Children who stopped by UMCOR’s photo booth in Iligan smile for the camera. The sign they are holding says, “I survived Sendong,” a deadly storm.
Three months after Typhoon Washi (Sendong) unleashed its fury and claimed the lives of more than a thousand people, I had the opportunity to visit Northern Mindanao: a place where trees still lie on the ground and houses have been torn down to their foundations. This was the atmosphere of the place we were heading into, a place in Iligan. The mere sight of it can bring chills down your spine when you think about what happened there.
Seeing people recover is a sight for sore eyes, though, and my mom’s brilliant idea of taking pictures of the typhoon survivors and giving them the hard copy of the pictures is a big help to the people. Making sure that our hearts were in the right place, we went to Barangay Luinab (a barangay in the Philippines is like a village) to start our UMCOR photo booth project. My sister and I were assigned to print the pictures after my mom and dad photographed the people. Some of the people actually needed pictures for their IDs and other various stuff, and so, we also took their ID pictures, too.
But the day wasn’t over yet. We next visited a covered court in Barangay Tambacan. One by one, the people waited for their pictures, and the sight of the children as they looked at their photos was a sight to smile at. We were about to leave when one child asked me if I would give my plastic bracelet to him. I didn’t hesitate, and quickly gave it to him, and we went back to our resting place.
The next day, we headed to Bayug Island. While BALSA Mindanao, an UMCOR partner, started to distribute relief goods and began a psychosocial sessions for survivors, we started set up the photo booth. The smiles of the people, who were thankful for their photos and relief goods, have made me realize that rendering services to our sisters and brothers is a source of happiness.
Helping people to recover and rebuild their lives is the reason why UMCOR and its partner agencies continue to be there and be hope. I am thankful that I was part of that mission. Hopefully, I can help again.
*Gabby Eduarte, 14, is an UMCOR volunteer. During the sessions of packing relief goods, he would invite his classmates and friends to help. He also joined UMCOR in the field during relief efforts following Typhoon Ketsana. His mother, Ciony Eduarte, heads UMCOR’s field office in the Philippines.