On the evening of December 16, 2021, the lives of many in the Central Visayas region changed as Severe Tropical Storm Odette rampaged its way through the region leaving destroyed homes, fallen trees, and electrical posts.

However, through that stormy night, public servants emerged to give hope to those who seem to feel that survival is dim.

Four women with hearts and souls as red as the vest they carry stood up and faced the challenge of a flash flood that endangered their lives and the lives of the evacuees.

Powered by the mandate they wholeheartedly embraced and undeniably integrated into their system, they are the epitome of the Field Office’s current call of “Pagpakabana” or Concern in English.

DSWD-7 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Municipal Links (MLs), who formed the Municipal Action Team (MAT), for the town of Manjuyod led by Ma. Cristina De la Cruz, along with Jeanette Sy, Mary Cris Oscar, and Nesty Jean Dominese, found themselves in a waist-deep flood with a minimal light source in the evacuation camp they were managing with over 90 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The evacuation camp was in a Gabaldon building of the Manjuyod SPED Center which is located near a coastal area.

Armed with passion and alertness to save lives, the group decided to break the walls to create a passageway for the water to spread and avoid a higher flood level, they then assisted the IDPs to climb up the ceiling, find a higher ground and ensuring the safety of that moment with one lingering thought in mind – to make everyone alive.

Manjuyod Rescue team lowers an evacuee from the ceiling of the Gabaldon building after the onslaught of Severe Tropical Storm Odette hit Negros Oriental.

To make sure that everyone is accounted for, Jeanette, Mary Cris, and Nesty went to assist the IDPs in climbing from above the ceiling while Cristina came up last.

The four Municipal Links endured the harsh weather throughout the night while taking care of the IDPs. They shouted for help but to no avail until they managed to lower a male evacuee to inform the command center of their situation.

The rescue team and volunteers arrived at 6 a.m., the following day.

There was no casualty. All IDPs, including the elderly, a person in a wheelchair, and even a couple of dogs and a cat, were rescued alive and safe although wet, hungry, and exhausted.

After surviving one of the toughest nights of their lives, the DSWD-7 staff sustained multiple wounds and bruises all over their bodies; some even had trouble walking and needed assistance to get from one point to another but even with these, they managed to report back to the camps as this was a crucial time in disaster operations.

On January 21, 2022, then Assistant Regional Director for Operations and now Regional Director Shalaine Marie S. Lucero visited the evacuation center in Manjuyod to provide technical assistance on the distribution of financial assistance as well as to listen to concerns and matters that the Department may be of help.

Director Lucero also personally commended the four women for their bravery, commitment, and passion to truly serve the people even in the most difficult times.

Assistance Provided

Based on DSWD-7’s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC), Severe Tropical Storm Odette affected a total of 1,575,432 families consisting of 5,813,619 individuals and damaged 1,227,805 houses. It displaced 145,037 families and opened 3,575 evacuation centers all over Central Visayas.

Field Office VII has provided a total of Php 2 billion worth of relief assistance. This consists of the following:

  • 1,119,755 Family Food Packs worth Php 622.8 million;
  • 19,362 Non-Food Items worth Php 43.8 million;
  • Paid a total of Php 1.3 billion in cash assistance to 256,636 beneficiaries through the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS);
  • Php 2.8 million for the implementation of the Cash-for-Work program for the Tent City in Bais City, Negros Oriental and Talibon, Bohol and Food-for-Work program in Bilar and Talibon, Bohol as well as in Bais City and La Libertad, Negros Oriental; and
  • Partnered with UNICEF Philippines for the disbursement of Php 35 million in Humanitarian Cash Transfer (HCT) Plus to 7,000 beneficiaries.

The release of assistance through DSWD-UNICEF’s HCT Plus in the Province of Bohol will be completed on December 29, 2022.

Capacity Building

Field Office VII made it a priority to intensively capacitate the staff as well as the local government unit’s counterparts when it comes to disaster preparedness and response through facilitating various trainings and workshops.

For 2022 alone, the Field Office through the Disaster Response Management Division (DRMD) has capacitated a total of 133 stakeholders with the following trainings:

  • Intensive Learning Intervention on Logistics Management for Warehouse Staff;
  • Moral Recovery Program;
  • Capacity Building on DROMIC Reporting for Local Social Welfare and Development Officers (LSWDOs), Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officers (LDRRMOs), and other representatives of Local Government Units (LGUs) of Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor;
  • Trainers’ Training on Camp Coordination and Camp Management and IDP Protection for DSWD Staff, LSWDOs, and LDRRMOs;
  • Trainers’ Training on Women Friendly Space, Child Protection in Emergencies, and Child Friend Space for DSWD Staff, LSWDOs, and LDRRMOs;
  • Lecture and Simulation on Search, Rescue, and Retrieval Operations; and
  • Orientation on Quick Response for DSWD Staff.

On top of those, DSWD Field Office 7 has conducted a series of consultation dialogues with the LDRRMOs and LSWDOs and a post-evaluation on disaster operations of Severe Tropical Storm Odette.

Exactly a year today, December 16, 2022, DSWD-7 4Ps Municipal Links poses in front of the Gabaldon building of the Manajuyod SPED Center which was identified as the evacuation center they managed when Severe Tropical Storm Odette hit Central Visayas.

DSWD-7 through DRMD also attends Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Full Council quarterly meetings and presides over quarterly Disaster Response Cluster meetings.

All of these capability-building efforts ensure that staff and the LGUs are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to create a pool of experts and to prepare for disasters and emergencies that they may cascade to their respective areas of responsibility.

Just like Cristina, Jeannette, Mary Cris, and Nesty Jean, the DSWD Field Office VII angels in red vest commits to continue delivering all the needed interventions to produce more highly skilled staff and counterparts who possess the core values of Tunay na Maagap at Mapagkalingang Serbisyo at Tapat na Paglilingkod na Walang Puwang Sa Katiwalian, which the Department upholds.

This is a testament that the Department as a whole is committed to not only delivering relief items to affected families in times of disaster but creating a holistic approach to ensure that Central Visayas is prepared and equipped in responding to the effects of a calamity. ###

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