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Evangel Tabernacle | June 24, 2020

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2nd Relief Operations

2nd Relief Operations

| On 19, Nov 2013

Batad and Estancia were sleepy, coastal towns known for scenic beaches and delectable seafood this side of Panay…that is…until after ‘Typhoon Yolanda.’ What was once a destination for rest and relaxation, would thus experience the beauty and wrath of nature itself. The once simple fishing villages, would be inundated by a 30 foot storm surge brought about by heavy gusts of winds at the height of the storm, sending many to flee to higher grounds. An island off the coast of Estancia disappeared in the wake of Yolanda, causing a population of 200 to dwindle to 2. Bodies would wash ashore on a daily basis, most probably from neighboring islands one local said. But due to a communication breakdown, aggravated by a cessation in electricity, there was no way they would know about loved ones whereabouts, resignation lining their faces. Just a few meters away at Balasan, Estancia – a shipping barge dry landed, brought in by 185 kph heavy winds, bringing about a massive oil spill which further aggravated an already struggling populace. Presently, they subsist on dry goods coming in from relief operations. The shrewd have jacked up the prices of commodities, a container of water which would normally sell at P15 was now P50 in the market. Compounding their already weakened state was corruption at the grassroots. Such was the sad state of things in…Ground Zero of Panay,

Overwhelmed by the massive influx of goodwill from all sectors, it was as if God had opened the floodgates for E_tab to venture into humanitarian charities, as charity begins with God’s people. And so, just a week after our first relief operations, we were headed for Taguhangin, Ajuy; Binoan, Batad & Daculan, Estancia. 1,000 relief goods, 1,000 6L water and clothing were packed and ready for distribution…and we were counting the days to Nov. 18.

Monday – 6:30 am
We piled up relief goods between a 50 seater bus, and two delivery trucks…with ample seating capacity for the workers. At exactly 8am, the convoy set off for Taguhangin Ajuy…our first stopover.

At Santiago, Ajuy our Bus carrying the majority of relief packs broke down, and repairs were ineffective. With no other choice, we had to wait for backup.

With no other solution in sight, the relief team had to be segragated into 5 teams, along with our stores, while the 2 other vehicles continued on to Taguhangin, Ajuy who were already awaiting distribution. PHEW!

Yet, in desperate situations we experienced the grace of God. In the spirit of true Filipino Bayanihan, a Barangay Kagawad seeing our predicament offered his services, promptly communicating with the Mayor of Barotac Viejo, to provide transport for our relief goods. We would like to make special mention of Lovely Mae Silva…who boldly flagged down 2 elf trucks to everyone’s amazement. She was the IT girl of the moment! Surprisingly, both trucks were headed the same direction – Estancia. It was God’s provision during a moment of need. And upon learning that we were a relief team headed that way, they willingly volunteered without asking anything in return, as it was their priveledge to be of service. But then again we made it worth their while…they surely did not go home empty handed. Almost a third of the team started for Binoan, Batad – while another remained awaiting Government transport. On to Binoan, Batad…

A plea for help was posted on E_tab’s Facebook Page few days prior to distribution. Alongside, were pictures that told their story of despair. It was without any second thoughts that Pas. Toh Nee & Pas. Lily designated 200 packs for this small community in Ajuy.

Upon arrival at the Taguhangin Christian Fellowship, songs of appreciation greeted the relief team, and ‘SALAMAT’ was written on everyone of their faces. Many thanks to Atty. Gilda Mae Villanueva, for expertly’ organizing the event. 200 relief packs were given away in the spirit of brotherly love.

Along the route of Sara going to Binonan, Batad. Pas. Toh Nee and team experienced their own brand of adventure. Signboards ‘PLEASE HELP US’ dotted the main thoroughfare, and upon alighting to check, a frenzy almost started upon seeing our relief trucks. Pas. Lily quickly dropped one pack to a waiting mother…and with quick thinking…drove off. Thankfully they came out unscathed, but with the resolve to return as soon as time allowed.

From Sara to Batad the situation grew from bad to worst. A totally devastated landscape loomed from the horizon; homes, schools, establishments…nothing was left but a mere shadow of what once was. At Binonanon, our relief operations almost turned into stampede proportions. We witnessed human degradation at its lowest, what a man would do to ensure survival. Gross panic was in the air and relief goods were guarded heavily. Despite the presence of government officials, they thronged the relief team, with much pushing and shoving. Still, compassion prevailed…

Our disenfranchised team would meet up at Daculan Purok Dos. Despite the setbacks…we were back on track…and right on schedule. Everybody cheered as the last relief team pulled in at Daculan…in an AMBULANCE! After hitching two rides c/o government vehicles, made available for relief work. Our last batch of relief goods were finally delivered. It was a sight to behold our big, burly guys squeezed tight, along with 100 plus packs of relief goods…come to the rescue in 911 mode!

Our hearts went out to the people of this place. We were definitely in Ground Zero…yet despite the losses, the deaths…it was their genuine gratitude that touched us. Never failing to thank, never failing to offer a smile of appreciation. Amidst the desolation around them, one thing remained…their human decency in this most darkest of hours.

It is with deepest gratitude that we would like to thank the office of Mayor Tupaz of Barotac Viejo for his timely helps, the Municipality of Batad for lending us their ambulance at the last hour, the Kagawads of Binonan and Daculan, who helped in crowd control. A dear brother, (whose name we forgot to ask…Gosh!) but hitched us a ride from Barotac Viejo all the way to Estancia (approximately 80 kms), when he was headed the opposite direction. All were definitely God sent!

Our dear Evangelites, who braved the heat, thirst, muscle strain, many pitstops…a big hurrah! Our beloved pastors, who were alongside us all the way…in hardships and victories!

Traversing Estancia – Iloilo in pitch black darkness, Pas. Toh Nee would drop by Sara as promised, and again the same throng of people came out of nowhere, a frenetic mass of humanity grabbing for whatever scraps…to live. It took all the strength possible to break away. Not angered, but helpless at what we encountered. Nonetheless, it was a victorious day. We returned bearing a compassion birthed about by this tragedy…the heartbeat of God!

In total darkness, looking up we beheld a full moon, the only light illuminating our path. Every town we passed, we heard cries of ‘help us,’ breaking the stillness of the night, shadows of children chasing after our relief trucks…’help’…we couldn’t see them in the dark, but our hearts heard them. It was the same cry ringing in our ears…all the way home…as we lay on our warm beds… and nothing amiss in our lives. As the world sleeps, many among them will be nesting under the cold of the night, staring out of roofless houses, many will sleep through the hunger pangs and growling stomachs…PLEASE HELP US!

May we not close our ears, to their pleas…

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