Philippines

Philippines: The bayanihan spirit lives on during disasters

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By: Carina EA. Javier and Mary Jane A. Casimiro

"We came here on our own. It feels good to help," quips Francis Rosan Gonzales, one of the student-volunteers from San Sebastian College Recoletos. Student-volunteers from San Sebastian College Recoletos-Sebastenian Outreach Foundation, Inc. (SOFI) and Sebastian Trekkers Club were among several volunteers who assisted in repacking and distributing the relief goods to the families devastated by typhoon 'Ondoy." They also offered their shuttle bus to transport the repacked goods to the affected barangays.

Seminarians from Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, youth members of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, some students from the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and United Doctors Medical College (UDMC) also came in droves to volunteer.

From students to seminarians to beneficiaries of the pro-poor programs being implemented by DSWD, such as the Food for Work program, people from all walks of life flocked to DSWD-NCR Field Office, National Resource Operations Center (NROC) and the DSWD's Crisis Intervention Units (CIU) to volunteer their services. Immediately after typhoon 'Ondoy' hit Metro Manila, students, in particular took advantage of the week-long unexpected school break to assist in the repacking of relief goods.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in the National Capital Region (DSWD-NCR) has mobilized its entire workforce and group of volunteers in its relief operation activities for victims of typhoon "Ondoy".

Donations of food and non-food items have been received from individuals, non-government organizations, international organizations, private companies, religious groups, United Nations agencies, and foreign governments.

Among these are the embassies of Spain, US, Germany, China, Kingdom of Jordan, Thailand, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), and more generous individuals and organizations.

To date, total cash donations amount to Php108,249,314.79 while dollar donations reached US $247,995.00. Meanwhile, donations in kind received at the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) amount to Php75,435,778.25.

NEW LIFE

Amidst the chaos wrought by tropical storm 'Ondoy' which lashed Metro Manila and 24 provinces in Luzon on September 26, a baby was born under unusual and dangerous circumstances.

The situation also demonstrated the heroism of DSWD social workers and volunteers who sacrificed a lot to be able to serve others.

In the wee hours of Tuesday, September 29, Ms. Edna Sacedor, Disaster team leader of the Tuesday group and Head of the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) and Esther Turingan, psychologist of RSCC were conducting a spot visit to an evacuation center in Fairview when they chanced upon a woman about to give birth.

According to Ms. Turingan, "Mercedes" (not her real name) was seen by a volunteer, Ms. Cristina Alvarez at a nearby gasoline station. About to give birth, "Mercedes" obviously "was not in her right senses, and looked shell-shocked."

Cristina then brought Mercedes to the evacuation center where she gave birth.

Knowing that an evacuation center is not the proper place for a mother and her newly born infant, Ms. Sacedor immediately instructed Ms. Alvarez and a barangay kagawad to bring Mercedes to the nearby hospital, where she received proper medical attention. Medical expenses for the new mother and her baby were shouldered by DSWD-NCR.

Ms. Sacedor, Esther and the rest of the disaster team who were doing their rounds at 3 a.m. just went home to change their clothes and take a quick breakfast, before they ran to RSCC to resume their regular duties.

"Such is our life," Esther sighs. "Oftentimes, the responsibilities attached to our jobs prevent us from leading normal lives or from spending time with our families," she elucidated. ""But it's all worth it, knowing that in our own little way, we are able to help others. That is our reward," Esther ended.

(DSWD-Social Marketing Service)