16 Nov2013

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What?! A category 5 storm that passed with catastrophic results just days before?!? You wouldn’t have known it from this photo with the kids at one of our stops on our second sortie to Northern Cebu, around Medellin and Bogo, last Thursday 14 November 2013. We had decided to attempt the trip on our own, without a foundation or aid agency accompanying our relief supplies. We had had a great trip two days earlier, and learned from the experience, but we wanted to try it on our own, and see if we could pull it off. We moved swiftly through battered barangays, off main roads, and distributed several nearly 2,000 packs of goods in record speed. We thought it was a “success”…

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We leased our own ten-wheeler construction dump truck from a contractor, and loaded it with everything we managed to get pack the night before. Along with the truck, we had several of our lechoneros, grounds staff and several “good-bolo-wielders” who we thought might come in handy not only lifting and lowering the thousands of kilos of goods, but also to ward off any swarming of the truck if that were to happen (it most certainly did not). The folks of Northern Cebu were the amongst the most polite and cheery I have EVER MET, despite going days without decent food and very scarce fresh water.

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We left Cebu city at 6 am, and by roughly 830am we were in Medellin, and the sugar cane fields that seemed fallen but not completely down lulled one into thinking things weren’t so bad… until you started to see the buildings beside the main road. Schools, homes, buildings were almost completely flattened… this area being just south of where the eye of the storm passed. We had difficulty getting the truck past fallen electrical lines that had yet to be cleared, and it was really amazing to see how folks dealt with these hurdles. A smaller truck behind our dumptruck sidled up beside and men got on top of their roof to hold up wires so we could get through. We had seen several trucks of RAFI (Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc) pass this way on their way to Daanbantayan two days earlier, so we wondered if most folks in these parts had already received some aid…

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We had earlier unloaded roughly 100 aid packs before reaching Bogo, to be brought to the remote eastern coastline of Cebu, and we were later told those were the first food and water the small barangay had received since the storm. With the back of one of our pick-up trucks now empty, we did a last minute stop in Bogo at the only functioning water refilling station (generator?) and I bought 20 5-gallon containers of water. This would turn out to be a very wise and economical move…

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With lights still out in much of Northern Cebu, I can tell you the local electric utility, with the help of reinforcements from all over southern Cebu were working furiously to get hundreds if not thousands of fallen electric poles up and wires re-attached. Our thanks to these workers who are doing everything to get the infrastructure back up and running.

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We turned off the main cement highway and headed on dirt roads, past fallen trees, to the smaller barangays nearer the shore. We visited Canhabagat, a hacienda that once belonged to my wife’s grandmother, and has since been mostly broken up by land reform, and entered the small barangay to excitement from the locals. Hundreds of people soon gathered in the small plaza, nearly every building around us totalled by the storm. Roofs were already beginning to be re-attached where possible, but clearly, this barangay was hard hit.

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The roof of the chapel was completely blown off…

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…the haciendas “planta” or parking area for farm vehicles and the farm office was near total ruins…

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…and homes of villagers were reduced to a rubble. I have never used that phrase so aptly before. Reduced to a pile of steel and wood is probably more accurate though.

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Despite the mob of folks that lined up in the incredible heat of day (it was clear blue skies and 95F heat it seemed)…

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…our office managers managed to get them to form an orderly line before we distributed roughly 150 packages of relief goods. Only heads of family (husband or wife) could receive goods, and barangay officials helped up make sure no one took doubles. We managed the distribution in less than 30 minutes, in an orderly and rapid manner. We also distributed bottled water, plastic basins (a hit!) and transferred some of the water we had in the pick up truck to folks with containers handy.

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The Teen and I doubled up to make the line flow faster and I can tell you that from our outdoor activities that day we all sport wicked tans (or is it sunburn?)… :)

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And just look at those smiles! It’s amazing to me that in the face of catastrophe, the Cebuanos remained so calm and so polite and there were smiles all around. They told stories of woe, but remained positive despite the hardship. You just wanted to do more… And yet again, this barangay had NOT gotten any food aid prior to our visit that day.

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…here some kids hoping to get a whole container of drinking water.

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We had two guests join us on this sortie. Chad Borja (a local singer well known in the early 1990’s who then stopped singing while he battled cancer), who grew up in this immediate area, heard we were headed up to Medellin, he eagerly offered to accompany us to the smaller barangays and locations that perhaps help had not reached. So despite not having GMA Foundation with us this time around, we had a secret weapon… an artista of sorts and a local boy at that! One elder lady asked Chad at one stop who he was, and when he answered “Chad Borja” she said, in Cebuano, “stop pulling my leg, who are you? Seriously? No, you are not Chad Borja…” Hahaha.

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Chad directed us to nearby Barangay Tindog, where his mother still resides. Her home was partially damaged, and a stone’s throw away was this beautiful, probably century-old wooden building that lost its roof and sustained very serious damage to walls, etc. A nearby acacia tree was felled as well.

