Bayanihan spirit alive in Cagayan during, after Lawin
TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Many survivors of Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) here in Cagayan have dreadful stories to tell about the darkest and longest night that they've ever experienced – the night Lawin made landfall on October 19.
But a few, perhaps most importantly, are sharing inspiring stories of heroism.
That night, Soledad Langcay expected that the typhoon would be a strong one. But she opted to stay at home, together with her bedridden husband, 3 children, and 6 grandchildren, instead of evacuating.
"Noong una, mga 6 pm, okay pa, kaya pa. Pero nung 9 pm, biglang lumakas 'yung hangin at natanggal ang mga bubong namin," Langcay said, recalling the horrific moments.
(At around 6 pm, we were still okay, we could still handle it. But at around 9 pm, the winds became stronger and our roof was blown away.)
Langcay and her family then rushed to their neighbor, Maring Castillo, to seek shelter while waiting for the typhoon to weaken.
"Pinatuloy naman kami kahit na maliit lang din ang kanilang tirahan, nagsiksikan kami doon. Tulung-tulong naming binuhat ang asawa kong may sakit sa kasagsagan ng hangin," she said.
(We were welcomed at their house even if it's also small like ours. We were cramped inside. We carried my bedridden husband to their house at the height of strong winds.)
"Nagpapasalamat kami ng marami. Kung hindi dahil sa kanila malamang namatay na kami sa lakas ng hangin at sa mga punong nagsisibagsakan... Hindi na talaga namin alam kung kanino kami kakatok noon," Langcay, now teary-eyed, said.
(We're so grateful. If not for them, we would probably be dead by now because of the powerful winds and the trees that were getting toppled left and right... At that point, we really did not know where to go.)
For Castillo, it was her duty to help her neighbor. She said she is still thankful that they are all safe.
Langcay is just one of the thousands of residents who lost their homes.
According to the Cagayan provincial government, about 45,000 houses were damaged by the typhoon. Of that number, more than 9,000 houses were totally damaged.
Overall, Lawin affected more than 300,000 people in the 28 municipalities and one city of Cagayan.
But where you can see traces of destruction, there also exists the Filipino culture of bayanihan (community spirit).
For instance, hundreds of volunteers are repacking relief goods in relief operation centers.
One of them is 49-year-old Marilyn Cabalza, who decided to volunteer after cleaning up the debris inside her house.
"Kanina pa akong mga alas-diyes dito. Maghapon ako dito tutulong. Tulong ko na lang sa mga parehas ko din na biktima ng Bagyong Lawin," Cabalza said, while busy packing a kilo of rice.
(I've been here since around 10 am. I'll be here all day. It's my way of helping those who are victims of Super Typhoon Lawin like me.)
Lloyd Aldrin Javier of Cagayan State University (CSU)-Carig Campus said his family is blessed because they did not suffer much from the typhoon. As a form of thanksgiving, Javier helped in the packing of relief goods at the Tuguegarao City People's Gymnasium.
"We volunteered because we wanted to. We were enlightened to share hope to the homeless families as of this moment," he said.
Churches are also distributing assistance. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started giving relief goods last Friday, October 21, in evacuation centers.
"The relief goods are contributions of all the members of the church in the whole world. We are giving it to the identified families, either members or non-members," said Brother Kenneth Lee, head of the humanitarian department, in a speech before the distribution.
At CSU-Andrews, there's the #BangonCagayan campaign, a joint project of the Athena Debate Society, Association of Legal Management Students, and the Campus Student Government in partnership with The Northern Forum as well as telcos TM and Globe.
The drop-off point for donations is located at the CSU-Andrews gate.
"Our goal is to reach the unreachable. #BangonCagayan will accept donations from different people and organizations then it is our duty to give it to the community," said Genica Daquioag, a volunteer for #BangonCagayan.
Free charging, load, Wi-Fi
Since electricity is still down, telcos are offering Wi-Fi, cellphone load, and charging – all for free – to give residents the chance to talk to family members abroad or outside the typhoon-hit areas.
Louie Pagalilauan, one of the top officials of Smart in Cagayan province, said they had served more than a thousand residents already when they opened their free charging station last Saturday, October 22.
"This is our initiative to connect the residents here to their loved ones," Pagalilauan said.
She said even Globe users are welcome to charge their phones because it is during these times that competition should be set aside. – with reports from Julius Catulin & Erma Diciano / Rappler.com