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Iloilo Province | Relief and Rebuilding Efforts

Never worry about numbers, help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.

—Mother Teresa

Filipinos are considered to be a tight-knit community where one helps another without reservation or expectation that the favor will be returned. Generations have passed, but the distinctive “bayanihan” spirit remains.

Last November 2013, the Philippines, especially the Visayas region, experienced the strongest typhoon in the country’s history. It left thousands of families homeless, destroyed towns, and took the lives of many people. The extent of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda stunned most of the country and the world, and it took centre stage in a country plagued by government scandals, corruption issues, and political rivalries.

Many would argue that blood is thicker than water—maybe there is some truth to that. The Iloilo Navigators family (composed of students from the University of the Philippines Visayas and Central Philippine University, young professionals, and staff) took time off from their busy schedules to help other members who were greatly affected by the storm. The group wasted no time in gathering the necessary funds to buy rice, canned goods, toiletries, medicine kits, etc.

On the 16th day of November, members of the Navigators family went to the towns of Carles, Estancia, Ajuy, Roxas, and Passi. On the road, the group saw the desperation of people to get their hands on even the tiniest bit of help—children were waving tin cans to passing cars, signs for help were hung everywhere, and people were silently praying that passing cars would somehow stop and give them aid. As the group made its first stop, it suddenly dawned on us that we were not just bringing them consumable goods, but we were giving them assurance that despite everything that happened they were not alone. We saw the questioning look in their eyes that asked why something as horrible as that should happen to them; we saw the hardships of the past few days etched in their faces. We soon found ourselves wondering whether what we are doing was enough; we were asking ourselves question after question without hope of finding answers. But after making drop after drop of relief bags, we felt the people’s gratitude and saw smiles in their faces. Somehow, beyond the physical things, we gave them something more profound—we gave them hope, love, and faith, assurance that despite everything God would not abandon them. At the end of the day, we found ourselves smiling regardless of the destruction around us.

People sometimes mistake help as sending large figures of money, but the truth is, no matter how small we think our help maybe to others, it actually means a lot. You don’t have to help some random stranger to be able to say that you extended a helping hand; sometimes, all it takes is to look at the person sitting next to you.

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