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PROMPTED BY FACEBOOK APPEAL

Balangiga folk in Metro Manila ride bus home with relief

/ 02:47 AM November 15, 2013

JULIE AURELIO/INQUIRER

It started out as an online appeal on Facebook on Wednesday night for passengers wanting to go home to their families in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, which was ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” last week.

Overnight, more than 40 people from all over Metro Manila and nearby provinces converged at a police camp in Quezon City but with an added mission—to bring relief supplies bought with their own money to their town mates.

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By sunrise, the passengers—with boxes of personal donations and even water in hand—patiently waited for their companions to arrive so they may begin their journey home.

Inside a nonair-conditioned passenger bus, boxes of noodles, canned food and other relief items made it difficult for one to walk in the vehicle.

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The impromptu mission managed to come up with 20 cavans of rice and 5 gallons of mineral water—all from the passengers’ pockets.

“We will fight to the teeth to get these goods home to our families,” said Gemma Balmaceda, the “organizer” of the impromptu mission.

A civilian employee of the Quezon City Police District’s Traffic Enforcement Unit (TEU) in Camp Karingal, Balmaceda had been worried sick about her mother, Estrella.

Since Nov. 8, when Yolanda struck, she had not heard from her mother, who lives in the town famous for the Balangiga massacre in 1901 during the Philippine-American War.

Balmaceda initially wanted to hitch a ride with the government’s C-130 planes but there were too many passengers.

This prompted her to approach her boss, Senior Insp. Erlito Renegin, for help.

“I asked him, ‘Sir, maybe you can help me in getting a passenger bus. I just want to get home and check on my mother,’” Balmaceda said.

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Renegin, who heads the TEU’s Traffic Sector 3 based in Camp Karingal, decided to hire a bus to ferry the passengers to Balangiga so that they might get home to their loved ones.

“They are having a hard time getting a ride at the station because there are too many people wanting to go home to the province. So I hired a bus for them. They will still be paying the regular fare,” Renegin said.

He urged bus companies to help out in this time of need. “They should be of service at this crucial time. Everyone should help others,” he said.

This was the same reason Balmaceda and the other passengers decided to pool their resources and gather relief supplies for their town.

“Sadly, the relief missions from the government and other private groups will barely reach our town. So we have to do it ourselves,” she said.

On Wednesday, she posted a message on Facebook, saying she would hire a bus to go home to Balangiga. Overnight, her wall was flooded with questions from acquaintances about the schedule, meeting place and fare.

She initially wanted to get 50 passengers for the trip but as of Thursday morning, more than 40 had confirmed their intent to join the journey home.

Some of the passengers are from Novaliches, Las Piñas, Taguig, Bulacan and Batangas—all hailing from Balangiga and wanting to check on their loved ones.

The daylong trip costs each passenger P1,300. Balmaceda plans to stay for three to four days before going back to Metro Manila.

“We plan to use the same bus in going back here. Only adults will be making the trip. We made sure there were no kids,” she said.

Most of the passengers have separate provisions for their loved ones and relief supplies for their town mates.

“We are determined to get home alive and bring this personal aid not just to our families but to our town mates. In times like these, everyone is practically family,” Balmaceda said.

Originally posted at 3:03 pm | Thursday, October 14, 2013

Click here for more weather related news.

TOPICS: Bus, Calamity, Cebu, Charity, citizen-led relief effort, cyclone, Disaster, donations, Eastern Samar, Facebook, Gemma Balmaceda, Haiyan, humanitarian missions, Land Transportation, Leyte, Philippines, relief and rehabilitation, relief missions, rescue, search for families, search for survivors, Social Media, Supertyphoon, Tacloban City, technology, Typhoon, typhoon aid, typhoon relief, Visayas, Weather, Yolanda
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