Sunday, 1 December 2013

Wawandue Landslide part 1

Every year the Philippines is hit by 20-30 typhoons and it's just something we learn to live with here.  Usually there is ample warning as to when the storm will arrive, what its intensity will be and  which areas will bear the brunt of it.  So we pump water, buy candles and canned food in preparation of the power cuts.  

There is usually only one or two typhoons a year that will cause severe floods, damage and possibly loss of life due to drowning.  

This disaster however, was not due to a typhoon, but rather due to monsoon rains, so there was no warning.  It also occurred in the early hours of the morning when most people were still enjoying their sleep in the cooler rainy season weather.

On August 21 Typhoon "Maring" caused floods and devastation throughout our region and Manila but the worst was yet to be.

Heavy monsoon rains fell throughout the night and early morning of September 23 in the Zambales area.  As people slept soundly they were unaware of the danger they were in. Landslides claimed the lives of 33 throughout the province.

When we heard the news that 11 had died in a landslide in Wawandue, we went to check that all the kids who were part of our "Shine" children's club from that village were safe.  We were devastated to learn that 9 of the 11 victims were children and all 9 were "Shine" kids.

The Cuanan family (husband, wife, 3 daughters and 1 son) were all buried alive while they slept.
Daughter Donalyn who was working in Manila survived alone.

Rolly Ejorcada Managed to save his wife, 3 daughters  (including his baby just a few months old) but by the time he got them to safety it was too late to save his boys.  All 3 sons (ages 4, 6 and 8) perished.

It was 6 o'clock in the morning and Jomar Ytac had just stepped out of the house.  All three children had been in the bedroom but the boys were teasing their toddler sister.  She had just run into the arms of her mother, when suddenly they were being buried alive.

As Jomar responded immediately trying to dig out his wife and baby with his bare hands, he could hear his sons (8 and 12) crying out for help.

I remember when my children were small and we had a strong earthquake.  My first thought was "Which of my my 5 children do I save first?"  It's a terrible dilemma and a terrible reality. I  tended to think of rescuing the youngest first simply because they are the most vulnerable and helpless, but nevertheless, it's still a terrible dilemma to face.

By the time Jomar got his wife and baby out, it was too late for the two boys.

After not many minutes the rescue mission turned to a recovery mission and 11 bodies were recovered from the site.

                                         Volunteers desperately search for the missing

                                 candles burn on the site where the 11 dear ones perished 

I really felt so desperately sorry for these families.  The first time we met was at the funeral home where the 11 open caskets were displayed.  What help could I offer them?

At first I thought not to approach them.  After all I am "White" and they may think I am rich, and at the time we were struggling to provide for the 80+ children in our POC Children's Homes.  I almost talked myself out of reaching out to them, just thinking that I had nothing to offer them financially.  But as I looked at their faces, a picture of hopelessness and despair, I knew that I needed to reach out to them if only with some love and care.

It is amazing what caring sentiments can do for people in their hour of need.  Friends, it really costs nothing to reach out and offer a few minutes of your time to show someone you care.

I approached Donna first.  She is the beautiful young girl who lost her whole family.  I told her that whilst I had no money to offer help, I told her that we were there for her if she needed us and  I asked if she would like us to do a memorial service in remembrance of her family.  Her face lit up and she smiled and thanked us for our help.   Rolly and Jomar also wanted us to include their children in the memorial service too. 

                           "Shine" team comfort bereaved children as they remember their friends

We had a wonderful memorial service, as many POCF and "Shine" members came to offer their love and condolences.  

It was wonderful to see how the bereaved were uplifted just to know that people cared, but I wanted to be able to do so much more.

And so we did..... 
Find out what happened in my next blog

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