The Wrath of Sendong
Iligan City is known as the City of Majestic Waterfalls because of its numerous waterfalls and amazing wonders of nature. But since December 17, 2011, Iligan City is a place of horror, the city of tents. Iligan City has become a place where people are just trying to get by on the streets with thick cardboard and relying on donations from NGOs.
I suppose that I never really knew what the word ‘flood’ meant. I thought maybe that the water would reach just above your ankle. Until December 17, 2011, I did not know that a flood could actually take lives, properties, and claim the hopes and dreams of those affected.
That fateful morning, I did my chores as usual: cleaning and straightening the house. I also washed some clothes, even though I knew that it would rain later. After doing my chores, I decided to visit my friend, not knowing that that was the last time I would step out from my room.
The rain started around 8 pm. I couldn't go home yet, so I spent time with my friend talking about our school and some other stuff. I wanted to go home, but my friend insisted that I stay with him since it was pouring hard. Around 12 am I decided to go home. He accompanied me to the highway where I could catch a motorbike. Just as we were walking we saw two branches of trees on the road that fell because of strong wind and could not withstand the heavy rain. My friend and I are both Kenyans and have never experienced such things; we just told ourselves it's not a big deal. Things happen.
I rode a motorbike in the direction of home. Some of my neighbors were texting me that I should not come back to our place. But I thought nothing of it as I was very tired and just wanted to sleep in the comfort of my own home. When I reached the crossing near my place I saw people crying, rescuing whatever they could, and fleeing for their lives. The houses were damaged, including mine, some people had drowned, and some people were dead.
All of my belongings in the house were destroyed, the roof was swept away. I felt like my heart was bleeding because of this tragedy. I was alone, crying. I didn’t know where to start, where to live, where to eat. I don't have my family here, and I no longer have a home. My documents, my books, certificates, all washed away. I was left with only what I had on my person. I only had 75 pesos in my pocket. Although I had recently bought food enough to sustain me for a week, all of that had been reduced to nothing due to the flood.
I was in state of crisis. My neighbors were crying. I can’t even begin to think of those who had little children to think of. I miss them -- those children who would come to my house and sing Christmas songs. I used to play with them just outside my compound and now I don't even know if they alive or what happened to them.
I decided to brave the flood waters and went to my house. At that time, the water level was up to my chest, but I wanted to go and see if I could still save some of my things. It was very painful to stay awake till morning; I was tired, frustrated, depressed, and empty.
The only person who would host me was the same friend who I had visited the night of the flood. It was not easy for me. I swallowed my pride because I didn’t have a choice. I only had 75 pesos in my pocket. To make things worse, his place has visitation restrictions. At night, the occupants should pay 200 pesos for any visitor who stays. I took a shower at his place and thought about what I should do next. Where should I go? What do I have to eat? Thinking about all of these things added stress. I had to figure out how to provide for myself and not to be a burden to my friend.
I sent emails home, but later I realized that internet access is very difficult out in the province. I tried to call home, but the signal was not good. I saw some victims being given relief goods and I felt shy, mainly because I am not a Filipino. I also felt that I don't deserve it as much as the women, children, and disabled. For 24 hours I felt numbed by the frustration of the tragedy until my stomach couldn't take it anymore. I went to school and I had to queue for food that was given to the victims.
The whole thing was a lesson to me; people say we learn through experience. I was a victim, and now I know how it feels when you are in such situation. I want this unfortunate event to bring change to myself and hopefully to the community. After the floods, many were homeless. Almost 3000 families were evacuated in schools, municipal halls, and some built impromptu shelters on the streets. NGOs and other organizations helped the victims by assisting them with their basic needs such as food, clothing, and clean water for drinking. Even though I was also a victim, I had some sense that I need to help. I needed to help because people helped me too. I volunteered to help the victims and observed that the relief goods were not enough. It was my observation that the victims of the flood should still be given more so as to help them rebuild their lives.
The children need counseling because of the trauma they've been through. Some lost their parents. As a volunteer, I tried as much as possible to give them comfort and make them feel that everything will be fine.
People in the evacuation centers should also be educated about hygiene. They should not go back to the places affected by floods because of the disease leptospirosis (a disease caused by the urine of rats, common in flood waters).
I believe that the city’s government is doing what they can do to prevent such scenarios in the future, but a lot of help is needed from the private sector as well. The people should be taught about the importance of taking care of the forest and help the government implement stricter rules against illegal logging. As they always say, "prevention is better than cure".
I believe that what happened to Iligan City is a reminder to the people that the wrath of mother nature is destructive, and can take away thousands of lives.
