by Venus R. Parmisana
Iligan City, Philippines – Deadly Sendong (international name: Washi) hit Northern Mindanao in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro evening of December 16 bringing about 10 hours of heavy downpour that triggered flash floods in the early dawn of December 17.
Worst hit barangays were Hinaplanon, Bayug, and Santiago, leaving hundreds dead, while many are still missing in barangays that are hard to reach.
Hundreds of survivors tending their meager belongings came to the MSU-IIT gymnasium, one of the bigger evacuation centers, in the early morning of December 17, all wet and muddy.
Opening the gates of MSU-IIT Receiving a distress call in the early dawn from Dr. Edward Banawa, Director of Student Affairs, Chancellor Dr. Sukarno D. Tanggol opened the gymnasium to the survivors.
On his decision to allow survivors in, Tanggol said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “that’s the natural thing to do when you see people in distress.… if they had come to us at the height of the storm, we would have opened the gates that very hour.”
The decision earned for the MSU-IIT a good job liner from former Senator Ernesto Maceda’s tidbits article “Search for the Truth” (December 27, 2011) in the Philippine Star.
Interviewed by ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol on December 22, Tanggol announced that “this is an opportunity for all of us, Christians and Muslims alike, to show that we are united in helping our fellow citizens who are in distress.”
On immediate or long-term solutions, Tanggol suggested relocation, the improvement of the disaster preparedness of government and the people, and policy interventions to address the factors that contributed to the flash floods.” He added that “there is a need to address illegal logging issues, housing policy issues, and other man-made factors.”
Sendong Dynamic Response Team (SDRT) of Volunteers
Little did MSU-IIT Professors Ernesto Empig, Darwin Manubag, and this writer know that on the very same day, December 17, when the MSU-IIT had lined up a gift-giving activity for the Home for the Aged and the Day Care Center in Sitio Canaway, Barangay Tibanga, they would shift from being gift-givers to rescuers.
They were the first volunteers from the faculty to respond to the call for help. At that time, the gymnasium was already filled with a few hundred survivors queuing along the tables set by the CSWD personnel who were interviewing and listing the particulars of the evacuees.
Information was gathered for family cards to document and code a “your-life-inside-the-evacuation-center” ledger which facilitated the distribution of goods and kept track of all engagements between the relief operations and the beneficiary.
The relief team tagged Sendong Dynamic Response Team, or the SDRT was composed of 12 faculty or adult volunteers, among them: Tanggol (Overall Coordinator of MSU-IIT Evacuation Center), Empig (Operations Manager), Manubag ( Donations and Linkages Coordinator), Dr. Rhodora Englis (Media and Public Relations Officer), Ms. Karen Veloso (Medical Team Asst. Coordinator), Prof. Enrique Batara (Public Address Officer), Dr. Polaus Bari, Dr. Dave Almarez, Mr. Donald Carupo and wife Lorda (volunteers), Prof. Jo Bokingo (volunteer), and this writer (Finance Officer).
About 60 student volunteers spent their Christmas holidays caring for the Sendong survivors and living with their own stories to share to the generations to come.
The SDRT has been credited for its well-organized and systematic relief goods distribution to establish the MSU-IIT evacuation center as the biggest and arguably the most efficient center for Sendong survivors, a fact that journalist DJ Yap recognized in his article in The Philippine Daily Inquirer.