Siargao Island

Community kitchens help Siargao folk get through Odette crisis

Roel Catoto
Community kitchens help Siargao folk get through Odette crisis

FREE FOOD. Volunteer relief aid workers serve food to villagers on Siargao Island in the aftermath of the December 16, 2021 Typhoon Odette (Rai) devastation.

Roel Catoto/Rappler

Thanks to community kitchens that have mushroomed on the island, many needy families have been able to have free meals every day

SURIGAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – With its tourism and agriculture sectors crippled by Typhoon Odette, hundreds of Siargao Island residents have been dependent on community kitchens for food for over a month now.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and brought tourism to a halt, the island turned to farming and fishing as its major economic drivers, according to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

Siargao started to bounce back in mid-September 2021 after the government, through Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and vaccination czar Vince Dizon, ramped up the vaccination rollout on the island.

But then Odette unleashed its fury on Siargao Island on December 16, 2021, devastating its tourism and agriculture sectors.

Thanks to community kitchens that have mushroomed on the island, many needy families have been able to have free meals every day.

Dapa Mayor Elizabeth Matugas on Sunday, January 30, cited one group, World Central Kitchen and its partners Shakeysph and Lamari-Siargao, that have been running a mobile food rationing program in communities seen as underserved by either public or non-governmental organizations. 

Chef Jeser Englis Ortaniza has been cooking hundreds of healthy meals daily along with the entire staff of the Lamari resort.

“We are happy to serve the underserved communities. This motivates and drives us non-stop to help fellow men in their darkest moments,” Ortaniza said. 

Children at Don Paulino in Dapa town said they couldn’t thank the community kitchens and relief aid groups for their generosity and kindness. Two of them, eight-year-old John Ruaya and seven-year-old Edwin Clave, were all smiles as they headed back to their shelters with full stomachs.

A volunteer, Richard Sharpe, said the World Community Kitchen and its partners have been a lifeline for many of the Siargao communities.

The group has been helping in providing meals to over 105 villages across Siargao Island daily.

David Del Rosario, a chef and restaurant owner in General Luna town, has been raising funds to help more than a dozen fishermen fix their damaged boats.

Del Rosario bought for them marine plywood, adhesive, and other materials needed to repair the boats.

“We hope we can do some more,” he said.

DAMAGED BOAT. A fisherman inspects his damaged boat on Siargao Island in the aftermath of the December 16, 2021 Typhoon Odette (Rai) devastation. –Roel Catoto/Rappler

Help has been coming too from various civic organizations.

The Junior Chamber International (JCI), for instance, brought solar lights for remote villages on Siargao Island.

“These solar lights will be used by farmers and fisherfolk, the marginalized, while they wait for the supply of electricity to be restored in their villages,” said Jupiter Copag of the JCI-Surigao Nickel which spearheaded the project with the help of its counterparts in Manila and Legazi.

Aid for pets

Several other groups have been helping in the ongoing relief operations and one that’s taking care even of pets that have been overlooked.

The Balay Yuhom-Spar Rescue Team has been feeding animals, mostly dogs and cats that were left behind during the evacuations in December 2021.

Tina Ledesma, head of the group, said they have brought several animals out of the island so they could be reunited with their owners who left Siargao.

Jiji Ortiz, a pet owner, said he was happy to receive dog food from the group during the first two weeks after the December devastation when supplies for pets were scarce. –Rappler.com

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