Monthly Archives: December 2012

Meeting Trauma Survivors (from Typhoon Pablo)


My hometown is well-known for its “typhoon-free” slogans and promotions.  In all my years of living here, I can honestly attest to that.  I’ve only experienced storms and typhoons in Cebu (during my vacation when I was around 8 years old),  in Manila (it was Milenyo or International name Xangsane that hit the Philippines while I was still working there – which I just thought was strong winds and harsh rains since I wasn’t used to storms), and in Bohol (I think it was Ofel – international name Son-Tinh that had me and my travel partner stranded in going to Bohol).

So when the alert was raised that Pablo (international name BOPHA) was entering our region’s area of responsibility, a sense of foreboding came over me.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with my dad before that storms are slowly changing their paths and it won’t be soon before long that the Davao region would be greatly affected.

Well my dad was no Nostradamus of his time, but his words rang truth as seen by the wake of Pablo.  I think it was the first time that schools declared “No classes” due to a storm.  And for my hometown, it was signal #2.  A couple of my officemates missed their flight to Manila for a seminar because all flights were cancelled as well.  All school activities were suspended or cancelled to keep people safe during such a time.

Although Davao wasn’t too affected, our neighboring provinces weren’t spared.  News of the devastation of the storm were plastered in news.  Families were greatly affected, livelihood such as banana and coconut farming were washed over, even fishermen weren’t spared since a lot of people didn’t want to buy their goods for fear that their captured fishes were able to eat human flesh. (morbid actually.)

It was around December 3-5, 2012 that the typhoon made its presence known to the Davao Region.  A first as most locals can remember thus people weren’t totally prepared on what would happen.  December 5, an invitation to extend our help to the affected areas were given to our office and I for one willingly confirmed my desire.  However, instead of a 2-day outreach, a change in schedule landed me on a 1 day outreach (for Psychosocial Debriefing) to one of the provinces that were hit – Caraga.

To explain better, here are some photos for you to see:

Raring to go

Raring to go

We left around 6am to start our 5-hour travel to Caraga.  I wasn’t able to take photos of the banana and coconut fields but along the road, you could clearly see how strong the winds were manifested by the bowing of the trees towards the direction we were heading.  The mountains that were once full of proud lines of trees, were now barren as if a greater being was playing pick-up sticks using the coconut trees for sticks.

When we reached Caraga’s Poblacion, the site that greeted us was very disarming.  Houses with no roofs, muddied roads, logs and debris around every corner.

Strong winds

Collapse of roofing from a new building in Caraga

Houses hit by Pablo

Houses hit by Pablo

Packed inside the evacuation center

Packed inside the evacuation center

According to our leader, Caraga was the fastest in responding to all the alerts and were even able to evacuate the local residents (especially those along the shoreline) and house them in their designated evacuation center.  Aside from that, they were proactively thinking of other designated evacuation centers should the first one collapse.

The Office that made the evacuation possible - saving lives of many residents

The Office that made the evacuation possible – saving lives of many residents

Relief Goods for Distribution

Relief Goods for Distribution

Going over details gathered

Going over details gathered

An overview of the shoreline in Caraga

An overview of the shoreline in Caraga

Residents could still remember how the events unfolded during those days that Pablo enraged the province.  Thankfully, they are still able to move past what has transpired and are currently moving forward in reclaiming their lives and livelihood.

Getting Together

Getting Together

What came washing ashore

What came washing ashore

Life still goes on

Life still goes on

After our sojourn at the Poblacion, we went to the broken bridge that highly affected the transportation of relief goods to more affected areas such as Baganga, Cateel, and Boston Davao Oriental.

The bridge leading to Baganga, Davao Oriental

The bridge leading to Baganga, Davao Oriental

Making ends meet

Making ends meet

Pile-up

Pile-up

Crossing Over

Crossing Over

This DPWH worker has been working for 24 hours in pulling across the line for travelling the river via man-made raft.  Some of our companions helped him in pulling while we were there.

Pull for safety

Pull for safety

Until now, relief operations are still ongoing all over the city (and perhaps even the country) to continuously aid the Pablo survivors.  Hopefully I can still come along to assist in another session of debriefing in the areas that experienced tropical storm Bopha.

