A huge wave of helping activity is now forming across the world, at its peak in the Philippines, but tumbling over in all countries where Filipino overseas workers are housed and where ex-patriot Filipinos live, also in countries wanting to help out where their own nationals are activating and donating what they can – all to positively assist overcome the worst effects of typhoon Haiyan, called Yolanda locally.

This one story really began to unroll over the ensuing days after this reporter got word from Philippines that Mina Tecson was going to Ormoc, Leyte Province by land with her vegetable trucks and office employees after lunch that day Saturday 16 November (2013) on a relief mission to the families of the company at Ormoc. “Its going to be more than 28 hours to get to Ormoc via Bicol Matnog where the truck will have to be ferried to Samar,” informed Willa Tecson, elder sister of Mina.

At two in the afternoon that Saturday in Manila the adventure started to get underway but then it was learned that other trucks were to join, building on the mini-convoy of two trucks and one Isuzu Crosswind, the latter for picking up relatives of staff of the family firm in case they want out, the former loaded with medicines for the hospital in Tacloban.

The pals also carried trays of hard boiled egss, saba (local starchy bananas), the much appreciated adobo, plus other straightforward foods, and rice, all easily cooked in a caldero – which is usually for rice but is multipurpose when cooking food.

Last minute purchases, by Willa Tecson, who is co-ordinator of Ang Komunidad para sa ikauunlad ng Tao (The Community for Human Development) were a couple of solar battery chargers for the cell phones. (Willa wrote an article for Pressenza in 2010, see:

http://www.pressenza.com/2010/11/crossroads-to-peace/ )

However, the ‘leader of the pack’ on this occasion was younger sister Mina Tecson, who was also covered on Pressenza previously for her efforts supporting a project caring for abandoned children who had completely disabling disabilities.

See: http://www.pressenza.com/2011/01/out-of-the-ashes-rose-human-beings/

The mini-convoy once assembled had 190 litres of gasoline per truck, which amount was based on data given by the staff of the RoRo – roll-on roll-off – shipping company servicing the islands and operating the truck-and-bus ferry to Bikol and to Samar, thence to Tacloban and to Ormoc. The group were advised to bring the likes of flashlights, gloves and face masks. There were relief drivers and mechanic.

In the meantime Ang Komunidad para sa ikauunlad ng Tao was carrying out a public activity in Pasig City November 17, 2013, with colleague Jojo Hubo and other long time members of the Humanist Movement in the Philippines. They were accepting donations in cash and in kind and holding the garage sale to help some members and family of members living in Tacloban, Samar, Leyte, Ormoc and Palawan which places were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

Mina’s trucks got underway by about 5:30pm, on the Saturday, the teams still packing while the trucks rolled…

An update SMS text from Mina to Hong Kong read… “About twelve trucks are starting now, bit later than planned, but great caravan…. just to keep everyone in the know….”

I got this SMS message from Mina after I had sent a text to her saying so fine to hear of her ‘voyage’ and mission down into the central Philippines to carry needed goods there. Mina’s actual reply was: “Helllooooooon tony! Haaay! Really tired bt vry alive n so happy to be able to serve my fellow Filipinos. We r about to leave. W are waiting for other trucks. We r about a dozen trucks that gathered relief gods n will move caravan style. Things wil b alryt, I kno it.”

Then, Willa Tecson began sharing texts that came from Mina, to her, they went something like the following (SMS slang edited out for clarity):

Sunday 17 November
7:30am: haaaay…. we are moving very slowly, we left [finally] around midnight so we of JMK are so bored, we want to go ahead but I know we need the assistance from the others and need backup and guidance but how slow… We are at Atimonan past Sariaya… sigh – so slow – by the time we reach there we will have eaten all the relief goods hahaha, joking. I think by the time we come back we are fatter than when we left. Hehehe. Bored to death!

8.23am: Last night diesel fuel was donated at the MOA Petron and all trucks could fill up for free!!! But the truck queue was so long. I felt bad, because JMK, being organized and ready to go, our two trucks already arrived with full tanks.

8.26am: …they also gave out sandwiches, boiled eggs, etc at the truck queue, we already brought sandwiches for the trip…they distributed food for all there! We are all ok and more than ok but it was too slow because of the orientation and preparations as they numbered all trucks, log all the passengers gathering IDs and xeroxing all vehicles papers, etc, but they are right, very organised and prepared – only thing is it was too slow, maybe because there are too many of us and they want to ensure our safety…but I admire them, the Guardians and all the bayanihan spirit of the Filipinos, I am proud.

8.50am: slow sleepy long trip and d calm before d storm.

Monday 18 November
7.54am: axel of truck bound for Tacloban broke, because the Guardians kept on loading and loading more relief goods in it. We are here with Mario and Jun in Naga City looking for a complete axel… sigh. We unloaded and reloaded both trucks to separate the goods for Ornoc and those for Tacloban to speed things up when in Tacloban because everybody just kept on loading and loading into the trucks. There are so many relief goods, and the problem is transporting these, so when they see the trucks they are so excited. The truck axel broke and they still asked if we could load more relief goods on the way. What???

