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My involvement in relief delivery for Typhoon Haiyan Victims

IMG_9312 (2) (303x320)By General (ret) Joseph Cabides*

I would like to personally thank Australia for helping my team deliver 26 tons of relief goods to the survivors of super typhoon Haiyan in 15 hardest hit municipalities of Region 8.

The fast response of the international  communities  was very heart warming.  My salute to the Australian Medical Assistance Team.  They made do with what was available just like  that TV hero MacGyver. The WHO & the UN sponsored groups, responders from European & Middle Eastern countries are still there. Of course the USA was very visible especially in Guiuan Eastern Samar. China, Korea and other countries were also there.

My team did a total of three  relief delivery sorties covering 15 municipalities.   What started as a relief activity focusing on our family and relatives turned out to be a major activity for 2 provinces.

Initial funds came from my children, my sister & her family, my brother, and  two WWII veterans. Then, as we addressed the larger picture, more relief goods and medicines came in  from AFPRESCOM, AMDA, BTVWWII & friends. (More are still coming from good Samaritans.)

Information of the extent of devastation (as big as the territory of Portugal),   came from my nephew, Rupert Ambil, who is with the Rappler team. He reached Tacloban on Day 2 and Basey, Samar on Day 4. Most of the pictures that we saw on TV came from him.  With his satellite phone, he was able to relay to us what was happening on the ground.

Wasting no time, we organized a volunteer group led by NARAA and went into action:
–  deliver medicines & some food in Guiaun, Eastern Samar using a private plane.
–  reached Tacloban with one thousand kilos of medicines & relief goods.
– 3 vehicles laden with food & other relief goods reached Borongan via the Matnog and Buray
On the second week till the sixth week, we were able to move relief goods faster with the help of the planes of Australia and Japan. Land transport were provided by the Special Forces & Veterans then based at Tacloban airport.

During the first three weeks, money was not useful.  Food supply was wanting. I saw children begging on their knees for food. Dead bodies were still on the streets, others still submerged near the San Juanico Bridge while one was still hanging on a tree.

I heard heroism from people in all walks of life.  I saw people helping people despite the situation they were in. I saw a small packet of “lucky me” noodles shared by 3 families.  I saw hope spark up in the face of a child after being amputated.  I saw shattered houses, a product of 25 or more years of hard honest work. Almost all the churches were badly damaged.  Schools & hospitals needed major repairs.

The organized local disaster responders were themselves also victims of Yolanda.   Basic public services were not visible and curfew had to be imposed.

Despite the conditions we were in, we took the risk and found rewards of seeing people get food (good for 5 days), medicines, blankets and temporary shelters.

With this relief operation, we prioritized the Veterans, the Reservists and their families, since the local government units and NGO’s then were also focused on other priorities. However, almost 2/3 of the total goods that we delivered went to the local communities.

Now, we will be involved in the Rehab phase to include livelihood. An “Adopt a Barangay” scheme had been suggested.

It is with hope and great appreciation that with your kind and generous support, we can help the people there to rise up and overcome the challenges   and problems made by typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.

God willing, a few years from now, you may visit the place and be proud of what you have contributed.  Small amounts when lumped up together can make a lot of difference. Thank you for your kind assistance.

Thank you, Australia! Mabuhay!

* A  retired general of Philippine armed forces, author  is president of the National Association of  Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Alumnis and volunteer in Typhoon Haiyan relief operation.