MANILA - I stared at the picturesque scene before me. Mountains of clothes and biscuits were dotted by old and young volunteers. Men and women, both frail and able-bodied, were carrying bags of canned goods, bottled water, and noodles to cars, vans, and trucks. A long line of people were signing up, whether to help pack items, to lend their vehicles, or to be deployed to storm-hit areas.
The sight at the Ateneo de Manila University College Covered Courts on Monday night moved me. One striking post-"Ondoy" impact was how unity became the call of the times. The tropical typhoon (international code name Ketsana) paved the way for people to work together--regardless of gender, social status and educational attainment.
Standing in the middle of hundreds of busy-bodies, I relished the thought that the pervasive rivalry and negativity between and among colleges and universities suddenly vanished.
Forget about "Ateneans for fellow Ateneans." From neighboring schools University of the Philippines (UP) and Miriam College to as far as Immaculate Concepcion Academy (ICA) and Xavier School, help continued to pour in at the Ateneo College Covered Courts for victims of the tropical storm, according to Sanggunian ng Mag-aaral President Gio Tingson.
"For this operation, we're very lucky that many groups have helped in donating, including ICA High School, Xavier High School, UP, Miriam College, and other groups, alumni especially, who have been helping us," Tingson told abs-cbnNEWS.com, adding that UP students were one of the first to sign up.
Collect, train, monitor
Aptly called "Task Force Ondoy," the movement is aimed at assisting those who felt the brunt of the tropical storm. The Ateneo has been organizing disaster response programs as early as 2004, but Tingson said the response for this relief drive has been particularly overwhelming.
"Every 2 hours nagpapalit ng about 600 people sa cov courts. Actually when we're assessing [the movement] for the past 2 days, ibang klase talaga ang impact. We don't get as much volunteers before," Tingson said.
Task Force "Ondoy" does 3 things, according to Tingson: collect basic goods and cash, train volunteers for relief operations, and help monitor those who are stranded or missing as a result of "Ondoy's" onslaught.
"We've tied up with NDCC (National Disaster Coordinating Council) and Red Cross since we don't have [proper] equipment for the rescue. Nananawagan rin kami sa mga radio stations for updates, and also [via] phone and the Internet," Tingson said.
Donations, shelters, volunteers
Since the movement started on Saturday afternoon, Tingson said they have been receiving goods from students, parents, alumni, and even companies and politicians.
"We've been receiving goods randomly. Coke has provided 10,000 bottles, Kenny Rogers has been supplying food for volunteers, and National Book Store has been giving supplies such as packaging tape. Gonuts Donuts has been providing trucks for us, and even alumni, like senators Noynoy [Aquino] and Mar [Roxas] have given their support. They didn't go here, they were very quiet in their support," he said.
In some instances, Tingson said the Ateneo also provides shelter for those who can no longer return to their homes due to the impact of the tropical storm. "Marami ang inilipat sa mga dorm areas. Iba't iba ang mga kwento nila, talagang the response was very urgent," he said.
Task Force "Ondoy" is seen to last throughout the week, and might extend further depending on the needs of those situated in storm-hit areas. Tingson called on concerned individuals to offer goods, financial assistance, or manpower by stopping by the College Covered Courts from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight.
"We're still accepting goods. We really thank all those who have helped, lalo na those not from the Ateneo. Specifically, we're requesting for more canned goods, noodles, candles, plastic bags, water, and logistical support like trucks," he said.
"Ondoy" may have caused death and destruction in several areas in the Philippines, but it has certainly brought out the best in every Filipino as manifested in volunteer programs such as the one in the Ateneo. Indeed, there is a calm after every storm. Text and photos by Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com
Share stories of heroism and volunteerism related to tropical storm "Ondoy" to ABS-CBN's Boto Mo, Ipatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula. Click here for more ways to help victims in storm-hit areas.