Written by Leanne Padernal, Volunteer Writer and Photographer
SABTANG, BATANES ISLAND – It was a bright sunny morning when I first saw an old crouched grandma slowly trudging towards the Operation Blessing truck.
Her back bent at close to a 90-degree angle, she was barely able to walk and I winced in pain thinking about how the old woman could have managed to survive the recent super typhoon that hit the entire island of Batanes.
80-year-old Lola Angelina, as I fondly called her, is one of the surviving Ivatans living in the Municipality of Sabtang, which was recently devastated by Typhoon Ferdie.
Lola Angelina, like all the other Ivatans, patiently stood on the sides as one by one they were ushered by Operation Blessing Disaster Relief coordinator. After the counselor prayed for her, I cautiously approached Lola Angelina as my heart naturally went out to her. Having suffered from severe back pain myself, I was so impressed by the resilience of the woman, I was curious to hear her story.
Lola Angelina shared that at around 8 in the evening of September 13, with heavy rain and rough winds, their entire house was suddenly flooded with water from the ocean. What made the flood worse was water and garbage came rushing from the mountain. With tears in her eyes, Lola Angelina narrated how she hung onto dear life while tightly gripping on to the door of their small stone house crying out, “God, please help me! God, please help me!”
As we walked Lola Angelina to her house, I saw the door, which she desperately clung on to, was actually just a mere thin slab of plywood. Miraculously, Lola Angelina survived one of the greatest storms ever to hit the country despite her infirmities. God truly answers prayers and Lola Angelina’s hope in the Lord was affirmed when He answered her cries that night.
Not only was she saved from the storm, a relief was also delivered to her at just the right time. Not content with giving just temporary relief for the Ivatans in Sabtang Island, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed by the Mayor of the Municipality of Basco for the temporary stewardship of the water desalination until the water tanks and pipes of the municipality would be fully repaired.
Although the Province of Batanes did not experience the brunt of Super Typhoon Lawin (international name Haima), four other typhoons damaged the area before September 13, 2016 – the latest one, the Typhoon Ferdie.
With less than a month of interval, the Island’s inhabitants have barely recovered when they were hit by Super Typhoon Lawin leaving the Ivatans close to nothing – all their crops and their fish utterly damaged by the raging waters brought on by the onslaught of Super Typhoon Lawin’s monstrous winds and heavy rain. The Ivatans live on farming & fishing.
Apparently, when the disaster response team got to Sabtang on October 26th, none of the residents of the six barangays had yet received any form of relief after their municipality was ravaged by both Typhoon Ferdie and Lawin. Situated at 15 kilometers south of Basco, the main city of Batanes, it took a 20-minute boat ride from the Municipality of Ivana for Operation Blessing team, to be the first organization to reach the municipality.
Following the efforts in Batanes, Operation Blessing disaster response team is now in Kalinga province providing further assistance to the typhoon-stricken residents. We’re almost done with the first phase of response and now entering rehabilitation stage. Let us not wait for more days to help our kababayans get back to their normal lives; they, too, deserve a merry Christmas ahead. Together, we will #RebuildNorthernLuzon. Help now! Visit www.obphil.com or call us at 477-7806 to learn how you can help.