Fifteen days after the strong typhoon has passed, we had finally packed eleven sacks of relief goods for a tiny island called Mambacayao Diot a few miles north to Sagay City in Negros Occidental and part of the Bantayan group of islands in Cebu. We were waiting under the scorching heat of the sun at Vito wharf staring at the open sea with hopes our banca would arrive sooner.
It took us about an hour and a half to sail the Northern Negros sea from Vito wharf to Mambacayao Diot and while we were coming closer to the island, we couldn’t help but notice the damaged houses and what little coconut trees were left standing. We unloaded our sacks and bags at the Lumontad residence, a strong concrete home but with their asbestos roof randomly holed. We were more than grateful to the Lumontad family who religiously took care of us and prepared hearty meals for our entire stay.
We began our strolling early afternoon and that was when the Yolanda aftermath started to sink in. The island initially didn’t have clean water or electricity. They depended on rain water evident to large bangas situated in almost every home, and the small solar panels given by people from mainland Bantayan to whom they pay 300 a month. However, despite the severely damaged homes, people returned to their livelihood, evident to the dried fish laid out across almost all the vacant spaces in between what’s left of their homes. We reached the other side of the island where a small school was situated. The roofs were gone and the frames bent in all directions. Armchairs were all on the field scattered with all random things like books, paper and what-nots. I managed to ask some of the kids and they said that they had to do classes outside on the small field. On that very same field, we invited all the kids to some join us for some simple but fun games.
Sack race, newspaper dance, longest breath, and paper plate dance/race. They were pretty simple but the kids were more than eager to take part while anxiously waiting for me to give out snacks and prizes.
After sharing the fun with the kids, we started distributing the relief goods to the families, around 120 of them. A few kilos of rice, canned goods, matches, sachets of toothpaste, instant coffee, and bath soap. It was sure a tiring day and as soon as we were done distributing the packages, we started on another hearty meal of bisayang manok for dinner. We spent the night chatting over some cheap local rum as we placed two large bamboo beds side by side at the foyer and set our sleeping bags under the star lit night sky. While I slept first, the rest of the team waited for a fishing boat to dock a little before midnight. When it docked, they gave us some fresh fish which the boys immediately grilled and served as pulutan.
The next day was the best treat for us. The Lumontad family took us to Mambacayao Daku, a good ten minute sail in their banca. There were less people in Daku and I figured that the excess packages from the day before were brought here. We were welcomed to what used to be one of the Lumontad’s homes but now was an open ground with a temporary tent shelter. They pointed us to the best part of the beach to swim while they were cooking sumptuous breakfast for us. We hang out with the kids by the beach pretending we were doing an episode of “Survivor”.
I also tried their row boat and surely I didn’t manage to row it any farther than probably two meters. When we were tired and hungry, we head back to the shelter and was surprised to see the variety of food about to be served. Crabs, fishes, scallops, and other stuff I haven’t really eaten before cooked in delicious ways. It was a full brunch and our tummies were happy about the feel sea food.
At midday, we started back to Diot and after bathing and finally packing up, sailed back the hour and half sleepy trip to Vito wharf. It was sure a brief experience but we were filled with realizations. How a small group of people in a small island stood together in times of adversity, independent of whether or not help came, sailed on to their life and the abundance of the sea that kept them sufficient all their days.