Monday, November 25, 2013

Oplan Hatid: Stories of Typhoon Survivors

Days after Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan struck Leyte and Samar, Phil. and foreign military personnel started to bring the survivors to Manila, with at least 6 C130 planes landing in Villamor Air Base everyday. Then a few caring Manilans noticed that some evacuees are left on the streets, with no means to get to their relatives in Luzon. So this core group of Manilans started the Oplan Hatid (Operation Drop Off) campaign for volunteer motorists to help transport the evacuees to their safe havens.

I joined Oplan Hatid last Wednesday night, and continued for 5 more days/night until the night of 30 Nov. 2013. During those 8 trips I made, I heard a lot of stories from the survivors, as well as from fellow driver volunteers. When CNN stops reporting the plight of the typhoon victims, at least this post will remind us on the victims' ordeals.

Wednesday, 20 Nov. 2013

After signing up online on Oplan Hatid's temporary site here, I drove to Gate 5 of Villamor Air Base to register. Then our group headed to the grandstand area to start transporting the survivors, after at least an hour of "bidding" and waiting. Finally at past 11:00 pm, there's a family of 9 people from Palo, Leyte who Sir Nikko and I will be transporting to Carmona, Cavite.

A DSWD social worker gets our contact and vehicle details, then gives us our transport pass, so our vehicle will be allowed to enter the loading area of evacuees. We are instructed to wait until the evacuees are accepted by their relatives or friends on their destination. If rejected, then we take the evacuees back to Villamor, which happened on rare cases.

We split the group. Four people with ladies and a kid rode on Nikko's vehicle, while I took the remaining 5 teenage boys. Their fathers and elder brothers were left in Leyte, as the evacuation program prioritizes the sick, the elders, the women, and children. Some of them haven't been to Manila, so they are in awe when they saw the tall buildings. They are also wondering why they don't see jeepneys and motorcycles along SLEX, like what they used to see in Leyte. One of the boys would like to see the closest SM mall.

Aside from the stories of deaths, destruction, lootings, and food shortages which we saw on the news, the boys told their first hand experience of Typhoon Yolanda as it ravaged their area. They talked about the 3 waves that went inland, with the third one as being the most devastating. Some of them remembers that fear whenever it rains hard in Tacloban, due to the traumatic experience. Well, it rained there on a daily basis, as they wait for their chance to get their plane ride to Manila.

Their houses were destroyed, but they are still lucky compared with some of their friends and relatives. They also confirmed the news about rape cases, but not the child kidnappings. Good thing that they have an aunt who took them in on a subdivision in Carmona, as we arrived.
Friday, 22 Nov. 2013

Government shut down the Villamor relief operations the previous day due to rumored turf wars, but resumed it that Thursday night. Again after my office duty, I drove to the base after signing up online. I was told to park my car in Gate 5, then waited for a shuttle from Gate 4. While waiting for the ride, I helped a lady load her donation of iron nails and g.i. wires on the electric jeepney, to be brought to Tacloban as reconstruction materials. I was surprised that they are that heavy, despite the small size of the boxes.

My first evacuees that night is a family of 10 people, mostly women and a baby, which I split with Ma'm Stephanie and Ma'm Donna. We drove them thru heavy traffic along coastal road to their relatives in General Trias, Cavite.

One of the ladies among my 6 passengers told me that she decided to move in Manila to get a job, and to forget about the loss of her 2 children from the typhoon. Their home near the Palo shore got washed away along with her kids. Their other relatives are not as lucky, as whole families got killed by the typhoon. 

They also told a horrifying story of a rich family's house in their area, which was victimized by a group of prisoners from a jailbreak. The criminals robbed the family, raped the 2 daughters, and killed some family members. There's no telling if this story is true or not.

After 1.5 hours, we arrived at their destination. Michelle who was seated beside me at the front seat told me to stop at a dark grassy road side. I asked her if she is sure, as there are no houses here. She replied that there is a community there, but no electricity, unlike the business establishments we passed about 200 meters prior. True enough, we found this dark poor neighborhood of shanty houses along this "talahiban" part of the road, where her sister will receive them. 

