Typhoon Ompong hit Benguet province on Sept. 15. Two days later, Kaisa’s partner organization, Amity Foundation Hong Kong (愛德基金會) called to ask if Kaisa was going to conduct relief operations. They informed us that the Hong Kong government’s Disaster Relief Fund now had a quick response option, which has less stringent requirements as long as response can be made within one month after a disaster. Feedback from all over the world was that funds were often released too long after a disaster to address immediate needs.
Kaisa past president Anabel Chua Lim, with the help of Kaisa finance officer Christina Lim Tan and officers of The Amity Foundation, submitted a proposal to the HKDRF for relief operations to be conducted in Benguet province.
While it seemed “simple,” there was a huge amount of ground work involved – ground work that is often unseen and not included in official reports.
Before the proposal could be created, partners working on the ground had to be tapped. The Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services connected Kaisa with Kaiabang, a Benguet provincial organization that helped identify the locations where families still need relief, as well as the items they need the most.
Surprising to Metro Manila people, one of the requests was for a 5-gallon jug of water. We thus learned that Itogon, being a mining town, has no uncontaminated water source. Their drinking water had to be purchased from other municipalities.
Considering the timeline, that the funding and operations would most likely commence in mid-October, a month after the typhoon, Kaiabang had marching instructions to identify communities that were mostly underserved or erstwhile ignored.
We also tapped Serve the People Brigade, a loose network of nongovernment and people organizations that is activated during major disasters in the Cordilleras, to provide volunteers. Once inputs from the networks were in, the proposal was sent to The Amity Foundation on Sept. 20 and then on to HKDRF. True to the quick response promise, funding was approved in a week. With the immediacy of the needs in the communities, volunteers in Manila worked tirelessly and quickly to arrange all the logistics.
Christina and her husband, Kaisa past president Ganny Tan, went to Benguet on Oct. 9-10 to finalize the logistics. By Oct. 12, our small volunteer team, including those from The Amity Foundation were on the ground commencing distribution of relief goods.
For four days, the Kaisa team distributed goods to 2,300 families in Barangay Gambang, Bakun; Brgy. Bedbed, Mangkayan; barangays Tikey, Karao, Bobok Bisal and Pito, Bokod; barangays Ampucao, Gumatdang, Loacan in Itogon; Sitio Mambulo, Brgy. Poblacion in Itogon; and sitios Gold Creek, Proper, Upper, Ducot in Bgy. Ucab also in Itogon.
When news of the relief operations being conducted was retold, Ang Kian Hiong, a friend of Kaisa, immediately said he would donate an amount as well. Ang and two other friends from The Philippine Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce provided some funding for Kaisa to continue its efforts.
The P300,000 from them would not be enough. Hence, through the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce president Domingo Yap, Kaisa tapped the 12-member Chinese-Filipino Calamity Fund (華社救災運動) for P500,000 additional funds to help 1,000 more families. Volunteers from the Amity Foundation Baguio (菲華聯誼會) also lent their truck and vehicles.
With this amount, Kaisa prepared to conduct round two of the relief operations, through our University of the Philippines Baguio partner, Prof. JJ Josef. This time, students of UP Baguio and Benguet State University joined us. These students’ families were displaced by Ompong, and do not have enough support for food and other school needs anymore. The next day, goods were distributed to 785 families of Brgy. Sinacbat, Bakun. Forty-five family packs and children’s goodies were set aside for Lamew, Bakun. Lamew is accessible only by a 6-hour hike or through Ilocos Sur if via vehicle.