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Rehabilitation Work as Seen by the Heart of an Educator

“Compassion is not compassion until we reached out and gave out to the people who are in need of it.”

Who would not forget the strongest typhoon ever recorded in Philippine history, the typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that left the country with 1,373,251 affected families with a number of 6,300 casualties in November 8 of 2013? The provinces of Tacloban and Samar were the provinces that were hard hit and had the worst devastation.

Three months after the onslaught of Yolanda, in February of 2014, I was able to see for myself the devastated towns thru the mission trip of our singing group, Coro Cantabile, that has a mission of touching and uplifting lives through our acapella music. The views from the plane vividly pictured the fierce of Haiyan and the storm surge.

The first leg of the trip was spent in Mayorga, Leyte, which is the fifth class municipality of Leyte province and is 32.8 km away from Tacloban City. Since one of our group's advocacies is to reach out and bring a sense of happiness to children, we were able to visit four elementary schools from Mayorga namely: A. Luna, Calipayan, Liberty and Sta Cruz. As an educator, it was really heart-breaking for me to see the collapsed and unroofed school rooms and buildings. Nevertheless, this did not hinder the children from continuing their education and learning. With the initiative from the city government of Mayorga, make-shift tents were put up that served as temporary classrooms.

Given the opportunity to touch and uplift lives of the children, and using music as our medium, we were able to hold concerts and distribute sling bags with hygienic kit, school supplies and a pair of slippers in it to the schools. A concert was also organized in the local community where a number of 200 people attended.

Having visited the city of Mayorga first time had made me see the need to come back again and be part of other organizations’ social endeavors. A month after our first visit, I had the chance to join the Medical Mission Team from our religious organization. This time we reached out to the people of Calbayog and Basey Samar. Along with the medical missions, gifts and reading books prepared by my pupils, were also shared to the children. Stories after stories, we could sense the lingering trauma brought by Yolanda and how our ‘kababayans’ were able to withstand such tribulation.

Because of the impact of the concluded trips where I was a part of, a part of my heart was stirred up. With much enthusiasm and drive, I was able to spearhead a project of collecting books and other instructional materials from our schools division and from our city government officials. Amazingly, I was able to send 26 balik-bayan boxes containing books and instructional materials for the four schools in Mayorga, Leyte. Truly, when God started a work, He would not leave it undone.

More than a year after, in July of 2015, another opportunity was given to our group, Coro Cantabile. This time we reached out to the people of Pongon and Javier, Leyte. Geographically, Pongon is situated along Maharlika Highway in Leyte and is 88.1 kms away from Tacloban City. Our team was blessed to stay in one of the sitios in Pongon which consists of 10 to 15 families. Mr Merillo, a teacher in Mac Arthur National High School and one of the respected men in the place, allowed us to stay in their place during the trip. During this trip, we held concerts, educational activities for children and distributed gifts.

Staying in Pongon for several days had allowed us to see and experience the life that our kababayans have been living after almost two years of Yolanda’s devastation. People were able to share to us and tell us how life had been for them before the deluge

Farming was the main source of living in Pongon. The place is also known for exporting wineskin made from weeds. Life had been smooth sailing until the super typhoon devastated the whole city. Just like other stories, fear and trauma were the themes of the stories told by people in Pongon. But at the end of the of it all, an attitude of gratefulness could still be traced among their faces, how God’s mercy spared and saved their lives.

Now is May of 2016, almost three years after the catastrophe, the different government agencies have never stopped implementing recovery and rehabilitation programs that address the immediate needs of millions of affected people. According to Secretary Asenio Balisacan during the Yolanda Rehabilitation and Recovery Joint Press Briefing, the ( NEDA) provides assistance for the reconstruction of vital facilities like the airports, roads and electricity. The Department of Public Works and Highways is completing the infrastructure projects. Majority of the roads, bridges, ports and telecommunication facilities, which are key in restoring economic activity, have already been reconstructed and even upgraded for resiliency. The Housing and Urban Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) share their part in financing the construction of houses from the affected people. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) remains busy to provide health and education services. They have the feeding program, giving food to localities which do not have the means of providing food for themselves and to their families. They provide temporary shelters like the public schools, basketball courts for the Yolanda survivors. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also ensures that the survivors, especially those in the resettlement sites away from the coasts, will have access to source of livelihood. The program “Cash-for work” was created. It is a daily work offered to community members to till their land and ready it for planting with corresponding daily salary. Survivors were directly given monetary allowance so they can start their own livelihood like sari-sari store, poultry and seedlings.

On top of these assistance from the government, many local and foreign Non- Government Organization (NGO’s) extended and still are extending help to the survivors of Yolanda. Mass feeding program in different affected places were conducted. Transitional houses were built. In the Sitio of Pongon, a group of Filipino-German Nationals funded the transitional houses . They also adopted the Cash-for-work program of the government. Residents till their own land and plant root crops like sweet potatos, cassava and bananas and get paid in the afternoon. They were provided chainsaw for making lumbers for their homes. Men in the community take turn in building their houses. Each family was also given a livelihood capital. They put up sari-sari store and poultry. This project is being monitored as each year, a representative comes to check on their livelihood development.

On-going restorative plans are still on its full swing. It is believed to run for five years since 2013 in order to rebuild the lives of people as well as the community. It is quite obvious that there are still a lot of LGUs and NGOs that are still visible in most parts of the devastated areas to provide follow up and further assistance and other means of help to the community.

We, in Coro Cantabile, has also follow-through programs to ensure continuous development in the locality. Although few of the families never received the said monetary promise from the government , majority of the families in the community were very thankful for the assistance extended to them financially by the different NGO’s specifically the Filipino-German group. This coming July, we will be there again to see God’s wondrous works in the lives of the people of Pongon.

Indeed, it is during the hard times that we learn our lessons and our faith in God grows stronger. This devastating experience has made the people more resilient. They have seen myriad of opportunities and blessings that have come their way. They have become mindful of their own lives and they have realized their need of a Savior, their need of Christ. The only refuge they can turn to in times like this is God.

Pongon, Mac Arthur, Leyte

July 2015

Mayorga, Leyte

August 2014

Mayorga, Leyte

February 2014

Medical Mission

Lauan, Eastern Samar

March 2014

Article Written by:

Ruzvi Guima G. Perez, Master Teacher- Kabayanan ES

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