When we got back to Villamor, my next passengers are an elderly mother and her son from Tacloban. They stayed in their 2-storey concrete house in Tacloban during the height of the storm. Their house is still standing, but no more roof, and they only stocked food for 2 days. The son told me that they could see the famous photographed ship that was swept inland from their house. Since food is scarce and they cannot live on their exposed house, they decided to move in Sta. Rosa, Laguna with their immediate family members. 

The house in Sta. Rosa where I took them is at least 30 minutes far from Sta. Rosa Exit, on narrow street like a maze. Good thing that I still found my way back by 3:00 am at our home in Binan.
Saturday, 23 Nov. 2013

After my morning class at Enderun College, I proceeded to Villamor Air Base, where I also took my lunch. Aside from many volunteers who help out in receiving the evacuees, there are good hearted individuals who sponsors meals and drinks for both evacuees and volunteers. As long as a volunteer is not picky, he/she will never get hungry as there are many food, water, coffee, and even Coke soda.

Only a handful of volunteer drivers are available that time. The Oplan Hatid tent is overflowing with evacuees, some are seated but exposed to the noontime heat. I chose to bring a family of five (mother, 2 daughters, 2 grandchildren) to their temporary home in Dasmarinas, Cavite. They came from Borongan, Samar, where the C130 plane takes a few more passengers after initial loading in Guiuan.

With the sweltering heat, plus having learned that they haven't had a shower for 4 days, my car reeked of unpleasant body smell within that 1.5 hours trip. I'm really tempted to bring out my car freshener, but I don't want to offend them. We took the Molino Road all the way to Paliparan in Dasmarinas.

Their house being made from light materials, was also destroyed. Only her husband and son-in-law were left in Borongan to reconstruct their house. There's not much space on the warehouse of her Cebu-based boss on Dasmarinas, but her daughters and grandchildren just have to accept any available option. She mentioned that the destruction on their place is not as widespread, but food is also scarce. A piece of egg sells at P 9 pesos upwards. No vegetable available, and only the very rich people can buy meat items. 

Their destination in Dasma is much harder to reach, and easy for a stranger to get lost. Good thing that she asked her brother who's now staying there, to guide me on my way out to Aguinaldo Road.

My second passenger is Lilibeth, a lady from a town in Eastern Samar. She is looking for her 13-year old son, who left a few days earlier, with her older sister who also brought her own 13 children to Manila. They lost contact, and with no known address of her sister or son here in Manila, she was advised by DSWD personnel to stay at Bahay Silungan near NAIA 1.

A DSWD social worker went with me to endorse Lilibeth to the NGO's temporary shelter. She's thankful and amazed that there are lots of volunteer drivers who spend their time, effort, and gas/toll money, just to help the evacuees. I replied that these are just small sacrifices, compared with what these typhoon victims have gone through.

My last passengers that night are 2 Luzon-based adult sons who picked up their 69-year old father Luis, who's hip bone was fractured by a collapsed wall during the storm surge in Tunga, Leyte. One of the sons did all the possible options just to get his father, who was left alone on their home in Leyte. 

After surviving the storm, their incapacitated father was only given food by their neighboring relatives. It was only when his son had arrived, that their father was treated to a hospital in Tacloban for almost a week, before they could fly to Manila. The father is too frail with his fractured hip bone, so he has to be lifted by his sons from a wheelchair.

Friday, 29 Nov. 2013

Ma'm Faar and I first took 2 families in Partas bus station in Pasay. The two young Tacloban couples with one child each, will be staying on their uncle and father's place in Bauang, La Union. They told me the story of 3 ships which swept the houses during the storm surge, with one ship getting washed as far as on the nearby hill.