So here we are looking for an axel. Roland the mechanic and the truck driver Claudio (he is also Visayan so he can speak the dialect) and Gildo (he used to travel on long trips so is experienced) are removing the broken axel and making ready for the replacement. We pray we can get one. The other trucks of the convoy already left, we hope we can catch them up. My 5 JMK fellows from Tacloban and Ornoc are filling up gas containers for 540 liters for both trucks and the Crosswind, filling up all the tanks again – sigh. We could not make advanced arrangements with the RoRo [Roll on Roll off – the ferry]- the truck convoy has to fall in line in Matnog where the long queue is – sigh… We are all eating bananas and the team work is very good. We rearrange all the items loaded last night. We are so tired, all my JMK people, they load and unload but no one is giving up, they are moving, not caring if they are tired. We know what we got into, so it’s expected. We are cowboys, whatever and whenever food, bathroom whenever wherever, same clothes for two days – hahahaha, all OK.

8.42am: Murphy’s Law – if it can happen it will. I am glad I had training with 5 kids as I have all the JMK people like little chics following mother hen, hahahah, or else they will get hungry…haha..

9.12am: Fitted the axel shaft! The convoy waited for us! We contacted them to wait when we got the parts. The truck was readied for the new axel so when the axel arrived it did not take us even five minutes for Roland to fit it in…same time he slapped the back of driver’s neck and told him to be alert next time and watch out for the truck. We are handing out boiled eggs…

9.19am: You won’t believe ds but we had to redo the job, my dearest driver Claudio tried to be a mechanic n help but put things baligtad (wrong way around). It’s a good thing nothing broke but gears are baligtad …so we are bringing the axel down again… tralalalala.

9.40am: Tralala….

9.55am: I am relaxed but tralalala…at least I think I am….I surrender surrender, our trip delayed overnight again leave tomorrow. The driver’s head is the only thing that did not work so help me god, haahaha. What can we do, our Visayan driver thinks we are on a sightseeing trip – Haay. He will think otherwise when getting hungry and tired, it’s ok he is good, just overly helpful and does things without being told even if he does not know. He is Visayan, we have 2 other Visayan drivers but he is the tough one. We need tough ones here. Just need to get him under control.

10.12am: There is too much bureaucracy in Matnog, the jump off for the roro…I think our convoy has other plans…whatever… I am glad your AirAsia pushed thru. I wanted to go w/ it to assess

10.12am Ok! We are moving!

10.24am: Haha…am eating my share of boiled eggs…we’re good…

10:38am: “Iriga” (i asked her in what part of Bicol they were, according to Pong, Iriga is part of Camarines Sur, if I understood Pong correctly, not yet Bicol but close enough to Naga City which is already part of Bicol. When they reach Naga they will go to Sorsogon which is also in Bicol. Pong estimates if they are moving fast take 3 hours to reach Matnog, since slow, they will reach Matnog, the RoRo, early evening. Pong can’t believe they are on their 3rd day and only in Iriga.

11.57am: Here, things not free… but I swallowed it, hahaha! Poor country, lacking in everything except spirit. Things r never ideal that’s why we should always b prepared.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
10.14am: “Our trucks finally loaded in barge but it will take 18 hrs to get to tacloban pa…”

(Willa txted back “U mean it really takes dat long? or many ports stopover or dey row?)

10.27am: “maybe dey row…mario saw d engine, he says small. Anyway, wats important is we get ther safe…direct na Tacloban”

(Willa’s Note: To get to Tacloban the usual route is: the barge locally called “Ro-Ro” is located at Matnog, Bocol, tip of Bicol province. Normal sea travel time with the roro is 2 hours from Matnog, Bicol to Samar island. At Samar island, one takes a land route to Tacloban City and it takes normally 4 hours land travel. Samar island is connected to Leyte by land thru the very long San Juanico Bridge. Of course with the roro there is the added loading and unloading times that have to be considered at both the Matnog and Samar ports. The barge Mina took goes straight to Tacloban port).

10.33am:  The barge has 9 very very big trucks, our biggest truck at JMK are the smallest of these big trucks, 20 Elf type smaller trucks, service vehicles, and we all occupy only 60-70% of space. The barge is waiting for more trucks…the Guardians talked to the barge owner so we could load our trucks. What a waste, I wish some of the trucks queued at Matnog… some of them should be here. I don’t know why it’s that long (referring to the 18 hours sea travel), I told them maybe it is Indonesia where we are headed…haay… anyway, I documented that (the barge) because very slow movement and am bored again…and for the next 18 hours again…

11.02am: “Ds (this) barge is not going to Samar. It will go str8 to tacloban”

11.36am: “After d axle shaft broke, heavy kc karga…blessing na itong barge str8 to Tacloban. Imagin if we get sira somwhr in Samar, yan ang ma sasalvage in d mi*” (missing text) Willa’s explanation – After the axle broke, because cargo was heavy…this barge is a blessing because it will go straight to Tacloban. Imagine if the truck broke down again somewhere in Samar, that’s where it will be ‘salvaged’. Willa’s note: We use the word salvage to mean, if referring to people, it means killed, if referring to things, something like taken/robbed/dismantled like for parts of truck, relief goods, or human limbs).

