Saturday, November 23, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: Volunteerism Strong Despite Disruptions by Government Agencies by Guest Blogger Melissa Salva

There's another controversy brewing in Manila after typhoon Haiyan -- a turf war that disrupted a wonderful volunteer effort in assisting Haiyan refugees who arrived Manila.
Melissa Salva, a writer in Manila whom I know, had emailed of the volunteerism she and others in Manila did: 
"Jeric and I have been volunteering since Sunday. My last trip was yesterday morning when I drove a family of six (one of the four kids was a nine-day-old infant) to Batangas. The operation was going very well, with the system fine-tuned everyday to make it safer and more secure for all. That is, until some kibitzer stepped in and put a stop to the volunteering effort."
The Los Angeles Times had written about this wonderful volunteer effort yesterday, an article written before the disruptions.  Read Philippine Typhoon survivors get a warm, even festive welcome
Here is our Guest Blogger, Melissa Salva, who comments on this "turf war." Read also her article in Coconuts Manila.
I took the picture of Melissa at our writers' retreat in the Philippines last July.

Volunteerism Strong Despite Disruptions by Government Agencies
by Melissa Salva
 When the survivors started being evacuated out of Tacloban and brought to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, Manila, they were given food and clothing upon arrival. They then had to walk 1-km to get out of the base and catch a ride on the side of the road. Someone saw this and started Oplan Hatid with friends.

Oplan Hatid is the last link in the chain of relief efforts extended to Typhoon Yolanda victims who arrive in Villamor. It is organized and run by volunteers in cooperation with the DSWD. Volunteer drivers take the survivors anywhere they need to go in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces for free.

Almost a week into their operation, the organizers announced on their website that they will shut down because they were being ordered out of Villamor Air Base on account of an alleged turf war between DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and the Philippine Air Force Officers Ladies Club. (

News articles published the following day reported a shut down of operations, a move to Camp Aguinaldo with the effort headed by DSWD, the responsibility being transferred to MMDA, and finally the operations moved back to Villamor and run by the original group of volunteers. Apart from various agencies wrestling to head the project, blame was passed around when the abrupt change was met with negative feedback. By the following day, it was business as usual at Villamor, although at one point they had to deal with a backlog of 700 survivors in need of a ride.

To date, my husband Jeric and I have driven 8 families to destinations ranging from Tarlac in the north to Batangas in the South. Our youngest passenger was a 9-day-old baby girl. 

We have told our story ( to friends, family, and work colleagues who were inspired by the effort and have likewise volunteered. From more than 500 drivers at the time they were momentarily shut down Wednesday night (Manila time), Oplan Hatid now has over 1,200 registered volunteers--more than double in just three days.
Bio: Melissa Salva took up graduate studies in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She has poetry and fiction fellowships in national writers workshops in the Philippines, namely the ones in Dumaguete, UP Baguio, and Miag-ao, Iloilo. She is a freelance writer and editor.
Angeles de Leon commented on Saturday, November 23; the picture is from the FB site #villamorvolunteers:  
Oplan Hatid is back at Villamor: Booth 7 is fully functional but some of the other booths are left at Aguinaldo. 

No comments: