Heartwarming response from Typhoon victims in the Philippines

IFAW provided dog food, human relief and medical assistance to the people of Eastern Samar in the wake of Typhoon Hagupit.This report was filed by May Angela Felix-Razon, IFAW Disaster Response Coordinator based in the Philippines. --JG

As we turn the page to a New Year we sometimes think about the things we have and the things we are grateful for.

What comes to mind is a saying that brings us out of our comfort zones but touches that humanity in us, “Live simply so others may simply live.”

The simplicity of life in the province is something unforgettable to disaster responders, who are simply passing through a life that some live every day.

What will be impressed upon us is the good nature of the people of Eastern Samar. We were warmly received, with a little awe, that indeed some relief was coming their way.

In some areas that we visited, human relief has not reached the smaller barangays. And yet, we were never short of people who were willing to help us get around and allow us to hear their ordeal through the typhoon.

During Super Typhoon Haiyan, IFAW responders, together with various local animal groups, worked tirelessly to move from one area to another, to ensure we could bring relief and medical assistance to the people’s livestock and companion animals.

This trip for Typhoon Hagupit, was similar in that there were many obstacles in doing a straight-forward response. We faced bad weather, partial airport closures, and a high volume of travelers that led to many, if not most, flight cancellations.

We had to be creative in thinking of ways to could get to Eastern Samar as soon as possible.

Together with the Humane Society International, we flew into Cebu City and took a 3-hour ferry ride to Ormoc, Leyte.

We were bringing with us one ton of dog food for distribution to Borongan, Eastern Samar. From Ormoc, Leyte, we drove another 4-5 hours into Tacloban City. Borongan would be another 400kms of rough roads since they had been receiving rain for several days. Returning to Eastern Samar is a sign of IFAW’s consistency during a disaster: working at a grassroots level, being on the ground, providing relief, and supporting plans for disaster preparedness.

In the first barangay we visited, we had to cross a river. We saw children diving and swimming, without a care in the world. We got out of our boats and unloaded the dog food we had brought and some human biscuits for the children.

Walking through the small community, the children had an evident and remarkable bond with their animals.

The dogs were walking by their side, tails wagging in admiration towards their human.

We started engaging them in conversation, asking how they were coping and what kind of assistance they need so that we may provide feedback to the national government. And as we handed out the dog food and human biscuits, we saw the little boys breaking their biscuits and sharing them with their dogs.

That moment stopped us in our tracks and it just made us admire the compassion that these children had.

They, who lost their homes and had to clean their leftover mud-covered clothes, didn’t have a second thought of giving almost half of their own food.

They showed us what this season meant – and in its truest form – to give and be generous, to share no matter what little you have.

An old man who lived by the river recalled how his brown and white mother dog was evidently stressed, curled up on a mud-covered centre table after she had lost her four puppies in the flood when the Loom River overflowed.

We tried to approach the dog at the time of our assessment trip but we couldn’t. So we promised to return for her.

And we did.

IFAW and HSI provided some dog food, human relief and medical assistance.

The smiles on the faces of the people of Eastern Samar as we travelled through the different communities, without any surety of who we were or what we brought, was a clear indication of how they live simply, content, and in harmony with everything and everyone.

In a time when everyone in other cities was busy planning out their menu for the holidays, they were grateful for being alive – for being together, including their animals.

We also remember how the people of Eastern Samar can teach us something valuable, that having less doesn’t mean you are lacking.

They have less but they have so much love to give.

New year, new hope.

--MF

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