Lopezlink, a monthly publication of the Lopez Group of Companies

Typhoon spurs ‘bayanihan’

WHEN Jane woke up on the morning of September 26, she thought it was just another rainy Saturday, like most weekends in the past month or so had been. She wasn’t going to let the rain stop her from spending the day at the nearest mall 15 minutes away, her way of unwinding from a long, crazy week at work.

Then the first text message came: “Where are you? The flood is already waist-deep here, even the pedicabs are useless.” And another: “It’s flooded everywhere, a lot of people are stranded. Don’t go out, floodwaters are rising fast.” They were from a friend who lived two streets away. When she checked online, she realized just how serious the situation in Manila was..

A flurry of posts from her Facebook contacts told of being stuck in cars or homes, and shared traffic advisories, hotline numbers, pleas for help for stranded friends or information about missing relatives. There were also heartbreaking snapshots of city streets rendered unrecognizable by raging waters and residents struggling to literally keep their heads above water..

The nine-hour continuous rainfall brought by typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana) left some parts of Manila under as much as 20 feet of water due to poor drainage systems, failed infrastructure (pumping stations broken, creeks collapsed). The total rainfall was 455 millimeters, which is a month’s worth of rainfall; in comparison, Hurricane Katrina,which hit the United States in August 2005, had 250 millimeters of rain..

With 80% of the metropolis submerged, including areas which had never been flooded before, Ondoy goes down in history as Manila’s worst deluge in more than 40 years. The death toll as of this writing has reached at least 280. The number of affected families across Luzon has swelled to 609,548, while the number of evacuees has reached 680,000, according to latest data from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). Damage to property and agriculture meanwhile was pegged at P4.79 billion. A state of national calamity has been declared in over 27 provinces in seven regions, as well as in the National Capital Region (NCR). The provinces included are Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet (CAR); Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Sur (Region I); Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya (Region II); Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac and Bataan (Region III); Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Region IV-A); Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental and Marinduque (Region IV-B); and Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur (Region V). Marikina, Cainta and Pasig meanwhile were the hardest hit areas in Metro Manila. In the Lopez Group, some 5,555 employees required evacuation and other assistance after their homes were flooded; Meralco reported the most number of affected employees (3,361), followed by ABS-CBN (858), Lopez Inc.-Security Group (400) and SkyCable (212). All employees who initially could not be contacted in the days after the typhoon struck have been accounted for. All over the Philippines, including in Metro Manila itself, ordinary Filipinos moved swiftly to help their devastated countrymen.

Netizens used Facebook, Twitter and Plurk to pass on updates, advisories, and directions to people in need of evacuation or rescue. Whole families, teenaged barkadas and schoolchildren trooped to makeshift warehouses to help sort and pack relief goods; assist at evacuation centers. Others took part in rescue and retrieval operations right in the devastated areas.

As early as Sunday, Sept. 27, ABS-CBN talents started manning a telethon on behalf of Sagip Kapamilya, ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.’s emergency humanitarian assistance program. With their help, SK quickly gathered P62.4 million in cash pledges and another P90M worth of goods.

Among the stars who took pledges from donors were Piolo Pascual, Jericho Rosales, Gerald Anderson, Kim Chiu, Karylle, Melissa Ricks, Jake Cuenca, Jed Madela and Pokwang. Kris Aquino, Kim Atienza and SK head Tina Monzon-Palma annotated the telethon. Angel Locsin, Maricar Reyes, Shaina Magdayao, Serena Dalrymple and Zanjoe Marudo helped SK in distributing relief goods in Payatas, Quezon City. More talents, such as Ruffa Gutierrez, joined hundreds of other volunteers in sorting and packing donations in the SK warehouse on Examiner St., QC. The facility, with some 250 SK staff and volunteers onboard, deployed as many as 12,000 bags of goods in a day where others average 3,000 or 5,000 bags.

Rosales and Anderson in addition were hailed for their initiative to check on their neighbors and pluck people from rooftops and bring them to safety, Anderson in his Quezon City neighborhood holding on to a rope and Rosales on his surfboard in Marikina. In a statement released on the same day, ABS-CBN thanked everyone who helped, donated and offered other services— and continue to do so—through Sagip Kapamilya.

“Patuloy kaming humihingi ng suporta para sa iba pang mga pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan. Asahan niyo na kaagapay ninyo kami hanggang manumbalik ang kaayusan,” it said.

In Antipolo, Meralco Management and Leadership Development Center (MMLDC) and EL Center opened their doors to Lopez Group employees displaced by the floods. Meralco on the other hand provided 26 generator sets and 50 floodlights to Metro Manila evacuation centers. To know how and where you can contribute to the relief efforts, check out “Kapamilya ko, sagot ko!”