Two days before President Aquino visited Sagbayan, three volunteers led by software engineer Joan Saletrero visited some of the town’s more remote barangays to bring food and water. They crossed rough roads, made muddy and dangerous by rain, to reach communities like Libertad del Norte, some six kilometers from the main highway.
“These places are very remote; you would never think people actually live there,” the 32-year-old said in a Facebook post on Oct. 22, after her team delivered goods to six remote barangays. “To those who are organizing relief operations, please include Libertad del Sur and del Norte. They need more help.”
Saletrero was on her way home last Oct. 15, after buying some fresh bread, when she met and started chatting with friends in front of the Bilar church. She saw a huge flock of birds overhead, then heard the ground rumble.
They crawled to an open space and heard the church bell peal from the tremors. “I saw some parts of the church’s façade breaking and falling. It was a terrifying experience. I thought I was going to die.”
Two days later, when Bilar town’s power was restored, Saletrero saw the news of the earthquake’s toll for the first time. She and two sisters, one based in Cebu and the other in Australia, e-mailed friends or sent FB messages to ask for help. She thought they would raise P50,000 at most.
They raised P183,551 in six days.
Saletrero worked with 10 other volunteers who helped her buy and pack food and water. To help as many people as possible, only three persons would go on each distribution trip, so they could load more relief goods in their Sukuzi APV.
To reach earthquake survivors in Sagbayan, their team crossed a rickety wooden bridge, drove past fallen boulders and persisted despite strong aftershocks. “Knowing that Sagbayan was the epicenter, it was a terrifying experience for us,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.
She expressed hope that other relief operations will reach out to remote barangays where clean water remains scarce, where—despite the President’s appeal for them to go home—families still camp out in plazas or open spaces while they wait for the aftershocks and their anxiety to ebb.
“I hope more people will help our province so that we can all rise again,” Saletrero said. “I hope they will never get tired of helping.”