Woman spends P50K to rescue family in Tacloban, Guiuan

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 22 2013 04:28 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2013 07:58 AM

How emergency funds helped a gov't employee find her relatives in Leyte and Samar

MANILA (UPDATED) – With the recent devastation of typhoon “Yolanda” in the Visayas, a government employee with family members in Leyte and Samar was able to prove that setting aside emergency funds can save lives.

Mabby Holoyohoy, a Cebu-based employee of PhilHealth, shared how saving up for an emergency helped her locate and contact her family after the devastation.

When the typhoon hit Eastern Visayas on November 8, Holoyohoy said her father, brother, and sister-in-law were in Tacloban while her mother was alone in their home in Barangay 4 Poblacion in Guiuan.

Holoyohoy said when news reached her that Samar and Leyte were badly hit, she initially thought her family was in no danger at all.

“It did not bother me much because I am so used to typhoons that no amount of warning can bring me to the evacuation centers. Growing up in Samar where typhoon often hits, I have very high tolerance for it,” she told ABS-CBNNews.com.

However, when communication lines with her family were completely cut off, worry started to creep in, prompting her to coordinate with her other siblings to conduct their own search and rescue.

Forming a search and rescue team

Holoyohoy said she contacted her friends and relatives to form two rescue teams that will head for Tacloban and Guiuan.

While she stayed in Cebu to handle logistics, she directed her brother and a cousin from Manila to lead the rescue operation.

“They left Manila via Matnog and traveled 27 hours to Calbayog City where all logistics are waiting. They left November 10 at 6 a.m., arrived in Calbayog on November 11 at around 8 a.m., then left for Guiuan and Tacloban at 9 a.m.,” she said.

For the two teams composed of mostly friends and relatives, Holoyohoy said she spent about P50,000 to cover the flights, truck rental, fuel, water, food and rice.

The teams also brought with them cooked food in case the family members are found.

“We arranged for two teams, each team will require money for a truck/pick-up type that will carry 2-3 motorcycles to navigate Tacloban for my father, brother and sister-in-law, and Guiuan for my mother,” she said.

She said the team in Tacloban, led by her cousin, failed to enter the subdivision where their house is located due to floods on November 10. The team returned the following day but Holoyohoy’s family was not found in the house.

By that time, the team in Guiuan had yet to make contact with Holoyohoy’s mother.

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Reuniting in Samar

Holoyohoy said good news came to her on November 12, four days after the typhoon made landfall.

She said she was contacted by another survivor who was able to flee Leyte via a C-130 plane, telling her that her mother was alive.

That same day, the Guiuan team reported that her mother had been located.

Her father, brother, and sister-in-law were also found in Guiuan after traveling on foot for two days from Tacloban.

They were immediately given food and other supplies provided by Holoyohoy through her funds.

“My mother sent a letter via the first survivor to ride C-130 to contact me that they are hungry. Then my brother, Oliver, found them on November 12 in Guiuan, Samar. My father, brother, and sister-in-law walked for two days from Tacloban to Guiuan. November 11 happened to be my mother’s 59th birthday,” she said.

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On November 18, Holoyohoy said she arrived in Samar carrying P150,000 from an emergency fund to repair their house and restore their lodging business. Her sister shared half of the expenses.

“They are still in Guiuan, they refused to go with my brother. They are repairing our house. The spirit of positivity and moving on is ever present. So to understand [their situation], I flew to Guiuan last November 18 and brought with me P150,000 to repair our house and our business so they can recover in no time,” she said.

"I am so thankful I have a sister who helped me in the expenses. [There is] teamwork in the family," she added.

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Emergency fund

Holoyohoy said without her emergency fund, she wouldn’t have been able to send two teams to Tacloban and Guiuan.

“Having an emergency fund is a must since even if you love your parents, if you can’t help them at the time you are needed, it would be frustrating. Have an online account to link your accounts and have access to it even if one branch or location faces calamities,” she said.

Holoyohoy said she put aside 20% of her monthly salary of P25,000 for her emergency fund.

When the funds reached P120,000, the rest of her monthly savings went to mutual funds and stocks.

“I am not rich and because of that, I should have an emergency fund. We can’t rely on friends or even relatives to give money,” she said.

She also shared that some businessmen in Tacloban had to shell out around P300,000 to P500,000 to rent a private plane to bring their family to safety.

“Some businessman in Tacloban got a private jet--if Tacloban to Cebu it costs P300,000 and the bigger planes cost up to P500,000 if the flight is Cebu to Manila. A family of my son’s classmate hired Cebu guards to secure their house in Tacloban, plus the private plane to search and rescue for P500,000. The amount differs if they will search or just merely extract from the house,” she said.

Holoyohoy said that after her family’s experience, she felt the importance of learning how to invest and saving up for unforeseen circumstances.

“I pity the poorest of the poor. I am not rich, I am just a government employee but I know how to invest and save and I have a 2nd income in real estate. The poorest of the poor are the most affected in every calamity. They have no money to buy food, to repair houses, and no income when businesses shut down,” she said.