Sunday, October 25, 2009

Volunteer

A group of eight people, your ate Ella included, went to one of DSWD warehouses to help in repacking relief goods. We know they need volunteers pero hindi namin akalaing WALANG TAO TALAGA SA LOOB NG WAREHOUSE!

As in sa isang humongous warehouse (1000++ sq.m) NA PUNONG-PUNO NG RELIEF GOODS HANGGANG BUBONG, ISANG DSWD employee lang at ISANG SECURITY GUARD ang tao!!

It was the evening between two storms. Ondoy had just struck the country early last week, while Peping threatens to make landfall in Cagayan in a matter of days. I was back at Sagip Kapamilya after some Encantos responded to the network's plea for help. Two of my barkada went ahead, while I chose to wait longer and decide whether to spend my entire night in the company of fellow volunteers or go home after my duty is over. You see, I was planning to take a sick leave at work but I'm not sure how my supervisor would react to it, and so I waited.

I arrived at one of ABS-CBN's studios at past 10 in the evening. I saw Rain Darwin and Centurion packing some used clothes while standing next to a bunch of guys who were assigned with the "human conveyor team" To give you a clear picture of how this team works, a group of "abled bodied" men and women would line up the entire stretch from the truck delivering the donations to the warehouse where the goods will be stored. One by one, crates of bottled water, boxes of canned sardines, noodles, detergents, or any goods coming outside the base camp would pass through this human conveyor belt. Sometimes, when the packing of relief goods were done, the sacks coming out of the warehouse also pass through this belt to be stacked and arranged inside the waiting trucks for distribution.

To be stuck with this team is a nightmare. Not only does the job require back-breaking work, instant boredom hits once you realize there's nothing much to see. Meanwhile, volunteers keep signing in - students of all ages, pa-sosyal girls and girls, tambay boys who live in a squatter's colony down the street, old folks wanting to take part in this selfless effort - everyone who saw on television the outpouring of support to help the victims of the recent floods. I'm sure many of them wanted to be assigned in the field. They wanted to see the devastation with their own eyes. Learning from experience when I first volunteered, I went to the team leader for relief distribution to suck up and secure my slot. The one I spoke to said the next convoy leaving the compound will deliver goods to Marikina.

"Ground Zero," I said to myself. Finally my wish will be fulfilled.

Even though there were already volunteers assigned for distribution, I hid inside one of the trucks in hopes that the leader assigned in the field would never find out that I was merely a stowaway in the group. He never noticed how I shoved myself in. In fact, he might have mistaken me as one of the senior volunteers.

---

We were back at base camp at 3 in the morning. My team mates were eager to go home, but since I told my mother that I'd be working graveyard shift as an excuse, there was no choice but for me to stay. We all went our separate ways after saying our last farewells. I was back in the studio helping another team move sacks of relief goods to the waiting 10-wheeler truck outside. While doing my part, I noticed some teens (who probably went to party first before showing up to volunteer) were still signing up despite the announcement that the base camp would close down for the night. They said the organizers need to prepare for the flood of volunteers and donations that would appear at the first hour of sunrise.

The announcement fell on deaf ears. For we have learned that some goods - especially sardines and rice were already in bad shape when they were donated to Sagip Kapamilya. They smelled awfully and when these goods reach the victims, there is a good chance it might become a public relations nightmare for the network. We were done cleaning the studio when the team leader decided to unpack some goods for distribution. The goal was to double check if there were spoiled items inside the bags and take them out to be replaced by new items.

A bunch of tambays were still outside. With nothing else to do but hang-out until the base camp opens again, they could afford to wait. Their stubbornness was legendary, for even when the guards started shooing volunteers out, they stayed behind hoping that a new assignment would be given.

"Papasukin yang mga yan," the Relief Ops manager decreed after learning that they were still there.

Exhaustion had set in among the team leaders. Most were simply eager to go home. Some stayed behind and preoccupied themselves as to how the repackaging operations would continue since the stocks of rice had already dwindled. Meanwhile, being one of the older people remaining, the Team Leader of the packing group passed his responsibilities to me: I will lead the team assigned to inspect the goods. So off we went to unpack the relief goods with the barest of instructions. All those volunteers we found around the base camp were invited to help in so we could weed out the spoiled items before it reach the flood victims.

And for the first time, Sagip Kapamilya's operation was extended for 24 hours.

Kailangang magpa-register at i-schedule ang volunteering

1) UNICEF Registration (as a volunteer)

The warehouse can only take as much as 50 volunteers at a time or per shift. Here you will find that there is a 4-hour shift, and an option for a 6-hour shift for the volunteers to indicate their availability.

