Iligan and Cagayan de Oro – they are not unfamiliar cities to me. It’s not only because of the recent wrath of Tropical Storm Washi or Typhoon Sendong largely aimed at them but because I have set foot several times on their streets.
I first got the chance to visit these cities in 1991 from my home city then, Cebu. I stayed for a week together with our church group for a church celebration. Six years later, I came back for a national writer’s workshop in Iligan city. Together with Cebu-based writing fellows for poetry and short story, we came by way of Cagayan de Oro. That workshop also paved the way for me to see for the first time a mysterious but beautiful Marawi city. Ah, Mindanao is such a vast land, full of promise, home to diverse cultures.
The year 2007 saw me pack and move to Caraga region in Mindanao. And in the last 4 years, due to work and travel opportunities, I have had more time to frequent the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. I have been able to forge friendships with their people, cutting across age, background, culture.
Although I am happy that my city was spared from the flash floods, I mourn for these cities and their people. But thankfully, other than mourning, my eyes have been opened to opportunities towards helping them. One can send financial help, relief goods like used clothing, water and food to these cities through government agencies and non-governmental organizations.
It is my prayer that as you read this, you will remember to pray for the recovery of these cities as well as respond in concrete ways to help them. May it be that our love during this season of the year (known as one for giving but now a time of grieving for these cities), will so leap forward in our action.
Note: As of January 2012, more than 1200 people (including children) have been found dead in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong (Tropical Storm Washi) with many others still missing. The storm has affected 724,729 people in 13 southern and central provinces. Property damage is at P1.4 Million; more than 13,000 houses were totally destroyed.