Just a few days before Christmas, Typhoon Tembin (local name: Vinta), the deadliest cyclone to strike Mindanao since Typhoon Bopha (local name: Pablo) in 2012, made its rage felt in the Davao region where one of CJFI’s residential care centers is located. It was the Philippine’s 27th storm and appeared less than two weeks after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak (local name: Urduja) made landfall, taking lives and costing millions of damages.
It was a devastating sight as thousands of men, women, and children, who were preparing to celebrate Christmas, fled their homes to save their lives from the serious flooding in different parts of Mindanao — Bukidnon, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Misamis Oriental, and Davao City.
In an interview with one of the evacuees, Mr. Ruben Almonia of Davao City said, “Noong araw ng bente-tres, hapon nun, ang barangay namin nagbigay rin sila ng abiso. Kaso nung bandang alas singko ng hapon, bigla lang talaga lumakas ang tubig kaya yon, yung bahay namin nadurog sa tubig. Kaya kami nandito ngayon (It was December 23 in the afternoon when the Barangay officials advised us. And later in the afternoon, the flood water suddenly flowed heavily, submerging all of our houses. That’s why we are all here (in the evacuation site) right now).”
“Saglit lang, siguro mga nasa kalsada na kami, nung mga dalawang segundo lang nasa likod na namin yung tubig. Sobrang lakas tapos ang current ng tubig talagang pabilog (It was very sudden, when we were out in the streets, maybe two seconds, the water is already behind us and the current was so strong),” Mr. Almonia added.
On that same day, the staff and volunteers of the Children’s Joy Foundation, Inc. immediately prepared for disaster response operations for the affected children and families. The children under our care at the CJFI Davao Center even helped with the packing of the relief goods and clothes that were to be distributed to the evacuation centers. The packing lasted for hours but no one seemed to mind the lack of sleep.
It was already five in the morning (December 24th, 5am) when the truck was finally loaded and the team began the drive towards the evacuation centers. We visited different evacuation sites which accommodated more than a thousand evacuees in Davao City that day.
The evacuation centers were filled with families who have nowhere to go — some have even lost everything except the clothes on their backs. Yet despite such ill fate, many were still able to smile and be thankful that they still have their love ones with them and for the help being extended by concerned organizations and individuals.
Finally at two in the afternoon (December 24th, 2pm), the CJFI staff and volunteers arrived back at the residential care center where the children were waiting — excited to begin setting up for the Christmas Eve party.
It was one of the most memorable we’ve ever had as all the staff, our children, and the families around our neighborhood gathered together at the CJFI Davao residential care center to celebrate Christmas together.
Everyone was tired and we needed sleep, but no storm can dampen the spirit of Christmas and the hope for the New Year. And seeing how our children from the CJFI residential center volunteered to help in the relief activities and even gave away some of their clothes and things for the children in the evacuation centers made it all the more meaningful.
The next day was Christmas Day and the CJFI volunteers and staff once again visited the evacuation centers to continue the relief operations.
Aling Lolita, one of the evacuees told CJFI, “Bisan ingon-ani ang among kahimptang karung Pasko, naka-celebrate gihapon mi diri bisan gamay. Salamat kaayo sa inyong tabang (Despite our circumstances this Christmas, we were still able to celebrate in our own little way. Thank you to you all who extended your help.”Written by: Hazel Z.