They have been waiting at the evacuation center for about 6 hours, as some volunteers chipped in money for their bus fare, and it was only then that there are drivers like us who can take them to the bus terminal. As I accompanied one of the father on the ticket counter, I asked the bus dispatcher for discounts, telling him that the passengers are evacuees from Tacloban while showing my Oplan Hatid poster. Good thing that they gave 15% discount.

The second family we transported that night is composed of a couple (Aufemio & Lolita) with 8 children and nephews/nieces from Gen. McArthur, Eastern Samar. For more than 24 hours, they have been waiting to get a plane ride in Guiuan, enduring the scorching heat during noontime, rains on the afternoon, and cold night. From a Facebook post, here's a glimpse of how a C130 looks like, with lots of evacuees.

With few volunteer drivers that night, nobody is willing to drive them to Angeles City, Pampanga. Then I raised my hand to transport them, but only if another driver would help me, who turned out to be Ma'm Faar again. My heart melted when I saw Ms. Lolita's tearful reaction, as she learned that 2 volunteer drivers will now drive her family to her sister-in-law's place in Pampanga. Her face showed "relieved" and thankfulness, as their family would now end their long and ardous journey.

There was still heavy traffic along EDSA, C5, and Osmena Highway, so I was only able to get back home at 4:00 am. I was very tired and a bit sleepy, and it was only the motivation of helping these victims (plus 4 cups of coffees), that allowed me to do that long drive. Like all the previous typhoon survivors we transported, they are very appreciative of the volunteer drivers' help.

I showed up on the Oplan Hatid HQ last Nov. 27 & 30, but there were many volunteer drivers, so not much luck on bidding process. On few occasions that I could have gotten passengers, I gave the newbie volunteer drivers a chance to win on the bidding to experience transporting the survivors.

I thought Oplan Hatid is all about sad stories by the evacuees, but there was one exception. A fellow volunteer told the story of an evacuee who asked to be taken to Manila Hotel instead, as she badly needs a shower after 3 days. She turned out to be a rich lady, who's even giving the driver volunteer P 500 money. Of course the driver refused to accept the money (we're used to giving money to our very poor passengers), and told her that she could have ridden a taxi instead, to allow the other real poor passengers avail that free drop off ride.

Below are some photos on the volunteer area:

Trucks of major local TV networks on the left, which cover the news on the evacuation efforts.

A boy evacuee enjoying a coloring book (part of the donations), while waiting for their Oplan Hatid ride to Caloocan City.

A tarpaulin poster of "epal" politicians offering free rides. There's at least one more poster of Manila-based politician who's doing the same free ride.

There are mobile phone charging stations, service providers giving free SIM cards, free calls, and wifi access in the area. TESDA booth is giving free chair massage. Portalets are clean enough. Despite the crowd, the area is organized, thanks to PAF, DSWD, and the volunteer organizers. The Bayanihan spirit is alive on the evacuation area. 

With the handover of transport service to DSWD on 01 Dec. 2013, Oplan Hatid as a coordinating team will terminate their service. However, volunteer drivers may still contact DSWD at 0906-2988532, 0998-9821685, and 0998-9821398 for Hatud Kabayan as the replacement program.

Oplan Hatid will hold their potluck party on 7-10 pm of 01 Dec. 2013 for all volunteer drivers. I guess this volunteer movement will not end there, as there are talks to help the victims get jobs to rebuild their lives. I'm happy to have been a member of this helpful and jolly group of volunteers. Thanks to my co-volunteers Nikko, Stephanie, Donna, and Faar for the convoy trips, and of course to the Oplan Hatid organizers. :) 
Bookmark this post:
StumpleUpon DiggIt! Yahoo Technorati Google Twitter FaceBook


  1. Maraming salamat po sa naawang maghatid sa ate at bayaw ko kasama ng mga pamangkin ko sa Angeles City(Pampanga) pagpala-in po kayo ng Panginoong Hesukristo sa kabutihang ginawa nyo sa pamilya namin.

  2. Wala pong anuman. Kumusta na ho sila ngayon?