They need us now! An appeal to support Tacloban City and Region 8

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Monday, November 11, 2013


The start of a love affair

If there is such a thing as the perfect time, this would probably be it.

In fact, I should say, I am putting all these words together because this is probably what we call...In His Time.

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In my first few years of working for Globe Telecom (one of the Philippines' biggest Telecommunications Company), one of the best memories I made was having to be assigned in Region 8. In our country, we call it the Eastern Visayas.

Eight years back, as the company's Trade Marketing Specialist, I would tirelessly travel every single week in the area, crossing the waters from Cebu (the second largest city in the Philippines and the province where I was based in) to Ormoc City (my point of entry to Leyte) bringing my service vehicle. I did not have to do it that often; in fact, my predecessor went to the region almost four times a year only. But there was something about travelling in the place that did not really make me see it as purely work. Something then that I could not really explain. Well at that time, I would always stress to my boss that I would be better able to understand the territory if I was personally there assessing the market and the trade.

After two years, I moved to Sales Department as a Senior Sales Account Manager. Assigned in Cebu for three months and then relocated to Tacloban City (the Capital City of Region Eight) for a special assignment. I got the job not just because of a great relocation package, not just because at that point in my life, I wanted a major change personally but because deep inside me, I was longing to be there more often. I felt like I was the turtle in the fable, threatened to be thrown out in the sea.

There are what we call good decisions matched with good luck. Then, while in the area, I gained a number of Highest Activation Awards. This great experience became my first best memories of the place and started my LOVE AFFAIR with Region 8.

Barely a sacrifice

In the years of working around Leyte, Samar and Biliran; there were a few common impressions and questions that my friends would ask me. "How do you survive that?" they would ask.

I realized that for many people, being assigned in this place would take a lot of sacrifice. Digging deeper to their thoughts, their opinion about the place was hinged on Warays (the name of the people living in Region 8) are war freak, the poverty stricken provinces in the region and the place being a typhoon belt in the country.

These factors I do not want to ever deny. I agree these are all facts but the beauty I see and the wonders I have experienced will always make up for it. The reasons are innumerable for me and indeed staying in the region was barely a sacrifice.

Spreading the word

People just ought to know that the place is a hidden paradise. There are white pristine beaches that are far better than a lot of the well visited islands all throughout the Philippines. The virgin island of Kalanggaman with powder white sand is one of them. Worth mentioning is the rock formation in Biri Island. No one goes to these places without being enchanted and awed.

The richness of its heritage and history is just amazing. Historical and religious sites that convey the stories of the Spanish Era, the War of Independence and the US Era, the remnants of the stories of the Second World War and the remarkable Marcos regime. All these we remember in the sites of Mc Arthur Park, the Balangiga Church Bell Tower, the Limasawa Island and the Sto. Nino Shrine to name a few.

The longest bridge in the Philippines, the San Juanico Bridge connects Leyte and Samar and the stories around it being the Bridge of Love. The bridge was a rumored gift of love by the late former President of the country, Ferdinand Marcos to his beautiful and legendary Leytena wife, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos.

All these string of reasons along with the many popular personalities who come from the region who made it big nationally and in the international scenario. The likes of Haute Couture Fashion Designer Michael Cinco, Philippine Basketball Association's (PBA) explosive point guard, Jimmy Alapag, Azkals (Philippine Football Team) Manager, Dan Palami and Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez.

My ESPEJO Magazine project became a diary of this vision and indeed each word of each page spoke of the pride of the region. The magazine became a one of a kind medium of spreading the word to the other provinces in the Philippines and all throughout the world.

The effects of world’s strongest typhoon in Tacloban City

A few days ago, super typhoon Yolanda with international codename Haiyan visited the Philippines passing through Region 8. Yolanda reported to be the world's strongest tropical cyclone had maximum sustained winds of 315 kph. The super typhoon devastated the provinces of Region 8 in different scales but left its Capital City - Tacloban with the worst stories after Yolanda passed.

It is not for me to detail here for the whole world has seen the footages on TV. After being disconnected from the place since Thursday and hearing nothing from friends, loved ones and relatives, people are now bombarded with videos and recounts of horror and trauma.

It did not end in the rising death toll, in the loss of homes and hard earned businesses and properties. The situation is even taking its toll on an anarchy-like situation with rampant looting and theft. But who are we to malign and judge them, with zero communication and a scene where dead bodies cover the streets, anyone would go crazy. You have your stomach to feed, emotions to tend and loved ones to look for. There is no thinking about tomorrow, survival means living now.

An appeal to the government

Yesterday, when I felt the pang of what I thought would just be a one day temporary disconnection from the place. I scurried to look for people to seek help from. I asked for the numbers and email addresses of Secretary Mar Roxas, Secretary Rene Almendras, Congressman FM Romualdez and even the CEO of Globe Telecom, Ernest Cu.

I sent text messages to some of them through Facebook and sent emails begging for assistance. I was one of the thousands who were feeling helpless from a distance. Each report on TV took air from me. I could not stand the sight.

Mr. Ernest Cu was kind enough to assure us that restoration is on the works and he has directed his field operations team to leave no stone unturned in restoring services as quickly as possible. It was a simple note that gave a ray of hope for everyone else waiting to be connected to all their loved ones.

With everything that is happening, may we APPEAL TO THE GOVERNMENT, to put politics aside and help Tacloban. No one is to be blamed here. No one was spared. Everyone is a victim. The local government officials and the local police have also lost their homes and trying to account for their families too.

No reason to continue pointing fingers and no more consideration if this place heeded our endorsements in the last elections or not. We beg you, please mobilize the government agencies now. Please send relief goods to temporarily feed the people and more military troops to augment security. It is bad enough that nature has washed away everything; please do not allow human caused torment due to security vacuum to last any longer.

An appeal to all Filipinos and to everyone else in the world

Now, that I am on this part I am at a loss for words. But I have to finish this right for I know at this very point in time in Region 8 specifically in the City of Tacloban, there are thousands of them outside their homes. Most are probably not sleeping yet, out of discomfort of the cold of the night and lack of proper clothes and the fear of the dead bodies around. Some would most likely be staring in the dark sky confused and questioning. There would probably be many weeping and not ceasing to look for the other family members who they have not found yet, scouring through debris preparing themselves for the worst but at the same time hopeful that their loved ones are still alive.

It's 12:35 a.m. of November 11 and four days has passed since Yolanda. While they are out there thirsty, hungry and unsecure of what tomorrow will bring, we are in the comfort of our homes. Let us not be passive observers. We are here for a reason, so that we can all help.

Please support any fund drive and relief operations for Tacloban City, they are in dire need of us now.
Cleofe Uy Catuday
Editor-In-Chief ESPEJO Magazine

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