What “volunteers”? Nasaan?

Aside from the 8 of us? Nope, there was nobody there. Bakit kailangan ang scheduling? Feeling hindi ba magkamayaw at nagu-unahan ang mga volunteers?

I know somebody who wanted to volunteer many times. She was always bumped off, laging nirere-schedule kasi “there were too many volunteers” daw. At tuwing Sunday lang daw puwede. What the hell is going on here?

The sun was already peeking through the clouds when we have finally repacked all the goods requiring inspection. The girls who joined the team had long left, while the tambays, whose goal was to actually join the relief distribution waited for the San Mateo-bound trucks parked outside to leave. As early as 6 in the morning, fresh volunteers came in trickles. They form a line outside the base camp and motorists passing along Tomas Morato who were uninformed of the Sagip Kapamilya converted studios in one of the side streets would mistake them as the audience for Wowowee.

I only had a yosi break that morning because when another team leader found me loitering around, he called my attention for another task at hand.

"Kailangan namin ng sanay na sa ganitong operations." The team leader explained while the two of us walked towards another studio.

"Kita mo, nakakalat lahat ng goods hanggang dito sa labas. Kapag nagsimulang magsidatingan yung mga bagong donations, magkakaroon ng bottleneck mamaya."

Barely a word after the team leader was done explaining, another team leader showed up bringing with him around ten people who just signed up for volunteers.

"Heto mga tao mo. Start na kayo mag-linis ng warehouse."

Logistics is a field I am never familiar with. Not even by a long shot. And when they tapped me to organize the warehouse before the new batch of consumer goods arrive and pile up the studio's already limited space, experience may be masqueraded by trying to appear in control of the situation.

"Hey guys! Here's what we gonna do." my booming voice bounced across the studio converted warehouse.

"Our goal is to take in whatever goods we have outside. Lahat ng noodles, dito ilalagay." I pointed at the spot where the boxes of noodles were already piling up.

"Dito naman ang mga sardines."

"At yung mga bottled water, dito natin ilalagay."

Among the relief goods that needed most attention were the bottled water. Not only were their boxes already deformed or destroyed by leakage, we found a lot of plastic bottles flung inside used sacks. I don't know if it would pose a health hazard, but to deliver them to victims to drink - would be simply outrageous. So we decided to stack them behind the wall of bottled water boxes where they would be least needed. At least, when the supplies run out, those who are still manning the warehouse have spare bottles in hand.

Another challenge was to save the loaves of bread, the boxes of Monay and the crates of hard-boiled eggs, which are all bound to get spoiled before they reach the mouths to feed. We had to let go rather than let them rot inside the warehouse and not be consumed at all. Most went to the janitors and helpers, which ABS-CBN apparently bolstered since the volunteers were dumping more trash than all their employees do. The remaining went to the people queing outside despite the searing heat. There were so many food to give that the receptionists manning the booth were complaining of the sudden surge of left-overs when there was none when they needed it most.

Running the warehouse - despite the lack of experience handling logistics or instructing strangers as to what to do - remain a great honor I'd like to keep in secret. This is why nothing was said about the twelve hours I volunteered in Sagip Kapamilya nor made reference to it until this shameful act of DSWD was blogged by a fellow writer. The volunteers under me were more than eager to help (in fact, nobody EVER complained even when the task at hand was too difficult to accomplish.) People rise up from the ranks to share their knowledge and experience. In fact, the plumpy lady I tapped to become my assistant turned out to be the one who run the warehouse before I showed up and took the responsibility when she was not around.

It was pure hard work, which a week in the gym would never accomplish: I went to the heart of the disaster, distributed relief goods and saw the misery and destruction myself. I carried heavy sacks on my shoulders, which I would never do at home. Finally, strangers saw me as a leader - a side of me I hardly see - and played the act for everyone to believe. As batches of volunteers come and go, I was asked to join the photo ops for remembrance. Even the kids (who volunteered alongside their parents and teachers) had a field day taking out the damaged hard boiled eggs from the ones that could still pass for consumption. It was memorable. It was the spirit of the nation rising up to the occasion and becomes something it seldom is.

Sa maghapon namin sa warehouse,nakagawa kami ng 150 sacks of relief goods. 150 bags of relief goods lang ang lumabas sa warehouse na ‘yon that day. At nandoon pa rin sa loob ang mga imported relief goods, safe, sound and packed as the day they arrived.

Nakisakay kami palabas sa isang DSWD delivery van. Gusto sana kaming ihatid ng driver hanggang Makati pero wala raw siyang sobrang gasolina. Ibinaba na lang niya kami sa gitna ng EDSA. Millions of dollars in donations, walang extrang pang-gasolina.