Wednesday, 20 November
8.20pm: “We are approaching San Juanico Bridge..but it wil take time agen to dock…hohummmm…i wil not die of hunger hir, i wil die of boredom”.

3.02pm: “Near San Juanico we saw 2 dead bodies just floating”

3.32pm: “dey must be doing all dey can, like we are…i guess dey wud rather help d living keep alive…maybe short of hands”

3.33pm: “We r at port of Tacloban but cannot dock….haaaay…”

3.46pm: “Yes, we are with the original convoy, composed of 10 big trucks and 12 small trucks, yes with the same people…we are all best friends by now! Father Luciano of Caritas had an attack of gout. He is so lucky he has a specialista on board, me! so to keep my boredom away…i spray magnesium, rub malunggay oil, hehe..whatever concoction here..sermon him with what to eat and what not to eat. He is now using a cane, started in his feet and now up to his knees because the whole week, while fixing donations, he continuously ate canned food..so it happened..so things are reversed. I now am giving the sermons, tell that to mommy so she can laugh her heart out and not worry.”

4.42pm: “We r from various groups, one banner on the truck says: Tabag, Tabang, Tulong (citizen’s relief center) – bayanihan efforts of the Pangkat Guardians, the others are: Mirriam College, Sto. Nino de Leyte Shrine, Philippine Women’s University, Taguig Rescue, San Juan Rescue, NAPC, FFCCCII, Therabilities, Arowana Shipping Line, Kindermusik, RCI, BUDS, Toolkit, Vibora Inc., Caritas of Novaliches, St. Agnes Academy of Legaspi, and in my van are people from FMM (Feeding Metro Manila), other friends like Virgie Cheng, neighbors…Haha..if u didn’t even ask, I would not hav noticed all this. For me, regardless of group names, we just all come to 1 group…here we r feeling so inip (impatient)..but very important are the Guardians and it seems to me its Sir James Layug who is heading this group.”

4.48pm: “D one who volunteered to roro us to tacloban in their barge is Candano Shipping Lines, also owner of Mayon Cement, I forgot d name. Sir Layug said they got this offer in facebook!”

4.49pm: “One of the service vehicles of the barge owner has the name: Mayon Docks Inc. The barge’s normal route is Masbate. This is the first time this barge goes to Leyte, just really to help. The real business is Masbate island but dey volunteered to help bring the relief goods to Tacloban, it’s the boat’s first time to go to Leyte to help the Yolanda victims.”

5.09pm: “Fr. Casiano of caritas is heading for San Isidro, northern part of Ormoc. St Agnes Academy has their sister school St. Peter in Ormoc. I have with me 5 JMK employees who r from there: Brgy Tanauan in Tacloban (he will still look for his mother and siblings and no contact until now, Brgy 71 in Naganaga (their houses down to d ground, lost all dey had but no life lost), Barrio Mahaplag (on the way to Ormoc so between Tacloban and Ormoc, houses lost but no life lost), Brgy Cacao, Kanangga in Ormoc (houses down to the ground but family whole), Brgy Ipil in Ormoc (need food, some houses destroyed, others roofless). There are other places to go if we still have goods left and time. We want to check these places. They asked/told us but they r girls and had no one else to send. So I did not bring them kc not safe to bring girls in this trip.”

6.14pm: “At last! We r just docking now…”

6.20pm: “Oh yes! If there’s 1 thing we hav in common is we do not want any politics or any of their bureaucracy. In Tacloban, if u do not come as a big group the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare) gets the goods from you because they say they will be the one to distribute these but we will all fight because we have specific families to give to.”

Friday, November 21, 2013
7.58am: “Moving along roads of Tacloban on d way to Ormoc…sobra ang devastatn evrywer u look. After this experience, it wil be hard to have a warm big meal at home w/o feeling guilty..we passd Robinson’s…looks more lyk a ghost town w/ a terrible stench…walang pinatawad. Even big houses n buildings had torn roofs, torn walls, broken glasses..more lyk dey wer steppd on by a giant, fallen electrical posts evrywer, trees uprootd..for miles n miles..suddenly all d hirap getting here, all d stikiness, puyat(lack of sleep), heat, iritability, inconveniences..is forgotten..”
No more texts after this.

[Just as a tsunami can be destroying, a human tsunami can be saving and creative, and the forming of this rising wave of positive human activity that is taking place right now will surely flow over into similar humanitarian efforts that go towards all human beings in the future, wherever there is calamity and need. Of course, the humanitarian is momentary while the revolutionary is permanent – as are the valid and true actions of the human being. Ed.)

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