Typhoon Haiyan Victims in Estancia Experienced Zija Miracle Part II

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Photo: Ramir Valenzuela

This article is the second installment about Zija Miracle Foundation’s relief effortin Estancia, Iloilo following the November 8 calamitous Typhoon Yolanda, known by its international code name Typhoon Haiyan. It was made possible through additional donations by ZIJA U.S.A.

Earlier, Zija Miracle Foundation was among the non-governmental benefactors that donated millions in pesos in relief aid to Tacloban City, Leyte.

On December 17, a team of eight volunteers consisting of representatives from Manila, Cagayan De Oro City and Iloilo City embarked on a mission to distribute relief goods in Estancia, Iloilo.

The objective was to help barangays that have received lesser attention and aid by relief agencies. This matter was suggested by Vice Governor Raul “Boboy” C. Tupas during prior visits to his office at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol. Further assistance was offered by the Vice Governor by sending his political affairs consultant, Angel Briones, to guide the Zija volunteer team to villages in Estancia.

Indeed, many typhoon victims in recipient barangays shed tears as they received the relief goods, saying they didn’t expect to receive more help.

Coming around the season of holidays, Zija Miracle brought “spaghetti package” to cheer up the victims and their family.

The Super Storm Revisited

On November 8, breaking news on Typhoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda) that flashed on TV and on the Internet focused world attention in the widespread calamity in Tacloban City, Leyte and neighboring places.

In graphic images, the bustling city was made to bear the Apocalyptic brunt of the super storm, code name Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. Cars, ships, rubble, debris and dead bodies were strewn everywhere as storm surges swept a kilometer inland knocking down people, power lines, communications, homes and buildings.

But super typhoon Yolanda didn’t just stop in Tacloban City. With undiminished fury and power, it barreled down to the West hitting islands in Central and Western Visayas with unprecedented destruction to life and property in its wake.

In the Province of Iloilo, a part of Western Visayas region, hardest hit by the disaster was the town of Estancia. It lies 135 kilometers North of the provincial capital, Iloilo City. Similar to the situation in Tacloban City, thousands in Estancia were left homeless and exposed to the elements in the first few days after the catastrophe, drawing mass evacuation to schools and other government facilities. However, there were far fewer casualties. Food and shelter were in short supply as haggard and hungry evacuees overflowed in evacuation centers.

Incidents of looting and overrunning of relief aid convoys by hungry survivors were reported as people scamper for food in the days immediately following the raging weather. Worse, thousands of homeless fisherfolks lost their motorized banca or fishing boat, their means of livelihood before the storm came. Then more bad news: oil spill from the power barge is spreading and polluting rich fishing grounds and corals, dashing hopes of a swift recovery and rehabilitation for the helpless masses.

Environmental tragedy

Storm surges during Typhoon Yolanda knocked off Power Barge No. 103 from its offshore moorings. Power Barge No. 103 of NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) is estimated to weigh 10,000 tons and laden with 1.2 million liters of bunker fuel.

Turbulent giant waves at the height of Yolanda snapped the offshore mooring lines and tossed up the huge power barge ashore, about a hundred meters away. As a result, the barge was marooned along the shoreline and its hull punctured and leaking 200,000 liters of bunker fuel.

A turn for the worse, the oil spill wasn’t contained rapidly and caused an environmental impact that aggravated by the devastation wrought about by the strongest storm ever to hit land. The fuel leak formed an oil slick that spread over to the waters of other townships along the coast up to a hundred kilometers to the South. It threatened the mangroves, animals and fishing grounds.

As expected, the oil slick on the water turned stale and produced an offensive stench that was unhealthy for people living in the immediate area. Testing of air quality by the Department of Health on November showed elevated levels of benzene and ordered residents to evacuate.

Due to the desperate plight of affected folks, the UNHCR set up an emergency evacuation center called by the locals as tent city for 1,200 individuals inside NIPSC (Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College) campus in Barangay Botongon, Estancia, hundreds of meters away from the shoreline. The hardy Ilonggos, as the locals are called, coined a name for the ‘tent city’ as Yolanda Homes.

