Days after Typhoon Pablo ravaged Eastern Mindanao, particularly the province of Davao Oriental, thousands of families in the towns of Cateel and Boston were left with painful memories of how the typhoon devastated their lives.
“Nasa loob ako ng bahay noong mga alas-onse ng gabi. Nanonood ng telebisyon kasama ang pamilya ko nang biglang nawalan ng kuryente. Napansin ko na lang na palakas na ng palakas ang ulan. Pagdating ng alas-tres ng madaling araw, lumikas na kami mula sa bahay namin dahil nababaklas na ang mga dingding dala ng malakas na hangin. Sinagip kami ng kapitbahay namin at tamang-tama pagpasok namin sa bahay nila ay humangin ng malakas, at wala na kaming nakita,” narrated Maria Carmelita Pineda, a resident of Cateel.
Another Cateel resident, Perla Amanduron, a mother of three, recounted what she saw the day after the dreaded typhoon first made landfall last December 4. “Tulala na lang ako. Wala ng natira sa tahanan namin. Paggising ko na lang, wala na akong bahay. Napakahirap dahil ngayon lang namin naranasan ang ganito,” she said.
Relief efforts immediately started as soon as news of the damage in the communities broke. Without any delay and hesitation, the countryís largest distribution utility, the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), and its social development arm, the One Meralco Foundation (OMF), crossed boundaries and reached out to the desolate towns of Cateel and Boston.
“Heroism is innate among Meralco employees and it is always best exemplified in times of crises. The corporate values of makabayan and malasakit are evidently etched in the hearts of our employees as each of them answers the call of volunteerism and serves wholeheartedly without waiting for anything in return,” said Oscar S. Reyes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Meralco.
Aside from swiftly responding to the immediate need of food, drinking water and medicines of the over 3,000 families afflicted by the typhoon, 38 Meralco linemen joined forces with the Davao Oriental Electric Cooperative (DORECO) in restoring power to Cateel and Boston.
“It is common among different distribution utilities to help each other. Kung sino ang may kailangan ng tulong, handa kaming taga-Meralco na magbigay serbisyo sa mga utilities at komunidad na nangangailangan ng tulong. Meralco and OMF saw the need to assist. Since I first visited this place last December 15, I saw that the communities here are more devastated than what I saw after Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. Dito, walang natirang mga bahay. It really broke my heart and stirred us to do immediate action,” shared Carl G. Aquino, head of Meralco North Distribution Services’ Contract Administration who led the Meralco contingent in Davao Oriental.
The Meralco contingent together with DORECO linemen worked on the 22-kilometer main line which would serve as the backbone of the energization of the two towns. From January 3 to 9, both teams erected and re-aligned 250 electrical poles. After DORECO constructs the Baganga distribution lines, power would be fully restored in Cateel and Boston, benefiting over 7,000 families.
“Masaya ang pakiramdam ko at dumating ang Meralco dahil alam ko kung ano ang kakayahan nila. Malaking tulong talaga ang binigay nila sa amin,” said Pineda.
“Hindi maisalita kung ano ang nangyari sa amin dito. Pero masaya kami na dumating ang Meralco. Maraming salamat sa crew ng Meralco. Hindi magtatagal at magkakaroon na kami ng kuryente. Tunay na sa Meralco, may liwanag ang bukas,” shared Noriel Mapayo of DORECO.
Further to the power restoration efforts and as part of the rehabilitation program of Meralco and OMF is the energization of a relocation site in barangay Lambahon, Baganga which is the first of the relocation sites in Davao Oriental benefiting 15,000 families affected by the typhoon.
“In times of tragedies, it is common for us Filipinos to show our malasakit to our afflicted fellowmen. We have always proven that we can be united in helping build the nation by going beyond our comfort zones and serving communities in need wherever they are in the country,” explained Jeffrey O. Tarayao, Meralco Chief Corporate Social Responsibility officer and OMF president.