Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Culture of Giving

What I know for sure is that what you give

comes back to you.

Oprah Winfrey

When Silliman University President Ben S. Malayang III made an appeal last June 26 for the Silliman and Dumaguete communities to extend help to the calamity victims in Iloilo, the picture that would motivate people to help the storm Frank-battered province was not that clear yet. Then, Former President Agustin A. Pulido called and described the sad state of the campus of Central Philippine University, Silliman’s sister school.

The entire campus is flooded as Iloilo’s two major rivers overflowed. The water came so strong that it broke into the groundfloor of the Henry Luce Library and other buildings including the University Church. Also badly damaged are dormitories where most of the students were left with nothing but their bedroom attire that night. Followed by fluctuating electricity, the internet connection was down and then, panic buying by households led to lack of food for the dormitory residents. There was no water supply. (Days later, Dr. Doris Pulido had to go to the SM Traveller’s lounge for a 30-peso shower)

President Ben’s call which was also carried through text messages and by the radio stations in Dumaguete received immediate response. On that same day, the Alumni and External Office was kept busy receiving donations until 10’o’clock in the evening. The Silliman dormitories were the first to respond. More and more angels from the Silliman and Dumaguete communities responded with food and water supply, clothing and cash donations.

Silliman University teams have made two trips since then to deliver the needed help. The first team consisting of a cargo truck and the Silliman firetruck was led by Prof. Roy Olsen de Leon who is from Iloilo, this was a heart-wrenching return home for him. Driven to tears, he felt that everyone was a victim including his own family. With the shadow of depression all over, there was no welcome awaiting the Silliman angels except the thankful Drs. Gus and Doris Pulido who were there to coordinate. Silliman firetruck driver Virgilio Valencia described the layers of mud that covered the surface of the entire campus. His team which included two SU College of Engineering faculty, was the only working force that did the needed major clean-up for three days. Some work students of CPU were asked to report to assist the team but they could only handle the minor sweeping of floors. The Silliman team, on their own initiative, decided to ease the burden by cleaning out the thick layers of muddy silt on groundfloors of buildings, with water from the CPU swimming pool which the Silliman firetruck had transported. Another problem arose, however, when Iloilo’s primary water source threatened to overflow, and attempts were made to divert the water through a man-made hole. This led, however to another major flow which crested at a record flood level, engulfing every part of Jaro district where Central Philippine University is located. The flood that came from the watershed put an end to the Silliman team’s heroic attempts, they had to leave before the water would trap them.

Mrs. Carmen Larot Rio, a DumagueteƱa based in Iloilo,waited patiently for the day when the water would recede this flood-ravaged city. With no potable water available, boxes of bottled water from relatives and friends in Cebu, Manila and Dumaguete helped her survive the long days. She texted me a message of joy when at 2AM on July 5 clean water was finally distributed at intervals by the city government. But the stressful week-long ordeal had her hospitalized.

The flooding that has inundated much of the Jaro district these last few weeks is not over, as the swollen tributaries continue to threaten dozens of communities. After the initial clean-up, the evacuations, the last-minute rescues and the days of anxious waiting for the water to go down comes the long road toward recovery.

A second trip was made last July 8 with 137 boxes of food and clothing which were received by former Bacolod mayor Hon. Joy Santos-Valdez who is the current president of the Silliman alumni group in Bacolod City. The Bacolod Sillimanians have taken the responsibility of bringing these boxes to Iloilo. More boxes of food and clothing are being delivered by individual donors, families and student organizations to the Silliman Alumni and External Affairs Office.

Dumaguete’s distinctive culture of giving is very much alive. We would like to thank all those who were a part of the very successful Silliman Sagip Iloilo Drive – a manifestation of the Christian love we all share.

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