Zija Miracle Relief Aid Volunteer Team

Team Leader, Ramir Valenzuela, Manila
Members: Marissa Reyes, Manila
Girlie Laya, Cagayan de Oro
Rose Villarta, Lanao Del Sur
Bernard “Bernie” Combong, Cagayan de Oro
Ringgo Maglunsod, Cagayan de Oro
Morvil Villarin, Iloilo City
Transport: Rey Mantac, Owner/Driver, RC Transport
Security: Jesse Alarcon, Estancia, Iloilo

Recipients Barangay:

Brgy. Capt. Edgardo Gonzales, Brgy. San Roque, Estancia, Iloilo
Brgy. Capt. Eric Ramirez, Brgy. Tabuan, Estancia, Iloilo
Brgy. Capt. Dexter Bacus, Brgy. Botongon, Estancia, Iloilo

Lemuel Roem J. Alarcon is a Licensed Insurance Consultant of MAPFRE Insular. He’s an SEO copywriter, blogger, marketing consultant and entrepreneur. He maintains a blog on copywriting at http://coffeemillcopy.wordpress.com. He’s also a co-founder of a marketing and media agency http://visualseocopy.com

Follow Lemuel on Twitter @LemuelRRoem and @easyhomesSocial

Typhoon Haiyan Victims in Estancia Experienced Zija Miracle

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Photo credit: Ramir Valenzuela

Zija Miracle Foundation and Zija Philippines are among the thousands of private institutions to extend donations to the international disaster relief operations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan (local codename, Typhoon Yolanda) in Tacloban City, Leyte and surrounding areas. The second phase of Zija disaster relief efforts included Estancia, Iloilo in December 2013.

Primarily a fishing and agricultural municipality, Estancia is the hardest hit town by Typhoon Yolanda in the Northern coast of Iloilo Province in the Island of Panay, where thousands were rendered homeless, hundreds perished and dozens more missing.

Thousands of fisherfolks have lost their homes and fishing “banca” or fishing boat, disrupting lives. Meanwhile, farmers in the area sustained severe damage to crops and property as Category 5 winds battered the land.

The calamity left most victims with no other choice but to become wholly dependent on relief aid for food and evacuation centers for shelter for their families. Without proper intervention from the government, private sector and foreign aid, their struggle for recovery and rehabilitation from the tragedy is seen as a desperate battle against time.

On December 17, the land trip to Estancia, Iloilo started off at eight in the morning from Iloilo City. Our convoy for the 135-kilometer trip consisted of two vehicles: a van and a truck. We followed the truck loaded with tons of relief goods.

Everyone in the volunteer team was visibly anxious during the trip; we exchanged forlorn glances. Making the disaster area as your destination is no idea of fun or pleasure. We had concerns about security and order in ravaged areas due to acute food shortage. There have been reported instances when truckloads of relief goods were mobbed by hungry evacuees.

But we did bring adequate food and water for the journey. We were also told to buy face masks. For most in the team, it was the first time to volunteer in a disaster relief operation. We wanted very much to help the victims.

Signs of destruction by Typhoon Yolanda came into view as we sped past the 60th kilometer mark. For kilometers on end, we saw trees that are stripped of their leaves and fallen electric posts by the roadside. Twisted metal jut out from roofless and damaged homes and buildings that dotted the landscape, a testament to the storm’s destructive power.

In the aftermath of nature’s merciless onslaught, frantic calls for help for Estancia didn’t go unnoticed. International help finally came a week after the November 8 super typhoon. The Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was among the first responders in Estancia, bringing cargo aircraft with medical and relief supplies to the distraught calamity zone.

Reports say that satellite images showed unmistakable proof of devastation in catastrophic proportions in this Northern section of Panay Island, prompting foreign nations to shift humanitarian efforts to this badly stricken area in Western Visayas. The Canadians were soon followed by U.S., International Red Cross, United Nations agencies and NGOs.

