Siargao holds a special place in my heart because it was where I was recently able to reconnect with the magic of the Philippine Islands as befits a princess of the sea. It has an even deeper meaning because this is where my daughter Jordan decided to move and make her home. We had so many plans for Siargao and 2022, but suddenly, in a period of less than 24 hours, Typhoon Odette passed through the island and broke the lives and dreams of all the people who were on the island.
It is really difficult to compile everything that has happened in Siargao. After the storm left, it seemed that a giant walked the island, trampling houses, picking up whole trees. People were left homeless; their provisions were wet from the rain; all the water turned salty from the intensity of the storm; they overturned cars; while trees and power lines blocked all roads. There was no electricity, communication, law enforcement, food, and for many, not even hope.
Despite all the preparations made by the residents of the island, they did not expect the typhoon to have such a tremendous impact. People did not know whether or not to stay in their houses and fight against the winds, as they also feared a Leyte-like storm surge. Most of the houses were near the sea.
One day after the typhoon, it was as if everyone was in a daze. All the best efforts of the local government to help people were simply not enough as the island slowly ran out of food, water and fuel. Many politicians passed through and delivered some relief items, but it was still difficult to reach the north of the island, which was the worst affected.
The mayor of a small town in Siargao mentioned that she fears the worst is yet to come when all aid stops and the island runs out of coconuts, boats and tourism jobs.
Although many foreign and local tourists left the island, there were several who decided to stay and help their adopters integrate into the island community. They all started their own small relief operations, some working with local government, others working in existing communities.
These include Local Lab (Kara Rosas, Mark Pintucan and Iris Aroa); Bravo Beach Resort (Alex Gari); Maritime Movement (James and Marja O’Donnell); Arka Hayahay (Saar Geva); Tindog Siargao from Siargao Creative Nomads; Save Siargao (Wang Borja); Puppy Puddle Siargao (Aleksandra Goldyn); Cev Siargao (David del Rosario); Siago (Maite Ortoll-Garcia); and Caracoa/FMM (Luis and Caress Banson).
Alexa Paroz and restaurant owners Mikael González (Vedya), Guillermo (Alma) have set up community kitchens with long lines of locals receiving free meals, drinking water and medicine. Nadine Luster installed a solar panel that allowed people to charge their phones. They all went out to help their neighbors despite the lack of electricity, supplies and basic amenities.
My friend Jolly Gomez (JLG Prime Builders) decided to focus on building decent little shelters for people in the northern part of Siargao, which was the most damaged area after the typhoon.
His goal was to build a 23-square-meter house with a concrete foundation, coconut wood from fallen trees, and a GI-resistant roof. The total cost of materials is only $1,000 and he will cover the cost of labor. He has a humble goal of building 100 houses out of the 34,000 that have been destroyed, but if there are people willing to give, why not try to build 10,000? To help build shelters for Siargao, you can donate through your BPI Peso account (0090 0238 02), BDO Peso (00872 8008 211) or Paypal ([email protected]).
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