Monday, December 08, 2008

2 fishermen missing in Catanduanes

Rains trigger landslides, floods in Bicol areas
By Ephraim Aguilar
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 23:17:00 12/08/2008

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—As monsoon rains continue to affect Southern Luzon, two fishermen were reported missing while roads have been made impassable by landslides and floods in the provinces of Catanduanes and Sorsogon, officials said.

The Bicol regional disaster coordinating council identified the two fishermen as Edwin Taopo, 40, and Cezar Soriano, 40, of the village of Batalay in Bato, Catanduanes. They were last seen Friday.

A landslide also occurred in the village of Paraiso in San Miguel, Catanduanes.

The Virac-Viga road in Catanduanes was already impassable, Bicol civil defense director Raffy Alejandro said in the RDCC report.

In Sorsogon province, a spillway in the village of San Rafael in Sta. Magdalena, Sorsogon was also impassable due to rising floods. Footpaths in the villages of San Roque, San Isidro in the same town were also flooded.

Some 40 families were already evacuated and are temporarily sheltered at the San Antonio Elementary school in Sta. Magdalena.

Alejandro said the RDCC already requested a chopper from the Philippine Air Force as requested by the Catanduanes provincial government, which intends to conduct an aerial survey of the affected areas.

Corazon Samar, chief meteorologist of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration in Legazpi City said heavy rains in Bicol are caused by the tail-end of the cold front affecting the region.

She said that there is currently a gale warning over Bicol and Southern Luzon, which means these areas will experience winds gusting up to 70 kilometers per hour as induced by the surge of the northeast monsoon.

A low pressure area was spotted in the Samar area Monday morning but Samar said it was an inactive low pressure area and just a remnant of the cold front.

She said the prevailing weather from November to February is expected to be wet in the eastern side of the country especially in the coastal areas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

‘Reming’ survivors meet new aid heroes

By Ephraim Aguilar
Legazpi City

TWO YEARS AFTER SUPERTYPHOON “REMING” sent lahar from Mayon Volcano crashing down villages in Albay, killing over a thousand people, new heroes have risen from the rubble to sustain what was started from scratch.

Many international relief agencies had ceased to operate in the province, but new institutions are now bringing long-term assistance to the survivors.

A defining moment confronted Gail Narramore, a 30-year-old South African, when she visited the ruins left by lahar in Barangay Maipon in Guinobatan town. A grade school teacher from London, Narramore flew to Manila and Albay in January last year to see for herself the magnitude of the disaster.


Since childhood, Narramore has dreamed of putting up her own orphanage to care for abandoned, abused and neglected children.

While reading the Bible on a four-hour train trip in London, Narramore said she met an old Christian minister who befriended her. The man, however, died five years later but he had willed that all proceeds from his funeral be given to Narramore so she could start her charity work.

The woman’s visit to Maipon village wrenched her heart. “Around 300 people ran after me the moment the villagers noticed my presence. Maybe they thought I was there to distribute food or clothing. There was deep despair in the eyes of the people,” she recalled.

“It was raining and flooded that day. I saw one house made of bamboo standing, but half of it was buried under sand,” she said.

But Narramore could not forget the face of a woman survivor named Nora. “She looked very happy and was smiling to me as she pointed to her half-buried house,” she said.

Nora was tending a “sari-sari” (retail) store near her house. “I wrote a sign ‘Business as Usual’ and posted it there,” Narramore said.

Despite the tragedy, she said she was “shocked at how these people kept on going.”

Free day care classes

Narramore went back to Manila to learn the legal requirements and ways of putting up a charity institution. In October last year, she started the Tiwala Kids and Communities in Albay.

Tiwala has been holding free day-care classes for poor children in the hilly Sitio Cawayan in Barangay Calayucay, Sto. Domingo town. The schools are far from the village, an hour-long walk down a craggy trail.

“Most of their parents are farmers. The livelihood of the people there were badly affected after Reming,” Narramore said.

Tiwala has also been feeding and educating street children in the capital city of Legazpi.

It has Filipino volunteers and a staff. Narramore and two staff members had been living with the community in a farm in Cawayan, a 45-minute trek from downtown.

Alleviating hunger

Another kind-hearted soul, businesswoman Mediatrix Villanueva has been actively involved in linking government and nongovernment organizations for relief missions.

Seeing thousands of children facing hunger in the aftermath of the supertyphoon, Villanueva, who hails from Daraga town, created the Dios Mabalos Foundation. “Dios Mabalos,” which means “May God bless you in return,” is used by Bicolanos to express gratitude.

Villanueva said her group had been working with the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation and the Pondo ng Pinoy to hold supplemental feeding programs in schools and parishes.

“Since livelihood was badly affected by the disaster, the standard of living of families dropped. Poverty left many children sickly and malnourished,” said Erlinda Samonte, Dios Mabalos project manager.

The foundation has already fed 47,875 children over six months under its daily nutrition program dubbed “Hapag-asa.” It serves rice porridge containing Vita-meal (lentil fortified with over 28 vitamins).

It has already expanded its operations to Aklan, where Villanueva’s mother comes from.


The provincial government has created a task force to implement a socioeconomic recovery program called “Albay Mabuhay.”

Its coordinator, Emily Kare, said many of the relief agencies had already closed, but there was still the need to bring the people’s lives back to normal and uplift them.

Albay Mabuhay has been providing skills training, credit assistance for livelihood, and job referrals and placements to beneficiaries.

If there is one good thing that “Reming” had brought to Albay, it strengthened the collaboration between government and nongovernment agencies, Kare said. “We have learned to combine our strengths to help the victims of disaster,” she said.

She said, however, that more funds were needed to complete the recovery as displaced families were still living in “transit” shelters in relocation sites. The dwellings are rooms made of plywood and galvanized iron sheets.

Kare placed the shelter gap at still 5,862 in two cities and five towns in Albay alone. Each resettlement house costs around P150,000.