#ReliefPH: Metro Manila volunteers pitch in

Raisa Serafica
#ReliefPH: Metro Manila volunteers pitch in
Volunteers at the DSWD national resource operation center work round-the-clock to help those affected by Ruby

MANILA, Philippines – Robert Pelayo, 20, hasn’t heard from his family in Masbate in 3 days since Ruby crossed the town of Cataingan on Sunday, December 7.

Although worried about them, Pelayo was determined not to sit idly by. He volunteered to help pack relief goods at the Department of Social Welfare and Development National Resource Operations Center (DSWD NROC) on Tuesday, December 7. 

Pelayo is just one of the more than 1,000 volunteers mobilized by the DSWD for the government’s main relief program, which was launched on Thursday, December 4. 

Dubbed as the “longest-staying typhoon,” Ruby first made landfall in Dolores, Eastern Samar, on Saturday, December 6. It was downgraded to a tropical depression on Tuesday and is expected to leave the Philippine area of responsibility on Thursday, December 11. 

Ruby left at least 11 dead and affected more than 2 million, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC) announced on Tuesday.

Providing relief

SACRIFICE. Robert Pelayo helps pack relief goods for communities affected by the typhoon

When classes were called off, Pelayo, along with his friends from the Family Federation for World Peace Unification, woke up early Tuesday to volunteer at the DSWD NROC. 

Sa pamamagitan ng mga relief goods na to, hindi man kami makatulong sa kanila financially, at least sa manpower (While we weren’t able to help them financially, at least through manpower we were able to extend help through these packed relief goods),” Pelayo added. 

There is no shortage of energy among volunteers like Pelayo who follow a 12-hour shift at the relief operation center. They repack and organize food packs containing 6 kilos of rice, 6 packets of cereal drink, 6 packs of noodles, 4 cans of corned beef, and 4 cans of sardines. According to the DSWD, the food pack can feed a family for 3 days. 

Yung ‘bayanihan’ spirit nating mga Pilipino nandoon pa rin. Dumami ang volunteers natin kaya bumilis din ang pagrerepack natin ng 100,000 relief goods (The bayanihan spirit of the Filipinos is there. The number of volunteers increased and we were able to quickly repack 100,000 relief goods),” said Thelsa Biolenam, director of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Operations Office (DRRROO) of DSWD. 

With the collective help of citizen volunteers, together with teams from the DSWD, the Philippine Army, Philipine National Police, the Philippine Air Force, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Philippine Navy, more than 60,266 family food packs were prepared for delivery to affected communities.

The DSWD NROC aslo released 15,492 family food packs in Region IV-B and 17,430 in Region IV-A. 

“As long as meron pa tayong rehiyon na humihingi ng tulog at may pangangailangan, ipagpapatuloy natin ang relief operations na `to,” Biolena said. (As long as there are regions are still need help, relief operations will continue)

Learning from Yolanda 

Biolena noted that the proactive relief operations for Ruby went smoothly. According to her, the improvement is due to the changes the agency implemented after Super Typhoon Yolanda. 

For example, they increased their stockpile of food packs by 10 times. This enables DSWD to quicky augment relief packs in their regional offices in case the need arises.

As part of their new protocol, DSWD, along with other related agencies, also conducted a pre-disaster risk assessment (PDRA) for Ruby. This is in contrast to their previous practice of assessing damage only after the typhoon crossed the country. 

The observation was echoed by Major Richard Rivera of the Philippine Army contingent. “Suggestions and lessons learned from the Yolanda operations at NROC last year were carried out and implemented during the 2014 calendar. Definitely, 2014 was a reckoning after the Yolanda operations,” said Rivera. 

For Pelayo, who also volunteered during the Yolanda relief operations, the improvements are not the only thing that is different. The feeling of uncertainty, as he waits for news about his family, is also new to him. 

However, Pelayo remains optimistic. 

He hopes that when he talks to his family again, they will tell him about the relief goods they received. – Rappler.com 

You can check the list of relief operations for those affected by #RubyPH on the Project Agos alert map. 

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Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.