Despite the flash flood on the 16th of December, 2011, whereby schools, properties and lives were lost, there has been an improvement on rescue and rehabilitation. Government, NGOs and other local groups and individuals are doing their best to help the victims. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all parties that participated to help the victims affected by the flood.
I happened to have an opportunity to interview one of the organizations, Birth-Dev, which is working under the Mindanao Emergency Response Network with rescue and rehabilitation. Birth Dev deals with psycho-social rehabilitation and it mainly concentrates on children. Their work is to co-ordinate with Barangay leaders and other groups and also make plans regarding how best to help the victims. Birth Dev works together with other organizations such as RASFI, RWCR, and KRI in a coordinated fashion under the Mindanao Emergency Response Network.
Since Birth Dev focuses mostly on children, I was able to gather some information on how they approach the children. Experts, together with volunteers, use activities such as games, songs, drawing, role-play and storytelling to entertain the affected children. They try as much as possible to create lessons in every activity they perform in order to help the children adopt positive thinking and hope for their future. Aside from activities, the organization creates awareness on nutrition, water and sanitation, and hygiene. Birth Dev also helps to educate the adults on the same matters and tries as much as possible to give them comfort and hope for the future.
However, in as much as Birth Dev is trying its best, it also encounters problems and difficulties that hinder its progress. According to the representative of the organization that I interviewed, the organization lacked experts. Birth Dev has only six experts. There are another six who are still in training. Taking into consideration the current needs, she recommends that Birth Dev should have at least twenty experts who can help in psycho-social rehabilitation.
As I was finishing the interview, I asked her what support the organization needs most. She said that Birth Dev needs training for many of their staff members in order for them to improve their service on psycho-social rehabilitation. Financial support is also what the organization is seeking to boost their daily activities. Financial support could aid Birth Dev in giving allowances to their volunteers and staff so as to ease their movement and stay. Materials is also one of the needs. For example, Birth Dev could use donations of crayons, stationary, balls, chalk, etc.
Transportation is another problem the organization is facing. Since there are a lot of things to be transported as well as volunteer and staff mobility, the organization prefers to have special vehicles that can be used even in the mountainous regions. As I was about to conclude, Cristina mentioned something that touched me. She said, Birth Dev as an organization also need to be taken care of. She suggested that there should be a group which can also guide them.
They also want to listen. The members and volunteers working with Birth Dev want to be comforted and corrected.
In my view, Birth Dev’s office is too small -- they are using the same office to keep relief food and other things. It is my opinion that they should have a larger office and better place to store their materials.
As it is, team work is a key factor to success. I would suggest to anyone that we team up, and together give support to those in need using such organizations as Birth Dev. I believe that the hand that gives receives more.
Balay Integrated Rehabilitation Center for Total Human Development
A PSYCHOSOCIAL organization for the children and women victims of armed conflict and other disasters.
BIRTH-Dev is a non-stock, non-profit, human rights institution that provides psychosocial rehabilitation to victims of armed conflict and other forms of disasters.
BIRTH-DEV started in 1997 after it separated as a regional center from a national organization. Its main area of operation is Lanao del Norte though it gets invitation to conduct training on emotional recovery work as far as Zamboanga and Caraga Regions.
BIRTH-Dev envisioned a society in Lanao Provinces where men, women and children affected by disasters are psychosocially rehabilitated and empowered.
BIRTH-Dev shall strive to pursue ER work, promote sustainable livelihoods and strengthen capacities of vulnerable groups to reduce impacts of disasters.
- Enhanced emotional recovery work among vulnerable groups and communities
- Developed capacities of vulnerable groups on emotional recovery work and sustainable livelihoods
- Improved literacy of vulnerable children
- Developed and mobilized volunteers for emotional recovery work
- Improved synergy and cooperation with other service providers
- Sustainable Livelihoods
- Emotional recovery work
a. Community education;
b. Training on Emotional Recovery
c. Emotional recovery support sessions
- Educational Assistance
- Volunteer Mobilization and Development
BIRTH-Dev is a member of:
- Kalibutan Alang sa Katawhan (KALITAWHAN)
- Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN)
- Alliance against AIDS in Mindanao, Inc. (ALAGAD-Mindanao)
- Civil Society Organization - Forum for Peace (CSO-FP)
- Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC)
- Coalition to Protect Children Involved In Armed Conflict (Protect CIAC)
- Civil Society Organization Lanao Del Norte Partnership for Peace Development
- Regional Emergency Psychosocial Support Network (REPSN)
You can be of help to women and children survivors of disasters through:
- sponsoring a child education
- sharing your expertise in counseling and livelihood
- sharing your extra toys, clothing’s and other materials, women and children might need
- be a volunteer to the different activities conducted at the community level