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Many school buildings lost their roofs… and from the school yard you could see several proud buildings/residences nearby with roofs, walls or windows missing. It was a beautiful day to witness such a depressing sight…

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A long line formed here as well, and we distributed some 100-150 packages, based on the estimated number of families in the area. Our second “guest” on the sortie, was Chad’s brother-in-law, in the khaki pants, white shirt and middle eastern scarf on his head. Mrs. MM asked me if I knew his story, and I shrugged… turns out he was an ex-U.S. Marine, who just finished up a tour of duty in Iraq! Yipes. We quietly joked we had our crack Marine security detail… as he was all brawn and experienced enough to rip off someone’s head if they deserved it. But most of all, we were happy to have him along, because he spoke the language and had a wonderful light way with the locals…

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In Barangay Tindog, they had received some food aid earlier in the week, so we were the second or third wave of help. This town seemed to be on a main transport line, and buses passed quite frequently…so I think links to Cebu City were only a couple of hours ride away.

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I wept inside at the damage done to such beautiful homes and structures. The pictures barely begin to convey what it looked like in real life. So sad indeed. From here, we drove 10-15 minutes away to Sitio Bantayan and Sitio Franco. Both areas had not received any aid whatsoever before our arrival, according to locals, so we distributed several hundred packages in these locations. I found it hard to believe that 6 days after the storm, many barangays were just left to their own devices. At both of these locations, our plastic basins were a big hit after the rice and canned goods.

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Next, our truck driver requested that we pass by his home barangay in the hills above Bogo town, and of course we agreed. He had been in contact with his barangay mates, and he said they hadn’t received any aid yet. We headed to town, took a sharp turn up a dirt road, dodged several electrical wires and plowed through fallen trees and 10-15 minutes later got to this small barangay…

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…where all houses except for ONE cement home suffered extensive damage. The Teen always wanted to climb up on a dump truck, so she got her wish, and she handed down some supplies.

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The roofs on these homes have already been re-attached (remember, this was day 6 after the storm!) and the folks from the area were ELATED that we had nails with us. We must have left 25-50 kilos worth of 2″ and 4″ nails for basic reconstruction.

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At another location, where orderly lines were easy to manage…

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…and plastic basins were in high demand. They are good for washing dishes with very little water, doing the laundry or any number of other uses. A friend had suggested these basins, and the Teen and I ended up purchasing a total of 3,000 of them in a span of two days.

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Another small chapel with its roof blown off.

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Chad Borja.

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The kids were aplenty wherever we went. I tried to keep this post lighter and less maudlin than my first one, but the emotions were the same, and it was a really tough day to get through emotionally. At least we knew what to expect, but seeing it all up close just spurred us on to do more, pack more, distribute more and hope for the best.

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And off to another small barangay we go… On Saturday, 16 November 2013, we sent two truckloads of food, water, soap, detergent, plastic basins, nails, matches etc. to the island of Bantayan. It took 7-8 hours to get there with complications around the ferry and longer to get back due to ferry issues as well. We hope some of our goods get to the outlying islands as well. From Manila, we continue to do things, and have arranged for 30 sacks of rice, thousands of canned goods and lots of baby clothes (courtesy of a donor) to be sent by the first boat headed out to Culion Island in Palawan. To all our friends, relatives, and donors, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

P.S. See this link for what I consider one of the best early articles summarizing the damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda. The NY Times published this just 3 days after the storm! And what were local papers publishing?

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Alona says:

    Amazing deed!!! Thank you MM, family, and crew! Love to see happy faces of folks especially the children.

    Nov 18, 2013 | 12:53 am

     
  2. cora says:

    Thank you very much!

    Nov 18, 2013 | 2:06 am

     
  3. Connie C says:

    Nov 18, 2013 | 2:23 am

     
  4. Rea A. says:

    I almost broke down in tears. Thanks to your family and all who supported. May you be blessed!

    Nov 18, 2013 | 4:27 am

     
  5. millet says:

    nails and matches…very smart move! although this is as sad as all the post-typhoon articles i’ve been reading, it is uplifting to see so many happy faces, and people trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild the best way they can. thank you MM and family and crew!

    Nov 18, 2013 | 7:20 am

     
  6. James1 says:

    Gos bless you, MM and your family, in return for doing a good turn to our unfortunate kababayans.

    Nov 18, 2013 | 12:14 pm

     
  7. ami says:

    Good job MM! Keep us updated with the relief efforts in Palawan.

