Friday, December 6, 2013

Soldier stays behind in Guiuan to help Yolanda victims

From the Website of AFP Story Links:

Published: 26 November 2013
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte – Being the driver of a KM-450 troop carrier truck that brought nine other soldiers to the coastal municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Pfc Jomar Jay L Rodin is literally the first soldier to reach the town that first experienced the wrath of monster typhoon Yolanda during her first landfall Friday morning, November 8, 2013.
The squad belonging to the 14th Infantry Battalion was sent to Guiuan for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR).

They were also deployed there to serve as eyes and ears of the battalion on the effects that Yolanda might bring to the province.

They arrived in Guiuan at around 10pm of November 7, 2013.

“Everyone was busy packing relief goods at the town hall when we arrived. They are ready, they prepared well,” said Pfc Rodin.

“Our squad leader, Sgt Morales, immediately reported to the mayor and informed him of our mission there,” he added.

Rodin recalled that everything seemed to be normal until around 3 a.m. Friday when strong winds coupled with rains started moving buildings, removing rooftops, collapsing walls.

Electricity and communication networks were out and destruction became the scenario for the next three hours.

“Our squad was scattered, we were all on survival mode,” said Rodin. He continued by saying that they have to transfer from one room to another to avoid falling debris.

In 8th Infantry Division Headquarters in Catbalogan City, Samar, the 10 soldiers were declared unaccounted and missing with no reports coming from them. Other units were able to send messengers to give updates except for the squad in Guiuan.

Their radio went down, it was soaked in water during the height of the storm.

“Our squad leader was considering on sending me and another soldier to drive to our command post in Hernani town some 60km north, but fallen trees were blocking the streets. My truck cannot traverse the road. We were cut off,” said Rodin.

At the Armed Forces of the Philippines Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, the whole of Samar and Leyte were out of communication coverage including military lines and radios.
It was daybreak of Nov 8 when the clearer picture of the effects of Yolanda was measured. Almost everything went down. It was a catastrophe.

Rodin described that bodies were seen among the rubble. Others were dead, some might still be alive.

“At first, we worked individually, helping those we see near us and those who seek for assistance,” said Rodin.

Not minding for food, the squad continued to help people rescue their love ones. Bodies started piling up.

As time passed, people started getting hungry. One by one, people entered the town hall to get relief goods.

It was during this time, Rodin said, that their squad leader, Sgt Morales, realized that if there will be shortage of food, and there will be no fair distribution; more problems will arise.

“He said that we secure the relief goods first so that there will be order to some extent,” Rodin said.

Hope for survival
Himself impressed by the determination of the people of Guiuan to survive despite hardships, Rodin opted to stay behind to continue providing HADR.

Pfc Rodin is now on his 18th day in Guiuan.

He said that he believes the residents here are worthy enough of his time and efforts.  He wanted to give them his own helping hand for as long as needed.

He was particularly moved by the respect given to them by the people and the cooperation they showed them.
Despite his entire team’s going back to their headquarters in Hernani, he stayed in Guiuan to help the people get back on their feet.

Today, he continues to fulfill his duty of driving to far-flung barangays to bring relief goods to people still in need there.

Beacons of hope
Adrian Bernardo, municipal accountant of Guiuan, said that they were thankful for the soldiers who came to their town.

He said that they were desperate for contact when the AFP sent its unit of its soldiers to Guiuan to check the area.

It was only then that they were able to get help from outside sources and the national government.

“It felt like being found after floating hopelessly lost at sea for days.  We were so relieved to see them.  It's a sign that we have hope for survival,” he said.  “It was such a relief that the Mayor cried.”

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