Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Foreign officials thank Sendong survivors for teaching them resiliency

CAGAYAN DE ORO City, March 13, 2012—Foreign dignitaries visiting “Sendong survivors” on Tuesday, expressed gratitude to typhoon victims for showing and teaching them how to be resilient in the midst of a very bleak circumstance.

Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Ivo Sieber, with UK Ambassador Stephen Lillie and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Ugochi Florence Daniels arrived here in a very low profile visit to the relocation sites of the survivors of Tropical Storm Washi (locally named Sendong), which devastated a huge portion of this city and neighboring Iligan City last December.
More than 1,000 were killed and another thousand are still missing when floodwaters rampaged through the city, overflowing the Cagayan de Oro River, and destroying everything in its path, night of December 16, 2011.
Sieber, Lillie and Daniels expressed happiness for the rare opportunity to visit and hobnob with the Sendong survivors at the tent city in Barangay Canitoan.
“I am very happy to see all of you and talk with you. I am happy because you are all showing the resiliency and determination to recover from the devastation you all went through last December,” Sieber said.
Switzerland donated last December some 300,000 Swiss francs (about P14 million) to support the Philippine government’s rehabilitation efforts for the victims of Sendong.
Aside from the cash donation, the Swiss government through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation dispatched a team of water and sanitation experts to flood-ravaged areas in this city and neighboring Iligan City.
“It is very impressive to see all of you here and the determination you have to rise above the situation and making something positive about a very bleak circumstance,” Sieber said.
In 2009, right after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy, the Swiss government provided a total of 1.5 Swiss francs for the rehabilitation of the victims.
Lillie, on the other hand, said that their visit was also an eye-opener for them and for other Europeans in the Philippines.
“If there is one lesson for us to learn as we visit here, it is that you are a resilient and happy people. Despite the disaster you all went through and despite the great sacrifice you made, you are all still smiling. That is something that we all can learn from you,” he said.
Canitoan Barangay Chairman Joshua Taboclaon and the “climate refugees” (victims of TS Washi) welcomed with open arms the dignitaries and expressed gratefulness for the visit.
“We are very honoured and privileged to be visited” by the ambassadors, he said.
Taboclaon expressed hope that Sieber, Lillie and Daniels’ visit will bring “good luck and blessings to all of us here in the tent city.”
“All the families here in the tent city are still picking up the pieces and putting it together to make a better life after Sendong,” he added.
After hobnobbing and talking for several minutes with the Sendong survivors at the tent city in Canitoan, Sieber, Lillie and Daniels paid a courtesy call to Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma at his official residence.
Ledesma then briefed them about the efforts of various government agencies, civil society organizations, academe and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro to help the Sendong survivors.
Daniels personally thanked Ledesma for his and the Church’s efforts at helping women, particularly mothers, through his Natural Family Planning advocacy.
Ledesma is a staunch advocate of the natural methods of family planning. He has already written a book on it, a copy of which he gave each to Sieber, Lillie and Daniels.
The Jesuit prelate also accompanied them when they visited the survivors taking refuge at the Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Barangay Camaman-an. (Bong D. Fabe)


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