    Nov 18, 2013 | 12:15 pm

     
  8. Emil Tamayo says:

    The aid sent by Israel is a field hospital currently deployed in Northern Cebu.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-philippines-israeli-hospital-treats-hundreds-a-day/

    Nov 18, 2013 | 12:47 pm

     
  9. Marketman says:

    Emil, yes, we saw the Israelis landing and scoping out the area by helicopter. We saw them, the Danes in Cebu City, the French, other international responders… and I didn’t see any Filipinos military or government officials in any of our several trips up North…

    Nov 18, 2013 | 1:05 pm

     
  10. Enna says:

    Crying while reading. God bless you and your family,MM. My family lives in Camotes and most of the houses there were also destroyed. I heard na maraming govt. officials doon parang nagtatago. They don’t have electricity, food, water and some basic needs. Mostly nagbibigay mga relief goods doon are those OFW’s or living abroad. Sana di nila malimutan ang Camotes Island.

    Nov 19, 2013 | 5:17 am

     
  11. Monty says:

    This is what happens when the right thing is done. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/11/18/13/why-no-one-died-cebu-island

    Nov 19, 2013 | 7:24 am

     
  12. imee says:

    thanks to all of u…god bless u

    Nov 19, 2013 | 8:16 am

     
  13. Marketman says:

    Monty, I am pleased to say the Mr. Arquillano (who is quoted in that article and is responsible for the mass evacuation of that island off Camotes) is a consultant to Mrs. MM and family’s real estate company. He was the previous vice-mayor of San Francisco, Camotes and now consults and assists the U.N. and other international agencies. He also helped us prepare for the recent storm around a real-estate development we are currently doing. If more folks listened to experts like him, the disaster would have resulted in less loss of life.

    Enna, as far as we have heard, Camotes, though they experienced massive damage to homes and structures, was actually reasonably well-prepared for the storm, and as the article above linked suggests, took steps to prevent disaster. Many people DID STORE three days of food and so they weren’t as desperate as those who refused to do contingency planning. Also, I know at least one truck of food aid made it to Camotes on Sunday through the GMA Foundation. So between the incredible work of local officials and help from the Mainland, Camotes IS on the radar screen.

    Nov 19, 2013 | 9:00 am

     
  14. blitz says:

    Hi MM,

    You guys did a great job of distributing your relief supplies in the most far flung places! :) We also were up north last weekend and distributed goods in Maya. A quick question which i have been thinking over and over, can they not boil the water in their deep wells so they can have safe drinkable water? During our trip we saw a lot of people asking for water and yet we also saw people getting water in the deep wells to wash their clothes. I was just wondering that before the time of purified water, we survived on boiling the water from our homes.. cant they do the same in the mean time?

    Nov 19, 2013 | 11:22 am

     
  15. Marketman says:

    blitz, yes, I thought the same thing. If they have a deep well, I think, in theory, if you boil the water for 20-25 minutes, it should kill off most if not all harmful cooties and it will be potable unless the well is really contaminated. I think the reason most folks ask for water is that the local water utility was unable to distribute running water (potable or boilable) as there were no generators to make up for the extended loss of electricity.

    Nov 19, 2013 | 11:29 am

     
  16. aireen says:

    Bless you and your family!

    Nov 19, 2013 | 12:58 pm

     
  17. Diana says:

    Im glad and happy with tears flowing n.my eyes seeing evrybody recieving all the help they receive this is something that we shared and unite and rememember always mo matter wat happen our love fr each other will always remain…thank you very much fr a generous help fr everyone….

    Nov 19, 2013 | 7:54 pm

     
  18. natie says:

    MM, I am so proud of your efforts..Thank you. Those pictures speak volumes!!

    Nov 20, 2013 | 6:18 am

     
  19. Monty says:

    Boiling water is probably not feasible in a disaster situation due to lack of fuel. The best solution if deep well or river water is available would be a hand powered water filtration kit. I’ve seen some on the net, as well as water bottles that have built in filters. It would be best if local companies create this product since the activated carbon that these filters use is made locally from coconut waste.

    Nov 20, 2013 | 10:35 am

     
  20. Marketman says:

    Monty, actually, in Northern Cebu, there was a ton of firewood for use in cooking, just a day after the storm. Folks could cook, they just didn’t have much to cook. Also, rice that was soaked or wet by the storm rapidly deteriorates. So for future reference, when folks brace for storms, they need to “waterproof” their food stocks, with something as simple as a large garbage big tied securely around their food stocks.

    Nov 20, 2013 | 11:23 am

     
  21. Monty says:

    MM, I was just looking at a company called LifeSaver that makes water filtration bottles. The inventor gave a demo in TED Talks. Their homepage actually includes a pledge to donate an equal amount to victims of Yolanda for every donation made through their page. Looks to be an impressive product but it seems too expensive.

    Nov 20, 2013 | 2:24 pm

     
  22. haypee says:

    Thank you Gen Dev corp., I’m from Barangay Tindog, and was there when you were distributing relief goods for the Tindoganons. Thank you for sharing your blessings with us. God Bless you more.

    Nov 21, 2013 | 8:43 pm

     
  23. lynn says:

    thank you for the relief effort although im not from north cebu (im from ormoc) may god bless your generous heart a million fold.

    Dec 16, 2014 | 4:54 pm

     
 

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