Happy’s Notes from Ateneo and Ondoy.

Reposting my brother Happy Vergara’s latest note on Facebook — I thought it needed to be seen by folks who are outside Facebook, pretty much because the good news is good and the bad news is, as Happy wrote me on IM, “really really bad.”


These are going to be pretty random, with a smattering of my own thoughts, but I will try to stay as true to what I saw, or was told or heard. There is a very long list of people involved here and I can’t possible name them all. Maybe next time.
Good news first:

1. Help reached isolated places in Sta. Cruz, Laguna (two nights ago). The idea was to shoot a truck with prepared food from Enderun straight down there. More on this later.

2. Most of the donations went to Ateneo and some went to Megatent. However, we sent help to Tadlac, Laguna. Binan, Laguna and to the Red Cross feeding in Sta. Cruz and nearby towns.

3. Our contact at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has two choppers available, along with 10 trucks and will be coordinating tomorrow with the US Navy to get goods from around metro manila to the most isolated places. This is a new development, by the way, and it’s worth noting that the “AFP contact” has been working in the backgrounds (they sent the truck with cooked food from Enderun to Sta. Cruz, Laguna for example), but has only now made direct contact with us here.

Those trucks are all deployed now and we are coordinating with a few relief goods center to make sure all trucks are maximized. The choppers, while available, cannot fly because of the current storm conditions. They will be with the US Navy tomorrow. My point is that I am personally attesting to these people, and that, in our time of greatest need, by my personal experience, they are there. There are more good people in government than they are bad.

4. To stay sane, the volunteers at Ateneo have a Best ONDOY Acronym Contest. The current winner is “ONDOY – Our Nation Depends On You”. Naks.

That’s all the good news.

Bad news:

1. The AFP sent 2 trucks to Ateneo to pick up goods for Tumana, Marikina. The people there are still in waist to chest deep water and it’s important that the goods be accompanied by soldiers to keep things orderly. The trucks too are the only vehicles able to get through. Several volunteers from Ateneo went with the AFP. There are pics in the album. THEY WILL NEED MORE HELP.

2. Sta. Cruz towns, unfortunately, are being slowed by politics. Ayoko ng magkwento pa at naiinis lang ako. But at least the food got there.

3. There are still several towns nearby — places in Malabon and Cainta — that we heard HAVE NOT BEEN REACHED by relief. One observer called it “zombieland” as people are either in shock from starvation, too weak to do anything or will grab at all the goods and volunteers. This is where we are helping send the AFP to.

4. In some towns they managed to go to, says Christelle who is with the AFP, some people will wade through chest deep water to come to their truck to get the relief goods. No rescue there. No government. That’s where we want to send your donations the most.

5. In many cases, the relief is slowed down not by politics but by the fact that there is no disaster preparedness. I suppose, that’s politics indirectly.

6. Kulang pa volunteers everywhere. Lots of relief goods remain unprocessed/unpacked in Ateneo for example. It’s a Saturday and it’s raining: where are the people? Sleeping in?


Here are Clarissa’s; they’re a little… sunnier, shall we say:

Monica and I spent the night at Ateneo as volunteers, I wanted to share this experience with all of you out there who sent their donations through us. They have an incredibly organized and efficient operation there, so rest assured that your donations went out to affected areas as soon as humanly possible.

Yesterday was the first day that Ateneo did not have enough manpower to do the packing and organizing (it was raining hard most of the day, and typhoon Pepeng was threatening Manila). A couple of hundred volunteers really is NOT ENOUGH to process mountains of bottled water, canned food, clothes, blankets, medicine and various other essentials. These are some random things I can remember at the moment:

1. New volunteers sign-up, are briefed about the lay of the land at the courts, and then herded to a holding area where “area managers” can pick them up when needed. The wait to get deployed to a task is about 20 seconds.

2. The task of putting together a “relief pack” is called “shopping,” which we found really amusing. You go to a station where plastic bags are opened (6 ppl do this) for easy carrying, then you walk those bags through a water bottle station, canned goods station, biscuits station, and rice station. At these stations another 30 or so people put stuff in your bags. Once filled you drop them off at another station where 20 people are tasked to tie up the bags. Another 20 people pick up those bags and collect them for counting.

3. Packed bags are counted out and piled up on 500-bag hills of goods, each pile has a note on top that indicates where they will go (seen were Laguna, Pateros).

4. In other areas of the courts, covered by boxes of unsorted food, were smaller operations. Teams of around 15 people each put together toiletry packs, medicine packs, blanket and clothes packs. These are aggregated into large boxes and labeled.

5. At around 10pm a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) dump truck pulls in. It is headed for Pateros and is assigned 4,000 food packs plus a lot of boxes of blankets. Two lines of volunteers are formed, each line about 40 people deep, that go from the pile to the truck. Ten students gamely climb into the inside of the truck and on the roof of the driver’s cab to complete the assembly line. Loading takes an hour. At 11pm the truck pulls out and drives off to Pateros. Those students are having the time of their lives, sincerely enjoying making a difference.

6. Sights to see: 5 year old child helping carry 2-kilo food packs onto the truck, guy in an Audi convoys truck to site, parents putting cans onto plastic bags alongside their kids, drivers and yayas working alongside their “wards”, people thanking you at every turn just for being there

7. Morale boosters: professional comedy duo on the mics providing hilarious (and clean) commentary, Krispy Kreme donuts for volunteers, Starbucks sends free coffee for volunteers, on the radio “525,600 minutes” on the radio and everyone around you singing at the top of their voices while busily packing relief goods

After a couple of hours of carrying things, we realized we didn’t have the stamina that these teenagers had. We were exhausted and yet the kids who had been there since the morning were still running around at full speed.

Smiling faces all around.

We took about 70% of the goods we purchased with your money to this operation. The rate at which donations come into the Ateneo covered courts has dropped markedly, but the number of volunteers has not. Let’s keep em coming!

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