Goodbye, holiday breaks: Odette turns Christmas, New Year’s into working days for linemen

·3 min read

CHRISTMAS season is usually a break for linemen. What is a “lineman,” one might ask. According to Merriam-Webster, a lineman is “one who sets up or repairs electric wire communication or power lines.”

Even without the definition provided above, Cebuanos may already be aware of what a lineman does.

Since Dec. 16, 2021 when super typhoon Odette (Rai) wreaked havoc on Metro Cebu, our very own linemen from Visayan Electric Company—and some from different companies and parts of the country—have had little to no rest in making sure communities are powered up; each household lit up during the holiday season, as fast as humanly possible.

Goodbye Christmas and most probably, New Year’s with their families.

For engineer Roy Nuñez, the 15-year seasoned Visayan Electric team leader assigned to repair the 69kV line along UN Avenue, Mandaue City, he considered the damage brought about by Odette as “massive.”

“Since I joined Visayan Electric, this is the second time that we are responding to a calamity. The first was during Yolanda (2013). But the effects of Odette was more massive.”

Nuñez was supposedly on leave already since his family had planned to go home to the province.

“My family was sad that I couldn’t be with them to celebrate Christmas, but this is my work. This is our work. It has been instilled in my mind and in the minds of my team members that we need to work; we need to help.”

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), in a post by the Philippine News Agency around 1 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2021, Odette was located in the town of Carcar City, Cebu “with maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour near the center, and gustiness of up to 240 kph.”

Massive indeed was Odette’s impact, that help came from other regions as well.

Meralco head of security for Cebu assignment Baltazar Antido led an advance party composed of 25 linemen, three coordinators and an emergency response team a couple of days post-Odette. Eleven more members arrived on Dec. 23.

Antido has been with Meralco for 26 years already, and for this particular mission, his main task was to ensure the safety of his team while on assignment. He is the right man for the job, having joined five other trips in the past in response to emergencies and calamities.

“During Yolanda, there were a lot of casualties. For Odette, there was a lot of damage to establishments and facilities.”

Sacrificing the holidays in the line of duty is nothing new to Antido.

“We’re always on-call even during Christmas. It’s only the skeletal force that responds during situations like this. It’s saddening that we’re away from family but we really have to step up and work. It was my child’s birthday yesterday (Dec. 23). My family is used to what my line of work demands of me. It’s the call of duty. I’m used to it.”

For team leader Henry Macaso of Davao Light Contractor-Lubtraco, his team of 28 people has been busy helping with the power restoration in Cebu.

Macaso has been a lineman since 2012, and it’s his first time to respond to a calamity.

“It’s hard being away from family during Christmas but this is our work but we’re ready to help. Who knows, we might be the ones who’ll need help from other people in the future.”

“We’re celebrating Christmas here in Cebu. The team will spend it together.”

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