila readers and other donors.
The convoy left Cebu City at 1am on Saturday, 16 November 2013, to avoid the idiotic truck bans and traffic in Liloan, Mandaue, etc. and got to the pier in Hagnaya in San Remigio before dawn. They would queue with dozens of other vehicles, many filled with aid, others private cars with concerned relatives, and the scene was a bit chaotic. No tickets for vehicles were being given out, no schedules for ferries firmed up, no indication of when the convoy might be able to make the crossing. They waited hours… breakfast passed… hours longer… lunch passed… previous and current government officials drove up and cut into the line (several with no aid in tow, as if their presence alone was enough), and finally, late afternoon, the convoy made it across, landing on the island at about 6pm (a nearly 17 hour trip that the week before was done is say half the time and that was two days after the storm!), after the sun had set and pitch darkness engulfed the island with the exception of an odd generator here and there.
Right beside the convoy was a truck laden with German medical kits and their own generator. They too were made to wait nearly half a day. So neither first come, first serve…nor medical and food aid…nor other obviously simple prioritization protocols were in place, and that was 8 days after the storm! Where was the logic and local government hand in this? I wish the crew had taken photos of the previous government officials filled with self-importance cutting line — I would have published the photos for everyone to see. And this scene would be repeated on several occasions on the ferries to Ormoc from Cebu as well…based on information from folks we know who also did that crossing. People don’t want us to criticize the government for idiotic examples of behavior such as these? THEN CUT IT OUT THE IDIOTIC AND EASILY RECTIFIED SITUATION TO BEGIN WITH. I can understand the current Governor or other aid officials cutting line, I really can, if they are headed to the island to do more important things… but PREVIOUS OFFICIALS with no current role in government riding in fancy SUV’s? Folks like that should be shot while we sit atop medical supplies and food for thousands of hungry people… SHAME on them.
The convoy arrived at Barangay Baigad, Bantayan Island in darkness, and were greeted by hundreds of locals waiting in line in pitch dark. When they realized it was a truck with food, they spontaneously broke into song… “Pasko na Naman…” A fascinating tongue-in-cheek and local humour filled way of making light of a difficult condition. But on the other hand, a truly grateful response for the help they were about to receive… It made the 17 hour road-trip worth it for many of our staff who were in the convoy.
We distributed food for 450 families in this barangay that evening, and the crew rested overnight before getting up at the crack of dawn to distribute some more…
This photo gives new meaning to “outdoor living spaces”…
We went to Barangay Tamiao, Bantayan and distribute relief goods for 550 families. We also managed to get goods to 20 families on the tiny Hilantangaan Island. We knew a resident of that tiny islet, who came to the main island of Bantayan to help bring the goods home along with other islanders. We also gave relief goods and nails to other bancas that were headed to other remote islands around Bantayan.
I should mention that all throughout the distribution of thousands of aid packages, the lines were orderly, folks were patient for the most part, smiled and gave thanks. There was little shoving or line cutting, and there was NO POLITICAL COLOR AT ALL. It has been reported and we have directly seen, several instances where aid was doled out by local officials and they apparently were giving either more aid to those that voted for them, or none at all to folks who didn’t vote for them. In our case, we specifically avoided contacting local officials in advance, and handed out aid IRRESPECTIVE OF POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS. Period.
The numbers of elderly and the very young were shocking. One wonders if everyone in the middle is off in the big cities or abroad working, but it looked like extremes in terms of age. On later forays we would bring lots of candy to hand out a couple of pieces at a time to kids, while their elders collected food packages. On many an occasion, our staff asked young looking girls carrying babies if they were the mothers and they said yes. The number of 15-17 years olds that were mothers was appalling. Honestly, I thought to include two condoms in every aid package but decided against it last minute… It would have been amusing to watch the face of the pharmacist when I tried to buy 36,000 condoms or so… :)
The convoy moved onto the Barangay of Sillon, and the lines here were kilometric. We distributed 1,060 food packages here and that wiped out our stocks.
I want to go back up North to bring kids like this a little toy or something for Christmas… it’s the internal Santa gene in me. :(
So to the chickens. Bantayan had dozens and dozens of poultries and thousands of egg-laying hens that supplied eggs to nearby provinces. The poultries were all destroyed, and chickens went scurrying all over the island. There were so many of them, locals started catching them and selling them for PHP10 a piece, providing some food for locals… but they described them as so old, hard and tough that you had to boil them for several hours to make them edible. They would make really good chicken stock, I imagine. It will take months for these food producers to recover, and we will be there to support them when they do. Zubuchon tries to buy as much of its ingredients locally as possible, and several of our long-time suppliers were devastated by the storm.
And yes, on the way home from Bantayan, the crew experienced another long wait for a ferry off the island (they got off a day later than planned) and in the late evening of Sunday, November 17th, they got stuck in a traffic jam back to Cebu as hundreds or thousands of vehicles which had come up to the North for the first time in 10 days to bring goods and people to Bantayan and other towns in the vicinity streamed back to the city at about the same time… But we would send out another sortie the next day to interior hills and Barangays of Tabuelan in another ten-wheeler truck. And the day after that, The Teen in another dump truck headed up to the furthest reaches north in Daanbantayan, which meant we got to every major municipality hit by the storm in Northern Cebu within 12 days (except Malapascua and other islands)… And we have NEVER done this before, so please don’t tell me it’s impossible to do. It wasn’t. And it shouldn’t have been that hard for organized government and aid agencies either…