BOAT TURNOVER: HELPING YOLANDA FISHERMEN VICTIMS
by Beth Ginete, BCBP Makati
It all started with Yolanda typhoon… A client and a family friend of mine, Butchie Silvoza, has a foundation that has helped out victims of natural calamities in the past. In one of our meetings, he inquired if I knew about the Peter Project of Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation (NVC) which was accepting donations for victims of Yolanda typhoon so they can build their own boats. Talking about not giving them a fish, but a “boat for them to fish in” to serve as a means of livelihood in the long-term. I said probably this is based in Bacolod but Butchie didn’t know anyone from there. Moreover, he hesitated to donate to just any foundation because the donations had come from international suppliers.
Who do I know from Bacolod? Of course, BCBP came to my mind specifically my long-time and reliable brothers – Ray Garcia and Benjie Torre. I made a few text exchanges and after an assuring message that the President of NVC is Ray’s relative, Ray even vouching for the foundation with regards to its credibility and reliability, I endorsed it to my client to explore possibilities of their donations. Butchie called NVC Foundation President, Millie Kilayko and from there coordinated how donations could be made.
A few weeks later in December 2013, Butchie informed me that the NVC foundation was able to identify a total of 57 fishermen affected by the typhoon located in one island, Barangay Tabugon in Carles, Northern Iloilo/Panay. Donation for one boat is P20, 000.00. Butchie said if I had some donors too, it would be helpful also as he was prepared to initially sponsor about 50 boats. Aware that my communities had deferred their Christmas parties and raised funds for donations to Yolanda victims, I introduced the Peter Project to both BCBP Makati Chapter and the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community South District D and asked if they would like to donate a boat. BCBP Makati Chapter was able to sponsor 2 boats and LNP SDD, 1 boat. I told Butchie that’s all I could get so he said, 54 boats would be manageable.
Through our respective communities and Butchie’s foundation, we transmitted our donations thru bank transfers to NVC Foundation. The recipients/fishermen would build their own boats using the materials provided by NVC with the average period for building a boat being about 4-6 weeks. The next task for donors was to assign names and inspiring messages for each of the boats. We prayed and discerned for the names for the three (3) boats from both communities. BCBP Makati named the 2 boats, “Magkapatid 1” and “Magkapatid 2” (meaning siblings) while the LNP South D boat was named “Pinagpala” (meaning blessed). The greater challenge came when Butchie asked me to help him out to name the rest of 54 boats! By some inspiration, we agreed to give biblical names starting with the letter Z… Zabud, Zacharias, Zachaeus etc.
That would have been enough….
Some months later, we were informed that all 57 boats would be ready to be turned over to the fisher folks in Brgy. Tabugon in April 2014 and that we, as donors, were invited to witness the turnover. Brgy. Tabugon is one of the 11 Barangays of Carles. But where is Carles? First time I had heard of it. Much more difficult to find is Brgy. Tabugon? Googling the place, we found out that Carles is about 150 kms. north of Iloilo City (or a 3-hour ride by land). The place was more famous for being a jump off point to Gigantes isles and Sicogon Island. For BCBP and LNP, having donated the 3 boats would have been the end of the process. But to even think of going all the way to Carles for a turnover of these few boats would not have been necessary. On the other hand, Butchie who was answerable to his donors abroad wanted to witness and meet the 54 fisher folks/recipients. So the invite was extended to me, and readily I said yes, because it was a chance to represent my 2 communities and witness this turnover.
Again the questions… what is the best way to go to Brgy. Tabugon? Tabugon was not even identified by google maps. Further researches for flights and accommodations, coordination with NVC Foundation, and possible arrangements were explored. Before I knew it, I was again “disturbing” and requesting Bro. Gau Arancillo, BCBP Iloilo to help me out. As always, he would make a few calls then revert back to me and passed the name to call. Thus, I “met” Bro. Rene Del Rosario of Roxas City who referred me to Bro. Romy Nallos of Estancia Outreach and through them, our accommodations, transportation and transfers were so efficiently arranged.