Let us extend a helping hand to the survivors and make this Christmas season more meaningful.

With Santa On My Lap (A Big Girl’s Christmas Wish)


Above all material things I keep wishing for, nothing can top my heart’s desire that the people I love the most be kept SAFE and HEALTHY… always.  I guess it springs from the need for safety and security.  I think Abraham Maslow could explain this further.

This morning, my mom dropped the bomb on me over breakfast.

Mom: “Naa koy malignant tumor sa akong matris ug cyst sa left side.” (I have a malignant tumor in my uterus and a cyst on my left side)

Me: (fighting back the tears) “What left side?  Ovary?”

Mom: “Siguro…” (Maybe)

Fighting back the tears, we continued our conversation on what’s going to happen next.  Mom has decided not to get operated preferring the natural way in finding a cure.  Since she’s into alternative medicine, some of the doctor’s advise on medicines clash to what she has studied and known for a couple of years already.  Another reason is that our financial status is just enough to maintain our day to day grind (No inputs on how to earn money quick please!).   As for me, I need to read up more, ask further questions, and be more knowledgeable FAST so that I can plan and prod what needs to be done.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell my friends or my colleagues yet.  I didn’t want to have too many questions that I didn’t know what to say.  It’s enough that my nightly fears have been confirmed (how my mom fidgets when she sleeps and my constant checking if there’s still a rise and fall of breath on her chest), I don’t think I can handle the uncertain.  So far I’ve only informed my boss.  But by the time you get to this part, dear reader, you would know about it too.  I only request for understanding and a little space.  If I may seem aloof and distant, forgive me.  It is not you, but what’s going on right now.  I appreciate your concern but please do not smother me.  I will know when I can’t hold my emotions on my own.

I’m sorry my friends, I couldn’t decide on whether to tell you too.  It’s a bummer for this season.  It’s always Christmas that I seem to receive heavy emotional blows.  And I didn’t want to dampen your mood.

For the moment, I’m still processing myself… coming to terms with the possible implications this would mean.  All my topics I’be planned out to post are taking a temporary back seat as I stare into the eyes of my little Santa man on my lap.  How I wish I were young again and ask Santa for the latest toys, or have the lovely drawing set my classmate has, a new bike, clothes and whatnots instead of praying for my mom’s tumor and cyst to go away.

Santa, can you hear me?

My Blue Santa Man

My Blue Santa Man

But Santa is only for little girls and boys.  I doubt if I’m still part of the “nice list” to make the cut.  But I’ll still try.

So I’m slowly putting my hands together, silently sending a prayer not only to an icon of childhood dreams, but to the Lord… please help me get through this…

Lifeskills 101: Swimming


We talked about lifeskills at work while discussing among the myriads of topics we usually pick on depending on the time of day and events that have transpired.  One particular lifeskill we seem to have lacked in common was swimming.  Majority in the group didn’t know the basics of swimming.  However, we seem to have aced “not drowning”.

Anyway, earlier in November, I was given the opportunity to take up a 12-session basic swimming lessons by one of our coaches in school along with my co-counselors and a 1 month pool membership in Grand Men Seng Hotel.  So there was no turning back.

The first day of the lessons involved the very basics in swimming.  Bobbing (for air bubbles), gliding, kicking, paddling, and last but not the least, Breathing.  Proud to say that we started our freestyle and backstroke on the first day.

The succeeding days were a different matter altogether.  The backstroke and the butterfly stroke was very challenging.  Honestly up until now, I’m struggling with these strokes.  I was surprised the coach complimented me and my fellow swim buddies in being fast learners (probably because we were silently competitive with each other) since the basic lessons were meant for freestyle only and we’ve progressed to diving, tumbleturns, sprints, and underwater glide.  A couple of good things came about from this activity.  I learned a new sport, I can now swim, and I seem to have reduced my weight while having fun!  And I still have 1 more session left!  Since my one month membership is already over, I had to put a halt my swimming legs.  But when my friends will be coming home from Manila, I am DEFINITELY calling the shots for our reunion.

Pool party here we come!

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