A Cry for Help
By Salvador G. Eduarte, Jr.*
The disaster brought about by Tropical Storm Washi is unprecedented. Many lives were devastated and forever changed by the disaster that struck the people of Mindanao, a southern island of the Philippines, last month. Many people are still missing, and hundreds of corpses are discovered daily during search operations. The death toll has risen to 1,257, and the number of missing to 173. Damages to property and farmlands are estimated at almost PhP 1.5 billion (more than US $34 million).
An Islamic community about 11 miles from the city of Iligan was swept away by Washi, also called Typhoon Sendong. The community in Iligan comprises four barangays, or municipalities, namely, Mandulog, Kalilangan, Lanipao, and Dulag. Maik Sultan, a 55-year-old chieftain from Kalilangan, tearfully recalled the events of that fatal night of December 16, 2011.
He said that many of the people living near the river and in nearby communities were drowned by floodwaters. About 17 died and many others are still missing. Still others were able to survive the onslaught of Sendong by swimming away or climbing onto rooftops. Corn and other crops that provide a livelihood to many in the community also were destroyed. Schools were washed out by floodwaters seven feet high and two and a half acres in diameter.
According to Maik, organizations have responded and provided food and non-food items to the community, though more help is needed. “We are still in need of food donations and are appealing to those who have generous hearts to help us rebuild our lives and our communities,” he said.
The Islamic community in Iligan is one of the communities being organized by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP). UMCOR is responding to typhoon-affected areas in Cagayan De Oro and Iligan, in partnership with RMP and BALSA Mindanao.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, in collaboration with Panda Bulig, a disaster-response NGO, founded BALSA Mindanao, a citizen-led response to the immense humanitarian crisis brought about by Typhoon Sendong. The components of BALSA Mindanao relief missions include food, medical assistance, psychosocial relief, documentation, and education.
*Salvador G. Eduarte, Jr., is a professor at Philippine Christian University and an UMCOR volunteer in the Philippines.