I am watching the news and am saddened by the flooding in Pakistan and China. I think about Haiti and why they still have not recovered from the last major earthquake. In the Philippines people still share stories about the terrible events of the Ondoy floods. It has been almost a year since the rain waters caused so much devastation, but there seems to be little remnants of a once flooded metropolis.
I have never seen a race more resilient than Filipinos. Our ability to cope and smile in our darkest hour is unbelievable. In difficult times we forget our differences and pull through for one another. Rich or poor, living in the country or migrants abroad, young or old, Christian or Muslim….the Ondoy relief operations of Filipinos everywhere was a shining moment and a of true testament of the “bayanihan” spirit.
Being Filipino…. a very popular national dish is adobo. We may have gotten the name from the Spanish but our version of adobo is uniquely Filipino. Pinoy adobo is braised or stewed meat cooked in vinegar and soy sauce. Before the Spaniards came we had soy sauce acquired through trade with the Chinese. Palm or coconut vinegar with its strong preserving qualities was already being produced by our natives. That’s why we can claim that most likely the recipe originated from us. During the Ondoy relief operations at LSGH we needed to cook food for the typhoon victims. The dish had to be filling, with a long shelf life, and could last for quite some time without refrigeration. So we decided to prepare lots and lots of adobo.
On September 26, 2009 De La Salle and CSB Taft went under water. The priority was to get our two campuses in order. So a number of La Sallian volunteers diverted to La Salle Green Hills. In LSGH there were hundreds of youth volunteers who came out to help. A grade one student assigned at the registration counter contributed by simply writing the name tags of volunteers. “How can I help?” were the four most magically words I kept on hearing in this community.
I planned to serve one day but ended staying until the end. Initially I was assisting in repacking donated relief goods. Then the SHRIM students who were there started gravitating towards each other. Now the group of aspiring chefs and hoteliers wanted to maximize their talents. So we moved to the canteen but had no access to the kitchens. So we gathered donated loaves of bread and started converting them into sandwiches. Supplies were bought for sandwich bags and large spreads. The team collected bread, whatever donated perishable food, spreads or filling, and immediately transformed them. Later some of the high school pupils also asked if they could help. So there was mentoring between the college and high school students. Brother Mike and the organizers said the
victims needed food that they could immediately eat when distributed. With all the destruction the afflicted didn’t have the means to cook. They needed to have something that they could eat right away. With that in mind…. we just kept on making sandwiches. Hundreds and hundreds of them!
A system was established so volunteers could segregate and re-pack donations. Then each of the army trucks were loaded with relief goods like drinking water, medicine, clothing, and food. Student volunteers were accompanied by the military to assure order during distribution. Our brave kids had to face a hungry and disgruntled mob. Brother Felipe headed the operations together with student leaders, faculty, parents, and alumni with the likes of Ryan De Guzman. On the first day over 8 army trucks filled with relief goods were deployed.
Our SHRIM students clamoured to cook. So Bro Felipe allowed us to use their culinary laboratory on our third day of operations. He only asked in return that we also feed the core volunteers. Finally a real kitchen so we could produce hot food. We were so happy! We were informed that we could already go back to Taft. The team decided to remain and operate from LSGH because the distribution and logistics were already in place. However staying in Green Hills meant we had to come up with our own funding. Chef Peachy asked the volunteers to come back the next day with what they felt they were worth. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter were used to gather volunteers and donations. Our students and SHRIM alumni came to share their cooking talents to produce food that fed hundreds of families in the affected areas of Marikina, San Mateo, and Montalban just to name a few. We even heard the flood victims in relief centers would event fight over the delivery boxes. They used the cartons for their beds.
The students who returned with the trucks were covered with mud. They shared to us tales of the devastation. One was a story of a young high school student in a rubber boat distributing relief goods. Suddenly he was shocked to have been given a rescued baby to carry and take back with him. This is just one of the many tales of heroism.
On Thursday we over produced food and there were no trucks available to take them out. Racing against time to avoid spoilage we gathered the team to figure out ways to get the food to the relief centers. Then in the middle of our meeting a frantic lady came looking for someone in-charge of food production. She told us a forgotten barangay of 300 people in Muntinlupa had not eaten in four days. We told her not to worry and to take all the food boxes with her. She was surprised to find the food ready and enough to feed that community. The volunteers were so moved and some in tears realizing this strange miracle.
Friday was our last day of operations. Another typhoon called Peping was coming. People were fearful that there would be another flood so we did not know how many would come in. Yet the volunteers came despite the anticipated storm to complete the job. So we produced enough until the stocks were gone. Then at around 3:00 pm the last of the trucks left and the LSGH Ondoy relief operation officially ended. The rains began to pour as the proud and “happy to serve” Ondoy heroes went home. After that it took a while before we were able to eat adobo again 🙂