CAMOTES ISLAND, Philippines – Old and frail, clutching her relief pack of four kilos of rice, sardines and noodles, Tomasa Bangcale, 82, was thankful that food aid and medicine finally came to Camotes Island which was also badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Bangcale said this was the first time that a medical mission came their way. A medical team, which was part of the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s relief efforts last Nov. 17, gave her a free medical check-up and medicine, too.
Bangcale was among some 12,000 residents of Camotes Island who received food aid from the INC’s special relief project for Yolanda survivors.
On that day, the INC relief and medical mission also went to Bantayan Island and Bogo town in northern Cebu, and Danao City in southern Cebu.
More than 45,000 relief bags, containing rice, sardines and noodles, were distributed to these four areas in Cebu.
Dr. Sergie Santos, of the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation Inc., the INC’s charitable arm, said that some 12,000 relief bags were distributed in each of these areas.
The volunteers from medical teams in Metro Manila and Cebu also treated and gave free medical services to thousands of residents in these areas.
After the relief distribution in Leyte, Camotes and Bantayan islands, Bogo and Danao City were the next target areas of the relief and medical mission under the “Lingap sa Mamamayan” or Aid to Humanity effort of the INC, which was done in cooperation with the FYM Foundation Inc.
The INC first conducted its relief and medical mission in Ormoc City last Nov. 14 and in Carigara, Leyte on Nov. 16 as part of its efforts to help survivors of Yolanda.
After the relief and medical mission in Carigara, volunteers of the INC mission immediately went separately to the various Yolanda-affected areas in Cebu.
In Camotes Island, the INC house of worship in Barangay Himensulan, San Francisco town became the site of the massive relief distribution.
Barangay chairman Reynaldo Maranga, 48, said there were people from the 15 barangays on Camotes Island who came to the INC relief and medical mission.
“We are very thankful. This is an answered prayer for us,” he said in Filipino.
The medical volunteers who went to Camotes were from Cebu City. They patiently explained to the residents who lined up for the check-up what they should do regarding their ailments, and how and when to take the medicine given to them.
Dr. Ernesto Nillama tried to make sure that the residents understood his instructions, explaining the medicine dosages, for example, in the vernacular, to the residents who lined up for the medical mission.
Mission of mercy even aboard the barge
Before reaching Camotes, the medical team had to ride a barge hired by the INC from Cebu City. The trip to Camotes from the Cebu City port lasted for about five hours.
Before this, the volunteer medical teams, including the doctors and nurses from Manila, rode a barge from the Ormoc port, right after the medical mission in Carigara, Leyte on Nov. 16.
At the Ormoc port, the barge hired to transport the INC volunteers and the trucks containing the relief goods also became a refuge for some residents of Tacloban City and Ormoc City who had been waiting for days at the pier. They had been lining up for a chance to board a barge or a ferry that would bring them to Cebu City.
Among the evacuees who boarded the barge was Zelah Gorres, 30, who was suffering from psoriasis triggered by the stress she suffered after surviving Yolanda.
Her psoriasis was supposedly cured three years ago, but it returned as she suffered sleepless nights since Yolanda struck. She said they just wanted to leave Ormoc City.
Dr. Miriam Isla, a volunteer dermatologist who was part of the INC medical team, said Gorres’ psoriasis was triggered by stress. She checked up Gorres and gave her medicine for her psoriasis.
Estrella Ygay, 61, said she and other family members had been at the Ormoc port for five days, lining up for ferry tickets to Cebu. But the lines were simply too long, and the slots for a Cebu trip by barge or even a ferry were too few as more and more people wanted to leave Leyte for Cebu.
Ygay said she was thankful to the organizers of the INC relief mission because she and her family were allowed to board the barge to Cebu City.
Susan Cadavis, 46, brought along all her daughters when she boarded the barge hired for the INC relief mission. All her relatives were onboard a white van that was also accommodated on the barge, along with their other vehicle that contained their belongings. She said they were already fearful for their safety in Tacloban City.
Asked if she and her family would return to Tacloban City, Cadavis said they might, if the situation would improve. For now, she said, it is much better to leave their hometown as they try to recover from the tragedy.