If I were to describe the situation of Bantayan in one word, that word would be “heartbreaking”.
Bantayan Island, a place that used to be a summer paradise is now full of debris, broken houses and fallen trees. The damage is visible wherever you look. Houses are missing their roofs, trees have lost their leaves. There was a certain gloomy feeling and coldness in the air. It was like winter, but without the snow.
Contrary to the rumors, there was no violence in Bantayan or in any point of our journey. We witnessed several children on the road stretching their hands out, waiting for food from vehicles passing by. But they were just waiting, not forcing their way to retrieve relief items. It was a pity, but there was only so much we could do.
We came to Bantayan fully prepared. We had a complete itinerary but we weren't able to follow it because we were delayed at the Hagnaya port due to the volume of people and trucks bound for Bantayan. It was a great struggle just to get the tickets. There was no systematic way of handling the situation. And it was accentuated by the Filipino’s natural trait of falling into a pile, instead of into a line. There was confusion, a lot of angry – and hungry volunteers, there was shouting everywhere. But we managed somehow. The team regrouped at Santa Fe port at 7 o’clock PM, more than 11 hours behind schedule.
It was already dark when we started our way out of Santa Fe port. There were no lamps on the street. Cement posts for the power lines are leaning 45 degrees over the road, threatening vehicles and people alike. It could probably take months before those are fixed. But even in the darkness, Bantayanons struggled to get to the Santa Fe Port because a group was distributing relief goods there. Some of them were riding bikes, but most were on foot. It was agonizing to see them struggle so much for a single pack of food.
After the port, it was smooth sailing towards our planned stops. We reached the Bantayan Municipal Wharf and unloaded the items for Hilotongan Island. We entrusted the goods to Uncle Nap, who then contacted Hilotongan locals for a boat that will take the goods there. The next stop was at Barangay Kangwayan in Madridejos, where we were welcomed by Julius and his family. We are very thankful for the food and hospitality they shared with us.
Then we proceeded to the two other barangays, Tabagak and Poblacion. Because we arrived there very late, most of the people were already asleep. We had no choice but to drop off the goods with our contacts instead of distributing them one by one.
After the drop-off, we hurried back to the Santa Fe port to catch the next ship. We were informed that Island Shipping will be operating 24/7 because it was a busy weekend. When we reached the port at 12 midnight, we found out that we were misinformed. The port was closed and there was no one at the ticket booths. We slept on the truck or somewhere around the port while waiting for the gates to open. It was 2AM when people started gathering so we went there as well, hoping to catch the earliest trip. As expected, it was as hassle as the port in Hagnaya. Luckily, we were there early enough to get on the 2nd voyage. We reached Cebu City at 11:30AM.
Later on, a text message informed me that the goods were already distributed. The people were very grateful for the goods that we have given. In behalf of the Bantayanons, I express my sincerest gratitude for everyone who helped.
God bless you always!
Again, thank you to all people who helped in making the outreach a successful one. We couldn't have done it without you. We hope that the spirit of giving will not end here. Let's continue to help our fellow countrymen. Bangon Pilipinas.
Reported by Dea Mari Escalona - YPRO Bantayan Project Coordinator