Many Filipinos were in need of help after typhoon Rolly hit the country during first week of November followed by typhoon Ulysses immediately after a week. These two super typhoons of the year reached public storm signal warning number 5 not only in the Bicol region but also in the neighboring provinces leaving several communities flooded, homes roofless, disrupted livelihoods, power outage and signal loss of mobile networks. Both typhoons also came at a time when the Philippines is already suffering from a surge of COVID-19 cases which made responses to victims of the said typhoons more complicated.
Seeing the impact of the typhoons in hard hit areas over the News, the Open Heart Foundation (OHF) quickly responded to the appeals of families from the affected communities. These appeals prompted the Foundation to respond immediately by preparing for a disaster relief mission in Tabaco, Albay. It was previously agreed upon by all the staff that Christmas will be spent serving others in lieu of holding a Christmas Party in December.
No need to wait for December to serve others because the need is now. So planning, coordination and budget preparation were done simultaneously and purchase of items ensued. At first, coordination with the area has not been easy due to lack of electricity and poor signal of mobile networks. So, we requested the help of OHF’s former staff from Sorsogon, Ms. Czarina, to go to the area and find a focal person for the relief operation.
On November 2, OHF requested from the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office of Albay for a list of areas badly stricken by the typhoon. The project site was chosen based on damage assessment report which says that the City of Tabaco had the largest number of evacuees reaching more than 16,000 families or approximately 64,000 individuals. When OHF acquired the necessary details, it proceeded in purchasing relief goods to be distributed such as pails, sleeping mats, blankets and grocery packs for 300 families located in 3 barangays; 2 from upland and 1 from mainland.
On November 18, OHF conducted the disaster relief operation in Tabaco City, Albay with a theme “Bukas-pusong paglilingkod, sa iyo’y aming ihahandog.” The preparation was done methodically, observing requirements for the travel and COVID safety protocols. In the morning the group went to upland Barangays Basagan and Bonot. But due to sporadic rain in the area, the group were advised to meet the residents at the nearest covered court from the upland barangays where there was no need to go uphill. In the afternoon, the group continued to mainland barangay, Brgy Cobo.
While receiving the gift packs, the residents expressed their heartfelt gratitude. Some even cried while receiving the goods. They said that the packs will be of great help as they were running out of household supplies. It really felt good hearing such appreciation coming from the beneficiaries. It relieved the fatigue brought about by the 14 hours travel just to deliver these aids and made them feel that OHF is one with them in times like this.
Up to this day, many are still hoping and requesting for assistance for the victims of typhoon. Despite the pandemic, the Filipinos, together with our organization (OHF), do not waver in helping our countrymen in need. The spirit of cooperation and solidarity still prevail.