Yesterday was truly a fulfilling day.
First and foremost, to those who have moved this drive from start to finish, donated and given their time, their efforts and their financial help, to making this relief operation, thank you!
May you be blessed a thousand fold!
I’d like to share some of the highlights from our experience from my point of view.
We started early. Meeting time 4:45am and surprisingly most were early. Tiffany aka Panyang, yes the Mrs. Santa Claus, she’s a quite regular character on this blog, she appeared here and here, was the main person/coordinator/mover for this relief good operations, together with the Boholanos and Boholanas, who worked at Lear, they were all sorts of amazing.
We hired 2 pumpboats with a capacity of 30pax. We were 2 groups, our group is bound to Catigbian and the other group bound for Loon.
The sea was very calm, the waters clear and the early morning breeze and the sunrise made for a relaxing 1.5hr boat ride. If you will not take into account the sacks of relief goods and bottles of water and boxes, it is a scene reminiscent of an island hopping adventure!
Our early start paid off. We were able to dock at the minipier in Inabanga without worrying about the pumpboats’ propeller getting dinged.
The challenge begun when we realized we have to walk a kilometer to meet the truck that will take us to the area where we’re giving out the goods. The pier road is very narrow and yes “roughed” up from the October 15 earthquake. Good thing the tricycle drivers were willing to ferry our stuff not for free but for any amount we would like to give them.
The men had it bad since they have to carry some items themselves and walk the kilometer walk and it’s about the same time the wind got pissy and left us. =)
The earthquake was kind to some houses but for others, it is devastating. We finally were able to put down our bags and looked around the public market and to have some breakfast. The locals were telling us how the aftershocks can be heard from the mountains first and then after a few seconds the tremors reaches them. They were telling us how some “katiguwangan”/old people believe in countering the earth’s wrath by uttering “bua/bwa/bwah!” which made for an interesting topic over breakfast. And of course, the very cute Sprite bottle that I have only seen in Bohol.
The truck finally arrived, by truck it means an open truck with railings on the sides, no seats. The group bound for Loon have yet to arrange for transport to take them to Tubigon and then to Loon. And since we were to hit Tubigon first to check for boat schedules later in the afternoon to take us back to Cebu, we decided to have their goods transported with us to Tubigon. I mentioned no seat, right? So we have to make do and be creative in the seating or should I say standing arrangements. The goods took up more than 50% (I think) of the space. So, I was perched on the top of the sacks together with 3 more persons, facing our standing co-passengers and relying on them to tell us if we need to duck or cover from branches and leaves.
The ride was relatively smooth, we’ve seen cracks on the roads, on houses, buildings, big and small. I did a pretty darn good spine twist to the left so that I’ll be able to see forwards. Most of the people have a make-do tent outside their houses for fear of another strong aftershock. About the time I can feel the sun burning my feet, we arrived in Tubigon. We were able to list our names which serves as booking reservations for the 5pm trip. And no, they are not issuing tickets yet until later in the day.
So, we parted ways with the second group and then we are bound to Catigbian finally. The ride was a roller-coaster ride. Some roads were paved and smooth, some parts, rough with dust flying the moment our tires hit it. Uphill, the views are scenic marred occasionally by the ruins of earthquake. You have to make sure you are standing firmly, with both feet firmly planted, angled for maximum stability and balance during quick unplanned stops with one arm extended and grasping the side truck railings. The fun part started when Tiffany started giving out “goody’ bags for kids we see on the road. The first time she tried throwing, she nearly hit the girl on the neck. From then on, we started egging her to be more accurate which is funny because she became more ‘off’ the targets. I am happy to say, no actual child was hurt physically. A bit stunned and confused perhaps, yes. And then during one stop we met another truck full of boxes with the passengers, telling us, “it’s raining!”. Huh? After a few meters we were pelted with rain! One umbrella for two persons, I really thought we are sure going to be soaked. Thankfully, it was a quick shower.
After the twists, turns, sharp bends, uphill and downhill, we’ve arrived. We have to go down a small hill to the house of our lunch host. We have to be quick about our business. Then the actual distribution began. We made 4 stops in all. Thankfully, the recipients were very orderly. On our 2nd stop, I was able to ask some of the small kids (2-6 yo) what their experience was like and if they are still scared of the aftershocks, one brave boy named Lokoy said he didn’t cry when the earthquake was happening and that they went outside immediately. A girl named Sharmane shyly told me, she cried and she is still afraid and that they also went immediately outside.
Some locals are very forthright in telling and sharing their stories but what was truly amazing for me was the snippets of the mundane things I saw. The farmers who were busy working on their rice fields, the father who was frying fish, fresh catch for breakfast. The little boy trying on his bike on a soft rolling hill, the kids playing and the very “bulingit” carabao under the shade of a big mango tree. The mother sweeping the yard, and the kids singing a pop song. This for me was a testimony that life goes on and that they have chosen to move on and make do with what they have and what is given to them. And what moved me to tears although I have to push it back in, was the random “THANK YOUs” we get. I mean those while we are on the road. Of course those people we have extended help were indeed very thankful and very warm in their “thank you’s”, but what got to me most especially, was the random “THANK YOU’s” from people we passed by on the road! They didn’t received anything from us personally but they said “Salamat!”. It means they are thanking us in behalf of their fellow Boholanos. What a sense of community and of faith. I just hope that no more politicking, I hope that help will be distributed and reached to those far-flung barrios. I hope that a lot will be touched and be instruments for the good rather than the bad. Bangon Bohol!
There were random people asking for a cut on the goods, although there were only a few of them, most were just happy that there are people who are helping from other places. So, if you have access to those who have their own big relief drives or those small groups willing to get down and dirty to deliver help to those who need them the most, please do help. We can never go wrong with UNLIMITED HELP. And also, base on our experience, since we brought some over the counter medicines for the kids with us (for fever, cough and colds), most of the adults were asking for medicines for cough also which we didn’t have. The handful efficascent oil we brought was a hit. So, it’s a safe bet to bring this if ever you’ll be there to help. We saw an IPI sponsored mobile water treatment facility on the road, I hope they get to sponsor and give some of their products too. Bangon Bohol!