Two hours and forty minutes later, we arrived at Estancia. Joining us at this point was Angel Briones, Consultant to the Vice Governor, who acted as our coordinator with the town’s barangay Captains or village chiefs.

With kind assistance from the Iloilo Provincial government through the Office of the Vice Governor, Zija channeled help to barangays that received less relief aid than others.

Giving where the need is great

From the main road we turned left to our first target recipient, Barangay San Roque. We entered a two-kilometer winding dirt road leading to the barrio’s open basketball court.

We were warmly welcomed by the village chief, Brgy. Capt. Edgardo Gonzales, Councilors and officers. Angel Briones announced that Zija Miracle Foundation and Zija Philippines will hand out relief goods in the form of noche buena packages for the family. The crowd cheered.

Hundreds of typhoon victims were already waiting for us under the sweltering heat of the sunny sky to receive their goods as their names were called out. In the midst of the desolation, the sight of gaunt and hungry children gazing back at us with blank stares was heartbreaking. It was a poignant scene, one that will forever stay in our memories.

As a surprise treat for children, Ramir Valenzuela Zija Marketing Director, announced he’s giving out apples. This cheered the children who by the hundreds emerged boisterously from the crowd and filed in on a line to claim their share of the goodies.

Relief goods recipients would say ‘thank you’ repeatedly, some with tears in their eyes.

We skipped break after a quick lunch on the roadside and proceeded right away to the second recipient, Barangay Tabu-an, situated along the main highway leading to Estancia town proper. We were met by Barangay Captain Eric Ramirez and village officials.

Again, hundreds of relief aid recipients thanked us profusely, saying they never expected to receive ‘blessing’ from us. Barangay officials treated us with soda to express their gratitude.

Our final recipient was Barangay Botongon. First, we surveyed the area where Power Barge No. 103 of NAPOCOR (National Power Corporation) was marooned, caused by typhoon wind blasts and high waves that pushed the behemoth power barge inland.

An apparent pierce on the barge’s hull was leaking out more than 200,000 liters of bunker fuel, forming a thick oil slick around it. Worse, the stinking oil slick lacked rapid containment and spreading pollution to fishing waters in nearby coastal towns, threatening mangroves and rich fishing grounds.

The stench prevented us from opening the van’s windows or venturing away from the vehicle, although Ramir Valenzuela went out briefly to take snapshots.

The remaining relief goods were unloaded and turned over to the relief aid committee of the tent city set up by UNHCR at the NIPSC campus in the presence of Barangay Captain Dexter Bacus.

We had a safe and smooth ride back to Iloilo City, arriving at around half past four in the afternoon.

We proceeded to the Provincial Capitol to make a courtesy call to the Vice Governor.
He was in an out-of-town conference with representatives of FAO, a U.N. agency, to discuss relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts in the province, his staff said.

A couple of hours later, Vice Governor Raul “Boboy” Tupas personally dropped in at Eon Centennial Hotel to meet us. The soft-spoken Vice Governor shook hands and thanked the members of the Zija volunteer team and donors of Zija Miracle Foundation for extending much needed help to his constituents in Estancia.

Acknowledgements

Our many thanks and appreciation to Hon. Raul “Boboy” C. Tupas, Vice Governor, Province of Iloilo, for providing us with transport for relief goods and for sending Consultant Angel Briones to guide us in Estancia.

We thank each and every volunteer of Zija Philippines team and Ramir Valenzuela.

Special thanks to Morvil Villarin.

Lemuel Roem J. Alarcon is a Licensed Insurance Consultant of MAPFRE Insular. He’s an SEO copywriter, blogger, marketing consultant and entrepreneur. He maintains a blog on copywriting at http://coffeemillcopy.wordpress.com. He’s also a co-founder of a marketing and media agency http://visualseocopy.com

Follow Lemuel on Twitter @LemuelRRoem and @easyhomesSocial