We’ll Go By Boat
Rtn. Myrna A. Valle’s personal story of the Habagat Relief Distribution
I received my notice from our Club Secretary past midnight two days prior to August 27. It read: For Monday’s relief distribution, 1) please wear our green and black Rotary shirt 2) we’ll meet at Aplaya Barangay hall at 8AM then we’ll go by boat in distributing the goods. Please text your confirmation.
The notice seemed normal and usual, except for these words – WE’LL GO BY BOAT. They sort of stand out, you know. Because today, August 27, the Rotary Club of Sta. Rosa Centro will distribute relief goods to families at Sta. Rosa Aplaya barangays who chose not to leave their houses for the resettlement areas, even if their barangays are still submerged six to ten feet deep in flood waters. Ergo, there is no way to reach them but via a boat ride. Not a motorized boat, but a small banca that had to be paddled to move.
There were six of us who went plus one Rotakid designated to take photos for our documentation. We couldn’t go to the barangay hall because it is already flooded, so we waited for RS Nino and his team who will assist us. They came in a bright yellow amphibian vehicle: four “boat men” and three other guys met us, and then promptly gave us life vests to wear. Female voices in different decibels started asking how to put on the vests, that they were too bulky, that they occupied too much space, etc. etc. We boarded the amphibian, and after a short trip we were transferred into two small boats, and the four “paddlers” joined us after helping us load the goods. Leni, Itchel, and Bea were in one boat; Liza, Precy, and myself were in the other. Soon we glided on.
The objective was to reach the houses along the Laguna bay’s shoreline, so we went straight onto the lake to avoid the water lilies and then went back in to get to the houses. Our two valiant paddlers, Danny and Gerry had problems coordinating their paddling, causing us to go this way and that, to the consternation of PP Precy (who claimed she used to paddle a banca as a young provincial lass). Meanwhile Liza and I sat upfront, gingerly clutching at the sides of the boat (the boat didn’t have any assist grips). We were also talking that projects like these need a careful coordination, members should be informed of what to bring, what to wear, and so on. One boatman was also asking if we had antibiotics with us that we could give to them. When we asked what it was for, they said they needed it as a preventive measure against leptospirosis.
It was raining earlier, but when we were already on water the sun shone brightly above us, and so we complained again that we would get dark. Precy was already saying that she wished she had stayed behind with PP Carol (who chickened out and stayed on the amphibian); and there was Danny and Gerry in their ongoing battle with the paddles.
We passed by a couple of house clusters but they were abandoned before finally reaching an area with inhabitants. We were met by a woman paddling what looked like a Styrofoam raft, about 1×3 meters in size, just big enough for her. We gave her a bag, and she directed us to go further in, there were more families there. We went in as far as we could; the spaces between the houses were narrow and there were a lot of their stuff blocking the way, so we couldn’t go in, but we could see people waving at us and asking for some goods. Somewhere a woman was shouting: “Relief! Relief! Dito! Dito!”. But they couldn’t rush forth like they do in the resettlement areas; they were stuck in their houses (or at the upper parts of their houses, the lower parts being submerged). All they could do was wave and shout.
After unloading several bags at that area, we left and paddled on. Gerry and Danny was saying we should distribute some bags further on to Purok 5 and 6, because these places are at the end of Barangay Aplaya and oftentimes relief goods do not reach them. We reached another area, this time we saw an entire family inside a house; there were at least four kids inside. A young girl stared at me and when I waved, she said “kape muna tayo” (there was a big sachet of coffee inside our bag).
Moving on, we saw the other boat with our co-Rotarians Leni, Itchel and Rotakid Bea busily handing over bags to people. We shouted at Bea to take our photo; luckily she was able to take some shots before they disappeared from our view.
At that point we chanced upon a motorized fishing boat manned by six men. They said they were from Purok 5 and 6 and that they haven’t received any relief goods yet. Our guardian angels Gerry and Danny told us to go ahead and give them two bags, but then we thought these are six padres de familia and shouldn’t they get one each? Besides, Liza reasoned, they might fight over the two bags later so we might as well give them one each. Out of gratitude, they pulled our small boat to another area where we distributed the last of our goods, giving Gerry and Danny a well-deserved break. They also agreed to pull us back to our staring point after they unload their bags and the few fishes that they have caught.
While we waited for the motorized banca to pull us back, word of our presence seemed to have spread and we were approached by several men afloat on a “salbabida”, with a large wash basin tied to it. How clever, we thought, they came ready to receive relief goods with the large basin in tow. Soon enough there were a lot of them; fathers, mothers, small children clinging to walls, gingerly standing atop narrow fences, asking us if there are any more bags. “Wala na po”, we said, “pasensya na”. Then Precy shouted: “Pagbalik nalang po namin”…..
“Precy”, I said, ever so gently. “Weren’t you saying earlier that you wished you just stayed behind?” “Yes”, she replied, “I realized that as soon as I said we’ll come back”. We all had a good laugh at that. Gives credence to what people say: If you want to forget your troubles, HELP OTHERS.
Our ride back was ready, and so we had an “express ride” back to our bright yellow amphibian, where our three other companions greeted us. After returning our life vests, female voices in different decibels started saying, “I’m hungry, where are we going to eat?”.