Monday, December 19, 2011

A Very Different Christmas

Sunday, 18 December 2011 - Day 0

"Please go to Cagayan de Oro tomorrow and see our regional director. I want you to coordinate the volunteers...I think [Iligan] mayor Lawrence Cruz needs help. You might have to travel to Iligan. I'll SMS my director and cc you so that you could both link up."

The pictures on television of the aftermath of typhoon Sendong/Washi were gruesome -- furious nature -- of raging water reclaiming what used to be their free path, washing away anything and anyone that got in the way. As of last peep, the ticker on CNN showed 500 had perished. "How come that many?," I wondered. Far too many than the 300 during Ondoy/Ketsana in 2009. I need to do something. I asked myself, "How ready am I for this?"

After the phone instructions from department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary, Dinky Soliman, I arranged a flight, and accommodation through an eager friend, Lou Tolod. Earlier, I had contacted Dinky's son, Dino, who passed on the message that I wanted to volunteer and am self-provisioned. Within the hour she called, thanked me, and gave the instructions. She and I go a bit back and our paths cross once in a while specially during her time in the nongovernment sector.

It is difficult to imagine what it could have been like out there, in deep sleep at two o'clock in the morning to be confused and rendered helpless by the crescendoing forceful rumble, rush of something -- debris. Christmas in the disaster-stricken areas will be very very different. So will mine.

I got myself some provisions and tried to visualize what the work and situation might be like. It was very much as the pre-dive technical briefings, where visualization is part preparation. Soon DSWD director, Araceli Solamillo, and I were in touch via SMS. I was to check with her as soon as I arrive. In the days when I managed election volunteers, a heads up on who will be on deck helps in programming the work and in assessing the capacities and deploying resources.

Praying as I was packing, I tried to check my intentions in volunteering. Then came the consolation, which is to heed the (subtle) call to serve the people of God. It is a privilege. And the anxiety then turned into gratitude.

The plane landed at the Lumbia airport at half-past two in the afternoon. It's Monday, Day 1.

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