DAY 1 OF TYPHOON HAIYAN DISASTER RELIEF TRIP TO PHILIPPINES CEBU – FRIDAY, 15 NOV 6AM
***I will update with more pictures from my camera when I get back to civilization! Please share this post with as many people as you know and WE HOPE YOU WILL HELP US TO HELP PHILIPPINES. Full details at the bottom.***
The first batch of warrior friends – getting onto our Cebu flight now after exchanging some donations. Keep me and the team I’m with in your prayers please? This whole thing is hitting is pretty hard now. Our schedule may include sanitizing people and helping to clear dead bodies, along with any other work needed at the evacuation centre around Philippines. People are desperately messaging me to help find their husbands, sons, loved ones who are all missing. It’s quite overwhelming really. Don’t know how ready we are.
Team Singapore has landed in Cebu, and with our total group check in of 190kg + 110kg (there was a lot is squeezing, begging and bag bursting!), it’s time to send off some of the relief goods that we have flown over. Toothpaste, vitamins and more are immediately dispatched with one of our local contacts – thanks Aaron! You the man!
Next stop off is checking into the place we’re staying in, and it’s bumper to bumper traffic all the way into Cebu suburbs.
I was prepared for the worst – sleeping on floors with no air con and hopefully no cockroaches – but the group’s organizer had set up an awesome host family for us to stay with.
“This is not a holiday,” I have to keep reminding myself, but this was a lovely start to what I otherwise expected. A delicious local Filipino spread fills us up every morning and night – Tita’s cooking is a fine example of Cebuano hospitality. Salamat Tita!
After lunch, we headed to another local’s house, and the labour begins. Trucks filled with relief goods are already pulling out of the porch, and we swap out with sweaty Filipino boys who are tired out from days of helping out with Typhoon Haiyan related aid.
Everyone warmly greets us and welcomes us, and I’m quickly instructed that each relief bag needs 3 and a half cups of rice and a 1litre bottle of water. Along with tinned goods, this properly feeds a family for only about 2 days, but it’ll have to do.
We quickly form a factory line of splitting and sacking rice, bagging, and packing. Groups of locals come and go, some are friends of the family and some are just fresh-faced volunteers like me. The younger ones are 100% efficient and 200% dedicated – they worked so much faster than our white collar fingers!
“Imagine Singaporean kids doing this,” one of our group members posed to me. “No f**king way.” It’s true. I’m disappointed that Singapore didn’t give much – a $200,000 calamity donation from a country that spends millions on fireworks each year is questionable. I discovered that I’m the only Singaporean in the relief team from Singapore, but there are plenty of small communities in Singapore and big-hearted individuals I know who have helped in other ways.
Some of the other members of our crew came in on the evening flight, and we continued to work late into the night. They invited along a Wall Street journalist who was on their flight to join us – to join amusingly enough, she actually did! She was lovely and it was so interesting exchanging opinions with her on our current mission and what we thought of the situation.
One of the Titas received a call and after 15 minutes of listening to her emoting in Filipino, she starts to cry. “My brother called,” she explained to me. “He and some other people have travelled for a long time to send thousands of packs of relief goods yesterday, but it wasn’t enough. So many people were left without any food or water, and they cried. He was crying watching them cry. We are so tired doing so many things, but there are just so many people who have starved for seven days and still don’t have nothing.”
Across 12 hours, almost 4 fresh deliveries of rice arrived – so much rice to sack and unpack but it’s still not enough. We pack in sweaty heat until 2am and wait for others to arrive. A last operation meeting is done and we’re back home in Cebu at 230am.
Tomorrow is a new day, with new purpose.
>>> We are a small private group from Singapore (with leaders Lotte Edwards, Kinny Johnston and me Estelle Kiora as the only Singaporean) who are now in Cebu Philippines, and furiously working with some organizations to help smaller affected areas of Typhoon Haiyan that are not getting much help. Please email email@example.com if you would like to help or visit my blog for more information and schedule updates of our mission:
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