Monday, 19 December 2011 - Day 1
“Ito yun sir (this is the place).”
With very little light in the December sky, I strained my eyes to pick up clues trying to connect the television images with the ones flashed before me as the truck’s headlights panned. Paul, one of the delivery truck hands broke the silence once we entered the village of Tambo, on the road into Iligan city that was hit by the flood waters.
Our two-truck convoy carrying mats and blankets entered Iligan city at six o’clock in the evening. Aided by light from oncoming vehicles, I first saw a pair of white taxi cabs heavily listing in the ditch by the road; after a few meters, a large red truck and a couple of cars lying on their sides. "This is the river that overflowed," Paul blurted out. The river must be 200 meters wide just before it connected with the sea. Refused to be tamed, the flood waters ignored the course and totally engulfed the terrain. A big log stayed lodged beside a broken bridge. Many of these that came from the nearby mountains have steamrolled anything that got in the way. A Humvee! (no kid!)..abandoned by the roadside with light mud splashed all over it. A few concrete houses were left standing.
We then approached San Lorenzo Parish church, which grounds served as one of the 16 evacuation centers for the residents of the 28 barangay/villages that were flooded. There seemed to be a lot of people but the scene was so fleeting for scrutiny. As of today, 11,400 families where displaced and 3,500 were in evacuation centers.
Our meeting with DSWD director Cely Solamillio was brief and very pleasant. She looks indefatigable. She directed me to Iligan as what Dinky's message had indicated. She then referred me to Evelyn Madrio, their point-person. They talked and then handed the phone to me so Evelyn and I could set up rendezvous. "That's another bubbly person on the line," I thought.
I went with Evelyn to check the auditorium of the high school where president Aquino, who is scheduled to visit the next day, will meet some of the evacuees. We checked the central warehouse as the food, mats and blankets were packed for the following day's event. We chanced upon a city councilor who turned over a donation of a hundred sacks of rice.