Susulpot din siguro ang laman ng mga mahiwagang kahon at mapapasakamay din ng mga tao…sa ARAW NG ELEKSYON. O mabibili na nila ang mga imported goods na ‘yon sa mga puwesto sa Quiapo at Divisoria.

The Bayanihan tradition which I saw with my own eyes will live on. I felt it long after I've gone through the experience. Looking at how successful Sagip Kapamilya and its clones were, perhaps this spontaneous act of citizen participation will prosper so long as those in power never understands the value of a nation searching for a true leader.

A government despised by the people is bound to fall. Everyone knows how it failed miserably when Ondoy struck and drowned an unsuspecting city. They were the last to respond - the media beating them in all accounts. It was the Kapamilya and Kapuso networks who saw everything when the government was turning a blind eye to the situation.

It was the media who assured a fearful nation.

No wonder, when these two networks called for action, the people came in droves. They served without question and took part in the massive relief operations a government of this country would never achieve despite its widespread machinery.

It's the people who lost faith in the government. It came as no surprise why nobody wanted to volunteer in DSWD. (unless the department wanted to keep the goods for themselves) The police, the government workers and the military were all donning their civilian clothes to provide assistance to private groups running their own individual relief operations. "The institution we worked for doesn't care a bit, so why stay and do nothing?"

This was perhaps the feeling they had in mind.

Had I been Secretary Cabral. I will accept the truth that I'm working for a government serving its own interest. Instead of letting the relief goods decay in warehouses, I would announce to the whole nation that I'd be sending everything to Red Cross, to churches and to private groups who were more efficient in courting volunteers.

For Cabral to tell a weary country that they cannot distribute goods for lack of volunteers was the most insensitive and deceptive explanation she could ever find. She, as the secretary is just incompetent and there is no way she can deny that.

Blognotes from:

Blog ni Ella
The Misadventures of Mel-Beckham

12 comments:

blagadag said...

of the people, by the people, for the people. you people.

Mac Callister said...

wow bilib ako sau!

Galen said...

On a special note: MLQIII wrote a defense column in behalf of Cabral. I don't buy his argument. Simply put, in a time of urgency, what matters most is whether the goods were delivered or not.

Galen said...

Mac Callister: Salamat dude. Nagsha-share lang ng mga adventures. Hehe

Blagadag: Democracy, at its finest. :)

Yj said...

and there's one more reason for the young ones to look up to you...

ay naku hindi ko na papansinin yang si Cabral at pag sinimulan ko baka ma cardiac arrest ako.....

Galen said...

YJ: Nagpapakatao lang dude. Lately, nararamdaman ko na maraming ng tumitingin sa akin bilang robot ehehehe.

Ahhh si Cabral. Who is she in the first place?

<*period*>; said...

@galen...akshuwali, hindi nakaimik yung manager kasi nakapagsalita rin ako sa kaniya (hindi ko na lang naisulat) ang sabi ko, huwag kang magkakamaling magsalita or else bibitbitin ko ang pagmumukha mo sa kalapit natin na QCPD station 10. ayun natameme.


@yj, cabnral is the former head of the philippine heart center...ahihihi

dencios said...

dahil dyan papa joms, pa kiss men walang malisya.

Galen said...

Dencios: Awwwwss Kilig naman ako. LOL. Pahiram ng abs, kahit isang gabi lang. LOL.

Period: Sobra namang pagkamataray yun. Hehehe. :)

<*period*>; said...

kuya galen, ang totoo niyan, wala pa sa one-fourth ng mataray mode ko yung ipinakita ko dun

yan po yung sinasabi ko before na i'd rather be 'pacutesy' and parang bata kung maglambing kesa ilabas ko ang inner devil ko sa ibat ibat sitwasyon. id rather want to be remembered as a malabing na kaibigan than my devilish ways when im mad.<*wink*>

oo kuya, aminado naman ako.i seldom get mad, but when i do, all hell break loose..att oo, sabi ng mga matagal nang nakakakilala sa akin, masama nga raw akong magalit.

tip:im at my worst kapag hindi na ako nagsalita...tiyak ang mga susunod na pahayag ko ay ikagugulat na ng makaririnig..

(ahihihihihi)

minsan nga makapagsulat kung paano magalit si erick

Galen said...

Period: Hahaha ibahin mo kapag ako ang hindi nagsalita. -)

xtian1978ii said...

dumating sa akin kahapon ang email na may mga pictures re sa DSWD na 'yan. Grabe sana naman ibahagi na nila 'yun.

Astig ka Galen, sana hindi ka magsawa sa pagtulong sa kapwa.