A week after Yolanda hit Samar and Leyte, Kuya Ronnie Saguit asked for volunteers to assist Ate Sharon Singson, a Navigator staff in Tacloban. I responded to the challenge and prayed that we could help our brethren. I asked God’s provision to get my mother’s approval. I was nervous but filled with determination because I knew we couldn’t afford another week to pass. The Cebu Navigator ministry had already packed the first batch of relief goods to be sent to Samar and Leyte. I didn’t have any hint of what God would be teaching me in this journey.
On the day of our trip, Howell (a YDF assigned to Cebu) and I rushed to the ticketing office to buy tickets to Catbalogan, Samar. Actually it was my first time to buy tickets meant for cargo. But we needed to purchase the cheapest tickets possible. God showed us favor because he touched the hearts of the crew who gave us special consideration. But I had another dilemma. I was supposed to buy a round-trip ticket, but because Catbalogon didn’t have electricity, they couldn’t get confirmation and could not give me a return ticket. I needed to buy the ticket directly from Catbalogan. On top of that, we nearly weren’t able to make it to the ship because it was due to depart, and the relief goods had not been loaded to our truck and delivered to the pier. The situation was compounded by heavy rain, but I think it was God’s way of showing us to that He is in control of everything. Because of the heavy rain, the ship delayed its departure and our cargo made it just in the nick of time. When we arrived in Catbalogan, we secured the relief goods in the house of Ate Sharon’s cousin.
The First Day – God’s Extra Strength
Our main task was to assist Ate Sharon in transferring her mother from Tacloban to Catbalogan because she would be safer in Catbalogan. During our travel to Tacloban, I was in grief—the place was devastated beyond my imagination. The survivors didn’t have time to mourn for their lost loved ones because they needed to find where they could get their necessities. I noticed two bodies in the street, which everyone ignored. The air was really polluted with the mixed odor of the dead and garbage. People seldom interacted with one other, and everywhere I could see signs asking for food and water. Tacloban was helpless. The gasoline stations and other establishments were wrecked, making it difficult to communicate and travel. At that time, money was useless inside Tacloban. The victims relied on relief that came from the other places.
We arrived at Ate Sharon’s house at about 4:00 p.m., and we unloaded the relief goods we brought. I was pretty amazed because I was able to lift sacks that weighed more than fifty kilos. And I thought that it was the hardest part. But when we transferred Ate Sharon’s mother to the van, we needed to be very careful and gentle. Ate’s mother depended on life support, which required electricity. When we were carrying her, (she was unable to stand), my body felt like it was about to give up, but I couldn’t afford to let it lest Ate’s mom get injured. By God’s grace, we were able to get her inside the van, which we had to improvise a little because we were unable to get an ambulance. Our driver was also very cautious and kept a slow and steady speed on the road. It was about midnight when we arrived at Catbalogan.
The Second Day – You’re Not Yet Done
On the second day, I was supposed to return to Cebu, and I left Howell to Ate Sharon so that he could assist her. Early in the morning, we headed to Ormoc. We led from Catbalogan to Tacloban then to Ormoc. Ate Sharon and Howell escorted us to Ormoc using the van. Tacloban to Ormoc City is about a 3-hour travel, and we were not able to bring lunch. On the road, I noticed that there wasn’t a single home that was in good condition. Big trees were almost uprooted and without leaves. The hills were bald. I wondered what it must have felt like during Yolanda’s landfall, knowing that even you house couldn’t protect you. It wasn’t safe inside the house because of the storm surge; rooftops were also dangerous because of the strong gale. But I can’t question God’s sovereignty and his purpose.
I was not able to get a ticket home and was almost stranded at Ormoc because the van had already left and I couldn’t contact them. That time was very critical because I was running low on battery and the network’s signal was fluctuating. But God is in control of everything. He found a way for me to contact Ate Sharon’s driver. I was very grateful that day. We arrived in Catbalogan at midnight, hungry. I felt that my purpose in Leyte was not yet finished.
The Third Day – Howell’s Care for Bert
The following day, Ate Sharon asked Howell, Megs, and I to assist our contacts in Borongan, Samar, especially Gilbert. So we brought some relief goods with us. As usual, we were racing against time, but luckily, we were able to get on the last trip. We arrived at Borongan at about 7:00 p.m. We stayed at the house of Ate Sharon and met the three tenants there. The city proper of Borongan was not that affected by the devastation. The buildings were okay. But they were affected by the economic crisis throughout the region. They told us that it had been three days since they last ate rice. They only bought bread and bananas because they were cheaper. The scarcity really affected everyone. We gave them relief goods and cooked rice. We treated them to a hearty meal. The following day, we headed to find Bert. He lived about 30 minutes away. But we couldn’t afford to stay there for too long because we needed to get the last trip back to Catbalogan. We couldn’t contact Bert because our phones could not pick up a signal. And the jeep we rode on encountered some mechanical problems. Howell and I just smiled because we were used to these unexpected situations by now. When we arrived at the house where Bert was staying, we found out that Bert went to the Borongan proper hoping that he would be able to withdraw money. He had borrowed money from their neighbor. So we left him money as well as instructions for Bert and headed back to Catbalogan.
Time to Go Home
I was stranded for about a week in Samar, and that was God’s plan for me. I was supposed to be there for only a day only because our classes were going to start. And I was so worried for my OJT because I missed the orientation. And I prayed to God to fix it for me. Then my friend Disherry told me that the start of classes was moved to the week after. And my other friend called me on the phone to tell me that the company was giving me another chance to attend the orientation. I was so filled with joy because of what God has done. And told myself that only God is able to fix everything, even what had happened because of Yolanda. I left Leyte and Samar assured that help would come to them and they would be able to stand again.
Fellowship with the Elders
We arrived in Cebu on November 22 and met Kuya Ronnie and Kuya Jek. They would be the second batch of volunteers for the relief operations. Even if they were only due to stay in Samar for two days, they were prepared for a weeklong journey, bringing with them their own tents and enough food supplies.
What I’ve Learned
I learned so many things in my trip to Leyte and Samar. God showed me the meaning of valuing someone. I am unable to comprehend the intensity of what the victims felt when they lost their loved ones. More importantly, though it is difficult to accept situations like these, I learned that God’s wisdom is far beyond our human comprehension and that we also ought to share our time with those in need.