Official Website of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Agusan del Sur

Just for this Christmas season

Christmas is a much awaited season celebrated by all, regardless of race, economic status, religion and age.  It is the time when families and friends joyfully get together. People are happy by even just watching the simplest or the grandest Christmas tree. The chills in the air create an atmosphere of cheerfulness. Old familiar songs that are sung in carols warm peoples’ hearts. Homes are brightly decorated. Christmas is the day of love and gift-giving. It is the day of thanking the Lord for all the blessings one has received.

Indeed, there is always something special in Christmas season. But to the 22,450 families in 121 barangays who suffered from the wrath of typhoon Pablo in the province of Agusan del Sur, this might already be untrue.

As we entered Veruela, the mostly-affected municipality in the province by the typhoon’s wrath, I couldn’t help but shed tears. There was a heart-stabbing scene that everyone will dread to see. Humble homes are unroofed and shattered. The once eminent solar posts that proudly gave light along the highway were arched and scattered. Towering Falcata, oil palm, and rubber trees that used to promise better living condition   among the people are bent, cut, and even peeled. Smaller trees were stripped into pieces. Powerful giant trees kissed the ground. Some of them had even hit and damaged residences, churches and government buildings such as schools, health centers and offices.

It can be remembered that for years, the provincial and municipal local government units have been working hand in hand to help accelerate economic development in the area soon to be known as the Rubber capital of the province. But in just few hours with Pablo, such vast devastation which is beyond ones imagination had happened.

“First the strong wind came, then the heavy rain. Our roof rattled, the house creaked and then the roof was blown away. We had no choice though we were trembling but to wade in a waist –deep muddy water to find shelter in lower ground. I pitied the children, they were all crying in fear. But God is still good it happened in the morning. It was the most horrible experience I ever had”, said a senior citizen who still suffered a minor cut in her right foot in barangay Sinobong, Veruela.

Sinobong is the most severely affected barangay in the municipality. Its newly constructed gymnasium was crumpled to the ground like useless pieces of paper. Not one house is left completely standing. Bamboos known to be pliant were broken. Coconut trees though unbowed were left with few leaves. The place looked so miserable. It was painful to us volunteers watching all of these, but how much more to those more than 900 families of Sinobong.

Typhoon Pablo came like a raging bull and pounded the province. A total of 112,402 persons lost their homes and their livelihood.  But the fresh spirit of volunteerism is spreading powerfully in everyone’s heart. The local government units, together with nongovernment organizations, business groups, national agencies, private entities and civil society have synergized their efforts in addressing the victims’ needs through immediate rescue operations and relief goods distribution.

As I helped distribute relief goods, a young resident gave me back a shy smile. Her teary eyes beamed with hope as she received her share of goods. Listening to them as they told their sad stories in between chuckles pierced my heart. Really, such very inspiring attitude, we know how to manage a good laugh in the middle of a mess. Most of them for the past few days found coconut the only source of food. Intense grief is visible in the lines of their faces, yet gratefulness still filled the dry air. For a moment, the once horrified residents were laughing. The presence of their leaders and volunteers must have raised their spirits too. I felt such fulfilling joy. But when we left, I began to contemplate and asked myself, what then will happen to them when there are no more relief goods?

Indeed it is very painful that amidst all the buying, decorating, and entertaining that we will do this Christmas season, some of our fellows suffered from extreme destitution. That while some tables are full of expensive and delicious foods, there are people forcing themselves to sleep with grouching empty stomachs; and that while some newly adorned  homes are filled with deafening laughs, others cry in silence at evacuation centers.
Rehabilitation will surely take years. It will never be easy. They are our brothers and sisters. And just for this Christmas season, can we be generous enough to share even a little of our blessings?

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