Saturday, July 25, 2015
I GOT TAPPED AGAIN to assist and be involved in yet another humanitarian mission to Guintarcan Island, off the coast of Northern Cebu. I had been there seven times; four as a local tourist and three more as a relief worker. So, this would be my eighth trip there. The Children of the Coast Foundation, for the second time, make use of my familiarity and knowledge of the island today, December 13, 2014. Aside that, I will do the documentation.
CCF is engaged in philanthropy works that focuses in the betterment of marginalized children, those of which are considered vulnerable. CCF is working with Wine to Water, a US-based charity organization that specializes in providing potable water to the poorest communities of the world by any means using technology. The recipient of this mission is the post-Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) community of Langub.
Supervising this activity is Wine to Water’s international project coordinator, Mr. Brad Ponack, who came here all the way from Cambodia. Joining us is CCF’s executive director, Ms. Jonnette Alquizola. A coaster van and a double-cab pickup are loaded from CCF’s depot at Mandaue City and left for Daanbantayan at 05:45. By 09:30, me and my three crews begin transferring the items from wharf to a small outriggered boat.
The items were 50 pieces Sawyer Bio Bucket Filter, 40 pieces 20-liter water container, 40 pieces 20-liter bucket, 40 kilos rice, 80 sets basic health and hygiene kit and 80 pieces towel. Mr. Ponack came along for a ride together with two of the crews while Ms. Alquizola opt to stay behind and utilize the remaining crew to help her distribute the other items not loaded into the boat to a community in San Remigio.
Typhoon Ruby did not intensify into a super typhoon as was forecast but it stayed for four days in the Visayas region bringing rain and storm surges of 3 to 5 meters high which threaten shoreline communities and small islands. As we cross the Bantayan Channel, swells of up to one meter threaten our small boat brought on by another weather disturbance approaching the islands. We reach the village of Langub at 10:40 and, immediately, we transfer the items straight into the home of the village chairman, Mr. Rolando Villacarlos.
Mr. Villacarlos welcomed us and showed us his rain-impounding system installed on his house after Mr. Ponack inquired of how they source fresh-water. This system is common in most households but is not altogether reliable owing to the need of frequent rainfalls as a source of drinking water to support a family the whole year round. Then you have hygiene issues. Impounded rain would have to be boiled or filtered for it to be potable. Boiling needs heat which a private power plant supplies electricity for just a few hours only which is costly.
After Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), several relief agencies and non-government organizations donated different water filter systems to improve the living conditions of Guintarcan residents. Mr. Villacarlos showed one such type, which is a Korean-made ceramic-type filter. It is well-maintained but the lack of replacements for the filter elements have hounded the other households to condemn it and utilize it for other uses instead.
We had observed that relief agencies/NGOs had not bothered about the filters that they had donated and left it to the fate of the locals or that it had not been their priority. Actually, the supply of filters are available in the big cities like Cebu and Manila and it is just that the residents are not knowledgeable of its availability or that the filter replacements are expensive. But the big obstacle is maintenance. The residents just lacked the know-how in the care of their filters.
We learned also that a private enterprise located on the island are supplying households of drinkable water. The water is sourced from a deep well in the middle of the island and pumped to the surface and converted from brackish to fresh water by reverse osmosis. A 5-liter container costs 35 pesos but not everyone have cash to buy one bottle to last for a week. So we looked instead to some residents who really are vulnerable for which Mr. Villacarlos is now tasking himself to produce with a list.
Meanwhile, we decide to check on the lone public school of Langub. We talked to one teacher and we were informed that there are a total of 344 students in seven different grade levels. The school has two modern rain-impounding systems which were built and donated by Mercy Corps and each classroom is equipped with a Sawyer filter system each given by the All-terrain Medical Relief Organization. Almost all filters are working but a few had worked below its expectation. This is caused by lack of knowledge.
Mr. Ponack fixed one existing filter system and added another better system for the Grade 4 Classroom. For good measure, Wine to Water donated a total of seven Sawyer Bio Bucket Filters to the Langub Elementary School to bring to a total of 14 filter systems or two filters each per classroom. The present system is an improvement of the existing which only utilized a plastic jerry. This time, Mr. Ponack ensures the students have a stock of enough water by attaching the filter to a bucket with a lid and its flow of clean water going into a jerry.
Before leaving the school, we gave the Grade 4 teacher 56 sets of hygiene and health kits for her 56 students. When we got back to Mr. Villacarlos’ residence, we were feted to a lunch of freshly-caught fish, grilled on charcoal, to add to our packed meals of fried chicken, spring rolls and rice. It is 13:10 but Mr. Ponack have a lot of work to do. He has to attach the rest of the Sawyer filters plastic jerries and buckets and he has two of the crews to help him as I will do a little exploring.
I found four rowhouses of 10 units each which gave shelter to the households that was displaced by Typhoon Yolanda. The vegetation had recovered well and youths are playing basketball on a concrete court. I walk past houses whose concrete floors are half-covered with white sand. I understand a strong storm surge had caused sand erosion from the seabed into the shoreline and into the main road of this side of Guintarcan. Langub had bore the brunt of Typhoon Ruby on the island.
I visit Judith Illustrisimo, who had hosted me during my first relief mission here last year together with the crews of the Death Valley Expeditionary Corps, a US-based humanitarian aid group composed of private security and military contractors. She is selling fresh fish for me – cheap – and I ordered two kilos, for which she gave me more than that for 200 pesos. I gave thanks and said goodbye and went back to where I came from, passing by the road.
On the way, I saw a white steel box. I came nearer and I discovered a small solar-powered desalination plant. This was donated by the Italian contingent of Oxfam just this year. It gets its water from a very deep hole in the ground, pumped to the surface by clean renewable energy supplied by photovoltaic panels and by wind vanes. Ultraviolet tubes cleans the water of impurities and bacteria before it pours out of the taps. Ingenious.
By now, people are beginning to converge at the house of the village head. Mr. Ponack and the crew are almost finished with the assembly of the water-filter systems. Joseph Rojo, one of the crew, begins to explain to the residents in plain Cebuano dialect, how and when to clean the filters. Then we delegate the distribution of all the relief items to Mr. Villacarlos.
It had started to rain when we left the island at 15:00 and boarded the small boat back to the mainland. We encountered slightly rough seas in the middle of the Bantayan Channel but I am undaunted. The boat touched base at 16:00 and, immediately, we left the wharf for Mandaue City.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer