Muslim Mindanao leads relief mission

Davao City – Officials and residents of typhoon-ravaged towns in Leyte and Samar appreciated the influx of local and foreign humanitarian missions, hailing particularly the delegations from the Muslim Mindanao region that they admittedly expected least because of lingering misperceptions raging from cultural differences to poverty and socio-political woes. In Leyte’s coastal town of Basey, more than 2,000 heads of households guided by their village chieftains hurriedly formed long queues in front of the Municipal Hall to receive three kilos each of fresh giant tilapia brought in by the 55-member relief mission from Maguindanao led by Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. “We have fresh fish at last,” a five-year-old boy shouted in local dialect as he clasped two plastic bags, one containing fish and another filled with five kilos of rice from Mangudadatu and his volunteers last Sunday. An elderly woman hugged the governor and told him: “God answered my prayer for relief from hunger and deprivation from (super typhoon) ‘Yolanda.’ I just came from Sunday Mass.” Mangudadatu, who was also accompanied by his children, said: “Keep clinging to God, who will not forsake the faithful.” Basey Mayor Igmedio “Junjie” Ponferrada confided that he and his people have not been eating local fish for six days because of fear of contamination by carcasses of dead people and animals that sprouted one after another after the storm surge swept their coastal town. The storm had so far left 189 residents dead and more than 40 missing in Basey, according to Manuel Orejola, municipal planning and development officer, who received first the Maguindanao mission. A human cadaver was fished out ashore few minutes before the Maguindanao volunteers conducted the food dispersal alongside and medical services administered by nine doctors and 30 nurses. Lynette Estandarte, focal person of the Maguindanao joint-mission, said they brought in seven tons of giant tilapia, 10 tons of packed rice and canned foods, and R8.4-million worth of medicines. During Sunday’s relief stuffs distribution, emotions ran high when Mangudadatu, using a megaphone, announced that his province has been equally reeling from not only frequent natural calamities but also armed conflicts, not to mention severe poverty. Maguindanao, which one of five component provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRMM), a geographical unit classified by the government as the country’s poorest. It is the host of major enclaves of Moro rebel fronts. Its relief mission even drew more appreciation when the governor disclosed that: “While our province is facing poverty and more complicated challenges, we always have big heart for fellow mankind in distress. In fact, we are supposed to be commemorating our 40th foundation anniversary but we kicked off the commemoration with his relief mission.”