MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday appealed to Filipinos to help survivors of typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) not to feel helpless as they attempt to start over from the trail of destruction it left barely a week before Christmas.
Robredo said she saw long lines for food and water, homes torn to the ground, and weeping evacuees when she went to several Visayas and Mindanao provinces hammered by Odette.
"Napakatindi ng pangangailangan ngayon ng ating mga kababayan. Ito po ang pagkakataon para sa atin na ipakita ang pagiging Pilipino natin, ang pagmamahal natin, ang ating lakas bilang nagkakaisang bayan," she said in a Facebook video with some 150,000 views.
(The need of our compatriots is great. This is our chance to show that we are Filipinos, our love, and our strength as a united nation.)
Addressing viewers, Robredo said, "Magpa-Pasko ngayon, huwag tayong pumayag na may mga kababayan tayong magpa-Pasko na wala man lang makain, wala man lang matirhan at nawawalan ng pag-asa."
"Alam ko po lahat magsasakripisyo dahil hindi po natin kontrolado ang nangyaring sakuna. Ang akin lang po, iparamdam natin sa kanila na nasa puso natin sila ngayon, na may pinagdadaanan silang kahirapan," she added.
(Christmas is coming, let us not let any of our fellow Filipinos starve, go homeless and lose hope. I know everyone will sacrifice because we cannot control the calamity that happened. But let us make them feel that they are in our hearts, now that they are suffering.)
'SURVIVORS FEEL FORGOTTEN'
Robredo said her team arrived in Bohol on Friday, less than 24 hours after Odette made landfall there, knocking down communication lines and leaving roads to parts of the province impassable. In Loboc town, the Vice President said floods trapped residents on top of their roofs.
In Cebu City the next day, Robredo said she talked to evacuees in Barangay Guadalupe who told her, "Naka-evacuate na sila sa isang lugar, pero iyong in-evacuate-an nilang lugar, nasira rin. So ang nangyari, parang during the night, palipat-lipat sila."
(They have already evacuated to one place, but it was destroyed, too. So what happened was they kept transferring during the night.)
"Kaya po, heartbreaking makipag-usap sa kanila kasi kinukuwento nila na walang-wala talaga sa kanilang natira. Ang itatanong nila sa 'yo, papaano na kami?" she continued.
(It's heartbreaking to talk to them because they had nothing left. They will ask you, what happens to us now?)
Drinking water is a problem in the area because its supply falters during power outages, making electrical restoration urgent, Robredo said.
"Magmula sa airport hanggang sa Cebu City, sobrang haba ng pila sa lahat na water refilling stations, sa lahat na mga gasolinahan, sa lahat na mga ATM. Naghahanap po kami ng mabibilhan ng pagkain, sarado po halos lahat dahil sira din," she said.
(From the airport to Cebu City, the lines were long at water refilling stations, gas stations, all ATMs. We were looking for food, but almost all were closed because they were damaged, too.)
She appealed to the public to lend generator sets to barangay halls, where residents could take turns charging their gadgets and appliances.
Robredo also visited Surigao City on Saturday, where she said the airport was damaged and almost no electric posts were left standing.
In the holiday island of Siargao where Odette made its first landfall, rains and winds tore roofs off buildings and damaged rice that local officials prepared ahead of the storm, leaving evacuees with only canned food to eat in the first days after the storm, she said.
Scores of tourists were also stranded in the island, said the Vice President.
"Ang kuwento po ng mga andoon, sabi po sa akin, ‘Ma’am, hindi na ‘yon bagyo, delubyo na.’ Hindi lang iyon ang description, hindi lang sa Siargao, pero halos lahat na lugar na pinuntahan namin," Robredo said.
"Kinukuwento nila iyong takot na naramdaman nila. Ang description nila, sobrang lakas ng tunog, tapos parang lumilindol kasabay ng bagyo. Lalo na ‘yong mga nakatira sa maliliit na bahay, naubos po talaga iyong mga gamit nila," she continued.
(People there told me it wan't just a storm, it was a catastrophe. That was the description not just in Siargao, but almost everywhere we went. They shared the fear they felt. They said the sound was deafening, it also felt like there was an earthquake. Especially those who live in small houses, all their belongings were lost.)
In Dinagat Islands, Robredo said weeping residents greeted her team as soon as they landed.
"Iyong impression ko po, parang iyong iyak nila, out of helplessness. Pero at the same time, iyong iyak nila, relief na mayroong dumating," she said, adding that residents told her two choppers passed by the area without landing.
"Sinasabi nila, ‘Akala namin nakalimutan na kami,’" Robredo said.
(My impression is they cried out of helplessness, but at the same time relief that someone came. They said, 'We thought we have been forgotten.')
ROBREDO THANKS RIVAL
The Vice President thanked her rival in next year's presidential race, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, for letting her office deploy relief aid on board flights that his team organized.
Another presidential contender, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., handed P1 million in cash and 2,000 bags of relief aid to typhoon-hit areas with his running-mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, his camp said.
Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, who is also running for president, urged government to speed up the processing of typhoon victims' insurance claims, as quoted in news reports.
He visited Bohol on Monday, bringing generator sets and financial aid, according to a Facebook post of Gov. Arthur Yap.
Sen. Ping Lacson's team also conducted relief drives in several provinces, said Partido Reporma. It added that with the help of its ally LPGMA party-list, it would deploy a landing craft tanker to deliver housing materials, food, and drinking water to Visayas and Mindanao.
“Ang pagdamay ay pwedeng ipakita sa gawa, hindi lang sa pagpapakita, hindi lang sa pagsasalita kundi sa gawa. Ganoon ang dapat na pagdamay sa ating kapwa, sa ating kapwa Pilipino na nahirapan,” Lacson said, as quoted by Partido Reporma.
(Solidarity can be shown through action, instead of just showing up, through deeds instead of just words. That is how we should empathize with our fellow Filipinos who are suffering.)
NATIONAL DAYS OF PRAYER
The leadership of the Catholic Church in the country set Dec. 25 and 26 as national days of prayer for those affected by Odette, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said.
It also called for the holding of a second collection during the Masses on both days to generate an "Alay Kapwa Solidarity Fund" for the Church's collective emergency response.
Odette claimed more than 200 lives, according to the Philippine National Police, although the death toll released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is lower at 58, majority of which are still for verification.
The NDRRMC said more than 3,800 houses were damaged, while the cost of damage on infrastructure is estimated at P225.17 million, and on agriculture, at more than P118.2 million.