"I was reminded of the beauty of our home province, hopeful that things will be better for those caught in the crossfire, undeserving to be in that condition."
Last February 15th, I received a message from my cousin Marlon in Kiangan, Ifugao, asking me if I can help and ask friends to donate blankets for Namal in Asipulo, the next town. Almost 400 residents had to be quickly evacuated from their homes to the Elementary School because of fighting between the NPAs and the military. Bullets were flying above and across their homes.
Temperatures had dropped to single digits: it was not just cold, it was freezing. People there are used to the cold, yes, but they are not used to being cold away from their homes, with only their clothes on their back.
They also did not have enough food. They were sleeping on the freezing floors of the school, and only had a care pack from DSWD good for up to three days: rice, canned goods, coffee, and a thin blanket.
This cannot happen to my kabobleyans (kababayans), I thought. I posted on my Facebook wall an appeal for help. Within the hour, I got so many responses from friends willing to help.
I went to bed thinking about the 98 families especially the 170 kids, uncertain of their safety, trying to keep warm. By early morning, I had many pledges of blankets, jackets, bedsheets, diapers, socks, food, and even cash. That evening we were able to send 30 boxes of blankets from Philippine Airlines and a few more from friends, including my high school alma mater. Overwhelming responses!
By Friday, I had taken the bus to Kiangan with two friends with their donations, together with close to 20 boxes. We sorted them upon arriving, while absorbing stories of Marlon and MSWD representative Myla, oftentimes angry for the situation, amused with some donated items, sad for the kids and elderly, but proud of how the people there were dealing with it: optimistic that things will change, and grateful (for the help). The challenge was transporting all these to Namal, reachable only via motorcycle because of the “non-road.” It was raining nonstop and the situation was still very dangerous, so all we could do was assess, identify other needs, and plan for the next steps.
I am eternally grateful for the kind heartedness and generosity of so many, but know there are still a lot of hard work to do. Before taking the bus back, we quickly visited the Kiangan Memorial Shrine, and looking up to the mountains and the trees, I was reminded of the beauty of our home province, hopeful that things will be better for those caught in the crossfire. Life should be better for them. Let’s make that happen.