Upon our arrival in Roxas City last Apr. 22, BCBP brothers from Roxas City, warmly greeted us and treated us to a bountiful seafood lunch by the beach side! Thank you Bro. Rene Del Rosario, Hernan and Dennis Altobano for this warm welcome! We were with family! Later in the afternoon, we were off to our destination Carles, and half way there, brothers and sisters from BCBP Estancia City met up with us and made sure we safely arrived in the resort BCBP Estancia booked for us. Not knowing anything about this town, our brother Romy Nallos, BCBP’s Outreach Head of Estancia, his wife sister Grace, his son, daughter in law and another brother explained to us what to expect in our visit to Brgy. Tabugon. It was such another pleasant exchange accompanied by delicious bibingka from Balasan! And as if God was making sure our stay in the Resort would be more secure and relaxed, we met an employee of the resort, Rizalie Dijuan, who happened to be a sister of my family friend based in Manila. It’s even getting better…
That would have been enough…
Wed. April 23... mid-morning… we drove to Bancal fishing port and waited for the NVC Foundation team to arrive. For the first time, we met the President of the NVC Foundation, Millie Kilayko and other members of their group who had come all the way from Bacolod. We boarded the boat that would take us to Brgy. Tabugon. The boat ride was estimated to be about 30 minutes long so we started to just relax and enjoy the open sea, clear blue skies and happy company.
But about 10 minutes away from our destination, someone startled us shouting, “look!! look!!… out there!” From far away, they looked like tiny toy boats sailing from all directions toward us… And slowly as the image and sound of the motorboats reverberated around us, we realized they were the fisher folks, now maneuvering their own boats, welcoming us, waving at us, expressing in their own way “maraming salamat”… I was taking pictures, left, right, back, and in front of us… The boats were painted the same colors prescribed by NVC for easy identification. But the ZZZZZZZ names of the boats gave it a more distinguishable sight! Indescribable joy… seeing their grateful eyes and smiles! I was instantly moved to tears and just sighed, “Thank you Lord for allowing me to be here”… touched by this spontaneous regatta, crafted and orchestrated by these boatmen! It was such a glorious sight…
Upon reaching the island, immediately I sought the recipients of the boats, “Pinagpala” and “Magkapatid 1 and 2”. Indeed, they had their own stories brought about by Yolanda… their losses… their shocks… their traumas… I met Mang Nornel Tamayo, the recipient and owner of Magkapatid 1. He was a polio victim at birth, 62 years old, married with 4 children. He uses his knees that were protected by 2 rubber tires tied to both his knees to walk. He has been a fisherman for more than 30 years. He only speaks in Visayan and cannot understand Tagalog nor English. I can’t speak Visayan either but we talked for about 15 minutes. I tried to tell him to be strong and have faith, and from what I understand, he kept on saying salamat… pamilya… salamat…
The fisherman for Magkapatid 2 was Mang Ramon Duya, 42 years old, with 4 children. And for Pinagpala, the fisherman was a 23 year old young father of 2 children, Jaime Cabarles Jr. Though they were quiet during the whole time I was with them, it was understood that they were truly grateful for this chance of a livelihood for their families.
NVC President, Millie Kilayko speaking in Visayan explained how she, Butchie, and myself came together through references and connections. Then she also asked Butchie to speak to the fishermen. When my turn came, the emotions overwhelmed me so much, it was an effort to speak. I said I didn’t have any prepared speech but I was just led to say, “May I pray over all of you?” And indeed I did! Every person I saw was teary eyed.. tears of joy, of gratefulness, of awe.. we didn’t know each other but we were unified through these boats! NVC staff said that this was the most touching turnover they had ever witnessed. To God be the glory and praise!
It was also announced that one of the boatman caught his first catch that same day – 100 kilos of squid! Thus, the lunch that was set before us was their catch plus a lot more .. lovingly prepared by the boatmen’s wives and relatives.
That would have been enough…
Upon our return to Roxas City, our going away dinner was another feast! Present Roxas City, Chapter Head, Norman Oducado, Rene and Lita del Rosario and other brothers were there to listen and share our exuberance over our encounters in Brgy. Tabugon. Our mission, our encounter, our day had left us with hearts bursting with love and gratitude. Truly God, you cannot be outdone in your generosity as you have blessed us to be a blessing to others!
That would have been enough, but to me this experience demonstrated beyond ordinary faith, that when one’s intentions are according to His will, He, our Lord and God, gives more than enough!!! All praises and glory to Him!